The meaning of the word “cheating” has different definitions depending on who you ask. Some may consider it cheating if their S.O. likes a random girl’s thirst trap. Others may consider it cheating only when you’re full-on, pants-down sexing someone. There’s also different tiers and levels of cheating too: micro-cheating, cheating cheating, and then hooking-up-with-your-best-friend’s-sister’s-baby-daddy cheating (2019 was a weird year for the Kardashians, ya’ll).
So while the definition of cheating isn’t necessarily consistent, the signs, cues, body language movements, and signals are pretty consistent—no matter the type of cheating someone’s doing. Below, we talked with 11 experts on the not-so-obvious signs your partner could be cheating.
Full disclosure: Make sure your partner is ticking off multiple boxes here before you call ‘em out. If your S.O. just recently joined a gym in the name of #health, don’t immediately assume they’re cheating on you unless the other points below apply too, mmk?
Using ‘Close Friends’ on Instagram. “Obviously if your partner isn’t following you on social media, that’s a pretty big red flag. But now that apps are allowing the creation of different lists and groups, it could indicate cheating if your partner isn’t including you in those lists,” says relationship coach Jonathan Bennett, CEO of Double Trust Dating.
Long periods of radio silence. You guys, it’s 2019. Who is really hangin’ without their phone for longer than five minutes? “If your partner doesn’t respond for a long time with no good reason, it could indicate cheating—especially if they are usually very responsive other times,” says Bennett.
They’re smiling at their phone often. If a dog meme isn’t the thing on their cellular device eliciting that pearly-white smile, it’s a sign they’re getting a message from someone… who isn’t you… that’s also making them supes happy, says Bennett.
They are frequently accusing you of cheating. “This may be a sign of their insecurities and the fact that they’re actually the one cheating on you,” says Joe Flanagan, lead developer at GetSongbpm.
You don’t recognize a bedroom move. Maybe they’ve been watching porn… or maybe they picked that up from doin’ the deed with someone else. “There might be new ‘tricks’ they picked up from their new side hustle and now want to try out with you,” says Flanagan.
They suddenly have a password on their phone. If they didn’t before, it’s not necessarily ideal that they do now. “They might make up a few excuses for doing this, telling you that they’ll fix it, but they never do,” says Flanagan.
Sudden unexplained affection and appreciation for you.“This may sound odd or even paranoid, but sometimes when your partner, who has been annoyed and angry with you for a while, mysteriously becomes nice and apologetic, they may actually be cheating on you,” says marriage and family therapist, Lauren O’Connell. Why? Because they’re “acting out their anger, frustration, and disappointment with you by seeing someone else, which then turns into guilt with you,” she explains.
They turn off “Find My Friends.” If you normally share your location with each other and suddenly it’s turned off periodically or permanently, that could be a sign, says O’Connell.
They no longer charge their phone on their bedside table. Look, it doesn’t matter where they charge their phone… but if does if they used to consecutively charge their phone beside them before bed, but are now charging it in the kitchen. That could mean cheating, says O’Connell.
The bathroom is becoming their fave place. It could mean cheating if they “suddenly start going to the bathroom to brush their teeth or take a shower before greeting you when they come home,” O’Connell confirms.
Subtle disinterest in sex. “If you feel a shift in romantic energy or if they just don’t seem interested in having sex with you anyway,” says O’Connell. Perhaps because they’re getting sex somewhere else?
Bizarre shifts in schedule. Look, who is honestly taking a yoga class at 9 p.m.?
They suddenly can’t sleep in the same bed with you. If you’re already used to their snores after sleeping together for a long time, but now they want to sleep on the couch because it’s ‘too much to handle,’ this change-up is v sus, says O’Connell.
They don’t have much to say. “One less-than-obvious sign is if your partner isn’t speaking to you much. It may be a sign they’re becoming more withdrawn and sharing less with you,” says marriage counselor Wyatt Fisher, PhD, who leads a couple’s retreat in Texas.
They’re irritable AF. If they’re suddenly getting crazy mad at you for little things, like leaving a dish on the counter or toilet paper on the ground, it could be a sign says Fisher.
Zero eye-contact. “If someone can’t hold eye contact with you, it’s probably out of guilt,” says Fisher.
You’re having more sex. “People assume if one partner is cheating, the frequency of sex decreases because they’re already ‘getting it on the side,’” says Anita Chilpala, marriage and family therapist. “But the excitement of an affair can actually increase the passion in a relationship—it could be even hotter than it normally is.”
You no longer hear about their coworker, or best friend, or high school bud. This obviously only applies if your S.O. could potentially be attracted to said person based off of their sexual orientation, but “if they frequently used to talk about someone and now barely mention their name anymore, it could be a sign,” says Chilpala. This also applies if they’re consistently bringing someone up though, too.
You feel yourself becoming anxious and/or jealous. Listen, trust that gut instinct of yours (it’s almost always right). “If you’ve never been the jealous or suspicious type, but now you’ve developed uneasy feelings and anxiety, something is probably wrong,” says Chilpala.
Their attire changes. “Your partner doesn’t need an excuse for making a lil extra effort in the clothes department, but if they are going all-out on nicer outfits for no apparent reason, it could be a sign you’re being cheated on,” says Adina Mahalli, relationship expert for Maple Holistics.
They’re taking you to super lux places. Over-compensating, hellooo: “When your partner starts buying you gifts or taking you out to extra luxurious places, they may be feeling guilty and trying to act like they’re so in love with you instead,” says relationship coach Sisanda CJ.
If they’re secretive about their finances. “Keeping you in the dark about their money and how they’re spending it means you never know where the money is going, how much money they’re spending, and who they’re spending it on… that way, they never have to be held accountable or explain to you what’s going on,” says CJ.
They suddenly pay more attention to their looks. “Couples tend to care less about their looks once they feel secure in their relationship, so if your S.O. is suddenly buying new clothes to dress up or taking extra long to get ready in the mornings, they may be up to something,” says Chris Pleines, dating expert at Datingscout.com.
They don’t tag you in photos anymore. “They might not want other people to know the two of you are together,” says relationship coach Emily Brooks. This also applies if they suddenly remove your photo tags too, unfort.
Their Instagram feed is suddenly only photos of themselves. Look, I’m totally here for thirst traps… you can take them whenever you want and regardless of if you’re in a relationship. But “when you look at most happy couples, their feeds will show them together. You should be suspicious if your partner’s feed doesn’t include you,” says Brooks.
Your time together is always spontaneous. A v common cheater tendency is to avoid established routines. “One of the best ways to avoid being caught cheating is to never establish known habits and routines with anyone,” says Kevin Darné, the author of My Cat Won’t Bark (a Relationship Epiphany).
You don’t know their best friend’s name and they haven’t considered introducing you to their friends. “If someone is serious about you, they are likely to introduce you to people they value,” says Darné. “If someone is keeping you at bay, it’s because they don’t want to explain to their inner circle that they’re dating multiple people.”
They’re having a lot of private ‘work-related’ conversations. “Maybe you notice them sitting in their car on the phone and not coming into the house until they hang up, or they step into another room when they answer a call,” says April Davis, owner of Luma Luxury Matchmaking. “If they don’t want you to hear what you’re saying, it’s a pretty good sign they’re hiding something.”