It is isn't always easy to tell when a significant other has been unfaithful. They may act more distant, or they may flake out on plans more often, or they may just seem more distracted than usual. What you may not realize, however, is that an unfaithful partner's texting habits can change after cheating, as well. Even if you haven't noticed a change in your SO's behavior, a partner who has cheated can inadvertently leave clues about their two-timing by the way that they communicate. Have the text conversations between you and your SO seemed off lately? Something might just be up.
So what are the texting red flags a person should look out for if they suspect their partner is cheating? To get the down-low, Elite Daily spoke to online dating expert Julie Spira and certified dating and relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching Lisa Concepcion. As Spira points out, "When your partner's in a cheating state of mind, one of the first signs of betrayal is a change in habits of cell phone use." If you suspect that infidelity is a possibility (or even if you don't), watch out for these important and very telling texting habits.
Your SO Is Very Protective Of Their Phone
Most people take their phones just about everywhere except the shower (and sometimes they'll even risk water damage just to have it in there with them). But if it appears as though your SO's phone has suddenly become glued to their hand, you may have reason to feel suspicious.
"Absolutely pay attention to how protective they are with the phone and frequency of checking and energy around notifications," Concepcion advises. "Do they bother looking at all until they get around to it or are they rushing to look?" Test your partner by letting your hand linger near their phone — do they not seem to notice, or do they snatch the phone away immediately? As Concepcion adds, "Another big one: Are they going to the bathroom to text?" OK, plenty of people have been known to text from the bathroom (myself included), but if it's unusual for your SO to keep their phone with them at all times, or if this is a new habit, there's a chance that there's something on their phone that they don't want you to see.
Your SO Hides Their Phone From You
Rather than never letting their phone out of their sight, your SO actually might do the exact opposite and keep their phone entirely out of sight. Forget "out of sight, out of mind" — if your partner is keeping their phone secreted away, it might be a very mindful decision.
"Suddenly someone who's phone was always attached to their hip keeps their phone turned off, leaves it in the car, or anywhere where it can't be visibly seen by you, including locking it in a drawer or safe," Spira says. "Your partner will give you the excuse that they're with you, so they don't need their phone to call Uber or to call you, because you're together, but the reality is, they don't want a romantic text to appear on their phone for fear of getting caught." As much as you would like to believe your SO has suddenly gone cold turkey on screen time to be more present, they could just be protecting that screen from prying eyes.
Your SO Reacts To All Incoming Notifications
With all of the spam email, Instagram comments, and group chat messages that the typical person gets inundated with in one day, it's nearly impossible to acknowledge every single pop-up notification upon receipt. However, a person who has been cheating will likely react to every beep, ring, and vibrate that their phone makes.
"There's an energy, a vibe that you can pick up on when a notification goes off," Concepcion says. Like a person waiting to receive an important email, a cheating partner will probably leap to retrieve their phone with every message, no matter how trivial-seeming. "Pay attention to how they respond," Concepcion suggests. "If your partner never looks at their phone while watching a movie and then all of a sudden a notification goes off and you see them looking at their phone, ask what's up with the difference in the cell phone vibe." Make it clear that you've picked up on a change in their behavior. If they get defensive, then you might want to probe further.
The Frequency With Which Your SO Texts You Changes
Most people in a relationship fall into a pretty predictable texting pattern after they've passed the honeymoon phase. If your SO has been seeing someone else behind your back, their texting frequency will likely change, and you might find that they're texting you way less often that usual — or maybe even way more often.
"It will either be less frequent (if they've checked out of the relationship) or way more frequent to overcompensate for guilt," Concepcion notes. "This is why it's very important to have consistent communication throughout the relationship and to be attuned to your partner's moods and ways of communicating." You would think that a partner who's been way more attentive than usual is showing more interest in your relationship, but it could just be a case of a guilty conscience.
The Conversations Between You And Your SO Seem Dry
Perhaps your partner used to send you funny memes or cute emojis throughout the day. But if you notice that those thoughtful texts come less frequently or have all but disappeared, it may not be a case of your SO being distracted at work.
Rather than the playful conversations that you used to have, Spira suggests that you might now find your convos to be "generic or to confirm schedules." Continue sending your partner the same sort of daily messages that you used to, regardless of their own change in texting habits. If they respond with little more than "haha" or "you, too" rather than following your lead, call them out on it.
Your SO Sends You Out-Of-The-Blue Text Messages
One of the most significant indications that your partner is cheating: They get careless and send you something that is meant for the other person. Juggling two relationships is no doubt confusing, so if you get a text from your SO that doesn't make any sense, it likely wasn't meant for you.
"If you suddenly receive a text not intended for you about making plans, hooking up, or saying what a great time they had last night when you weren't together, it's not a typo," Spira says. "It's a reality check that your partner could be cheating."
As an example, Concepcion adds, "Say that — out of nowhere — they sends you three kissy emojis with 'I bet that could be fun.' And you respond, 'What would be fun??' And they reply back with, 'You and me tonight.' And if you're confused, that text was probably not intended for you and they're trying to cover up." Everyone replies to the wrong message every once in a while, but I have a feeling that your SO wasn't trying to send a heart emoji to their friend.
Of course, just because you have a feeling that your SO is cheating doesn't mean that they are. But your suspicions are still valid. As Concepcion says, "Bottom line, if you suspect someone is cheating, it's worth having a conversation." After all, if your partner's way of communicating has changed, shouldn't that indicate that better communication is exactly what you need?