Is your boyfriend cheating on you? This must be one of the most common – and most dreaded – questions in any relationship.

So how can you tell if your boyfriend is cheating on you? And what should – or CAN – you do about it if he is?

What Do You Call Cheating?

Well, first of all, how do you define cheating?

Is it having sex with someone else? Is it having feelings for someone else, even if no sex is involved? Is it exchanging saucy texts with a female friend or colleague? Is it flirting on Facebook?  Or is it just seeking validation or support during difficult times from another person?

You can argue that infidelity has many forms, from the obvious (sex outside an established relationship) to less easily measured attachments including women friends (which can involve flirting and a degree of emotional reliance or support).

And then there’s social media which, along with various dating apps, have led to the advent of “digital infidelity”, which is almost impossible to prevent – or to quantify.

Having friends and relationships outside your main one is normal and healthy. Living without them leads to co-dependency and a dull, one-dimensional life. But you need to be comfortable about these relationships; which means being able to trust your partner, and agree on where your boundaries lie.

Most people need some kind of structure in their life to feel secure and happy, and relationships are no different. There’s nothing wrong in having your own views about what constitutes acceptable behavior; the problems come when your boyfriend’s standards are radically different.

So when you become a couple, you need to talk about these things so that you are both clear on where the other stands. Knowing this gives you a framework for your relationship to flourish.

It also makes it more obvious when something goes wrong.

So IS your boyfriend cheating on you?

This is where we can list all sorts of reasons for suspecting your boyfriend is cheating. But in the end, it always comes down to ONE reason: Things Have Changed.

The changes might be obvious or subtle (less likely in a man!), but your gut feeling tells you that something is wrong. So here are the different ways men can change their regular habits that might mean the worst.

Social habits

He’s started going out more often – but not with you
He spends time with an “old friend” you don’t know, and doesn’t seem keen that you should meet
He’s started using one or two new expressions you’ve never heard before – and repeats them often
He takes up a new hobby that doesn’t include you
He’s started working out – regularly – when he used to think exercise meant walking to the fridge for a beer
He gets a new haircut, and a new wardrobe

Of course all these things taken separately can be quite innocent. But how does he react when you comment or question them (NOT angrily or suspiciously, as that will always make him defensive)?

Does he suggest inviting the old friend back for drinks or supper, or does he dismiss it saying that you wouldn’t like him anyway?

What if you suggest working out together?

What if you admire his new taste in clothes, and offer to come shopping with him one day? Does he take you up on it, or say he doesn’t want to trouble you?

Guilt can make him change his behavior towards you.

He stops paying you compliments, when he used to give them frequently
He’s started to pay you compliments, when he never used to give them at all
He stops doing things for you, when he used to be great at making you feel special
He’s started to do special things for you, when he used to be a complete slob

Sexual habits

You sex life has changed, and for no apparent reason.

He may have totally lost interest in sex, because a) he’s getting lots of it elsewhere, so that he doesn’t have much energy or desire left for you and b) it’s making him feel too guilty to make love to you anyway.

Alternatively he suddenly can’t get enough of it. This might be because he’s feeling guilty, or because he wants to stop you becoming suspicious; but most likely it’s because the new affair has put a rocket under his libido.

What is likely to be more difficult for him is loving intimacy.

If you are not having any sex, he’s probably not making any physical gestures of affection either. Hugging, kissing, holding hands, snuggling on the sofa, looking into your eyes, long intimate talks – these are all things that a man who is cheating will find difficult (or impossible) to maintain with the woman he is deceiving.

If you are having sex, is it loving and intimate, or do you sometimes feel you’re starring in a porn movie? Has he started making new moves, or suggested you “liven up” your sex life by introducing lots of new tricks?

Work habits

One of the most pressing needs for successful infidelity is time.

If your boyfriend already travels a lot for work, then this will be straightforward for him. But what if he is suddenly consumed by work?

He might be genuinely busy, so don’t immediately assume the worst. But if he’s suddenly telling you that work has “become crazy”, then you are entitled to ask what is the cause of all this frenetic activity.

If it’s real, then he’ll be happy to tell you about it. If it’s just convenient, then he’s going to be shifty and defensive.

The other thing to rouse suspicion is if his travels for work suddenly increase. Has his schedule suddenly been overwhelmed with “early starts” that mean he has to leave the night before? Have one-day conferences suddenly turned into three-day marathons?

Don’t be too quick to suspect him of nefarious doings. All good men will want to further their careers. But they should also be willing to talk about it.

Digital habits

The great advantage of the modern age to the serial adulterer is the mobile phone, and social media. It can conceal an entire second existence.

But it can also be a wonderful facilitator for someone’s career. So when should you be suspicious?

He doesn’t answer the phone when you call
He doesn’t answer the phone, or respond to text alerts, when you’re with him
He leaves the room to answer calls
He spends hours on the internet, but stops as soon as you enter the room
His phone is locked for the first time since you’ve known him
His phone, his computer and his social media suddenly all have new passwords

More general signs that your boyfriend is cheating

If you have real reasons for suspicion, then the chances are that other signs of trouble between you have been surfacing lately.

