Are you able to tell if someone is a serial cheater?
Not many people can, but knowing what signs to look for can save you a lot of time and (at least some) heartbreak.
“Fundamentally, we are not monogamous by nature, but rather it’s our culture that calls for monogamy,” relationship expert Chantal Heide says. “Why are some people chronic cheaters? The fact is the act of meeting a new partner and beginning a new relationship has intense chemical drivers, since we’re designed by nature to couple up and copulate in order to ensure the proliferation of the species. The chemicals in our bodies release when a relationship is new or incredibly intense, and can be compared to the same internal reactions we have when we do cocaine, meth and ecstasy.”
Like with drugs, however, Heide explains that our bodies have become accustomed to them and their intensity wears off.
“People who are more driven by their body’s responses than their emotional intellect will continue to seek out that initial high only found in new relationships,” she says. “That’s even if they’re loathe to relinquish the benefits they receive in established relationships like financial security, and a partner to help manage a household and raise children, and they don’t want to give up the security that comes from knowing there’s someone steady waiting for them at the end of the day.”
On the other hand, there are also people who are too insecure to maintain a monogamous committed relationship, Heide adds. These people, she says, lack the fundamental esteem and constantly hunger for validation and one person can never provide enough.
Another reason, for guys in particular, may be due to high testosterone levels, Heide says.
So how can you tell if someone is a cheater? Well, it all depends if it’s a new or long-term relationship, but being a man or woman has no bearing on the signs Heide says.
Signs of cheating in a new relationship
- It’s all about sex: If it’s a new relationship, chances are the relationship has been made to be all about sex from the get go, Heide says. And if you’re not available sexually, they give the impression that they’re not available either.
- They keep you at arm’s length: “They keep you at arm’s length from their real life because they’re afraid of getting caught if you talk to their friends,” she says. “Or they simply don’t want anyone to know about you. Therefore you never meet friends or family or are allowed to visit them at work.”
- They’re too busy: Most of the time they’re too busy for you and/or they never (or rarely) answer their phone, Heide points out. And when you do speak on the phone, it’s scheduled in advance.
- They’re very sexual: “They show a high level of sexuality from the very beginning, sending and requesting sexy texts messages and picture,” Heide says. “Your relationship revolves around sexuality and lacks more substance than that.”
- Time’s cut short: The time you do spend together often is cut short and you end up hanging out just a few hours here and there, Heide says.
Signs of cheating in an established relationship
- All about the looks: “If your partner is cheating they may develop a sudden interest in their looks and begin to change habits in relation to their appearance,” Heide says. “They’ll invest in a new wardrobe, take on a new fitness routine and show more care and attention to grooming and hygiene. These are usually signs your partner is looking to impress someone other than you.”
- Secrets: They may become more secretive with their email and phone, Heide says.
- Unavailability: “They might become unavailable during times when they normally would have been available, such as staying later at work but not be available for calls or texts,” she says.
- A change in mood: An upswing in mood and patience can also be a sign, Heide says. “The chemicals released during a new relationship are soothing as well as exciting, and the chemical cocktail that comes with new relationships have an effect on your brain that makes you feel more satisfied and relaxed,” Heide explains. “Oxytocin makes you feel warm and fuzzy, and also a little forgetful, meaning negative feelings are diminished. Fighting in your relationship can decrease and your partner seems happier at the same time.”
Tips to consider
“The unfortunate fact is we are powerless to change other people, but people can choose to change if they feel it benefits them,” Heide says. “If your standard is such that you won’t tolerate cheating in your relationship and your partner can’t imagine a better life without you, they’ll change their behaviour in order to stay with you.”
If you’re in a relationship with a person who is cheating, Heide advises that you focus on yourself.
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“My advice is to focus on themselves and what they want in their relationship and to stand by their desired outcomes,” she says. “If you find out your partner is cheating, insist on therapy, both or separately or together, as well as total transparency and accountability.”
If your partner refuses to cooperate, then it’s a sign they are more attached to their behaviour than to you and you should move on, she says.
“Keep in mind that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour and don’t hope for change unless you see these specific changes in behaviour,” she says.