11 Social Media Habits That Could Mean Your Partner's Cheating

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If your partner is actively having an affair — or even thinking about starting to stray — you might notice that they've picked up a few social media habits that can indicate they're cheating. While you can't blame the likes of Instagram or Facebook, there is a link between social media and infidelity, and experts say that "social media has made cheating more accessible," Theresa Herring, LMFT, a Chicago-area couples therapist, tells Bustle. "What starts off as a harmless communication can spiral into a full-on emotional and/or physical affair."

And that often has a lot to do with the easy access to other people, and the attention they can provide. "People use social media to cheat when they are unhappy with their lives and/or their relationships," Herring says. "It usually [starts when] a ... person is giving them the validation that they've been seeking. They rediscover a lost part of themselves, feel like someone appreciates them for who they are, and it's off to the races."

That doesn't mean, however, that all is lost, that social media is evil, or that you need to monitor your partner's every move online. (That's not healthy for you or for them.) It also doesn't mean that because your partner is active on social media that they're more likely to cheat. Instead, these are signs to be conscious of if you are feeling disconnected from your partner, or have reason to suspect them of cheating. "If you can recognize the signs early, you can more quickly strengthen the relationship to avoid or heal from an affair," Herring says. Here are a few social media habits experts say might mean your partner is starting to stray, as well as what to do about it.

1. They're Always Interacting With People You Barely Know

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When you're in a relationship, you tend to meet each other's friends — or at least hear stories about them. So if your partner's name is constantly popping up in threads with people you've never heard about, take note.

"Why is your significant other engaging a random person you've never heard of that they don't know from work or their friend group?" This can be cause for concern, David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert at thepopularman.com, tells Bustle. If they've never mentioned the person to you, and it seems like they know each other well, there may be a reason why they've kept this person from you.

In situations like this, it's always a good idea to have a heart-to-heart and let your partner know that you're feeling a bit worried. If they aren't thinking of cheating, they'll have a reasonable explanation. And, they may even introduce you to their new friends.

2. They Ignore Your Tags And Comments

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Let's say you tag your partner in a photo. Do they respond? Or do they act like it never happened. (Or worse, delete the tag so it doesn't show up on their wall?) "If they turn their attention away from you, or run their social media accounts like you don't exist (never mentioning you or your relationship, at least not significantly), I would suspect something is up," Bennett says. While interacting constantly on social media is not necessary for a healthy relationship, do take notice if they are not responding to you at all.

3 . One Name In Particular Keeps Popping Up

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It's not a big deal if your partner likes someone else's posts, or if they have a running commentary with a friend or an ex. But if it seems a bit flirty, and it's making you uncomfortable, do speak up.

"Usually you will see a pattern of a particular [person] liking your [partner's] photos or commenting on any status updates," relationship expert Jennifer Seiter tells Bustle. "If you see something like this it is best to talk to your partner immediately and approach [them] in a calm, non-threatening manner to lessen the likelihood of cheating before it starts. The mistake I see [people] make is ignoring these signs and by the time they say something, it's too late because their [partner] is already invested in that other [person]."

4. They Make Plans Without You

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Nothing sucks more than spotting your partner in photos from an event you heard nothing about. But this type of shady behavior can go down in subtler ways, too. "If you are seeing your partner post about activities, outings, and events that you are not aware of at all, this is also a red flag that the relationship may not survive," Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer at Been Verified, tells Bustle.

While it's healthy for both of you to have a life outside your relationship, if your partner is committed to you, they won't struggle to share their plans, and keep you in the loop. After all, you shouldn't be finding out about their life via Facebook, before or after the fact.

5. They Stop Posting Couple Photos

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Not all couples share their lives online. But if you two used to post cute couples photos, and now your partner seems to be leaving you out, that could be a sign something's up. "If you partner never includes you in photos or stops including you, this is a big sign they want to be seen as being single," relationship coach Isabel James, founder of Elite Dating Managers, tells Bustle.

In this situation, ask your partner why they're keeping your relationship private. They might have a legit reason. But if they can't answer the question, or if they try to change the subject, it could mean that something's up.

6. They Post More Photos Of You Two Together

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On the flip side, if your partner is thinking of straying, they might start posting more photos of you two together. "This can be an indication that your partner is looking for validation or encouragement from friends and family that the relationship is good and that the decision to stay in the relationship is a solid one," Lavelle says. This one may be harder to catch, because it may not indicate anything is wrong. But it's still a clue worth paying attention to if accompanied by other signs.

7. They're Actively Talking To Their Ex

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It's totally OK if your partner wants to talk to their ex, or follow them on social media. But take note if they're constantly chatting with them, posting inside jokes on their photos, or liking every. single. pic. As relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, founder of RelationUp tells Bustle, flirtatious or ongoing comments to an ex may be a sign they are having poor boundaries, or that something else is going on.

Again, open communication here will be key. Not only will it prevent you from lying awake at night wondering what's going on, but it will give your partner a chance to discuss why they might be feeling the need to get attention elsewhere. And from there, you can work together on feeling closer again.

8. They're Always Laughing Into Their Phone

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Hey, the internet is full of hilarious photos and videos. So if your partner is laughing into their phone, it does not mean they are cheating. But if they seem to giggle while chatting on Facebook — and are doing so late into the night, hiding their phone from you, etc. — it could be a sign.

As Milrad says, they might "smile and laugh as they type (and you get a vibe that something is going on) and then tell you that they are just texting with a friend." If it doesn't feel right, you might want to ask them what's up.

9. They Are Super Protective Of Their Phone/Laptop

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It's not only about what your partner does on social media, but also how they act IRL, too. "If you've noticed a sharp increase in your partner's phone usage, that's definitely a red flag," Herring says. It could be that they're chatting on a dating site, or messaging someone they don't want you to know about, especially if they're being secretive about it.

And since that's obviously not cool, you'll want to speak up. "Mention to your partner that you noticed they put their phone down or closed browsers quickly," she says. "Come from a place of curiosity rather than blame. And then maybe springboard it into a conversation about your hopes and dreams for the relationship and it's future. You want your partner to see a future with you, not the other person that they've been chatting with online."

10. Their Posts Are Kind Of "Anti-Relationship"

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If your partner hasn't been feeling connected to your relationship, they might start subtly saying so via their posts. For example, you might notice "cryptic posts or quotes and memes that seem to indicate the poster is questioning [their] current life direction," Lavelle says. So if it seems like they're posting things that seem a bit "anti-relationship," you might be right.

And it could mean something. "If your partner likes or posts memes that try to show a humorous take on hiding a ... 'side boo' ... this can be a sign they are cheating," Lavelle says. "Also look out for likes or shares on memes that try to show a humorous take on hiding anything from a significant other, like ways to hide your phone messages, how to convince your significant other that you're asleep at home but you're really out, ways to keep your partner from asking about social media 'friends,' etc."

11. They've Created Other Accounts

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If your partner has a separate Instagram account — one where they never posts about you — or another Facebook page, that's a red flag. "Did your partner add a new social media page that [they] previously did not have? When social media accounts change or the postings start to change, it can be a big clue that your significant other could be cheating," Lavelle says.

While there are plenty of other explanations for a second account, or a joke posted on a ex's wall, if you have that gut feeling that something's going on, do bring it to your partner's attention. By having a conversation about your relationship, you may be able to nip cheating in the bud before it happens. Or, at the very least, get to the bottom of why they've been unfaithful, so you can start to mend your relationship if you decide that's what you want.