Of course you trust your guy'll never cheat. But if he comes home late, starts working out to get in shape, and is secretive about his cell phone calls, are you right to be suspicious? Relationship experts weigh in on eight red-flags, and how much they're a cause for concern.
1. He starts paying more attention to his looks and wardrobe
Most people are keen to come across well when they first embark on a new relationship and this red flag can be an indication that there is someone else on the horizon. Life coach and relationships expert, Rebekah Fensome, warns that taking a greater interest in his appearance could be a bad sign. "Maybe he just wants to start taking pride in his appearance, but this can be a sure sign that there is someone else he is trying to impress."
"This is generally a sign he's looking to impress someone new, or that someone new is putting her influence on the way he looks," says Lisa Daily, a dating expert who is regularly featured on the nationally-syndicated Daytime television show and author of Stop Getting Dumped! and How to Date Like a Grown-Up.
Dating coach, Peter Spalton (known in the UK as the "Dating Doctor") suggests that you should pay attention to when the attention to detail occurs. "The problem is when he only gets dressed up when he goes out without you either in the evening with his "mates" or for dress-down Friday at work."
Red-Flag Meter: 5/5
2. His father had a history of being unfaithful
You might assume that people are capable of making their own decisions and that what your parents did has no bearing on your own future conduct but for Armstrong, this isn't necessarily the case. "All of us are unconsciously influenced by our parents' behavior and even if it has been a 'secret', the subconscious mind is powerful and absorbs the behaviour and influences."
For Daily, the outcome is less clear-cut. "Men in this situation tend to go to extremes: He'll either be the most faithful guy on the planet (because he remembers vividly the fallout in his family), or he'll be socialized that cheating is normal."
Spalton, on the other hand, is not convinced that a family history of infidelity has any impact on behavior. "This is unlikely to be an issue," he argues. "If his parents split up because of an affair, he'll probably go out of his way to make sure it doesn't happen to your children (if you have any). After all he personally knows the impact a divorce can have on the kids."
Red-Flag Meter: 2/5
3. He's cheated before
A leopard never changes his spots, or does he? Armstrong stresses that a past history of infidelity should be a cause for concern. "People tend to repeat patterns and scripts throughout their lives unless they stop and start to take notice of why they are acting like this," she says. Fensome also advises getting to the root of the problem. "Ask him why he thinks that he cheated," she says. "Find out where it came from -- was he too young; did he not really want to be with that person; was it down to insecurity?"
"The greatest indicator of future behavior is past behavior -- if he cheated on his last partner, it's only a matter of time before he cheats on you," warns Daily. "If he's cheated on you and you stayed with him, you can almost guarantee he'll cheat again as well. Why? You've basically let him know that he can get away with it."
For Spalton, past infidelity isn't necessarily an indication that history will repeat itself. "A drunken one-night stand at a business conference is usually a one-off and he'll feel guilty so is unlikely to repeat it," he advises. "But it's a different story if he'd gone out of his way to chase someone at work or one of your friends. Then you do need to watch out."
Red-Flag Meter: 5/5
4. His friends are jerks
Peer pressure can be very damaging, even if it's not intentionally applied. "We tend to be influenced by our friends," Armstrong suggests.
"People with similar values and backgrounds tend to hang out together, so you can learn a lot about a guy by the friends he keeps," explains Daily. "If his friends all cheat on their partners, or if he has no problem covering for a cheating friend, I'd steer clear. If his friends are good guys who treat their partners well, that's a pretty good sign."
Red-Flag Meter: 4/5
5. He's spending less time with you
Being frozen out isn't just frustrating and hurtful -- it can also be a sign that a relationship is heading for the rocks. "Relationships need nurturing and time spent together to grow close and to feel safe," says Armstrong. "If your partner is spending less time with you and seems less interested in you, it could indicate that they are developing this intimacy and safety elsewhere."
"It might be that he feels more secure in the relationship than before or it might be that he's losing interest," adds Fensome. "Just ask him and see how he reacts but if he becomes defensive, this isn't a good sign."
Daily doesn't see this situation as being a dealbreaker by itself unless there are other worrying signs present. "This can be caused by a variety of things -- stress, needing time with friends, or to just be alone," she argues. "However, if he's spending less time with you in combination with a number of the other red flags (new wardrobe, secretive calls, etc.) it's something to pay attention to."
Red-Flag Meter: 3/5
6. He's suddenly become more attentive
As equally suspicious as a man becoming more distant is a man who suddenly becomes more attentive. Most women dream of having a romantic and attentive partner but if this hasn't been in evidence from the start, it's not always a positive development. "People may be happy with their partner but suddenly adventure beckons elsewhere offering new experiences and excitement, and they might feel guilt and want to keep everything 'okay' at home," explains Armstrong.
Fensome agrees that guilt may be a strong factor but she stresses that there may be other forces at work. "It could be genuine in that he believes that he might be losing you and has decided not to take you for granted."
"This can be a swingback caused by guilt," agrees Daily, but she stresses that it isn't necessarily a big cause for concern. "Again, this is only a red flag when coupled with the other signs. Otherwise, there's no need to panic -- don't distrust a guy just because he pays a lot of attention to you."
Red-Flag Meter: 2/5
7. He's got reasons for leaving the house more
Frequent ventures out of the house can signal trouble. Fensome advises that you need to have a frank discussion to get to the bottom of what she sees as avoidance behavior.
Armstrong agrees with this. "If your partner starts to find many reasons to leave the house, it can be a real signal that they are exiting from the relationship," she explains. "There are many ways that people do this -- through work, sport, seeing friends, hobbies etc. -- all of which can be part of a healthy relationship but if it is different behavior, it can help if you are able to talk and explore what the reasons are."
Daily agrees that you may have cause to be wary about this red flag. "If there's no real reason for leaving the house (such as a demanding new employer, or change in living situation), this is something to be wary of -- especially if the reasons for leaving are impractical or don't really fit (like claiming to want ice cream at 11 pm, and then being gone for 3 hours)," she says.
Red-Flag Meter: 4/5
8. He's changed his cell phone habits
Becoming more secretive is a big red flag, especially where cell phones are concerned. If you notice things like him locking access to his cell phone or being very vague about who he is receiving text messages and calls from, it may be time to become suspicious. "This is a big sign, unless it's the week before your birthday, anniversary or a major holiday," says Daily. "That said, a guy who has nothing to hide usually doesn't hide things."
Fensome also agrees that secretive behavior can be a bad sign. "Secretive behavior is a sure sign that someone can be having an affair," she warns.
For a healthy relationship, Armstrong stresses the importance of being open with one another and keeping the lines of communication open. "If your partner starts to change cell phone habits, explore this for sure!" she advises.
Red-Flag Meter: 5/5
"The biggest things to watch for are significant changes in behavior -- whether it's wardrobe, at work, or in the bedroom," says Daily. Bottom-line: Stay alert, but don't be overly obsessed. A single red-flag may not be a definite deal-breaker, but if you see more than one signs chances are your suspicions are right.