There are many reasons why someone would cheat on a partner, but not all ways of being unfaithful in a relationship are obvious. According to a study from the Journal of Sex Research, motivations can range from dissatisfaction with a current relationship, wanting variety in the bedroom, enhancing popularity or falling out of love, among others. But do any of these sound like they could possibly match your current feelings about your partner? From secretly communicating with someone who makes your significant other uncomfortable to talking about another person repeatedly, here are 10 red flags that you might already be cheating on your partner, either physically or emotionally.
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Secret communication with another person
It could be anyone — a coworker, a friend, an old flame — that makes your partner uncomfortable, but instead of sitting down and talking through the situation together you begin communicating with that person secretly. You purposely keep those phone calls, texts and emails from your partner because you know how they feel about the person you’re conversing with. Some might even go as far as to create new private email and social media accounts, or even start dating profiles on popular apps. While they may not feel like serious interactions to you, emotional affairs (and a marked change in your technology use, as indicated in this article written by relationship expert Sheri Stritof) can be just as hurtful to relationships as sexual affairs.
Related: How to catch a cheater: 16 ways to spy on a cheating spouse.
Frequent sexual thoughts/fantasies about another person
Many committed couples jest about having “hall passes” — an agreement where they can have sex outside of their relationship with a preset list of people, often celebs or other seemingly unattainable people. But when you begin constantly fantasizing about someone you know IRL other than your partner, it could be a sign that there’s trouble in your relationship. You’re seeking titillation and fulfillment elsewhere, even if those desires exist only in your mind. According to Melissa Schacter, a marriage and family therapist interviewed for Women’s Health, while there’s no fixed definition of emotional cheating, constantly thinking about kissing and being intimate with another person is one of the biggest signs red flags that you’re on that path.
See also: 10 signs you’re falling out of love.
You’re suddenly hyper-critical of everything your partner does
According to Psychology Today, a person’s sudden and inexplicable hostility (including, in this case, your own) could be a major red flag of infidelity or at least the consideration of it. This includes everything from picking fights over trivial matters or deflection by accusing your partner of cheating. With some, a person who is straying from their relationship — or thinking of straying — may begin criticizing their partner’s appearance or career prospects. Besides finding fault with everything their partner does, especially when it isn’t warranted, gaslighting can also occur, causing irreparable damage to a relationship.
See also: 15 things cheaters always say, relationship therapist shares.
Not making your partner a priority anymore
You don’t have to spend every waking minute with your significant other, but if you find that you’re increasingly making plans with friends and co-workers while your partner sits at home alone as an after-thought, there could be trouble brewing in your relationship. Taking part in activities that are typically for couples or groups, but excluding your partner, is a warning sign, especially when there’s an attraction to one of the people you’re spending time with. It might even go as far as not telling your partner when you have plans at all, or telling them at the last minute. As marriage and family therapist Melissa Schacter told Women’s Health, your partner might start to question your strange behaviour and whether or not they’re being treated fairly which just might lead to some difficult convos.
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Talking about another person repeatedly
Many of us have joked about having a work spouse, but when there’s someone in your life that you can’t stop talking about, sound those alarm bells. If you keep finding ways to bring a certain person up in conversations with your partner, or you’re repeating the same stories about that person over and over again, this will likely result in a lot of questions from your SO. While you may not have physically cheated on your partner, situations like these can cause tension and distrust. As family therapist David Klow told Oprah Daily, “Talk with your partner about the other people you each interact with. Knowing this can help build a stronger sense of security.” But if you find yourself avoiding this type of conversation or don’t want to divulge who you chat with, it might be time to ask yourself why.
Related: 10 signs you have an avoidant attachment style.
Constantly scrolling through an ex’s social media profiles
It’s one thing to catch up briefly with someone from your past and then move on, but if you start exploring “what if” scenarios with that person, it’s a whole other can of worms. Obsessing over an ex by constantly checking their social media profiles to keep tabs on them or look for changes in relationship status could indicate problems in your current relationship. It’s a sign that you are looking for greener pastures and may already have one foot out the door. As therapists Don and Carrie Cole discuss in an article for The Gottman Institute, social media has the tendency to trigger emotional infidelity. “Social media can play a big role in the cascade toward emotional infidelity, especially in today’s day and age,” they write. “Reconnecting with old high school and college friends or sweethearts can begin with a desire to ‘catch up.’ Unfortunately, all too often it moves way beyond that. It can escalate very quickly.”
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Actively hiding communications with others on your phone/computer (and deleting histories on the regular)
Increased device use is commonly associated with cheating, and you may already be on an unfaithful path if you find that you’re actively hiding texts, emails and social media DMs from your partner. Other big signs include being overly protective of your devices, never leaving those devices in the same room as your partner when you’re not there, changing or adding passwords, and frequently deleting your texts or browser history so your partner can’t stumble upon your illicit communications. That being said, family therapist David Klow points out to Oprah Daily that some people can 100 per cent be so addicted to their phone that it travels with them everywhere, even to the bathroom — and it doesn’t automatically mean they’re cheating (or thinking of it). But if the habit arises suddenly and is different than your usual routines, your partner might catch on and call it into question.
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Confiding in your partner less because your needs are being met elsewhere
When your partner no longer knows your most intimate secrets because you’re sharing them with someone else, that’s a common sign that you’re mentally, and maybe even physically, stepping out on your relationship. You no longer see your partner as your confidant and have stopped discussing issues that used to be open for conversation. Other signs can also include putting an emotional distance between you and your partner, lying by omission or making yourself unavailable to them when they need to talk.
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Paying a lot more attention to your looks
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good. But, according to a Psychology Today piece written by Robert Weiss, Ph.D, “if your significant other suddenly starts exercising and eating healthier, that could be a sign that they are trying to appear more attractive to someone (possibly you, but possibly an affair partner).” But what if that person is you in this instance?
Whether you’re suddenly taking extra time to get ready for work or uncharacteristically putting more into your appearance before heading out to run routine errands, your mind may already be straying. Things like changing your hairstyle, starting a workout regimen, altering your hygiene routine, or buying a new wardrobe could all be indicators, too, especially if you’re doing it in the hopes of seeing a certain person again soon.
Related: Toxic relationship addiction: how your attachment style affects your relationships.
Hanging out more often with single friends
Fun evenings out with your single friends is harmless, but if you’re spending most of your social time with your unattached friends instead of your partner, you might want to ask yourself why. It may start as simple nostalgia for the fun you had before you were in a committed relationship, but the temptation to cheat can increase when the people you are hanging out with are actively seeking out romantic partners.
In addition, are any of these single BFFs a new friendship? As relationship expert David Bennett tells Bustle, “If someone is ‘checking out,’ they may make new friends with people you don’t know,” including eligible, single people.
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