How (Not) to Get Away with Cheating

These "tells" trip up cheaters every time

Fans of late night television will remember the show Cheaters, where victims of infidelity would catch their partners in the act (sometimes, um, literally) and confront them on camera. In real life, many cheaters do get caught, albeit in less dramatic ways.

Crunching the Numbers on Infidelity

A recent study on infidelity found that around 1 in 5 Americans have admitted to cheating on a partner at least once in their lifetime. The same study indicated that while men and women are both just as likely to cheat, only 28% of women reported having thought about cheating, versus 41% of men. 

Interestingly, the same study also indicates that men and women disagree as to what exactly constitutes infidelity. For example, 74% of women believe “sexting” to be a form of cheating, while only 59% of men agree. (If you’re interested in a deeper dive on these statistics, check out this NPR interview with Mona Chalabi from 

Ways They (Don’t) Get Away With Cheating

While infidelity has always been part of human relationships, social media and smartphones have made it easier than ever. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to get away with cheating. Here are the some ways cheaters show their hand.

Careless Sexting

While engaging in flirty or steamy talk over a messaging app leaves no physical trace (no lipstick on the collar), cheaters often betray themselves by suspiciously staring at their phones while trying to hide the screen from their partner’s watchful eye. What’s more, they often make up unconvincing stories about who they’re texting and why.

Eventually, however, some let down their guard: they leave their cell phone in the open, fail to lock their phone screens, and forget to delete incriminating texts. Many sexters fail to get away with cheating because they forget to delete mysterious numbers off their phone, which can be then traced using a simple reverse phone lookup to see who they’re texting.

(Not-So-Hidden) Online Dating Profiles

Believe it or not, a surprising number of people in relationships are brazen enough to create secret accounts on dating sites. What’s more, it’s not unheard of for someone to meet up with a date using Tinder or OKCupid only to later find out they’re married. Yikes.

While some may use fake names or usernames to avoid detection, many would-be cheaters make a fatal mistake and register their account using their main phone number or email address. This leaves the door open for their partner to search their email address using a people search engine to see what public social media profiles (including dating sites) are connected with it.

Body Language and Behavior

Cheaters (or soon-to-be cheaters) almost always have certain behavioral characteristics that stand-out. Specifically, they:

  • Are distant and avoid starting conversations or making plans
  • Spend longer hours “at the office,” or spend more time out with “friends”
  • Suddenly withhold physical intimacy
  • Start dressing nicer, or change their appearance in some way
  • Spend more time on their phone
  • Seem tired, bored or apathetic
  • Don’t put up a fight when you argue with them
  • Show heightened interest in your schedule (for example, when you’ll be around)

The Clock is Ticking

However hard most cheaters try, most will eventually fail to cover their tracks. Therefore, for the victims of infidelity, knowledge is power. The sooner the victim can uncover infidelity, the faster he or she can move on and heal.

For the cheater, the clock is always ticking.