11 Signs Your Partner Is Manipulating You Into Believing They’re Not Cheating
If your partner is cheating, they may display some of the classic signs, such as hiding their phone, staying out later than usual, or making drastic changes to their appearance. But once you get suspicious, they may add another layer on top of it all, by attempting to manipulate you into believing they're not cheating.
To do so, they may gaslight you, blame you for the problems in your relationship, or make you out to be the cheater — all as a way of covering their tracks. But these tricks obviously only make the situation worse. "When someone is cheating, they very often feel guilty, don't want to face the conflict of confession, or they're torn between what they have done wrong and what needs to happen next," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "It creates anxiety and distress and guilt." And that can lead to further manipulation, and elaborate cover-ups.
Not that that's any excuse. What your partner should do is come clean ASAP. "The cheating lifestyle and the manipulation that comes with it is only a temporary fix for unpleasant emotions that will never last," Dr. Klapow says. Hopefully your partner will realize that soon and ask to talk to you about it.
If you feel like something's wrong, or happen to notice any of the manipulation tactics below, experts say it may be a sign your partner is cheating and trying to cover it up. Of course, what you do after that is entirely up to you. But it's definitely something you'll want to address with them sooner, rather than later.
1. They Suddenly Accuse You Of Cheating
If your partner comes out of left field and starts accusing you of cheating, or points their finger at you when you call them out, it may very well be a sign they're cheating.
This is known as projecting, and it's a big ol' red flag. "Projecting is when someone is confronted on something such as cheating and, instead of responding appropriately, they start making accusations that you in fact may be cheating," licensed psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee, tells Bustle. "This is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone is not prepared to deal with the reality of what’s happening."
Their claims may also be a weird way of distracting you. "It’s a common tactic of cheaters to put their non-cheating partners on the defensive by throwing out wild accusations," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "It can also cause you to question your own actions and motives, which is a major distraction from your partner’s behavior."
2. They Make Your Life Super Confusing
If it seems like your partner answers questions in an unhelpful way, or if it feels like they're deliberately trying to confuse you, that may very well be the case. This is known as "gaslighting," and it's a common manipulation technique.
They might, for example, say you're "confused" when you point out a discrepancy in a story about their whereabouts. Or they might claim you heard them wrong, or that your memory is foggy — even when you know for sure that you're right. As Bennett says, "If your partner starts making you question your own sanity [...] it’s a major red flag."
3. They Point Out Your Shortcomings
Similarly, your partner may begin to do whatever they can to make you look like the bad guy in the relationship.
"They might pick fights, find ways that you are not kind or supportive of them, or highlight your shortcomings," Dr. Klapow says. "They do this as a smoke screen — to divert the attention from what they may be doing to what you are doing. If it becomes all about you being bad, or wrong, or hurtful, then it can’t be about them cheating."
4. They Try To Distract You
If you've been asking too many questions, or picking up on sketchy things your partner's been doing, don't be surprised if they try to distract you.
"Many people who cheat try to distract their partners with extra attention and lavish gifts," Bennett says. "If your partner isn’t usually generous and loving, but suddenly changes behavior because you suspect cheating, realize it might not be an effort to save the relationship, but rather to keep you off the scent of [their] infidelity."
5. They Become The "Perfect" Partner
You might also notice that they're making sudden attempts to heal past relationship woes, or pick up slack where they once let you down — all things that seem out of character, as well as a little too good to be true.
"The idea is that they are showing you just how into the relationship they are and that nothing is wrong," Dr. Klapow says. "Again, this is a smoke screen to keep your attention away from what they may be doing."
6. They Claim You're Just Being Jealous
Let's say your partner has a relationship that makes you uncomfortable, and you decide to point it out. Maybe they're a little too close to a friend, or speaking a little too fondly about a coworker. A healthy, supportive partner will hear you out, and be down to establish a few boundaries, so that you're both comfortable.
A cheating partner, on the other hand, may get angry, shut down, or tell you to stop being so jealous. "They try to make you think you are jealous and irrational and the fault is with you," Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and owner of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells Bustle. This is obviously an unhealthy reaction, and one that's all sorts of manipulative.
7. They Claim You're Invading Their Privacy
In another attempt to put the blame on you, while also keeping you at arm's length, they may claim you're being too needy, invading their space, or not allowing them any privacy.
"When they take the phone to the shower, or close that laptop, you are just 'hovering' [...] once again. You won’t give them their space so they need some privacy," Trombetti says. "It’s all mind games."
This is especially true if you do, in fact, provide plenty of room for privacy in your relationship. And you may start to wonder what's really going on.
8. They Become Possessive
When you're out and about with your partner, do you notice that they're suddenly accusing you of flirting with others, or that you're "betraying" them, or "letting them down" in some way?
As Dr. Klapow says, "This allows them to shift blame or potential blame away from them and on to you." Looking for so-called flaws in you — and in the relationship in general — may also be a way of justifying their own infidelity.
9. They Bait You Into Arguments
You might also pick up on another manipulation technique, known as argument baiting. So take note if your partner has been getting angry and upset over the smallest things.
"A cheater may try and sabotage their relationship to alleviate their guilt over cheating," Amica Graber, a relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells Bustle. "If bickering turns into full-fledged fights on the regular, there's likely to be an underlying reason for it."
10. They Say Your Friends Are Wrong
If your partner knows you're turning to friends and family for advice about your relationship, or that you're starting to feel a bit suspicious, they may attempt to turn you against others.
"Our loved ones will often see right through a manipulative partner," Graber says. "In response, a cheater may attempt to isolate you from those loved ones, and say that they're a bad influence, or convince you that your loved ones are jealous of your happiness. If anyone tries to drive a wedge between you and a loved one, proceed with caution."
11. They Say They're Doing It All For You
In order to get you to relax, and go with the flow, they may start to claim they're doing certain things for you — even when they're totally not, psychotherapist Laura F. Dabney, MD, tells Bustle.
You might notice that they're working late "for you," or that they're dressing nicely "for you." If that doesn't feel like the case, trust your gut. All on their own, none of these signs guarantee that your partner is cheating. But if they're doing something that makes you feel weird or uncomfortable, or they seem to be hiding something, that may be the case.
The only way to know for sure is to ask. Or, if you can't get a straight answer, you may decide to remove yourself from the situation entirely. The choice is up to you, so focus on whatever feels right.