Whether real or imagined, the notion of infidelity can be one of the most traumatic and painful ways a relationship can end.
Beyond the end of the relationship itself, the memory of this damaging experience can impact your self-esteem, tank your mental health, and mar your relationships for years to come. And, very often, it’s hidden from view, making the revelation even more jarring.
It’s important to know about the moments in which your partner strays from your values so you can reassess their position in your life.
But the emotional energy, effort, and time required to fulfil an obsession with catching a partner in the act or force a confession can lead down a dark path.
At times, however, there can be practical reasons to catch a cheat. Depending on your living situation, evidence of adultery may be required as grounds for divorce or to make sure you get a fair divorce settlement.
If you have a child together, you may want to know for certain whether or not a partner’s been having an affair before you decide if their home environment is for your child after the split.
Here is a list of tried-and-tested ways to tell if a partner is being unfaithful. If your suspicions prove correct, you should leave before things get any uglier.
Should you require proof for the reasons discussed above, there are also a few ways to catch them red-handed without leaving room for denial.
As a note before we begin, however, do not let this consume you. If you pick up on these indicators, initiate an honest conversation first and foremost. It’s not fair on you for this to occupy every waking thought.
These really are last-ditch measures for when you’re suspected foul play for a while and conversation is yielding no further confirmation.
However, if you get caught trying these and you’re actually wrong, you’re going to look like a crazy person. So you could sabotage an otherwise healthy relationship for no reason (although this might also suggest you’d be better off learning about yourself before you try and meet the needs of a long-term partner).
Here are 19 methods for catching a partner in the act of cheating.
1. Keep a lookout for changes in behaviour
Cheating partners usually reveal themselves through subtle behavioural changes. These will often manifest as avoidant behaviours.
For example, it could be as simple as suddenly not wanting to talk about their day. Perhaps they’re watching large amounts of TV or playing video games more than usual to drown out their guilty conscience.
It could be extended bouts of time on their phone, during which they consistently protect the screen and glance up.
You know your partner. If they’re acting out of sorts, it could be for any number of reasons. It’s a useful point at which to initiate a productive conversation. If they are cheating, they may well come clean if you’re inviting openness.
2. Replace and check their travel passes
One way to check what your partner’s been up to is by tracking their movements. Nowadays, many places have a registered card or pass system for public transport, like an Oyster card or EZ-pass.
You could stealthily swap your partner’s travel pass for an identical one and use a ticket machine to check its travel history.
Ask them where they were on a specific date, and you can easily catch them in a lie. As they realise you’re suspicious and getting close to the truth, they may end up confessing to the whole affair.
Even if you can’t prove that they were with someone else, you can prove that they’ve lied about their whereabouts.
At this point, even if you can’t prove they’ve cheated, you may as well leave. Lying shakes the foundations of trust a considerable amount, and those are vital for a healthy relationship.
Also, if you’ve really resorting to swapping out their Oyster card, was there much trust to begin with?
3. Follow them after an argument
Cheating partners will often storm out after an argument under the pretext of being upset. In reality, they may just be taking advantage of an excuse to get out of the house and turn off their phone for a while.
Follow them and see where they go. If they catch you at it, just say you were trying to catch up with them so you could apologise.
4. Be aware of changes in their schedule
Time spent with a secret squeeze will mean that your partner has to change their schedule to free themselves up.
Do they suddenly have a tonne of new work projects that keep them late at the office or a new hobby that keeps them occupied a lot? Are there new ‘friends’ you’ve never met taking up their time?
If they always find a reason to be off doing things that don’t involve you, it’s a pretty sure sign they’re seeing someone behind your back.
Also, it might be time to check in with each other the state of the relationship if you spend all your time apart regardless of any possible infidelity.
5. Check their computer’s recycle bin.
These days, most people unknowingly leave traces of their lives on their computers.
URL addresses, screenshots, downloaded images, saucy videos, and chat histories might all still be hiding in their recycle bin.
Many people wipe their histories or send things to their ‘trash’ but then forget to empty it. You may find the evidence you need there.
6. Change your sleeping habits, or stay up later than you would for a night or two.
A cheating partner may alter the times at which they sleep or wake up to make time for their communication with their lover away from prying eyes and ears.
You can either stay up with them and see if they act strangely desperate for some time alone, or go to bed at the same time but pretend to be asleep.
That way, you’ll hear what they get up to when they think no-one’s listening.
7. Bathroom habits
Most people are creatures of habit when it comes to using the bathroom. Changes in how long they spend in the bathroom with their phone might indicate that they’re using that time to chat with another lover.
Have they started locking the door when they usually wouldn’t? Or checking both ways when they come out?
These signs might indicate time spent breaking your trust. If they always took their phone into the bathroom to scroll absentmindedly through Instagram, however, this can be a little bit of a red herring.
8. They’re often jumpy
Your partner may act panicked when you walk in the room unexpectedly, especially if they’re on their phone or at the computer.
This is a sure-fire sign they don’t want you to know what they’re looking at.
If a person experiences nerves just from being around you, something is definitely afoot, even if it’s anxiety or a different, supportive conversation you need to have.
9. Have a look on their phone.
People’s phones reveal a lot about their recent activities. Check for deleted call logs, texts, and regular calls from contacts you’ve never heard of or met.
Also check for calls and texts from unknown numbers, especially if they’re lengthy or frequent.
If they catch you, and you’re wrong, again, it’s game over. The need to go through the phone in the first place is a sign that you might want to reconsider your place in the relationship before you even take the step.
10. They regularly excuse themselves to take phone calls in private
Notice when your partner takes themselves out of the room and out of earshot to take calls when they usually wouldn’t.
