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Is he cheating on you? These red flags will help you know for sure if your boyfriend or husband is having an affair. Often the most difficult part is trusting your instincts, being honest with yourself, and accepting the fact that he is unfaithful.
“I suspect my boyfriend is cheating on me but I don’t know for sure,” says R. on Is Your Boyfriend Cheating on You? 7 Warning Signs of an Affair. “What are some signs of an affair, so I can get an objective idea? If I knew for sure he’s having an affair I’d know how to talk to him. But I’m just suspicious, I don’t know for sure. He says he loves me but he has friends I don’t know anything about and he goes away for 3, 4, sometimes 7 days and I don’t know where he goes. Are those red flags of an affair?”
Yes, I would think so. I learned more about recognizing the red flags of an affair from a novel called The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison than I did from reading 10 non-fiction relationship books put together! The Silent Wife is fiction, but it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read on cheating. The husband is having an affair; the wife is a counselor who refuses to admit he’s cheating on her. She has a great deal of insight into the clients she counsels, but not herself. Or her husband. Below, I share the biggest red flags that a man is cheating on his wife…
“Love means jumping off a cliff and trusting that a certain person would be there to catch you at the bottom,” says bestselling author Jodi Picoult.
One of the most devastating parts of finding out that your boyfriend or husband is cheating is that he was supposed to be the one who catches you…not the one who pushes off the cliff. That’s why it’s so difficult and painful not only to see the red flags that are telling you he’s having an affair, but to accept the truth.
Try to be as honest and objective as possible as you look through these signs that a man is cheating.
5 Red Flags That Tell You He’s Having an Affair
Note that one or two of these “red flags” of an affair don’t necessarily mean your boyfriend or husband is cheating on you. Only he and his affair partner know for sure if he’s being unfaithful. Actually – his friends might also know; in fact, friends often are aware of infidelities.
1. Your boyfriend’s behavior is unusual
A huge red flag of an affair is when he acts out of character. Have you noticed your boyfriend or husband doing odd things or leaving things in unusual places? For example, a sign of an affair could be that he lost weight and is wearing spiffy new boxer shorts or briefs. He may change his normal routine or start spending more time with friends, new or old. Usual habits or routines can signal that something is off.
While they may not want to get caught, some men leave clues or hints lying around. Most people don’t like lying and cheating on their partners because they know it’s wrong. But it also feels good to some people; sneaking around adds spice and mystery to the affair.
At some level, is it possible that your boyfriend wants you to know about the affair? This is deep psychological terrain, but it’s worth thinking about. When we do things that are wrong, we sometimes want to get caught. We feel relieved when the truth comes out.
2. He gets angry or frustrated when you ask him questions about his whereabouts
When you ask where your partner was (he’s always late), who he was with (he always says “nobody” or “you wouldn’t know him, a guy from work”), or when he left work (“why are you interrogating me?” he asks), then it could be a red flag that he’s having an affair. Men who aren’t cheating don’t squirm when questioned. Men who don’t cheat are happy to share their lives, thoughts, and activities with you.
Look at your boyfriend’s body language when you ask him where he’s been. “When we’re telling the truth to people we like, we face our belly buttons towards them,” says communications expert Janine Driver on 9 Ways to Know if Your Husband is Lying About Cheating. “When your husband is lying about cheating, he’ll turn away from you. If his belly button faces the door or exit, it’s because subconsciously he wants to leave or escape.”
Believe your boyfriend’s body language, not his words. Watch how he responds to your questions or comments about his activities or explanations. What red flags do you see? Why do you suspect he’s having an affair? Trust your intuition.
3. Your boyfriend smells different
Before I read the novel, I thought the biggest red flag that tells you he’s cheating was if a guy shows up clean and showered, smelling of soap and shampoo. After all, most cheaters clean up after the visit, right? Wrong. According to The Silent Wife, some cheaters come home smelling of unusual or odd smells, such as incense, mildew, grass, mouthwash.
Give him the sniff test. What does he smell like? If he smells like his usual self, maybe you’re misreading him.
4. You recognize the “usual” red flags of cheating
In the book, Harrison says a shower can eliminate telltale body odours, but the soap from the hotel bathroom is different than the soap you and he use at home. Does he smell clean…but clean in a different way?
And then there are all the common signs of an affair:
- Stray hairs that are a different color
- Lipstick stains
- Rumpled clothing
- Furtive, secret phone calls
- Unexplained absences
- Mysterious marks on his body
- New possessions
The husband who was cheating in The Silent Wife often came home with new acquisitions, such as fancy key chains and expensive bottles of aftershave. They appeared out of nowhere, and the husband simply said he bought them. This actually goes back to the first red flag that tells you your boyfriend or husband is cheating: unusual or out-of-character behavior.
5. Your boyfriend is frequently distracted or preoccupied
This is one of the most common red flags of an affair. Why? Because if he is unfaithful, he’s not 100% available to you. He’s not present, he’s not really there when you talk to him. We can’t be fully emotionally, physically, or spiritually available to our partners every moment, of course. But sometimes you get the sense that your husband or boyfriend hasn’t been fully committed to you or your relationship for a long time.
It’s normal for passions to fade and relationships to become more comfortable over time. No couple can maintain that high energy intimacy and chemistry over the long-term! But if your boyfriend or husband is clearly preoccupied or distracted, then your relationship may have shifted from the normal predictable lull that all couples experience to a more serious problem.
What to Do Next
Read When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships by world-renowned therapist Mira Kirshenbaum. She’ll take you through six easy-to-navigate steps to help you transition from anxiety to clarity about the red flags you may be seeing. She also identifies 17 (!) types of affairs, including:
- “See-if” affairs
- Ejector-seat affairs
- Distraction affairs
- Unmet-needs affairs
- Panic affairs
When Good People Have Affairs will help you understand why men and women cheat in relationships, and perhaps help you forgive him for cheating.
Get support. I can’t give you the counseling or advice you need to sift through the red flags and talk to your husband or boyfriend about cheating. It’s important for you to work through this with someone you trust – but not necessarily your best friend or mom! Find someone who is objective, and who isn’t emotionally invested in your relationship or marriage. If you decide to stay with your guy and try to save your relationship, you’ll regret talking to your best friend or mom. They may not be able to forgive as easily as you (which won’t be easy at all, I’m sorry to say).
Decide if you want to save your relationship. Read Why He’s Having an Affair and How to Recover. Take your power back! If your husband or boyfriend wants to stay together and stop cheating, you have the right to walk away. Use your head, trust your instincts, and believe your self.
You know what you should do…but do you have the courage to do it?
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of what it’s like to identify the red flags that your husband or boyfriend is cheating.