Infidelity Red Flags
People usually tend to use a combination of strategies to hide evidence of an affair. Machiavellianism is a significant predictor of using manipulative strategies to mask infidelity. The strategies are designed to maintain the status quo in order to avoid arousing suspicion. Learn to identify the signs below.
As perceptive as most of us like to think we are, most of us have been fooled. Misjudging another person is particularly painful in the case of an unfaithful romantic partner, particularly if we didn’t catch the red flags. Yet they are there—if you know what to look for, and where to look.
Strategies of Deception
Menelaos Apostolou, in a piece aptly entitled “Catch Me If You Can” (2022), discusses strategies for hiding infidelity.[i] He identified 53 acts that people engage in to hide infidelity and 11 infidelity-hiding strategies that both men and women were willing to use, finding that over 70% of study participants were inclined to use at least seven of them. He notes that a combination of strategies is often necessary to hide infidelity and counter detection strategies used by partners.
Apostolou referenced prior research (Apostolou and Ioannidou, 2021) where he and a colleague identified 47 acts people perform to detect a partner’s infidelity. He notes that several of the infidelity-hiding strategies he identified in his current research appear to be designed to counter methods of infidelity-detection—which, as a practical matter, might make them easier to identify.
Less Is More: The clandestine strategy most likely to be used to hide infidelity in Apostolou’s study was “be discreet,” with over 95% of study participants willing to use it. This involved meeting lovers in locations that were distant and isolated, making it difficult for relationship partners to check up on them. Apostolou also notes that using discretion avoids leaving physical evidence of infidelity, and makes it harder for legitimate partners, who are so inclined, to spy on mates.
Show Me the Evidence: Sometimes, a lack of data is suspicious. Apostolou found the second most popular infidelity-hiding strategy to be “eliminate digital evidence.” Yet as a practical matter, who does this? Because most people fill their phones to capacity with photos and text messages, if they were suddenly wiped clean, anyone would wonder why.
Stability Suppresses Suspicion: Apostolou notes that next in the hiding-unfaithfulness hierarchy were “keep the same behavior” and “keep the same routine” strategies, which involve cheaters making an effort to avoid changing attitudes and behavior toward partners, as well as their routine and appearance. These strategies might be effective because it is usually a modification of wardrobe or behavior within established relationships that arouses suspicion.
Suddenly Smitten: Apostolou describes another strategy as “show more interest to my partner,” where cheaters attempt to camouflage infidelity through expressing interest and love. He notes that this strategy makes cheaters vulnerable to an “observe changes in her/his behavior” infidelity-detection strategy because partners might ironically but accurately interpret sudden expressions of love as a sign of unfaithfulness. Although Apostolou states that this strategy is rarely used, 46% of the participants in his study indicated they would use it, noting that some partners might actually believe their mates are more in love with them. Culprits who can accurately gauge a partner’s vulnerability to this strategy could thus increase their chances of getting away with an affair.
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