What are they trying to prevent you from hearing?
Some people are just extremely private or may run a business. Confidential conversations are not, in themselves, a harmful action.
But a sudden influx of completely confidential calls for a partner who talked to their friends on the phone loudly and proudly in front of you but three weeks ago should ring some alarm bells.
11. Their alibis don’t check out
Your partner may say they were with a relative, colleague, or friend with whom it’s perfectly normal for them to spend time.
However, if it then comes up in conversation with that person that they weren’t actually together when your partner said they were, it’s a sign that your partner was using them as a false alibi.
The fact this third party unwittingly revealed the truth indicates how your partner didn’t tell them they’d be used as an alibi.
This lines up with your partner’s secret being one they’d rather keep from everyone – a secret like cheating, for example.
If you’re partner is lying about who they spend their time with, it doesn’t bode well even if they’re not cheating.
12. New grooming habits.
Has your partner started taking better care of themselves than usual?
If they’re dressing differently, wearing a new perfume, working out more or grooming themselves downstairs, maybe ask yourself who it’s it all for?
Probably not you, unfortunately. People approaching middle age might find their partner making self-improvement to counteract its worst effects, and that’s fine – commendable, even.
But it’s also possibly the case that your partner is trying to impress someone else or get their attention, even if it’s not a sign of a full affair.
It might also be a sign they want more of your attention. So join them on their runs, or spruce yourself up in kind. Go on some dates with them to try and recapture the spark.
If your increased attention makes them uncomfortable, it may be because they’ve started to feel guilty. They’ll often come clean at some point. And if you’re wrong, all that’s happened is kicking the relationship up a notch.
13 Drop by unannounced.
Once in a while, appear at their workplace, home, or hangout unexpectedly, under the guise of going for a coffee, and gauge their reaction.
If they’re being unfaithful they’re likely to appear annoyed or irritated rather than pleasantly surprised to see you.
“You can’t just turn up here!” Unless she works at MI5, you probably can. Even if she’s busy, anything other than a pleasantly surprised reaction means something’s up. And because it’s a surprise, you’ll get a pretty honest read.
PRO TIP: These next suggestions are for when things are going really haywire. I do not recommend these in 90% of cases.
14. Hire some help.
If you really don’t want to take any chances, you can hire a reputable private investigator or have your legal representation hire one for you.
Not only will they gather the most reliable evidence quickly and legally, but they or the lawyer they work for can act as a buffer – proving your partner’s infidelity whilst protecting you from some deeply hurtful sights.
Again, this is a last resort. If you hire a PI to observe every partner you date, you may have some elements of your life to fix before you can completely trust someone.
15. Use hidden cameras.
You could place a camera in your home to see what your partner’s up to when you’re not around. This could be as simple as a laptop webcam left on when you leave, or something more sophisticated, like a ‘nanny cam’.
Unless you have a particularly strong stomach, though, you may want to ask a trusted friend to review the footage for you.
There’s a chance you might see some things you can never unsee, no matter how much you want to.
16. Create a fake social media profile.
This is a modern update of a trick as old as time. Create a fake social media profile with some stock images or pictures of a good-looking friend (with their permission).
Add some random friends to make it seem legit, and then add your partner. Try to chat to them, and see if they talk back.
You can eventually turn the conversation a bit more flirtatious over time and suggest a hookup to test their loyalty and see how they respond.
There are also numerous websites for cheaters to arrange affairs. You could create a fake profile to check if your partner has an account on one.
If this ever comes back to you, though, you’re done in the relationship. There’s a thin line between checking on legitimate concerns and needy, creepy behaviour.
17 Use a keylogger to find out their passwords.
Whether it’s for their laptop, phone, or social media accounts, learning someone’s password can be key to finding out what’s really going on with them.
You can easily download paid or free software to record keystrokes on a computer, discern passwords, and track the websites a person visits.
If they bank online, this has the added benefit of granting access to their transaction history, to see if they have any suspicious spending habits.
See the disclaimer above: There can be hefty legal repercussions to this, and you need to take full stock of your actions before literally hacking someone’s laptop.
18 Use a GPS device to track their whereabouts
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money and go full Jason Bourne, you could track their movements with a GPS tracker that attaches to their car.
Follow them to a hotel or to their lover’s house, and you can catch them red-handed. Just be mentally prepared for what you might see.
19. Bug them with a baby monitor
If you want to be Bourne on a budget, you can use a baby monitor hidden out of sight to eavesdrop on their conversations and calls.
However, these have limited transmission range, so you’d need to be nearby to listen in. Plus, they’re not at all that subtle.
Spying through a baby monitor is for when you’re both desperate and running out of options. If you reach this stage in your thinking, it might be better just to take yourself out of the relationship and work on your self-esteem and trust issues.
Many people have a fear of infidelity that stem from a number of sources – some, like previous experiences of it, can be quite reasonable. Others have less firm roots in reality.
Perhaps you’ve cheated and are either projecting your guilt or scared of potential revenge from your partner?
The common thread of all these misgivings is that they are all signs of an unhealthy relationship with on-going issues.
The best approach is to communicate with them openly, express your doubts, and ask them directly if they’ve been unfaithful. It may still be possible to talk things through.
If your partner refuses to answer and is unwilling to discuss how their behaviour has caused you to worry, that’s a sign your relationship may already be beyond repair.
Truthfully, if you’ve reached the point in the relationship where communication and trust have broken down to the extent that you’re more interested in proving their infidelity than repairing the damage, it’s time to walk away and start moving on with your life.
Be more selective about your partners and have the confidence to stand for your values. Learn more about my Impactful Connection workshops.