6 Signs You’re Likely To Cheat On Your Partner

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This article was originally published on December 9, 2015.

Most people who are in monogamous relationships — and who have a healthy understanding of the rules and responsibilities that come with them — don’t wake up one morning and think, Today, I’m going to cheat on my partner. (At least, we hope they don't.) But even people in good relationships stray. In fact, anywhere from 25 to 60% of married adults admit to infidelity. And a theme among many of the unfaithful is that they never thought they would be that person.

“The truth is that infidelity doesn’t just happen,” says Mira Kirshenbaum, clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute and author of I Love You, But I Don’t Trust You. “An affair is almost always the result of a slow-building storm of unmet needs, resentments, and hurts — all of which eventually lead you into the arms of another.”

Of course, monogamy isn’t for everyone. But if it’s the route you want to go, watch for these signs to determine if you’re at risk for cheating. (And if you are, don't panic — but do check yourself and prioritize honest, open communication with your partner.)
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You’d never tell your partner your secret desire to test out some light S&M.
Maybe you’re fearful he’ll think you’re some sort of sex freak if you divulge what you’d really like to try, or maybe you think she’ll roll her eyes at your desire to deepen your emotional connection in the bedroom. Either way, hiding your relationship needs is perhaps the biggest reason why people cheat — they get those needs met elsewhere, Kirshenbaum says. As the (overly simplistic) cliché goes: Studies suggest that men cheat because they desire more frequent and varied sex, and women cheat to find greater emotional intimacy. “These are things their partner can fulfill, but I see couples who are too fearful of conflict or too embarrassed to express that, so they turn to someone else to fill that missing hole,” Kirshenbaum says. If you’re feeling a void, communicating with your partner is crucial, since unmet needs cause hurt and resentment — and ultimately betrayal. Plus, your partner is not a mind reader!
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You diss your partner to your friends.
There are the nights she drinks too much with her friends, or the fact that he’s always on his phone. Complaints and frustrations about your S.O. are normal, but there’s a fine line between venting to your boyfriend about his socks on the floor and calling him a major slob to whomever will listen. “Badmouthing is a form of cheating, because it’s a betrayal,” Kirshenbaum says. “It’s a way of showing that you don’t care about or respect your partner.” These little acts of disloyalty desensitize you to your partner’s feelings and ultimately pave the way for physical infidelity. If you’re having serious issues, save them for your shrink.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You’re at an age that ends in nine.
Imagine this: While your partner is busy planning a surprise birthday party for that upcoming age ending in zero, you’re spending the last year of your current decade in someone else's bed. People are more likely to cheat during the year before a milestone birthday, according to a study from AshleyMadison.com. Men and women who registered on the website seeking extramarital affairs were more likely to be 29, 39, 49, and 59 than any other ages. If you’re feeling unfulfilled at the dawn of a new decade, you’re more at risk of engaging in damaging behaviors like cheating on your current partner, according to the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences. Try using the final year of a decade to reflect on the good in your life or make goals for the future. Or, just make a deal with yourself: You’ll be 29 forever. Stress solved.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You’ve told your partner little white lies — and gotten away with it.
We’re not talking about that time your partner burned the chicken and you said, between dry bites, that it still tasted good. Little lies to protect your partner’s feelings are a healthy and normal; ones that are meant to protect you, hide things, or cover up are not, says Scott Haltzman, PhD, author of Secrets of Happily Married Men. In fact, people who tell little white lies are more likely to deceive their spouses, according to a study in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. The more you get away with lying, the more it chips away at your relationship — and the higher your risk of cheating. Moral of the story: Avoid things like telling your partner you had a quiet dinner with a single friend when you were really being her wing-woman at a bar, or purposely omitting the fact that your night out ended at a strip club. It might seem difficult at times, but your relationship will likely benefit from open and honest communication — even if it causes a fight.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You’re putting in lots of late nights with that kinda-hot coworker.
You’ve heard the saying: If you don’t want to catch fire, stay away from the spark. But sometimes it’s impossible to avoid temptation — especially since many experts single out the workplace as a common breeding ground for infidelity. “Fantasizing is no more cheating than thinking about chocolate cake is going off your diet, but if you’re thinking about this other person a lot and in detail, and if you’re in frequent contact, then you’re sliding down a slippery slope,” Kirshenbaum says. A good way to avoid actually cheating is to be totally honest with yourself about these feelings and come up with a plan for dealing with them. That could mean asking a third person to help with the project you’re working on together, or avoiding after-work drinks when that tempting co-worker will be there. Be creative.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You start to notice all the things you dislike about your partner.
Finding faults in your partner is natural (for example, how he always drives two miles below the speed limit, or how she nags you to do the dishes after work), but focusing on those faults is destructive to your relationship, Dr. Haltzman says. It puts you at risk for comparing your partner to other potential mates (as in, “I bet she’s kinder to her girlfriend”). Plus, choosing to focus on your partner’s faults sets you up for a cycle of negativity; the more you look for it, the more you’ll find, Dr. Haltzman says, so get in the practice of noticing the good instead.

A caveat: Sometimes, the problem isn’t actually your partner — it’s you. “Some people have a talent for choosing people who won’t make them happy, which eventually leads them to cheat,” Kirshenbaum says. So when you start mentally nitpicking your partner, try to take a step back and decide if the relationship is working. That could make the difference between starting a potentially painful, but important, conversation with your partner — and diving into a full-blown affair you can’t take back.
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