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Even if you’re not a jealous guy, if you’re reading this, it’s likely because you can’t help but feel like your girlfriend might not be the perfect, faithful little angel she claims to be. But barring obvious signs—like blatantly sexy text messages to her coworker, or catching her in bed with the guy in the upstairs apartment—cheating can be tricky to suss out. Psychologist and relationship expert Tracy Thomas, Ph.D. weighs in on how to tell if she’s cheating on you in the following Q&A.
MF: What are some signs she may be cheating on you?
Thomas: Feeling as though you’re not as connected—like your relationship is not as deep as it usually is—is definitely a sign that something could be up. When someone is cheating, they usually don’t want to be found out. This means she may be watching herself more, and taking more time to manage herself. On the surface she might seem more pulled together, but you’ll feel like she’s tamping herself down or holding something back. If you ever feel this way, you should investigate why that’s happening.
MF: So is that sort of like how you should take note of a change in routine? Like, if she’s suddenly dressing up to go to work?
Thomas: Yes, absolutely. Obviously there are many reasons she might change her routine, and cheating is only one of them. But if you feel like the change in routine has made you less connected in your relationship, then you might be onto something.
MF: Sounds like this is more of a gut feeling you’ll have, then. How often should you trust your gut when it comes to something like this?
Thomas: Always, always, always trust your gut! We often know something is wrong, but we just don’t want to face the possible truth or deal with the problem.
MF: Okay, but what if you—or your gut—just happens to be paranoid?
Thomas: You do need to ask yourself if you actually feel like something is wrong or if you could possibly be making up problems based on insecurity or paranoia. Ask yourself: Do you often feel this way about other situations? For example, do you feel like your friends talk about you behind your back, or have you felt like people betrayed you in past relationships? Have you cheated in the past? If you’re predisposed to thinking that people, including you, are not trustworthy, you may be experiencing insecurity and not a gut feeling that something’s wrong.
If you can look past these insecurities and something still doesn’t seem right, then just ask yourself: What else makes sense? Can you come up with a reasonable explanation for why she’s acting the way she’s acting? Lots of things can look like cheating to someone who’s paranoid, so if you can make sense of her actions otherwise you may want to back off a little.
MF: Should you be worried if she’s cheated in past relationships?
Thomas: People can and do change. But if she has cheated in past relationships, she is more likely to cheat on you. Past cheating shows that at some point in her life she was able to compartmentalize and disconnect from a relationship enough to step out, so it’s certainly something to take note of. But you should also take into account how you find out about her past cheating. If she’s straightforward about her past, and how she’s learned from it and has changed, that’s a good sign that she’s now better at dealing with life’s problems head-on.