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Is Your Girlfriend Cheating On You: Signs to Find Out

couple in the bed

Being cheated on can feel devastating. There may be a stinging sensation of betrayal, as well as grief stemming from the diminished hopes for a person into whom you invested a great deal of energy. It can also be a big hit to self-esteem, too, leaving some folks under the impression they’re not deserving of respect, commitment, and honesty.

And despite what some might assume, cheating can happen in non-monogamous relationships, and it’s no less hurtful. It’s not necessarily the physical or emotional intimacy with another person that makes infidelity wrong because many relationships thrive without exclusivity. It’s the breaking of agreements and deception.

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Cheating in a relationship is any action that goes against what you mutually agreed to do. What ‘counts’ as stepping out depends on the people involved. For some, it’s kissing or sexual activity. For others, it’s flirting, sharing secrets, or emotional intimacy with another person. It may be lying about something of significance or failing to follow through with promises about safer sex. What matters is that both parties knew and agreed to the parameters.

It’s impossible to know for sure how common cheating is because there are always issues with ensuring survey participants are being honest. It’s also hard because people might have differing ideas on what constitutes a betrayal, even within a couple. Think, for instance, of the ongoing Friends gag “We were on a break!”

Despite these caveats, we do have some research on rates of infidelity. We know that it’s relatively rare in married couples. In unmarried pairings, however, the rates are a bit higher. We also know that if people admit to extradyadic sexual involvement in one relationship, they’re significantly more likely to do it again in a future one. That is: once you cheat, you’re more predisposed to do it again.

We asked readers what their experiences were with being cheated on and got various deeply impactful replies. Here’s how a few of the respondents knew their girlfriends were cheating on them:

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“My ex would go to bed every night at 8 pm when we lived together, and when I’d come upstairs for bed at 10-10:30, she would be on her phone or put her phone down. She abruptly asked me to change the way we kissed or were intimate in a way that wasn’t inviting or conversational or indicating exploration.” – Travis

“It was the little details of stories that didn’t line up. She tried to change the topic when I pressed for information. Not interrogating, just wanting to hear how a trip had gone or what she did on a visit with a friend. The incredible irony is that we were in an open relationship, so she didn’t have to lie. In fact, the friend she cheated with was someone we had hooked up with in a threesome previously.  It would have been completely fine with me if they had sex and just acknowledged it. What hurts is the absolutely unnecessary lying.” -Katrina

“Constantly being accused of being unfaithful when it was impossible.”- Moshe

“Long hair everywhere that wasn’t mine and a familiar perfume smell on my pillow. I knew who it was, but if I didn’t, I would have known from the smell. My partner at the time would get incredibly defensive when I brought it up and started to be overly critical of my appearance and age. Essentially, they tried to make me look more like the person they were cheating on me with by outright asking me to change my appearance to appease them. It was wild.”- Katie

“The number one sign is if they cheat on their current significant other with you or with someone you know. Just because you’re the significant other, don’t expect them to all of a sudden put a moratorium on unfaithful behavior, despite what lines they may be feeding you. Wandering eyes tend to keep on wandering.”- Sean

“She’d come home late from ‘being out with friends’ and head immediately for the shower. Even before saying hi to me. Maybe it was a psychological need to cleanse, or she thought it would be slick and erase the evidence of where she’d been and what she’d been doing. At that point, we were so distant that it didn’t really matter. It was clear to us and everyone around us that we were done as a couple; just a matter of time. I don’t know if she thought I was stupid or was trying to be respectful and not wave it in my face that she had already started moving on.” – Ryan

“What I feel is true is those who are always cheated on by different partners in their life have more to contribute to the situation than they’re usually able to understand. Infidelity and cheating are not always a one-way street. If ya manipulate, gaslight, or put someone down one too many times, they’re going to seek love somewhere else. I’ve never cheated, but the times I was cheated on, I realized I wasn’t very kind all the time. More often than not, it’s a two-way street, especially if ‘I’m always cheated on’ is in your vocabulary” – Tra

“Suddenly, there are excuses for you not to be in places where you’d meet the other. Increased hostility and defensiveness. Communication with a close friend you’re not meant to participate or know of. It’s overall increased emotional distance without known cause that gives away.”- Adriano

What lessons can we learn from these harrowing experiences? How can you tell if your girlfriend is cheating on you? The clues are not wholly different from if your husband or wife is being unfaithful.

>> Spokeo Can Help You Catch a Cheating Girlfriend >>

Increased secretiveness: Has her behavior with her phone changed dramatically? If she’s suddenly much more attached to it, making sure to never leave it unattended- even at home- that might be a sign. Maybe she recently started keeping a drawer locked or now brings a change of clothes to work. Perhaps she’s designated more spaces in the apartment as being solely hers. It could be a normal desire for privacy, or it could be trying to hide something specific.

New friends: There’s nothing wrong with finding a new friend group. In fact, it’s super important for healthy adults to be open to meeting people, becoming active in new communities, picking up hobbies, and spending time with a diverse social group. But if you’re not welcome into this space and she’s not interested in introducing you to any of the people who are important to her life, that could be a cause for alarm.

Being unreachable: Sometimes we’re busy and can’t reply quickly to a DM to take a phone call, but if she’s going out a lot and you can’t get a hold of her at all, that’s concerning.  Make sure you’re giving your partner space to have a life outside of your relationship, but also notice if she’s not trying at all to communicate. Silence is a form of communication.

Picking fights: Sometimes cheating is a part of someone’s exit strategy for a relationship. They might be unhappy and are just looking for something else but don’t have the emotional maturity to discuss it directly. Starting arguments could be a way to escalate tensions to a breaking point or a means of justifying her bad behavior to herself.

Becoming withdrawn: If she’s paying attention to everyone else but you, showing less investment in your life together, no longer talking about plans for the future, or physically recoiling from your touch, those are not great signs. There could be other explanations besides infidelity, but they’re all a good cause for conversation.

New hair, who is this? There are a lot of social and economic pressures on women to keep up physical appearances, so take this one with a grain of salt. A sudden investment in nicer clothes, more time spent on hair and makeup, and an increased focus on fitness and diet could mean that she’s trying to look good for something or someone in particular.

If you suspect your girlfriend is cheating, make the time for a serious but calm conversation. Create an opportunity for her to be open. It’s not okay to start tracking her movements, invading her privacy, destroying property, or otherwise trying to intimate her.

>> Catch a Cheating Girlfriend With Spokeo >>

If she admits she is cheating or she continues to deny the allegations but your trust is diminished, you can decide the next steps. Maybe you want to seek counseling and try to make amends and move forward. A lot of relationships survive infidelity. Or maybe this was the sign you both needed to separate and go your separate ways consciously.

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    • Timaree Schmit Headshot

      Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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