Neither of you is really happy, and things have been iffy between you for some time.
You are always trying to explain or make excuses for each other.
Your boyfriend is discovering new tastes in music, books or hobbies that have nothing to do with you.
His moods are all over the place; sometimes he’s floating on air, and the next minute you can’t do anything right.
He has become distant and withdrawn.
He never seems to have any money, although he earns a good salary.
You are spending less and less time together.
You catch him lying about something trivial – why? It’s not like him…
He accuses you of things you haven’t done, and would never dream of doing. He is constantly suspicious…
Sometimes it’s impossible to contact him – and those times are becoming longer, and more frequent.
He stops talking about the future.
Your instinct tells you that something is wrong.

If you have answered “yes” to a lot of these questions, you may have solid grounds for believing the worst. But before you come to any final conclusions, there’s one other – very important – thing to consider.

How Secure Are You?

How you interpret your boyfriend’s behaviour can, to some extent, depend on no more than your level of self-esteem. If it is very low, the most innocuous actions can take on the most paranoid suspicions.

You will also be affected by your past experiences. Have you dealt with cheating before, or is this your first time?

If you have been cheated on before, then inevitably you will be more inclined to believe the worst, and with less reason.

Cheating hurts. Even when there’s no sex involved, the pain of what YOU see as infidelity is very real.

And if you have been cheated on before, your feelings in this area will be very sensitive. You will be more susceptible to interpretation; liable to see the worst in what might be quite innocent situations.

It’s a bit like being a hypochondriac. You have an ache or a rash; you Google the symptoms and in no time at all you’re convinced you have a fatal illness. Almost any medical condition can be symptomatic of a fatal illness, but in practice hardly any of them are.

It’s the same with cheating. Any action by your boyfriend (or you, for that matter) could have a suspicious meaning. But you might be misinterpreting it.

This goes double if, besides having suffered in the past from a cheating boyfriend, you are not a very secure person anyway.

In that case, you should guard against being too possessive and controlling. For instance, if you find even the smallest confidence by your boyfriend in someone else almost intolerably threatening, then you really need work on your self-esteem.

This attitude and behavior will be stifling to most men. That is why trust and proper boundaries are so important.

How Likely Is It That Your Suspicions Are Justified?

If you have had a secure and happy relationship up until now, then it would be a pity to jeopardize it without good reason. So how likely is it that your boyfriend would deceive you?

Does he have a history of cheating?

If you know enough about his past to answer this question, then it can be an indicator of future transgressions. Can be, mind, not will be. People can change or reform their habits; or they can do something once which they deeply regret and will never want to repeat.

Did your relationship begin with him cheating on his previous girlfriend? If so, there’s always a chance of you being replaced in the same way. The more often people repeat bad behaviors, the less sensitive they become to them.

You’ve caught him lying before

Were they “white lies” told to keep the peace, or blatant attempts to deceive? It’s impossible to trust a pathological liar, as you never know where you are with them.

Some people lie deliberately to hide things; but some lie because they are fantasists who hardly know what the truth is themselves. Either way it’s bad news. People like this are not good relationship material.

What You Can Do About It

What IS completely under you control it how you react to your suspicions. You can respond negatively. Or you can respond positively.

Negative reactions

This is a typical downward path set in motion by a negative response.

You become twitchy and difficult when you are with him, picking fights with him without actually saying why you are feeling so down. Your relationship becomes a battleground and your boyfriend starts to spend more time away from you. You are more convinced than ever that he is being unfaithful.

Eventually you either start to spy on him, or you confront him face to face. Either way, the trust is broken between you and the relationship never recovers.

Positive reactions

You do your best to put your fears aside, and think about ways to liven things up between you.

You flirt and tease him again, just as you did when you were first dating, and start having fun together again. Fun is infectious and self-perpetuating; a little fun leads easily to lots more of it.

Your relationship takes on a new sparkle, and soon you are both rushing home at night to spend more time together.

A positive reaction needs hope and courage. A negative one only needs doubt and suspicion.

Is Your Boyfriend Cheating On You?

Notice that in neither case have you established whether or not your suspicions were justified.

The truth is that there are really only two possible outcomes here.

The first is that your boyfriend is becoming a bit bored or dissatisfied with your relationship. After all, there must have been something that made you feel that things weren’t right between you. He may even have been dallying with another girl, but it wasn’t serious.

If you reacted negatively, you probably ended by splitting up. If you reacted positively, your boyfriend probably fell madly back in love with you.

The second possibility is that, whether or not he was actually being unfaithful, your boyfriend was seriously thinking of moving on. In this situation it is far more likely that you will end by breaking up; but reacting negatively will pretty much guarantee it.

Reacting positively, on the other hand, might make him rethink things. At worst it should make him realize that he has to be honest with you about where things are going.

Don’t let yourself become a victim

The most powerful reason for acting positively is that it stops you being a victim.

When you act positively, you are no longer a woman with a boyfriend who might be cheating on her, waiting to find out which way he is going to jump. You are a woman of value who is charge of her own life.

Remember that all relationships have rough spots. Depending on how bad the rough spots are; you can do things that damage the relationship; things you might later regret. Or you can act in a way that is true to yourself, and which will earn your boyfriend’s admiration and respect.

What you need to have is honesty and trust. Achieving it won’t necessarily save the relationship, but it WILL let you know where you really stand.

You are worth the best, a great relationship with a wonderful man. Don’t settle for less.