Ah, the cuckold. Last to hear about his wife’s indiscretions but first to be humiliated by his unfortunate title, the cuckold is the saddest of the male archetypes, the poor sap who “wears the horns” that everyone (but him) can see to the tune of great dishonor and endless heartache. Roughly translated, this means that it sucks to be cheated on, and as if the betrayal itself isn’t bad enough, you also have to suffer the embarrassment of learning that most people know you’re being played way before you finally figure it out. We blame women, their maddening siren songs, and love’s rose-colored glasses, so for a moment, let us act as your wiser, saltier best friend and give you a run-down of what to look for if you suspect something nefarious is afoot. We’ll expect a shot and a beer in return, at which point we’ll probably ask you to hug it out.
She’s suddenly extremely affectionate – or extremely distant
We’d all like to think we’re masters of deception, but most people can’t keep a secret no matter how stealthy they fancy themselves to be. Like an amateur poker player who hasn’t learned the art of Concealing the Tell, a woman who’s fallen into cheating ways will often let her secret manifest itself in her actions (or lack thereof), which, while obvious to outsiders, often goes unnoticed by adoring and love-blind husbands/boyfriends/friends-with-seemingly-exclusive-benefits. Affection, whether abundant or withheld, is a physical manifestation of emotions, so when the affection changes, so have the feelings.
The trick lies in deciphering the real cause of a sudden change in behavior. If she isn’t hormonal (pregnant, PMS-ing, dealing with crazy stress at work), then a likely answer is that she’s either overcompensating (most likely the game of an overachiever or one who considers herself Someone Who Would Never Ever Cheat) or pulling away (the reaction of a woman who doesn’t like to express her emotions or isn’t particularly affectionate to begin with) in order to conceal the fact that she’s questioning her commitment to you.
She criticizes almost everything you do
Another way women cover their tracks is by projecting their guilt onto those around them. If she begins to mysteriously overreact to seemingly inconsequential things you do, then her subconscious is probably trying to make her feel better about her own transgressions by looking for blameful behavior in others. This usually results in things that used to be “no big deal” suddenly causing knock-down drag-out cage matches, so when your better half seems to have taken a turn for the not-so-much-better, then it’s time to consider what could have changed. Aside from any strange medications you’re taking, odds are good that your instances of toilet seat forgetfulness haven’t increased exponentially and it’s actually she that has changed her behavior in some meaningful way. Like, becoming meaningfully naked with another man.
She’s unavailable for days at a time
While you might not spend every night with your Old Lady, you’re probably still in touch with her regularly via text, email, phone, twitter, skywriting, carrier pigeon, or some other type of communication device, so you’ll notice if she starts going MIA for extended periods of time. Sometimes this just indicates an increase in work or family responsibilities, but sometimes, unfortunately, it heralds an abandonment of fidelity. While resisting the urge to become Stalker Guy and request that she outfit herself with a trackable GPS, you can do some recon work to discern why she’s been mysterious and incommunicado; there’s no harm in striking up innocent conversations with her friends in which you casually mention outings she claims to have gone on and gauge their responses on a scale from “nonchalant” to “visibly and extremely uncomfortable.” When all is said and done, though, if your man radar is going off and your lady is acting distant, then you’re most likely well on your way to discovering something you don’t want to admit is true.
She stops inviting you out with her friends
As indicated above, any sudden, drastic increase in secrecy in a relationship is cause for some concern. This goes double for “social secrecy.” When you’re used to spending weekend nights together with your friends, her friends or some combination thereof, the only real reason she’d want to start going out on her own all the time is if her social engagements aren’t entirely above-board (girls’ nights notwithstanding). One or two nights every once in a while shouldn’t make you crazy with jealousy, but if it becomes a regular occurrence – and if she vehemently insists you not attend certain events, but can’t provide you with a valid reason why your presence is not requested – then you might have a cheater on your hands.
She starts talking – a lot – about one guy in particular
Maybe it’s “this hilarious guy in accounting” or “my friend Mark, you know, the one you met at so-and-so’s party,” but a woman who has taken a liking to someone other than you will often drop his name repeatedly in conversation, either to reassure herself that ‘nothing’s going on’ (because she’s mentioned him to you, which seems like ‘putting everything out in the open’), or to make it less likely that you’ll think it’s weird when she starts hanging out with him all the time. While it’s perfectly natural for men and women to have opposite-sex friends (in fact, relationship therapist Gilda Carle notes that this is vital to learning how the opposite sex thinks, which has a positive impact on any relationship), when some other dude’s name becomes a major part of your girl’s vocabulary, you should wonder why she’s spending so much time thinking and talking to you about him.