Need tips for how to catch a cheater? Well, new research notes that literally looking right in front of you could be a better method than, say, snooping through DMs. That is, only if the person in question is a man.
For a recent study published in Royal Society Open Science, researchers asked 1516 heterosexual adults (592 men and 924 women) to gaze at pictures of well, other men and women and then judge whether the person in front of them appeared unfaithful. Both men and women were able to tell, with above-average accuracy, which men, but not women, had been unfaithful just by looking at them.
Is this just because dudes are trash? Or because they have god-awful poker faces? Something else? While the study posits that makeup may help women alter their appearances (and thus lie as convincingly as an under-oath politician), please eye roll with me at the idea that gals can pencil in their “suspicious” eyebrows in order to get away with cheating.
“Notice their eye movement when you ask them simple, basic questions like, ‘where were you?’ or ‘who were you just talking to on the phone?’ If they can’t make direct eye contact with you, they’re most likely lying or covering up something that they imagine will hurt you.” —sex therapist Tammy Nelson, PhD
“The one identifying trait of someone who cheats is this: They avoid eye contact,” Dr. Nelson says. “Cheating is based on dishonesty. When a partner is having an affair, they hide their behaviors. They lie about their outside relationships; they make up stories about where they are and where they’re going and what they’re up to when they’re not with you.”
So if your suspicions are ever aroused, you might want to start with an “innocuous” question…and then pay attention to your partner’s face. “Notice their eye movement when you ask them simple, basic questions like, ‘where were you?’ or ‘who were you just talking to on the phone?'” she says. “If they can’t make direct eye contact with you, they’re most likely lying or covering up something that they imagine will hurt you. Or they are unwilling to explore something that is happening—maybe they are conflict avoidant, or don’t want to discuss something with you on a deeper level.”
Still, it’s not advisable to jump to conclusions just because your partner won’t avert their eyes from the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or something. After all, when it comes to being in a relationship, trust is generally a good thing to have, so before you start setting fire to their things, first acknowledge that they’re simply looking elsewhere, and it might mean nothing of significance. Then communicate that you’re not into that kind of behavior.
“Be clear with them that you feel uncomfortable when they can’t look at you directly while you are speaking to them,” Dr. Nelson says. “If you’re clearly concerned, sit down and talk about your fears and worries that they might be having an affair. A direct conversation is always the best path to an open dialogue to find out more about the truth and about your partner’s commitment to your monogamy agreement.”
So when it comes to reading your partner’s body language, don’t neglect using, like, actual language to hear them out. And if that doesn’t work? Well, maybe it’s time to start asking about their DMs.
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