Fears of infidelity affect most marriages at one time or another. And while cheating is as old as commitment itself, modern technology and social media complicate things, opening the door to “micro indiscretions” that blur the line between emotional and actual betrayal. But spouses do cheat, and cheating spouses tend to be predictable in the choices they make. When a straying partner decides to cross that line, they don’t step out with just anyone; it’s often very calculated. In fact, the vast majority of extramarital affairs happen between people who know each other and are already in the same social orbit.
Men and women who cheat usually start and conduct their affairs in everyday places: the office, the gym, the neighbor’s house, or online, through either an opportunistic encounter or by rekindling a former flame. What do these situations have in common? They all spark temptation and offer opportunity. There may be few definitive signs that your spouse is having an affair — but once infidelity comes to light, clear patterns and trends emerge. If most cheating spouses tend to fall into affairs in the same five scenarios, what are they and what can you do?
An Ex Partner
Social media has not just made it easier for old friends to reconnect. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like have made it that much easier for husbands and wives to reach out to ex-significant others. As much as people may want to believe that they can legitimately be friends with a former lover, marriage and family therapist Talal Alsaleem argues that more often than not, it results from poor boundaries with an ex. This can compel people to cheat their way out of a dying relationship.
“Keeping in contact with one’s ex increases the likelihood of cheating with them when things are not working out in their current relationship,” he says. The compulsion to stay friends might even be a symptom of being a psychopath or narcissist, one study found, even when there’s no infidelity involved. Ultimately, it might be best for everyone to resist the urge to catch up over a drink.
Someone at the Gym
Working out is a great way to maintain physical and mental health, but it may also be a great way to find a hot body to make bad decisions with. Not only is going to the gym one of the most popular excuses to meet up with a fling, but nearly three-quarters of Ashley Madison users also admitted to working out to keep someone other than their spouses satisfied. On top of that, people tend to get turned on by watching each other exercise, which could elevate this risk of discovering a sexual partner. While the temptation to cheat may not be the best excuse to cancel your gym membership and pack on the pounds, it’s a good incentive to stay single-minded during your workout and only your workout. Better yet, research shows that couples who workout together stay together. So if you’re really worried about your partner — or just want to limit distractions — it might be time to take them up on their invitation to join them at yoga.
Many extramarital temptations hide in plain sight, namely across the street or next door. Research shows that married people frequently chat with their neighbors, mostly because infidelity is often motivated by opportunity. Interestingly, data indicates that women cheat with neighbors more than men do, because men are more afraid of getting caught doing it so close to home. However, a majority of men reported they would not suspect their neighbors of having sex with their spouses. This might help to explain why some women do it — because they can.
A Work Colleague
About 36 percent of men and women have cheated with coworkers, according to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Mind you, those are just the ones who admit to it. There’s also evidence that the better people are at their jobs, the more likely they are to cheat. Many people spend as much time with people from work as they do with their spouses, and when they develop emotional bonds over shared struggles, boundaries can quickly become blurred. It can start with something as seemingly innocent as jokes about having a “work husband” or “work wife,” Alsaleem warns.
“This allows the coworkers to over-identify with each other’s struggles which, in return, causes them to play the nurturing, supportive role that should be exclusively reserved for their spouse,” Alsaleem says, noting that temptation can increase depending on marriage stressors, relationship satisfaction, and if their careers have them traveling frequently with colleagues. “Business trips makes it easier and more tempting for individuals to cross those boundaries without raising the suspicion of the partner, who assumes that they’re working.”
A Stranger Online
While spouses are more likely to cheat with someone they already know, social media platforms, dating apps, and other websites have also made it much easier to cheat with strangers too. And they make it possible to pursue an affair even when most of us are stuck at home during coronavirus quarantines. Whether it’s Ashley Madison, Tinder, Craigslist, or Reddit, all anyone needs to start some extramarital trouble is a decent internet connection. And for people with more impulsive personalities, studies suggest that the Internet can make cheating more than tempting, even downright addictive. “The internet is a rich source of limitless opportunities for stranger sex,” says clinical psychologist Nancy Irwin. As James Sexton, a New York divorce lawyer and the author of If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late, put it, “I have so many clients that I represent whose affairs started on Facebook. In my opinion, Facebook is the most toxic website for relationships that’s out there.”
Signs of Cheating
If a husband is wary of their partner’s commitment to their marriage, they may wonder, Is my wife cheating? (Or vice versa.) Being in this kind of headspace can be frustrating and take a toll on a relationship. Thankfully, there are a few signs that can help you determine whether a spouse is stepping outside of the marriage. Keep in mind that these signs are not conclusive evidence of a cheating spouse, but they may help lead you to the truth.
- A partner may become more guarded and private with their phone or computer.
- Cheating costs money, so unexplained expenses are also a red flag. Keep an eye out for charges for hotel rooms, dinners, or expensive gifts.
- A drastic change in a spouse’s schedule or a chunk of time a spouse is consistently unreachable could signal that they’re spending their time with someone else.
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