Is My Partner Cheating? 7 Signs Your Suspicions Stem From Fear
If you're worried that your partner is cheating, figuring out whether your suspicions stem from fear is important. There's a difference between fear and intuition. When it comes to relationships, intuition can save you from a potentially heartbreaking situation. Fear, on the other hand, can create distance, tension, and maybe even heartbreak. So how can you tell if your suspicions about loyalty just stem from fear? According to experts, there are a few key things to pay attention to.
"It's not uncommon to have fears about your partner's loyalty from time to time, especially if you have a history of unfaithful relationships," Kari Tumminia, international dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. But "unconscious fear" can be problematic.
According to Tumminia, unconscious fear is what happens when our subconscious minds amplify our suspicions in order to keep us safe. "This means that your fears can feel very real, but may not have any actual substance behind them," she says.
For example, this is the type of fear that kicks in when your partner comes home late one night. It can make your mind go from, "Are they OK?" to "Are they cheating?" in an instant, without any real evidence to back that up. If you let your mind go down the infidelity hole, it's going to affect your behavior and how you interact with your partner. Fear basically tricks your brain into thinking things are much worse than they actually are. If you let it consume your thoughts, it can ruin a perfectly good relationship.
So here are some signs your suspicions about loyalty stem from fear, according to experts.
1. You've Been Cheated On In The Past
Everyone brings their share of baggage into each relationship they get into. If yours includes being cheated on, you'll be "hyper-sensitive" to the possibility of that happening again. "It's just rooted in how your brain works," Tumminia says. "Your brain will generalize similar experiences to help you avoid traumatic, painful, or unsafe feelings." Even if there's nothing suspicious going on, your brain may make mountains out of mole hills in order to prevent you from getting hurt again.
2. You Have Unresolved Issues From Childhood
Your childhood may seem like a long time ago, but the experience you had plays a major role in shaping who you are as an adult. If you grew up with parents who were more toxic than nurturing, it will affect the way you see yourself in relation to others. According to licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Caroline Madden, PhD, this may cause you to develop a "deep sense of being unlovable." This is caused by the attachment style you learned in childhood. If you developed an anxious attachment style, it can cause you to worry more about your relationship. It's easier for you to believe that your partner will eventually cheat and leave, than it is to believe they'll stick around for a long time.
3. You May Have Cheated Yourself
Sometimes the reason behind your suspicions can be found by looking into a mirror. If you're not being completely loyal yourself, Dr. Madden says you may be projecting. "You have a guilty conscious about possibility of cheating," she says. "Instead of exploring that and committing to not being a cheater, you start projecting by thinking your partner must be the same way." Because of that, you may feel the need to check up on them to make sure they're not doing anything wrong. People also use projecting as a way to defend themselves against claims that they're being unfaithful. According to Madden, this is called a reaction formation. "If you act holier than thou about cheating, then no one will suspect you of doing it," she says.
4. You're Feeling Less Confident Than Usual
"Major life changes, hormones, the loss of a loved one, or even health issues can all impact your internal sense of stability," Tumminia says. If you're experiencing a "general upheaval in your sense of self," it becomes really easy to project your insecurities onto your partner and your relationship. More often than not, these feelings tend to come and go. They never stay for very long. So as Tumminia says, "Avoid jumping to conclusions when you're feeling less-than-amazing or when other big things in your life could be impacting your sense of judgement." There's no reason to add to your worries.
5. Your Relationship Is Moving Beyond The Honeymoon Period
"Every relationship will have a natural ebb and flow to its level of intensity," Tumminia says. "But, sometimes those fluctuations can trigger fear about what our partners may or may not be doing when they aren't in our physical and emotional space." For instance, when your partner isn't texting you as frequently as before, it's easy to feel like they're losing interest. But it's important to remember that your relationship will never be the same as it was in the beginning. Sometimes you'll even get busy and you won't have as much energy to invest into your relationship. This is all completely normal and healthy.
6. Your Partner Has Been Nothing But Good To You So Far
"All suspicions stem from fear, whether they're based in reality or in one’s imagination," Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear, tells Bustle. Suspicion is a sign that your mind is on alert for a possible threat, so your body will become "activated and alert." There are rational reasons for being suspicious like finding flirty texts between your partner and a coworker. But if your partner has been nothing but loyal, honest, and an "open book" throughout the time you've been together, Manly says your suspicions may be unfounded.
7. You've Been Keeping Your Concerns To Yourself
If you think your partner is cheating, Tumminia says there are some questions you should ask yourself. Do you have actual evidence that your partner is being unfaithful? Are there specific, tangible behaviors you can point to as red flags outside of your own feelings and emotions? If not, your suspicions may stem from fear. When you're reading into your partner's behaviors and analyzing them by yourself, it's easy to think the worst. After all, if you already suspect your partner is cheating, you're going to look for signs to prove that you're right. If you're not talking to your partner, fear will only fuel your suspicions.
"Communicating with your partner about how you're feeling is deeply important to the success of your relationship," Tumminia says. "Trust and intimacy are built over time, and honest communication is the best foundation." After you have a conversation, you can reevaluate your fears. If the conversation you had makes you feel better, there's nothing to worry about.
Fear can be overwhelming sometimes, but you don't have to let it get in the way of your relationship. Communicating with your partner, or a professional, for deeply rooted issues, can help you deal with the fears you may have around your partner's loyalty.