If you've ever thought your partner was cheating on you — even when they weren't — you're not alone. It can be a very stressful situation to find yourself in. And while it may seem like trust issues are what's leading you to constantly worry your partner is cheating, experts and research say it could point to something deeper than that.
Typically, people develop a constant paranoia about cheating for three reasons, Susan Golicic, Ph.D., a certified relationship coach and co-founder of Uninhibited Wellness, tells Bustle. Trust issues are certainly one of them, but it may also mean you're struggling with confidence, or projecting your own behavior and fear onto them.
Here, a deeper look at those three potential root causes, as well as what you can do about them to ease that cheating paranoia.
1. You Have Cheated In The Past
If infidelity has been an issue before, projection might be a factor in your current insecurities. "Projection is a very low-level coping skill," Dr. Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP, a clinical psychologist and author of The Other Woman's Affair, tells Bustle. "People that do things themselves like cheat, think about cheating, or have cheated in the past, project these thoughts of desire onto their partners. Their mind ends up creating a reality that their partner is cheating as well."
In fact, a recent small study of 96 heterosexual couples, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships of 96, found we project our attraction towards other people onto our partners. When the participants in the study were attracted to someone outside their relationship, they were much more likely to say their partner was attracted to others, too, even if they really weren't.
If you cheated in the past, are currently cheating, or are even thinking it, chances are you'll believe your partner is cheating, too. It may be a subconscious way to "justify" your own behavior, Golicic says. Because if you convince yourself your partner is cheating, the logic goes, it makes your potential transgression less severe. Obviously, it doesn’t really work that way.
"When these [thoughts] are driving the paranoia, there doesn't have to be any actual evidence that cheating is occurring," Golicic says. "[You] will still manufacture them and cling to the simplest sign." If your partner receives a text at night, for example, you may assume it's a sign of an affair because you're also receiving texts late at night.