As you likely know, there seem to be a million and one ways to tell if your partner is cheating. Are they hiding their phone? Are they suddenly working late? These things can certainly tip you off to a problem, and may warrant further investigation. But an even better way to tell is if your partner is being extra argumentative.
If they have a short temper, and turn everything into a fight, it could mean they're overworked or in a bad mood. Or, it could be a side effect of the guilt and stress they're experiencing from sneaking around behind your back.
"Cheating is highly distressful," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web Radio Show, tells Bustle. "It is living a secret life. And more times than not it is filled with fear and guilt. This has a cumulative effect on the person and basically reduces their ability to tolerate frustration, irritation, and conflict. So between the guilt they are feeling, the shame they are feeling, and the fear of being caught, they are far less to manage daily conflicts with you."
More arguments might also mean your partner is projecting their guilt onto you. As therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW says, "Placing the blame on others or arguing is a way of deflecting the attention elsewhere." While general, everyday arguments shouldn't freak you out, if they keep happening, it may be worth looking into. Below, a few things your partner is most likely to argue about, and the fights you're most likely to have, if an affair is afoot.
1. They Suddenly Hate Your Quirks
If your partner is stressed out, or is looking for a reason to justify their affair, they might find any excuse to be annoyed with you. "The way you talk, your daily habits, your cleanliness, your food choices — anything that was a mild irritant before becomes a safe outlet for an argument," says Klapow. "They are arguing about lots of little things, which can be a cover for the big thing that is going on."
2. They Want To Fight About The Future
If your partner is spending time with someone else, they may start picking fights about your future as a couple — things you do or don't want to do, etc. — in an effort to make up their mind about who to date.
"These are ways of basically saying, 'I am finding qualities in someone else and I want you to be like them,'" Klapow says "They may ask you about the future, your plans for your life, their life, careers, kids. All these larger issues that are allowing them to size up just how much is it worth to be having the affair versus being in the relationship."
3. They Keep Canceling Your Plans
If your SO is cheating, they might be a lot less available than they once were. And that can lead to arguments. "You might fight about your SO being late, or not showing, or canceling plans at the last minute, or that your SO has to suddenly work late when they haven't had to previously," says relationship therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC. Fights like these might point to an affair.
4. They're Focusing More On Their Friends
It's perfectly fine to have lives outside your relationship. In fact, it's 100 percent healthy. But if your SO is suddenly all about his or her friends, and not so much about spending time with you, it can cause problems.
"You fight about not being a priority in your SO's life and that friends, family, sports, hobbies or work always come before time spent with you," Derichs says. "Your SO will most likely deny that you are unimportant and profess that you are overreacting or misinterpreting their behavior... yet nothing really changes."
5. They've Been Hiding Their Phone
Ah yes, the phone. It seems to always be at the center of situations like these. And for good reason. If your SO is suddenly hiding their phone, or setting up passwords, Derichs tells me their privacy requirements can lead to fights. "Phones, computers... anything that requires or can have a password are now off limits." And if that's not normal, then that's not OK.
6. They No Longer Want To Have Sex
It's normal for your sex life to wax and wane over the course of your relationship. But if it seems like your SO just isn't interested, and you've been fighting about it, take it as a sign — especially if they're unwilling to talk about it. As Hershenson says, "Whenever you bring up your lack of a sex life, it turns into an argument about you being selfish."
7. They're Nowhere To Be Found
Have you two been arguing about how, whenever you call your SO, the phone rings and ring and they never pick up? "If hours go by without hearing from your partner when you know they should be at home and they are full of excuses (my phone died, I fell asleep) and it keeps happening, it’s a sign you may be being cheated on," Hershenson says.
8. They're Leaving Out The Details
If you two have been together for awhile, it'll likely be obvious if your partner suddenly starts to lie, or tell half truths, or leave out details about their day. As Hershenson tells me, they be vague, or claim you're "being too nosy" during the resulting fight. And none of that is OK.
9. They're No Longer Participating
"Fights between couples where there is infidelity can center around the cheating person not participating enough in the family," psychoanalyst Dr. Claudia Luiz tells Bustle. "Maybe they're not doing their chores, maybe their isolating in another room, maybe they're not interacting with the children. Fighting with a partner who is not being present enough often masks that there's an underlying infidelity — another person in the room siphoning off the non-present persons energy."
10. They've Been Isolating Themselves
Speaking of isolation, a cheating SO might cordon themselves off, in an effort to avoid talking about the situation. "There are closed doors and lots of private conversations that you once were privy to, but are now are off limits," Derichs says. If this is out of the norm for them, you have every right to be upset.
11. They Keep Saying You're "Paranoid"
In a healthy relationship, you should be able to express your concerns, and talk about them together in a mature way. But a cheating partner might immediately try to shut down any convos that seem to be calling them out. And often they'll do so by claiming you're paranoid. As Derichs says, "Your SO denies that there is anything different and says that you are just being paranoid and have to spend your time on something else more important."
12. They Keep Shutting You Down
In the same vein, he or she may claim that your concerns aren't valid. "Your SO might discount your concerns [by saying something like] 'I'm here... I'm just really busy,'" Derichs says. "Denial and distraction are two elements of not dealing with secrets in any relationship."
13. They've Been Saying You're "Possessive'
Again, if you bring any of this up, and your partner doesn't want to talk about it, it could be their way of deflecting attention away from the problem. And one way many people do this, during fights, is by claiming the other is being possessive. As Hershenson says, "If you bring it up and the argument always leads to you being possessive or too needy, it’s not a good sign." This is their way of invalidating your concerns.
Remember, though, that none of this guarantees your SO is cheating. There's a reasonable explanation for all of them. But if these types of fights keep happening, it should make you raise an eyebrow.
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