According to survey data, most married people don’t cheat on their spouses. A majority of married people of all demographics say they have not engaged in infidelity. But then again, sex research is notoriously difficult because we’re taking people at their word and on a subject about which they might be highly motivated to lie (even themselves).
While “what counts” as cheating varies dramatically from person to person, and monogamy isn’t necessarily a component of a successful marriage, breaking agreements with one’s spouse around sex and romance is generally considered a big deal and is heavily associated with divorce.
According to the Institute for Family Studies, “Among ever-married adults who have cheated on their spouses before, 40% are currently divorced or separated. By comparison, only 17% of adults who were faithful to their spouse are no longer married. On the flip side, only about half of “cheaters” are currently married, compared with 76% of those who did not cheat.”
That is to say: if you want to stay married, stick to your agreements about sex.
One might assume that the people who benefit most from being married would be the most motivated to remain married. For over a century, research has consistently shown that married men do better on measures of physical health, emotional well-being, and even career stability. The longer a man stays married, “the greater his survival advantage over his unmarried peers,” according to the data.
Despite that, men are more likely to cheat than women in every age group, especially among older men. Perhaps it’s because they expect to hop into another relationship immediately after the marriage dissolves, as men are significantly more likely to get remarried than women.
The end of a marriage is usually harder on women’s well-being, their rates of stress and substance abuse jump more, and they tend to take a bigger financial hit, but divorced and widowed women are also far less likely to say that they want to get married again. That’s probably because the institution of matrimony is only shown to be really beneficial to women when marital satisfaction is high, according to research. Even though attitudes towards infidelity are changing culturally, women are more likely than men to say that it’s wrong to have sex with someone other than your spouse.
So even though marriage provides many protective factors if infidelity is impacting the quality of your relationship, it might be better to be alone than to be tied to a cheating spouse. So how can you tell if your husband is cheating?
We sent out a call on social media for experiences with having been cheated on and received an influx of replies. Hopefully, from these tales of betrayal, others can learn lessons that help avoid needless heartbreak. How could these folks tell their partners were cheating?
“Sudden radio silence during business trips. Changes in personal hygiene and grooming. Random, sometimes extravagant gifts. Being especially testy or reactive to normal questions. Weird looks, laughs, and other nonverbal communication with their friends. Oh, and a history of cheating.” Kristin.
“New secretiveness, not wanting to be intimate, starting fights and leaving.” Rose.
“Staying up really late. Getting in trouble at work for punctuality or taking long lunches. Saying they were making friends in an online support group. Being very homophobic. Not having close friends. Lying about small things. Offering to show receipts as proof. Randomly taking an interest in his appearance and hygiene but not with me. The list could go on and on. It’s easy to see now, but when you’re in it, it’s not so obvious. My husband was not honest with himself about his sexuality, and so he was not honest with me. That’s a hard convo, but I think there’s a way for a spouse to end a marriage when they realize their sexual identity is not in line with their partner.” Sarah.
“Perfume everywhere I sleep. I don’t wear perfume.” Melissa.
“He started keeping his phone on him all the time instead of leaving it on the counter (we lived together). Gone long hours and claimed to be working. Went “golfing” on the weekends and forgot his golf clubs once. IDK if that’s what led me to check his phone the one time he left it lying around. I found pics that were evidence. We were married and had a small child together.” Kelly.
There’s a chance he might have a profile on one of those discreet dating apps without you knowing it. Find out if he is.
“That psychological aspect of cheating is a tricky fine line. My husband and I have been together for 16 years. Two years in, I found out he would find hookups while away on business. I caught him reading the emails, and he apologized. I accepted, and we went on about our day. I think I was compelled by the fact he “chose” me over the cheating. It wasn’t but another year or two after that things shifted again, but this time we were fully aware of what the other was doing without ever mentioning it. We knew we were grounded in our love of one another, but the physical aspect of our relationship had run some of the course, and the light needed to be reignited. We moved to try to open things by including some others, but that part never took hold. The jealousy, for me, always reigns completely. And yet, at the end of the day, I’m always the one he can come back to. I never took it as a slight against me fully, but I always wondered what more I could do, and him thinking the same thing. But in all these years, one thing we’ve learned now is that finally being open and honest about it, not hiding it like a secret, is the most refreshing and complementary action to our relationship.” Husker.
“My first husband cheated on me. Cheated on his second wife. And married the mistress he’d cheated on us both with. For me, the giveaway was that he was constantly spending time with the woman and her husband (she got divorced eventually). They’d go out, the three of them, and I don’t think her husband thought it was weird at all, but to me, it was strange. I wasn’t invited, and they always did things that didn’t interest me. And my ex was always talking about them and her in particular.” Chaviva.
“Being on their phone a ton and being weird about the screen of the phone being seen. Didn’t post things on social media about our life as much and, eventually, hardly ever (we were living together and raising kids together). Started adding lots of strange women to social media who were “old friends from high school.” Very defensive when I mentioned the odd social media behaviors. Then attempts at blame shifting like “Oh, you’re accusing me because there’s something you’re doing!” Not being as physically affectionate in public as was typical. He was overly physically attentive at home, almost like he was trying to make up for it. He would take calls from a woman he was friends with in high school and immediately leave the room or even the apartment we shared to speak with her privately. Putting on cologne to “go to work” when that was not his normal hygiene routine for work. Long periods of no contact but strange reactions if I didn’t respond immediately to texts or calls.” Hillary.
“Doesn’t want to be intimate, money disappearing from the account, credit card charges unexplained, computer crashed, being super secretive about where they’re going and what they’re doing, saying they have to work but the phone tracker says different.” Jacqueline.
“A lot of accusations from the cheater. Not having a consistent timeline of events was usually the best way to tell for sure.” Kristen.
“Staying up very late, always looking at the phone, spending late nights at work, and more time out with “friends”. The really absurd and painful red flag that I didn’t notice was sudden friendships and people working to get close to *me* It turns out I just wanted to spend time with him. People reached out to me as though they needed help or wanted to hang out with me or get to know me, but it wasn’t actually about me, just a strange agenda.” Ani.
While there may be logical explanations for these kinds of behaviors other than cheating, it seems like consistent themes appear. Some indicators that your husband might be cheating include:
- Sudden changes in grooming, diet, working out or new preoccupation with appearance
- Clandestine phone and internet communication
- More time spent away from home, reduced interest in being emotionally or physically intimate with spouse
- Changes in spending habits, hidden expenses
- Cheating suspicion projected onto the faithful partner
If you suspect your husband is unfaithful, it’s worth the effort to discuss it directly. Create an opportunity for him to be forthright and take accountability. If the infidelity is part of a larger problem in his life or in the relationship, this can be a starting point for making needed changes.
If he denies the cheating and you remain suspicious, that is a good indication that something is amiss in the relationship because trust is lacking. In any event, it may be an opportunity to seek couples therapy and work on either resolving the issues you face together or making a conscious decision to separate completely.
It can be devastating to be betrayed by a partner, but it’s not the end of the world or even necessarily the end of the relationship. With time and hard work, plus the support of loved ones you can trust, you will move on and recover.
- How to Tell if Your Wife is Cheating
- Is My Boyfriend Cheating?
- Are You Emotionally Cheating?
- Signs Your Girlfriend is Cheating on You