Certain signs of infidelity are clear: lipstick on the collar, smell of perfume and Sunday-night business meetings. But there are less-obvious characteristics that almost all cheaters share. Do one or two of these a philanderer make?
Not necessarily. But if the below rings true about your guy and your instincts tell you something’s not right, you might want to check that collar.
1. He’s secretive, especially about his phone.
He’s on it more often (and often outside), he ignores calls, he changes his passcode frequently or he suddenly starts leaving it in the office or car. He’s trying to lock you out of his life, literally and figuratively. “Trust your gut here and confront him,” says Danine Manette, a professional investigator and author of Ultimate Betrayal: Recognizing, Uncovering and Dealing with Infidelity. “Most betrayed women report that they saw this sign, but either ignored it or explained it away.”
2. He’s no mama’s boy.
“Watch out for a man who’s angry at his mom,” warns Carole Lieberman, MD, author of Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them and When to Leave Them. If he lies or speaks unkindly to her, they have a dysfunctional relationship, explains Dr. Lieberman. Men who disrespect their moms tend to disrespect their wives too. Assume that he’s able to lie to you just as easily.
3. He’s insecure.
Whether about his appearance (he’s losing his hair) or his job (he was just fired), feeling threatened can be a trigger to boost self-esteem with an affair. That’s because cheating can make him feel like a man again, says Dr. Lieberman. If you’ve got a guy who’s down on himself, don’t flaunt your own desirability to other men or boast about your accomplishments at work. Instead, encourage him to reach for his goals.
4. He’s forgetful.
Was he never particularly absentminded before? Cheaters commonly pretend to forget things they’re actually pretty sure of, says Deborrah Cooper, a San Francisco dating advisor for Examiner.com and author of the forthcoming When to Break Up: The Fast & Easy How toGuide for Getting Out of Relationships That Suck. Rather than mix up your details with hers, he may find it safer to “forget” your favorite restaurant or even your birthday. If he asks lots of questions he should know the answer to-like wanting to know which movie you’re seeing when you’ve told him twice-reply with a question of your own. “Labor Day-remember, you said you’d let me have my chick flick this time?” If his response is akin to a student stammering when called on unexpectedly in class, keep your eyes peeled for other clues.
5. He’s a narcissist.
Men who are immature and self-centered, like a spoiled child, are primed for serial cheating, insists Ramani Durvasula, PhD, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at California State University, Los Angeles. “Narcissists lack empathy and view women as objects. Plus, they believe they have a right to do whatever they want,” says Dr. Durvasula. She maintains the best thing to do is get out. “You can’t change him, and he doesn’t want to be changed.”
6. He’s less affectionate.
Cheating men often forgo hand-holding, pecks on the cheek and snuggling on the couch-while still having sex with you. Sex can be just a physical act, while true intimacy is harder to fake. This may only be a pink flag, though, “if he’s not the touchy-feely type or if he’s stressed,” cautions Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, a therapist in Los Angeles. But if he’s always been loving and you don’t know why he’d be anxious, tell him you miss his touch and ask if something’s wrong. “If he denies any change, then the pink flag’s turned red,” says Dr. Irwin.
7. He’s got vices.
Whether he drinks too much, dabbles in drugs or has a gambling problem, “he doesn’t understand self-discipline, so he believes he can get away with things,” notes Tina B. Tessina, PhD, author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. Then there’s this: Partiers by definition hang out-when their inhibitions have been lowered-where it’s easy to pick up women. Your defense? “Take good emotional care of yourself, and stop pretending he’s your knight in shining armor,” says Dr. Tessina.
8. He’s charming.
And not just to your mother. If people often observe, “He could charm the pants off anyone!” he may be doing just that. We all start out figuring out how to circumvent rules, smiling at Mommy so she won’t be mad that we threw our toys. But most men grow out of that. Unlike Anthony Weiner. “He does outrageous things that can ruin his career, then tries to charm his way out of it,” notes Dr. Tessina. Her advice: “Keep him on notice that you will leave any time he’s not holding up his end of the bargain. Respond positively when you’re getting what you want from him, and don’t react at all when you don’t.”
9. He’s powerful.
Think Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger and yes, Mr. Weiner. Studies show that men who perceive themselves as powerful are more likely to be unfaithful. “Power, it appears, can be a strong aphrodisiac and make men feel invincible,” says Andee Harris, a certified life coach and founder of BedroomChemist.com. The best ways to keep your CEO or senior partner from straying is to stay physically connected, tell him how attracted you are to him and nag less often. If you think your efforts have failed, “confront him with whatever evidence you have, whether physical or circumstantial, and demand honesty,” suggests Harris.
10. He’s critical.
“It’s a cheater’s way of manipulating you into doubting what you believe and questioning your rights,” says Fran Walfish, PhD, a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, CA. What better way to keep you from calling him on suspicious behavior than by making you second-guess yourself? Nitpicking is especially suspicious if he was never bothered by your weight, housekeeping habits or job before. If he shows no other signs of cheating, “tell him clearly how much hearing his feelings spoken in such a critical way hurts you,” suggests Dr. Walfish. But if you feel pretty sure there’s another woman, “approach your man with your hunch. If he owns up, shows genuine remorse and gets himself into therapy, there’s hope. Staunch denial may mean you should go to a therapist to help you extract yourself from this toxic relationship,” advises Dr. Walfish.