Long-distance relationships can be rife with challenges. Although many partnerships succeed, many also fail. It takes work to be committed to one’s partner from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Otherwise, the relationship could fall victim to long-distance relationship cheating.
Wondering whether your significant other is being unfaithful? Keep reading for 15 long-distance relationship cheating signs.
How common is cheating in long-distance relationships?
Despite the common thought that cheating is more common in long-distance relationships, statistics of cheating in long-distance relationships offer some hope. In fact, one research study found those in long-distance relationships typically have greater relationship stability than those in geographically close dating relationships.
“Surprisingly, research shows us that long-distance relationships are not more susceptible to infidelity on average,” said Dr. Patricia Celan, a postgraduate psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.
Another research study by Brigham Young University in 2016 found that although being 11 to 200 miles away was associated with a 31% increased likelihood of cheating, being over 200 miles away from a partner was associated with a slight reduction in infidelity.
“However, that doesn’t mean long-distance relationships don’t pose a unique difficulty to people who might be predisposed to cheating in the first place,” Dr. Celan said. “With limitations on physical intimacy and with the ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ problem, long-distance couples may find their eyes wandering as their needs go unmet.”
15 top signs your long-distance partner may be cheating
Below, you’ll find 15 signs your long-distance partner could be cheating.
Sign 1: There’s a change in your partner’s availability
Be on the lookout for a sudden shift in how often your partner is available. Are they rarely around for phone calls or video chats? If there’s an explanation for this change—like a new job—then you’re likely in the clear. But if there’s no apparent reason, you might want to dig deeper.
“If your partner typically responds to your texts every hour, then neglects you for the entire day, someone else could have caught his or her eye,” Celan said.
Sign 2: They’re always on the go
If every time you call your partner it seems like they’re out somewhere and can’t talk, this could be a red flag—especially if they used to chat with you from the comfort of their own home.
Sign 3: They have a history of cheating
If you know your partner cheated on you or a previous partner in the past and now you’re in a long-distance relationship, cheating may not be too out of character for him or her.
“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” Celan said. “Most people who have cheated in the past have crossed a moral boundary that becomes easier to cross in the future.”
Celan adds that you shouldn’t discount the possibility that people can change. “Once a cheater does not mean always a cheater if someone is motivated to become a more honest person and do the inner work needed to overcome character flaws.”
Sign 4: Your partner makes you question your sanity
If you decide to confront your partner and share concerns about cheating and instead of reassuring you that everything is fine they make you think you’re crazy or overreacting, this could be a red flag, said Jessica Small, a Denver-based licensed marriage and family therapist.
Making you think you’re crazy when you’re not could be a sign your partner is gaslighting you.
Sign 5: Your partner seems especially irritable
Does your partner seem suddenly irritated or short with you for little things and you can’t figure out why? Long-distance relationship cheating might be the explanation.
“Cheating while staying in a relationship often causes cognitive dissonance,” Celan said. “People can’t make sense of why they would cheat on a good partner, so they unconsciously sabotage the relationship by being irritable out of nowhere.”
Sign 6: You no longer have bedtime chats
Most long-distance relationships are characterized by wake-up and bedtime check-ins. If your partner suddenly isn’t available at night or seems less interested in talking before going to bed, this could be a red flag, said Dana McNeil, a marriage and family therapist based in San Diego.
Sign 7: Your significant other doesn’t talk about the future
McNeil said another warning sign of long-distance cheating is a partner who suddenly stops talking about the future—they don’t say how much they miss you or talk about their hopes and dreams for the future you’ll share together.
Sign 8: They’re vague about making plans to see you
If your partner seems hesitant to commit to solid plans for the next time you’ll see one another, this could be a sign of long-distance relationship cheating, McNeil said.
Sign 9: Their plans always involve coming to see you—not the other way around
Perhaps your partner has no trouble committing to visits, but it seems like every single time they insist on visiting you instead of you visiting them. This could indicate there’s someone they don’t want you to bump into where they live.
Sign 10: It seems like they don’t want anyone to know about you
If your relationship status is private and your partner makes a point to not share photos of you two together on social media, this could be cause for concern, Celan said. If your partner has always been private, then you’re likely in the clear. But if the change occurred once you went long distance, something else could be at play.
Sign 11: They take old photos of the two of you off social media
If you notice your partner has changed their relationship status or removed old photos of you two from their Facebook or Instagram profile, this (unsurprisingly) is a red flag, McNeil said.
Sign 12: It seems like their social plans no longer include you
Is your partner suddenly planning trips with other people or spending weekends with people you don’t know much about? McNeil said these could be signs of infidelity.
Sign 13: Your partner doesn’t give away details about their personal life
If you ask your partner what they’re doing or what they’ve been up to and their answer is surprisingly vague, this could be a sign of infidelity, Small said.
Sign 14: The romantic gestures have taken a backseat
If your partner previously sent you thoughtful emails and text messages saying how much they loved and missed you but those gestures have since disappeared, McNeil said this could be a sign your partner is being unfaithful.
Sign 15: Your gut tells you something is off
If you suspect your partner is cheating, it’s important to trust your gut. If your instincts tell you something is off—even if you can’t quite put your finger on it—you’re probably onto something, Small said.
Can a long-distance relationship recover from cheating?
For a relationship to successfully thrive following infidelity, it’s crucial for the couple to rebuild trust, McNeil said. “This is especially challenging when the partners are not in the same area because the likelihood and tendency for doubt to creep in is greater,” she said.
If you want to make a long-distance relationship work after infidelity, it’s crucial to tell your partner how their actions hurt you instead of just criticizing their personality or character, McNeil said.
“The person who was betrayed needs to sense the other partner feels their pain at a deep level and can identify with how much their actions impacted them,” she said. “Otherwise, it won’t be safe to be vulnerable enough to attempt moving forward.”
Many couples will benefit from the help of a couples therapist in order to get past long-distance relationship cheating.
“Couples therapy is absolutely necessary to recover following infidelity, because the recovery process takes a lot of work and often needs professional help,” Celan said. “Trust can be regained, and many couples do move past cheating eventually, but only if both parties are fully committed to letting go of the past, forgiving and learning from their mistakes.”