Aug 152011

Emailing my euphemism last night, gmail showed me this ad:

Is He A Cheater?
1) Search His Email Address Fast.
2) See Hidden Pics & Profiles Now!

I’ve written an entire post about jealousy and any number of posts about attachment, including attachment styles, stages of attachment, and breaking up. But I’ve never written a post about infidelity. Indeed, I’ve only mentioned it once, in passing, while describing the nature of love and joy.

So when I saw the ad, I thought, “I should write a post about infidelity.”

But I find it difficult to feel invested in such a subject; I just can’t get on the moral outrage train that seems to be so popular, and a calm explanation of infidelity doesn’t meet the needs of people who are worried about it.

Like this: People cheat for a nearly infinite range of reasons, all of which boil down to the fact that monogamy is incredibly hard. Well-intentioned, loving people cheat; so do manipulative liars. The infidelity is not what matters; what matters is how you and your partner deal with such events, potential or real.

See? True, but so different from what you want to hear that it just CAN’T be of any use to you.

People want to know, “How do I find out if my partner is cheating?”

And I’m struck by the ad’s encouragement to STALK to your partner. Worried your partner might have violated your trust? Then violate their trust! Think your partner might be a fundamentally corrupt human being? Then engage in equally corrupt behavior from the moral high ground of The Betrayed Lover! It’s okay to sneak around behind your partner’s back if you think they might be sneaking around behind yours.


There is still a post to be written about the paradoxical truth that one of the main things we give and receive in relationships is permission to be free from the relationship. I’ll write it soon. In the meantime, the answer to the question, “how do I found out if they’re cheating” is:

There is no foolproof ‘sign.’ And really, if you had something that felt like ‘evidence,’ what would you do then? Confront them with it? Because presenting them with this supposed evidence might increase the chance that they’d tell the truth about it? Dude, if you can’t trust that your partner will tell the truth without being presented with evidence, there is already something more important wrong with your relationship than a little extra-dyadic sex. Your relationship lacks trust and it lacks communication skills. Go read some of the posts above, especially the jealousy post.

emily nagoski

  9 Responses to “Is He a Cheater?”

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  1. Thanks for that post!
    It’s true … A friend of mine had huge problems with her last partner, since she is REALLY jealous, and he wasn’t … well … let’s say, he wasn’t the very thoughful type of guy. He didn’t cheat on her, but some of his remarks (“Remember the good ol’ times when we all were still single?”) just weren’t the best to be made in front of her, especially when he had been out drinking for the whole night again.
    Anyway, because we talked so much about that, I came to wonder about MY relationship and the fact that I simply DO NOT WORRY about whether my boyfriend is cheating on my.
    But I think, that’s the best sign we could ever have. :D

    P.S.: He said, he does not worry either.

  2. How do you keep track of all the posts to reference them? Or does it take you years and it just looks like magic from here?

    • Mostly it just takes years, but I’ve been looking at old posts a lot lately because I’m tentatively putting together ePub files of related posts for people to download, so they can read, say, the entire orgasm series without having to sift through all the other stuff; so I’m more aware than usual of what I’ve already written.

  3. Good post and kudos for the bravery to swim against the tide of angst over “cheating”! Thanks C

  4. “…monogamy is hard…” NOT! (if you are with the right person)

    Sorry, but I have to go by life experience.
    Monogamy is easy and way fun too ; )

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