Lately your boyfriend has been coming home really late. You ask him about it and he claims he’s been swamped with business dinners, but you notice his attire is more fitting for a night out than a formal dinner. You come across some strange credit card receipts (a bouquet of roses for a business dinner?) and start to panic. You finally muster up the courage to ask the million-dollar question…”Are you cheating on me?”
Unfortunately, many of us have found ourselves in such a scenario; in a relationship with a cheater, perhaps the kind who gets cornered and fesses up the truth and breaks our hearts with a tearful “yes.” Even worse, though, is the lying cheater—the one who looks you in the eyes and denies it, stringing you along and making you question your own gut instincts. It’d be nice in such a situation to acquire a polygraph test and settle matters once and for all, but unless you work for the FBI it’s not likely that’s going to happen. Luckily, psychologists have been studying lies and cheaters and have discovered plenty of clues that may help you towards uncovering the truth. Does your significant other display any of these symptoms when confronted?
1. Physical clues: There is truth to the idea that the body gives away the mind. Dilated pupils, pressed lips, and a higher pitch have all been shown to be signals of stress and tension. Contrary to popular belief, however, eye contact has little to do with it.
2. Ambivalence: If your man’s response to “Where were you?” is something like three words long, proceed with caution. “Liars provide fewer details than truth-tellers do,” says Dr. Bella De Paulo, a breakthrough researcher on deception for over two decades, “Encourage the other person (the possible liar) to keep talking. The more someone talks, the more likely it may be that they will get tangled in their talking and give the lie away.”
3. Negativity: If the same simple question above results in a slew of angry words, this can also signal a lie. Dr. De Paulo’s research has shown that liars “Make more negative statements and complaints” and use words like hate, worthless, and sad.
4. Lack of personal involvement: He’s telling you about a business dinner but talks as if he was merely a spectator and rarely says “I.” Dr. De Paulo says liars “sound less personally involved in what they are saying.”
5. Repetition: Linguistic analysis, which is used in police interrogations, has shown that when someone is lying they are more likely to repeat certain phrases or parts of their story. So, if your accused beau keeps telling you over and over that, really, the flowers were for his boss (even though you stopped asking) that may be a warning sign.
6. Belittling: If your once loving relationship has turned into one of constant criticism and you suspect cheating, you may be right. Dr. Rita De Maria, an expert on relationships says, “Sometimes the person starts to really put down the partner they’re cheating on because the person who’s cheating knows it's wrong. The mind does a funny thing it kind of says, ‘Alright well I’m doing this because I was unhappy and you’re the one making me unhappy because you’re a problem here…and you’re not good there,' and so they begin to rewrite their history with their partner.”
If you've noticed this behavior and are suspicious, you should probably follow your gut instinct. However, experts agree that there is no fool-proof way to catch all cheaters and liars. The best advice is still, as Dr. De Paulo puts it, “To develop honest and open relationships.”
Have a cheating experience you'd be willing to share? We want to hear your story! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in our on-line cheating series. Don't worry, you can be anonymous if you'd like- but we're also looking for folks in the NYC/Tri-state area who are interested in filming video diaries talking about their experiences.