How To Tell If Your Spouse Is Cheating

by Joseph Ryan, Private Investigator
Cheating spouses provide much of the work and income of most private investigators, and every PI has developed his list of "tell tale signs of a cheating spouse."

Here's a list derived from articles by private detectives Bob Brown and Edmund J. Pankau, and female private detective Victoria Frelow of Scotland Yard Investigations (no, it's not that Scotland Yard).

Note that though I've phrased these points in terms of the husband as the cheater, most also apply when it's the wife who's cheating.

From Bob Brown --

- At the beginning of an affair, the husband may actually be more affectionate than usual due to guilt feelings.

- Later, after the affair has been going on awhile, he often starts finding fault with the wife as a defensive mechanism (i.e., to justify the affair in his mind).

- Cheating husbands often lose interest in domestic activities, such as spending time with the kids, fixing up the house, lawn care, etc.

- Cheating husbands may have a change in sexuality (i.e., more sex, less sex) as well as unexplained sexual requests.

- The cheater's relationship with his family will almost always change, that is, he will tend to become more distant, cold, or fault-finding (i.e., he starts to blame the family, especially the wife, for his behavior).

- Financial changes may become noticeable. The wife may notice unexplained credit card charges or withdrawals from the family's checking account.

- Grooming habits change. A cheating husband may buy a new wardrobe or a lot of new clothes, or may just suddenly start to become more attentive to his personal appearance. The wife may notice frequent bathing, more careful grooming, a new cologne, a new exercise program, etc.

- Physical clues to the affair may start appearing, such as lipstick on shirt collars, perfume odors on shirts or jackets, secretion stains on underwear. Or the wife may discover pieces of paper with notes or phone numbers, unexplained match books, receipts, condoms, etc.

- The husband's driving pattern may change. The wife may find the car needs gas more often than before or she may monitor the car's odometer and find the husband is putting a lot of unexplained miles on the car. Brown recommends that suspicious wives keep track of the mileage on their husband's car and even monitor the time they leave for work and the time they come home. "Keep a calendar and note the times," he says. "This should help establish a pattern. If your mate claims to be working late, check paycheck stubs to verify this overtime."

- On occasion, the wife may notice her husband whispering into the phone. He may look alarmed when he sees her observing him and may hang up suddenly. There may be abrupt hang ups when she answers the phone herself. (Want to know who called? If you have touch tone dialing in most parts of the U.S. you can dial *69 to get the number.) (1471 in the UK- Editor)

- The wife may find unexplained, repetitive charges on her husband's mobile phone bill. Often these will be calls her husband made right after leaving home in the morning and right before coming home in the evening. According to Brown and most other PI's, the mobile telephone bill is one of the best ways to catch a cheating husband. Try calling your husband's cell phone company to get additional details about mysterious calls. The reason is that the bill for mobile services lists every single call made (unlike a bill for conventional phone services, which list only long distance charges). Thus, if you suspect your husband is cheating, and he doesn't have a mobile phone, it wouldn't be a bad idea to buy him one.

- Brown comments that "Female cheaters are more discreet in the selection of a lover. This is most likely because of their concern about sexually transmitted diseases. Most females are looking for a longer lasting relationship than a `one night stand.' In past years men were the aggressors; in society today, with the increase of women in the work force, women have become equally aggressive." He also mentions that "When a female is having an affair she tends to have more of a `glow' about her." (Presumably, when a guy is having an affair, he doesn't have the glow.)

From Ed Pankau --

The following are possible indications of a cheating husband, says Ed Pankau:

- Hair gets longer

- Clothes get flashier

- Changes cologne

- Boxer shorts become bikini underwear

- Joins a health club

- Starts a diet

Watch for any changes in his "pattern" of living, says Pankau; this can alert you to the fact that a new partner or relationship has entered his life. Among the specific changes to watch for --

1. He changes cologne, clothes, or switches from boxer shorts to bikini underwear.

2. His daily travel (driving) pattern changes

3. He becomes hard to reach at the office or on the road and starts coming home at unusual times

4. His spending patterns change; you find unexplained charges on credit card bills or phone bills (especially mobile phone bills).

If you become aware your husband is cheating you should consider following up with targeted surveillance during unaccountable times, advises Pankau. "Through the conduct of thousands of divorce cases, I have found three main areas of investigation common to these matters: background, financial, and child custody investigations," he says. "Each of these investigations has a specific goal and requires the proof of different facts."

From Victoria Frelow --

"There are several ways to recognize and catch a disloyal partner," says Frelow. "It is usually discovered with a sudden change in behavior. For example, your partner wants to go places alone, or he or she doesn't show any true affection or have a sexual appetite. Your partner stays out late with unexpected meetings, or receives pages in the middle of the night. The home is inundated with strange phone calls coupled with whispered conversations, or your partner suddenly panics and hangs up the phone when you enter the room.

"Also be aware of any close platonic relationships. Most friends will not approve of the cheater's ways but will remain very dependable. Some friends will actually help the cheater get out of the home and will often provide an iron-clad alibi for the cheater. Don't get upset or blame the friend for his/her part in the plan. You must understand although it is difficult, that the cheater's buddy will assist the cheater out of loyalty. This emotion usually stems from a long lasting or childhood friendship...

"What can we do to catch cheating spouses? First of all, the cheater must not know that you suspect him/her. Although it is difficult, you must still treat the cheater the same way as you did prior to suspecting him/her of cheating. Give the cheater plenty of room to hang himself/herself, don't try to interfere with the cheating behavior. If you suspect the cheater is actually cheating at home while you're away, make false plans to be away one weekend and stay at a local hotel. Park down the street from your residence, then watch and wait. But before you try some of these suggestions, make sure you are willing to accept the consequences without violence. Have a plan as to what you intend to do if your suspicions are indeed confirmed."

Frelow is very emphatic about the need to avoid violence in these situations at all costs.

"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not resorting to physical violence," she says. "You run the possibility of having criminal charges filed against you, an arrest record, possible jail time, as well as a fine, which will only increase your pain. IT ISN'T WORTH IT!"

Joseph Ryan is a private investigator and director of Washington Research Associates in Denver, Colorado. This article is excerpted from his recent book, "Check Him Out! The American Woman's Guide to Background Investigations." To learn more about the book, visit

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