Trust is an essential part of a relationship, and you never want to feel skeptical about your partner without good reason. However, if your significant other has been behaving oddly, it might be worth it to figure out the cause. There are a number of signs that indicate your partner has a guilty conscience, as most people who do something they shouldn't have tend to act in similar ways. When someone has done something wrong, their behavior often changes, and noticing the telltale signs of guilt can help you figure out if there is something that needs to be discussed with your partner.
"Guilt, especially when it has to do with a secret, weighs on a person," relationship therapist Tracy K. Ross, LCSW, tells Bustle. "As a result it leads to behavior, both verbal and non-verbal that is out of the ordinary... The person may be more emotional or prone to tears — a small thing may unleash a strong feeling leaving you feeling confused or overwhelmed by the reaction."
Although it's never best to assume your partner has done something to break your trust, it can be useful to read their behavior to discover if something is amiss. Here are seven signs your partner may have a guilty conscience, according to experts.
They Are Overly Emotional
A guilty person will tends to have more emotionally-charged dialogue with you. "Someone harboring a guilty conscience may be quick to jump to extreme anger when questioned," therapist Dana Koonce, MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Because they are perceiving you as a 'threat,' fight or flight is activated. Their ability to access more rational and logical parts of their brain decreases, and their emotions dominate."
They Have Trouble Sleeping
"A classic sign of a guilty conscience is difficulty sleeping," Koonce says. "During the day, we are usually able to distract ourselves and keep our negative thoughts at bay. However, once we lay down to sleep, we have no other distractions, and these thoughts and feelings come flooding back. Restlessness, tossing and turning, and/or agitated sleep and nightmares are common." While there could be plenty of other reasons why your partner is having difficulty sleeping, if it seems like something is weighing on them, ask them about it.
Someone who is holding in guilt will go out of their way to avoid you or choose to spend time by themselves. "Avoiding a 'trigger' to their guilty conscience means that a person isn't reminded of what they are doing and the 'source' of their guilt," Koonce says. "Much like a person who is afraid of flying avoids airplane travel, someone who turns down plans to spend time together, doesn't answer texts as often, or doesn't pick up the phone means that a person doesn't have to think about or feel the negative emotions that come along with a guilty conscience." While their reasoning for avoidance may be something other than guilt, it is definitely something to take note of.
If you feel like all of a sudden your partner is noticing you and appreciating you in ways they normally take for granted, it may be a result of their guilty conscience. "They may be considerate or thoughtful in ways that isn’t usually the case, such as doing chores, planning date nights, buying small gifts, or suggesting you buy yourself something or have a spa day," Ross says. The key here is this isn't typical for them — if your partner is being appreciative in general, and there is no cause for you to worry, then this may not be a red flag.
They're Protective Of Their Phone
There's nothing wrong with some privacy between couples, but if your partner is overly cautious about letting you see their phone, they could be hiding something. "In this day and age, when someone is especially protective of their phone and other devices, it may be a sign of a guilty conscience," Ross says. "[This includes] jumping to respond to an incoming message, making efforts to keep their phone close by and out of reach, new passwords etc."
They Blame You For Things
"One way to manage guilt is to blame your partner for the same thing you have done," relationship therapist Brian Jory, tells Bustle. "This is especially true when a partner has cheated. [They might start] questioning or accusing you as though you are the cheater. Our mind plays tricks on us when we feel guilty, and it is easy for wrongdoers to convinced themselves that they are the one who has been wronged."
The best way to truly know if your partner is guilty about something is to have a conversation, but watch out for these common signs that they have something to hide.