By Gilda Carle, Ph.D.
Reprinted from MSN Dating & Personals – with Match.com
Most of us — even the not-so-jealous types — know that feeling of, “Is my sweetheart really working late… or could this person be two-timing me?” I’ve counseled many individuals dealing with this concern, so let me share my knowledge with you about the signs that someone is cheating (or seriously contemplating it). Use this information and insight—and either stop worrying or have a serious talk with your partner!
Sign #1: Your sweetie keeps you a secret from his/her family & friends
Cheaters keep you in the dark while they play in the light. Your relationship won’t work if you’re getting what I call the Shadow Treatment. The Shadow Treatment means that you are often kept waiting in the wings while your mate is out socializing. Think about it: Are there gatherings of friends, family reunions or workplace parties that you are not invited to? Do you only meet some of your honey’s network of friends? If you are kept on the sidelines, there’s probably a good reason. Maybe your sweetie is on the prowl for someone else. Or perhaps there is already someone else and so your role in his or her life can’t be made public. Anytime you are kept on the fringes once you believe you are an exclusive couple, be suspicious. And know that the only way to end Shadow Treatment is to stop accepting it. Once you challenge it, you will either be fully accepted in your sweetheart’s life… or know it’s time to leave.
Sign #2: Your sweetie is emotionally absent
Cheaters conceal their emotional whereabouts so they can be evasive about their physical whereabouts. Love is exhausting when you have to pry the truth out of a partner.
Consider this story: After enjoying a platonic friendship for a decade, Margaret and Roy began dating. Roy was a traveling sales manager. While he was on the road, Margaret heard from him only occasionally. But he continued to say he wanted to spend more time with her—which he never did. Margaret was obviously a low priority for him. She was shocked to learn he had another girlfriend across the country.
An emotionally absent partner may say what you want to hear, but will not change his or her actions—unless he or she wants to. Saying the right thing and doing the right thing are very different. If your honey talks a good game about spending more time with you and paying more attention to you but never delivers—look out! This person may be juggling multiple relationships.
Sign #3: Your sweetie says he or she wants a no-strings-attached romance
If someone says, “I don’t want a commitment,” take the sucker at his or her word. Don’t fall into that “I’ll be the one to change all that!” trap. Cheaters rebel against control and might even have an affair to spite a partner who wants to rein him or her in.
Too often, people ignore the clear message a potential date sends. If someone tells you, “I’m not into serious relationships,” “I won’t give up my freedom,” “I’m not ready to settle down,” or anything resembling that, take a giant step back! He or she is clearly telling you, “I want to play the field.” If you pursue the person anyway, hoping for an exclusive relationship, you may find yourself two-timed and broken-hearted. Never push a person into a situation he or she doesn’t want to be in. Never pursue a committed relationship with someone who tells you he or she doesn’t want one.
Sign # 4: Your sweetie admits to cheating on exes—and justifies the betrayals
Cheaters rationalize their behavior to let themselves off the hook. The way they justify their actions tells much about their character.
Listen to the excuses for past cheating your sweetie uses. Here are a couple I’ve heard from clients in my therapy practice over the years:
* “My ex was abusive because of a drinking problem, so I deserved to see someone kinder on the side.”
* “My father cheated on my mom, so cheating on my girlfriend is how I’m working through my past.”
Everyone has a tale to tell. But are these rationalizations — or any rationalizations — acceptable to you? A person who admits to infidelities in the past and explains them away has a good chance of straying again. He or she has not taken responsibility for past actions, nor worked through the issues involved.
Sign #5: Your sweetie has never been without a mate
Cheaters won’t ride solo... ever! Leaving one romance and hopping into a new one — or having simultaneous affairs at once — doesn’t leave time for assessing whatever went wrong. They don’t bother with introspection; their focus is squarely set on pulling new people into their orbit. If you are dating a person who shares a romantic history that always involves finding a new partner before breaking up with the current partner, take heed. This person may think of his or her mate only as void-fillers. Filling a void is never a basis for lasting love.
Sign #6: Your sweetie tells lies about little things
Cheaters lie about everything, which leads you to question their truth from their fiction. When the need to embroider overshadows the desire to be honest, the relationship becomes a sham.
Craig’s friend set him up on a blind date with divorcée, Alice, who was a top attorney in town with no children. Each time they were together, Alice described her interesting caseload. Craig was fascinated—and falling hard. He was so caught up in her charismatic personality that he chose not to focus on the fact that some of her stories contradicted themselves, and that Alice seemed to change certain details as she got further into her story sharing. One day, the local newspaper featured someone who had been indicted for impersonating an attorney. He was shocked to find that it was Alice, and that she was a wife and mother as well! Alice had lied to both Craig and his friend.
If you are dating someone who seems to be untruthful about mundane topics — where he or she had lunch, what he or she is doing on Sunday morning — take note. The lies probably run deep. As my Gilda-Gram warns, “Without truth, there is no love.”
Sign # 7: Your sweetie brags about his or her sex appeal
Cheaters are insecure, and need to attract constant attention on the side. They flaunt their popularity in attempts to boost their own low self-esteem. Let me give you an example: Marilyn met a “hot guy” on a singles cruise, and the pair became inseparable for the week. When they returned home, they spoke to each other constantly. He sent her a plane ticket to visit him. While together, Hot Guy boasted that he was his town’s “go-to” guy for all the lonely women. Instead of Marilyn reading that as a sign to stay away, she interpreted his description of himself as “cute.”
Visiting her two weeks later, he said he was available throughout the week—except for a lunch date he had with a woman he had just met. Marilyn found that peculiar, but said nothing. After a dinner party, he detailed how many women had come on to him. Marilyn began feeling disrespected and put down. Finally, after crying herself to sleep, she told Hot Guy he was too hot for her.
If a partner boasts how in demand he or she is, recognize how insecure he or she really is—and steer clear. This person probably needs more ego-stroking than any one person can provide... and will look where he or she has to in order to find it.
So now you know the signs that indicate that maybe your sweetie isn’t such a sweetie after all. Life and love are all about learning. Remember this Gilda-Gram: “Everyone who touches you, teaches you.” Instead of getting bummed out about a cheater who stole your heart, think of what you learned, and how your experience got you to grow. Your new insight will arm you to attract someone more trustworthy in the future.
Relationship expert Dr. Gilda (www.DrGilda.com) has a private practice, is a motivational speaker, and is associate professor of business, psychology, and communications at New York’s Mercy College. She is also the founder of the video blog, GildaVision, on her web site. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting On Yourself and He’s Not All That! How to Attract the Good Guys.