Getting cheated on is a terrible feeling. In fact, everything about cheating is awful, no matter the reasons why someone does it.
Cheating not only destroys the already-built relationship between two people, but it also frequently drags in another person who may have no idea what they're getting caught up in. Or even worse, the third person does know what they are doing, and they are actively trying to break up the couple.
"Is my partner cheating?" is literally one of the worst questions any of us will ever have to ask in our relationship, and this time period can be devastating for a person in love.
Dr. Martha Tara Lee, a clinical sexologist (DHS, MA, BA) and founder of Eros Coaching, says that unfortunately, there's no surefire way to affair-proof your relationship.
"You can never be 100 percent sure and you cannot lead your life looking behind your shoulder every minute either," she says. "At some point, you have to just let go for your fear and focus on being the glorious self that you are – with the full knowledge that if your partner really wants to cheat on you emotionally or physically, it will happen, and you will find out."
If you just suspect your partner is cheating, though, and you aren't sure yet, the anxiety you go through can be truly terrible.
If you've felt confused about the direction of your relationship lately, and you've had cause to wonder if your partner is cheating, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help figure it out:
1. Are They Frequently Distracted?
Is your partner often focused on something other than you when you're together? Have they begun to barely listen when you speak? Do they constantly seem like their attention is elsewhere?
If you feel like your partner is suddenly distracted all the time, this could be a sign they are cheating. Along with being generally mentally out-of-it, your partner may make you feel like your problems or emotions don't matter or that they can't be bothered to deal with them. They might tell you you're overreacting when you get upset that they aren't as emotionally available as they used to be. They probably also won't be around to connect with you as much.
"[It] has to do with the amount of emotional energy that you put into the other person, and consequently denying or unable to give to your partner," Dr. Lee says. "Most people are more disturbed by the breaking of trust and the intimacy in the 'rival' relationship, than whether there is sex involved."
Of course, if your partner is distracted a lot, it could also be a sign that there's something else big going on in their life that they haven't talked to you about yet (or maybe they aren't willing to talk to you about at all).
It could be harmless, but the key is to try to talk to your partner and understand their distraction, as well as to look at the rest of their behavior to see what is truly going on.
2. Do They Go For Long Periods Of Time Being Unavailable?
A sure sign that something is up in your relationship is if your partner all of a sudden spends big chunks of time being unavailable.
Although many of us don't like to be tied to our phones 24/7, the unfortunate truth is that we live in a world where constant communication is valued. Even if you and your partner weren't glued to your devices all the time before, you may have recently noticed that they are much less available than they once were.
If you have to wait for hours before your partner responds to a text, or you frequently get sent to voicemail when you try to call, this may be a sign that they are cheating.
Your partner may also make you feel like you're being unreasonable and tell you they're "just busy" when you try to reach them, but if other signs support the idea that they are cheating, don't ignore them.
3. Have They Mentioned Someone's Name A Lot Recently?
Although it may seem counterintuitive, someone who has just begun an affair (or who is about to begin an affair) may mention the other person's name a lot.
Though you may think they'd try to be as secretive about it as possible, the truth is that if the other person is a colleague, co-worker, or someone else they see on a regular basis, they may try to make the interaction appear less serious than it is by telling you about the other person.
If you are hearing a new person's name come up a lot, take the time to ask your partner about them and assess how you feel about that relationship. If something seems a bit too intimate, or they seem to be spending a bit too much time together, it's OK to let your partner know you don't feel entirely comfortable with their new friendship.
4. Do They Have A Sudden Need For Total Privacy?
Is your partner hiding things from you that they didn't used to hide? For example, do they make sure you can't see their phone screen, or did they change their computer password?
If you feel like your partner has a new, intense need for privacy, this could be a red flag that they are cheating or are about to cheat.
Although you might feel like the best thing to do is to snoop, the truth is, that's never the answer. Instead of resorting to snooping through their things and finding something (even if it's something harmless, and they aren't actually cheating, you may blow the situation up in your head and cause it to be worse than it is!), you should try to talk to them about it.
You can tell your partner that you feel uncomfortable with how they've been handling their privacy and see if they'd be willing to talk about it. If they aren't, snooping still isn't the answer, but you should assess how you feel about a partner who's unwilling to listen to your concerns.
5. Have They Picked Up A New Habit?
Is your partner suddenly dressing better, working out more, or wearing a new cologne? Have they kept you in the dark about why they have this new habit or new lifestyle?
Sometimes, when someone is cheating, they might go out of their way to develop better habits to impress the other person. Although you might think it's about you, at first, your partner's new good habits might unfortunately have more to do with the fact that they are having an affair or about to start one.
Kristin Marie Bennion, a licensed mental health therapist and certified sex therapist, says that when people start to see a major shift in their partner's behavior, they freak out and start to do all the wrong things
"More often than not, this is not the time to engage in 'detective work' (which many people do), this is a time to engage in good communication skills, be honest about what [was] observed and let [your] partner know how it is making [you] feel."
And it's not always a disaster, she says: "Things change in healthy relationships all of the time, so it doesn't necessarily mean there is a need to be alarmed."
As always, the best thing you can do here is to nonchalantly talk to your partner about their new habits. You can say something like, "I love that cologne you've been wearing recently. How did you choose it?" to try to get an idea of why they might suddenly be altering their behavior.
If their answers are evasive or unsatisfactory, it's a bigger warning sign that they could be hiding something, says Bennion.
6. Do They Seem Less Interested In Sex?
Although long-term couples' sex lives go up and down (and this is totally normal), if you've been feeling consistently that your partner is less interested in sex with you than they once were, this could be a sign that there's someone else.
The difference in your sex life could be anything -- it's really about what makes you feel different. You may still be having sex on a regular basis, but your partner is making you feel like it's a chore. You may be having sex once every two weeks now instead of once a day. You may have just noticed that they don't seem to want to be as physically connected to you.
Of course, communication to figure out why this is the case is key here, but if your partner's interest in sex has dropped all of a sudden, this may be a warning sign that an affair is occurring or is on the horizon.
7. Does Your Intuition Tell You Something Is Not Right?
At the end of the day, if your gut tells you something is off, it probably is.
So often, our intuition guides us well in our relationships, but we choose not to listen to it because we think we're being unreasonable or we're trying to look on the bright side. But if something is wrong in your relationship, you'll probably "know" before you actually know, because your gut will lead you to believe something's up.
If you suspect your partner is cheating, it may feel awful, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Talking to your partner about the behaviors that have been concerning you could open up a whole new world of possibilities you didn't consider.
Maybe something big is going on with them that they haven't wanted to worry you with or maybe they're just going through a stressful time. Talking directly to them will help you get to the bottom of it.
And if they are actually cheating, well then, good riddance.
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