There must be a bazillion “How To Tell If He/She’s Cheating” articles on the interwebs. You know, the usual — new cologne, sudden penchant for 9-hour Pilates classes, weird showering habits, furtive texting, requires cavity search to reveal cell phone… But here’s the real clue you’re dealing with a cheater, and it’s not lipstick on their collar — it’s anger and defensiveness.
And I’m not just talking after discovery or suspicion of cheating, I mean bizarro anger about little insignificant things. I TOLD YOU THE PROPER PASTA/SAUCE RATIO IS 3:1 ! WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?!
Well maybe he’s just grumpy. Maybe she had a bad day at work.
No, no, no. The big sign is FURY when questioned. Indignation.
It makes sense if you work from the supposition that cheating (and most bad behavior, really) comes from entitlement. Not only are they entitled to screw you over, they’re entitled to not be questioned about it. Who are YOU to stand in their way?
We’re all familiar with the mindfuck of It’s Not What I Did, It’s Your Reaction To It. Here are two other bits of mindfuckery — It’s Not What I Did, It’s How You Found Out About It — and It’s Not What I Did, It’s What You Did.
1.) It’s Not What I Did, It’s How You Found Out About It.
The problem isn’t the cheating, the problem is that you looked at their cellphone. The problem isn’t the hooker habit, the problem is the “insecurity” that drove you to snoop. The problem isn’t the affair with the co-worker, the problem is you discovered the disciplinary action from HR.
See how that works? It’s called deflection.
Good people aren’t cocksure. They tend to second guess, give the benefit of the doubt, and want to believe the best about people they’ve invested in. When met with righteous indignation, the non-disordered person thinks, “Am I out of line here?”
Solution? Believe the evidence, people. Pay attention to the actions and pay ZERO attention to the spin. Good people are transparent. Good people willingly answer questions. Bad people are mindfucks.
2.) It’s Not What I Did, It’s What You Did.
Otherwise known as “Whataboutism” or the false equivalency. Okay, so they have a hooker habit. You once spent too much on a leather sofa. You know, you’re not exactly perfect either. (Perfection being the standard you apparently hold everyone to.) Who are you to judge them, Ms. Profligate Spender on Soft Furnishings?
If you’re a chump, you’re going to take the bait and defend your sofa purchase. Or worse, you’re going to lead with vulnerability and fair-mindedness — “Yes, I once made a terrible decision about a sofa.”
POUNCE! “AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO JUDGE ME!!!”
Stay in the sane lane, chumps. Hooker habits are not equivalent to dubious sofa purchases. Do not get distracted from the point at hand — this person has endangered your health, your family, and your finances. You bought a sofa, this person bought a human being.
Abusers and autocrats have a distinctive MO — they victimize others and then claim victim status. Pedophile? That child came on to me. Dictator? The Rule of Law oppresses me, how dare you subject me to it! Cheater? I am misunderstood and you are controlling.
There’s only one appropriate response to this kind of malignant entitlement — consequences.
You control you. Don’t engage, go directly to actions. End the conversation, close the account, call the lawyer. Enforce that boundary.
Narcissists understand consequences. They don’t like them, but they understand them. Your pain though? Not so much.