The other day a few of our high school friends met at a bridal shower. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and so many individual aspects of our lives had changed.
Some of us are happily married parents. Others have chosen a child-free life. Others are single parents with zero intentions of ever marrying. Some are single and hoping to find a partner that fits their lifestyle. Hint; it’s hard.
As we got talking about our relationships, we came to the realization that we have one unifying factor: We’ve all been victims of the big C. (cheating)
Here’s the gist we all agreed on; if we knew what to look out for in the lovers who left us high and dry, we’d have dodged the bullet way earlier in the relationship.
But hindsight is always loaded with insight.
Looking back now, these friends of mine can pinpoint exactly what they should never have ignored.
I felt compelled to write about this so that you know what to look out for in your relationship to avoid getting caught with your pants down. Pun intended.
They want all the attention they can get.
Photo by Calvin Lupiya on Unsplash
One thing I noticed in my dating life in my twenties was that the people who ended up cheating on me were the same ones who wanted me to be around them all the time.
In fact, if I’m honest, they kinda smothered me to an uncomfortable degree.
This particular trait of clinginess can sometimes manifest as possessiveness or jealousy.
Looking from the outside in, you’d think that someone who wants to be with you all the time actually deeply loves you, but there’s usually something deeper at play here.
These people are usually contending with a fear of abandonment.
When I dug a little deeper into one of my ex-boyfriend’s background, I realized he had been raised by a father who meant well but who was also extremely strict, which left him with a tattered self-esteem.
People with low self-esteem tend to be deeply rooted in fear of abandonment, so they cling and become possessive or jealous.
So take a cocktail of low self-esteem and a fear of abandonment, and what do you get? Someone who is afraid to be alone and craves validation all the time.
And sometimes, the feeling of love from one person isn’t enough. They become entangled with many people because, this way, they feel they’ll never be abandoned.
I guess I’m trying to say that anyone who relies on the boost of someone else’s approval is more at risk of cheating because having someone else desire them makes them feel extra special.
They blame their unhappiness on their lover.
If you look at people who have been loyal to each other for years, you’ll see a degree of independence in each one. Or what I like to call the ability to stand on one’s two feet — without over-reliance on the other person.
But that’s never the case with cheaters.
If you’ve ever been cheated on, you’ll most likely notice this person has always tended to blame you for everything that goes wrong in the relationship.
I recall my ex once telling me that the reason our relationship was rocky was that I wasn’t doing what he was telling me to do.
Aside from stating the obvious, this is pure narcissism. I’ll also point out that cheaters never take responsibility for their unhappiness.
They hang everything that goes wrong in the relationship — and at times in their lives — over your head because they assume it’s your job to make things work.
Other times they become too critical of you and what you do. Initially, they were happy with you. Nothing was a problem. Suddenly everything you do just seems to irritate them.
This isn’t normal. It’s a subtle form of projection.
Because they feel something is wrong with them but aren’t able to deal with it, they turn around and make you the bad one.
They accuse you of cheating.
A few of these high schoolmates of mine talked about how each of the people who cheated on them actually accused them of cheating.
And it’s not surprising. This is what is called projecting.
In a way, it’s a form of covering their tracks or confusing you so that you don’t see what they’re doing behind your back.
At times it’s too extreme that the cheater fabricates some kind of evidence to prove that you’re the cheating one.
And you know what?
Projecting works so damn well and gives the cheater a big open door to pull off an affair.
Because when you’re too wrapped up trying to defend yourself and prove you’re not doing what they accuse you of, it’s very easy not to see the red flags as they pop up.
They suddenly have a problem with your colleague texting you at night — something they’ve not had an issue with until now. And you start to wonder if there’s really something there.
Meanwhile, you don’t realize how their own phone habits have changed — how they spend too much time texting or how secretive they’ve become when making phone calls. Tara tara.
They lay the groundwork for cheating long before doing it.
Photo by Dell on Unsplash
My high schoolmate also told a story of how her girlfriend at the time started acting weird, saying work was getting hectic and the boss had said they would need to stay longer at work.
But when he met his girlfriend’s colleague at the gym, he said there was no such thing.
It turned out that she had been laying the groundwork to cheat ahead of time because she fancied her boss.
This only shows one thing; cheaters are great at preparing the groundwork for future deception ahead of time. So by the time the cheating happens, their tracks are covered.
Unlike in the movies, nothing just happens.
A full-grown adult knows how to cover their tracks so well in advance. That’s why they do things like set up separate emails, move inboxes, change their social media profiles, change the route they take from work and even change their laundry.
Yeah, it’s usually all very well orchestrated. Never underestimate how manipulative and well-crafted these guys can be.
You can sense a shift in their commitment as they grow distant.
Let’s clarify one thing right here; becoming distant isn’t a surefire sign that someone is a cheater.
But, it can be a sign of something that eventually leads someone to cheat.
And that thing manifests in many forms.
For instance, we all have different ways of experiencing relationships or what experts refer to as attachment styles.
One type of person highly prone to becoming distant in a relationship is those with an avoidant attachment style.
Usually, they lack the courage to accept what’s going on emotionally.
So they flip out internally whenever they realize the relationship is becoming serious because it makes them lose control.
This, then, makes them pull away from their lover. But many people don’t stop at that. To regain their control, they find/attract other non-serious relationships with other people.
And isn’t this when cheating starts?
Other times, they are so afraid of how deep the relationship is going that they fear they’ll hurt their partner, so they act distant in the hope that their partner will end the relationship. That way, everyone is safe.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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