You’re two dates in with someone new, and you seem like a natural fit for each other. You make each other laugh, share a lot of the same interests, and have a natural flow of conversation. But something about them seems off, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. Maybe they won’t talk much about their personal life, or they only text you during random times of day or night. You never want to believe someone is cheating on their partner with you, but unfortunately, it can happen. And when it does, it can be exceedingly difficult to figure out what’s really going on.
Sadly, some people are hiding a lot behind their meticulously curated online profiles (or behind that charming persona they put on when you first met at the bar). According to a February 2019 study from YouGov, 7% of people who have ever used dating apps or websites have used them to cheat on a partner. Especially in larger cities, where you’re less likely to come across a dating profile of someone you know, it’s all too easy for people to obscure the fact that they’re not actually single. And when you first start hanging out or hooking up with them, you’re probably none the wiser.
But if something doesn’t quite add up, you might start to question your new partner's real intentions. And with a little detective work, you can sometimes get answers on your own. “It is perfectly reasonable to do some basic checking on the person you are dating,” suggests David Bennett, a relationship expert with Double Trust Dating. Try to find your new partner on social media (or anywhere online, really) to see if you can learn more about their personal life. And in the meantime, look out for these dating behaviors that might mean your new bae isn’t telling you the full truth.
1. They’re evasive about social media.
OK, so it might be true that your partner really doesn’t have an Instagram account. But Bennett warns that if they’re being shady about it — and especially if their account is set to private and they won’t add you — that’s not an encouraging sign. “Most people have some social media presence these days,” he says. If they claim not to have it at all, do a little personal sleuthing to see if this is really the case.
Bennett notes that apps like Snapchat allow you to search for people who are already in your phone's contact list. Of course, you don’t want to be totally creepy about this — but if you’re really suspicious that they’re hiding another partner from you, it’s probably worth a quick check just to be sure you’re not missing anything major.
2. They won’t introduce you to anyone in their life.
“If they always find weird reasons not to introduce you to friends or family members, then it could be that they have a significant other they aren't telling you about,” Bennett explains. A person’s friends and family would likely know about their partner, making it impossible for them to keep up the ruse they’ve set in place. One strategy to figure this out for yourself is to specifically ask to meet their friends. “If they get hesitant and awkward, it may be a sign they are in a relationship,” Bennett says.
3. You always meet up in obscure places, and your partner never wants to bring you home.
Bennett notes that as fun as it is to go out on dates, after awhile, your new partner should feel comfortable enough to let you see their place. “If they seem to have a real aversion to going back to their place, then the reason could be a significant other living there,” he explains. It’s also a problem if your new partner never wants to go to certain spots in town, perhaps for fear of seeing someone they know there.
4. They ghost you for long periods of time and then reappear.
Everyone gets busy, but it’s not OK to just disappear for days or weeks on someone, then start texting them again like nothing has happened. “If they disappear for long periods of time without any good reason, and their explanation when they come back is kind of sketchy,” Bennett says it’s a major red flag. Perhaps they were spooked about their partner finding out that they’re cheating, so they stopped talking to you for awhile. Whatever is going on here, it’s not normal behavior.
If you have a persistent uneasy feeling that your partner is being dishonest, Bennett says it could be worth a face-to-face conversation. “If you don't have actual evidence (like finding something on social media), and you're worried, just be honest that something seems suspicious,” he suggests. “If they are honest and have nothing to hide, they'll do their best to assure you. If they get all sketchy, mad, and defensive, then that's a concern.”
In cases where you do have evidence, such as an Instagram photo that you think shows them with their partner, calmly show it to them and ask for clarification. “Going in angry and dramatic will just make the situation worse,” Bennett says. And if they still can’t explain themselves to you, you’re probably better off moving on from that relationship. Trust is crucial to any successful long-term partnership, and if you lack this early on, it doesn’t bode well for your ability to work through conflict together.
It’s not your fault if you accidentally get involved with someone who is cheating, but you should make every effort to understand the truth so you can extricate yourself from the situation if need be. Even casual partnerships need an open and honest foundation, so if your partner is obviously hiding things from you, you shouldn’t ignore the signs. Follow your intuition, and have whatever tough conversations are needed to get to the bottom of things.