We all want to feel confident in our relationships and sure of ourselves and our partners. Cheating can be one of the most detrimental blows to a partnership, and it can be hard to bounce back when trust is broken so severely. But what if you were able to spot a cheater before they strayed? Experts say there are certain warning signs you can look out for from your partner, particularly when you argue. Read on to find out what to look out for during fights.
In the 1950s, psychoanalyst John Bowlby identified different attachment styles in humans—secure, avoidant, and anxious. The theory was expanded by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s, and later, a fourth attachment style was introduced, disorganized-insecure. These attachment styles are present in childhood, with secure children feeling like they can rely on their parents to meet their needs as they grow up. The remaining three attachment styles are considered insecure, which results from difficult bonds with caregivers.
According to The Attachment Project, our attachment style affects us in adulthood and can play a role in our relationships. Specific actions may indicate your partner has one of these attachment styles—and reflect their inclination to cheat.
“Attachment styles have to do with our emotional patterns, which impact the way we interact with our partners, especially during periods of heightened stress such as an argument,” Landry says. If your partner has an avoidant personality style, they may be more likely to pull away during an argument and otherwise avoid conflict.
You’ll notice this if they say something like “fine” and want to drop the issue, Suzannah Weiss, sex and love coach, says. In reality, they may not be over it at all.
“If something bothers them, they may decide against bringing it up altogether,” Weiss says. According to experts, this desire to avoid the issue is what sometimes leads to infidelity.
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According to Weiss, avoidants feel that being dependent is synonymous with being weak. To control this, they keep partners at a distance and lower the possibility of being hurt by the actions of their significant others.
“Someone like this may feel compelled to cheat because it allows them to feel less dependent on their partner,” Weiss says. “They may feel that if there is someone else they can turn to for approval, affection, or sex, they hold more power because they’re not counting on their partner for those things.”
As avoidants fear intimacy, they do not cheat to “move closer to someone else,” Landry says. Instead, when avoidants do stray, it’s often a distraction or entertainment. Avoidants may also stray if they feel like they are missing something in a relationship—which may have been the reason for an argument in the first place.
“If the conflict involves an unmet need or desire, they might turn to someone else to fulfill that need or desire rather than do the challenging—and not always fruitful—work of trying to get that from their partner,” Weiss says. Conversely, if their partner is the one who feels like something is missing, avoidants may believe the other person is too needy and cheat out of resentment, she adds.
If this sounds similar to your relationship, don’t panic. Christan Marashio, certified dating coach and behavior specialist for DateologyCoach.com, cautioned that not all avoidants are going to cheat, and they can still have a “solid moral center.”
Additionally, Landry asserted that anxiously attached partners may have their reasons to cheat as well. These partners can seek closeness from others if they are otherwise lacking that feeling in a relationship with a distant or emotionally unavailable avoidant partner.
“The anxious person begins to catastrophize and assumes the relationship will end,” she says. “He or she may go outside of the relationship to soothe the need for intimacy or line up their next partner. This fear of abandonment drives behavior and often leads to regret and guilt about cheating.”