As perceptive as most of us like to be, most of us have been fooled. Misjudging another person is particularly painful in the case of an unfaithful romantic partner, especially when we haven’t noticed the red flags. And yet they are there – if you know what and where to look.
strategies of deception
Menelaus Apostolou discusses strategies for hiding infidelity in a play aptly titled Catch Me If You Can (2022).[i] He identified 53 acts people use to hide infidelity and 11 strategies for hiding infidelity that both men and women were willing to use, and found that over 70% of study participants tended to do at least seven of them use. He notes that a combination of strategies is often required to conceal infidelity and counter partners’ detection strategies.
Apostolou referred to previous research (Apostolou and Ioannidou, 2021) in which he and a colleague identified 47 actions people take to reveal a partner’s infidelity. He notes that some of the infidelity-concealing strategies he has identified in his current research appear to be designed to counteract infidelity detection methods—perhaps making them easier to identify in practice.
Less is more: The covert strategy most likely to be used to hide infidelity in Apostolou’s study was “be discreet,” with over 95% of study participants willing to use it. This involved meeting lovers in far-flung and isolated places, making it difficult for relationship partners to vet them. Apostolou also notes that using discretion avoids leaving physical evidence of infidelity and makes it more difficult for legitimate partners who are so inclined to spy on partners.
show me the evidence Sometimes a lack of data is suspicious. Apostolou found the second most popular strategy for hiding infidelity was to “remove digital evidence.” But in practice, who does that? Since most people fill their phones full of photos and text messages, if they were suddenly deleted, everyone would wonder why.
Stability suppresses suspicion: Apostolou notes that next in the hierarchy of hiding infidelity were the “keep the same behavior” and “keep the same routine” strategies, in which scammers make an effort to hide attitudes and behavior towards partners, as well as their routine and appearance change. These strategies could be effective as it is usually a change in dress or behavior in established relationships that raises suspicion.
Suddenly in love: Apostolou describes a different strategy than “show more interest in my partner” in which scammers try to camouflage infidelity by showing interest and love. He notes that this strategy makes scammers vulnerable to a “observe changes in her/his behavior” infidelity detection strategy because partners might ironically but accurately interpret sudden displays of love as a sign of infidelity. Although Apostolou states that this strategy is rarely used, 46% of participants in his study said they would use it, noting that some partners may actually believe their partners love them more. Perpetrators who can accurately assess a partner’s susceptibility to this strategy could increase their chances of getting away with an affair.
Regarding personalities willing to employ strategies to conceal infidelity, Apostolou found that Machiavellianism, characterized by “deception, manipulation, and exploitation of others,” was a significant predictor. He notes that strategies to conceal infidelity likely involve deception, such as B. lying directly to a partner, as well as manipulation, often in the form of expressions of love, to reassure partners of their devotion.
The bottom line? It’s best to get to know a partner slowly and carefully early in a relationship to separate chemistry from character, authentic worship from manipulation, and spot red flags sooner rather than later.