When we talk about fraud – and we do talk about it much—We usually focus on the two people in the affected partnership. There is the cheater and the cheater, yes, but so often the cheater is overlooked, a person who may or may not know that they are the “other” in a crowded relationship.
If you find that you are the third party in a two-party system, how you go about it is up to you. You can end things, you can tell the person who is counted twice, or you can go on as before and put the moral weight solely on the person you connect with. It’s up to you – but before you decide which course to take, you must certainly understand that you are invading someone else’s territory, inadvertently or otherwise.
But it all comes after your discovery, so how do you find out if you’re dating someone who already has a beau?
Be on the lookout for suspicious items
This is the most obvious trick, especially if you’re going home with someone you’ve just met. When you get to your place, take a good look around. Framed pictures of lovers or shoes on the door that obviously do not belong to them are clear signs, but a skilled scammer or someone who has pondered this deception is likely to hide the really outrageous things, so dig deeper.
Apologize for going to the bathroom to “freshen up”. You will likely need to freshen up, so this is fine and won’t set off an alarm. Once you’ve closed and locked the door, you’ll get busy. Did you go home with a short haired man who has a paddle brush and leave-in conditioner in his drawer? Or maybe a woman who has a beard trimmer hooked up to her counter? Use judgment and common sense as you evaluate the personal items in front of you. Don’t feel bad about sniffing; If you want to allow this person to gain carnal knowledge about you, you can regain some knowledge. Post-Vax slutty summer or no, it’s generally a good idea to know as much about someone as you can before you hit them – but make sure not to be too snooty. Your medicines and private items are still personal. This is not what you are looking for so don’t even go there.
Whether or not there is anything suspicious in the bathroom, there might still be clues to discover in other parts of the house, although you will need to move a little more cautiously if your potential roommate is watching you in more public spaces.
If you are already suspiciously getting into this situation, you have likely been given a reason for it, whether it be the remaining fear of having been betrayed in the past or something this new lover said while addressing you. Don’t assume they’re cheating, but stay vigilant. Say they ask you to watch Netflix – keep an eye on this screen and make a note of the user profiles that appear.
If this isn’t a first-time or one-time connection, use your knowledge of the person’s likes and dislikes to your advantage. If you hate spicy food but you find a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot in the fridge when you get a beer, ask yourself who it is for exactly.
The evidence will vary in each situation. Is there a phone charger plugged into the side of the bed where your partner isn’t sleeping? Is there a free space in the closet that it could look like a suitcase in if its owner wasn’t somewhere on a business trip while his partner stayed home alone to be ashamed? Imagine you’re an investigator looking for clues.
Physical objects aren’t the only things that can arouse suspicion. If you meet someone who responds to your messages for hours at night or can only hang out at certain times, they may have a demanding job or other partner to hang out with. As with anything in a romantic entanglement, trust your gut instinct.
Try adding them on social media
The second big red flag inevitably pops up when you try to add your new connection on social media. Yes, everyone values their privacy, but they also value Instagram followers. If your lover doesn’t tell you his holds, there is a reason. It could be benign – a disinterest in mixing work and play – but it could also be an attempt to hide tagged photos and pictures with their real significant other.
I once caught a man who cheated on me in exactly the same way. He looked at my Instagram story but forgot to block me afterwards (which is key if you want to see a story without your poster knowing about it, so write that down). Imagine my surprise when I tapped a name I didn’t know, only to find photo after photo of the man I saw casually with a woman who did not look very casual with him at all. It turned out that he had lied about his name, job, where he lived, and even his birthday, and created a fake person who happened to have no girlfriend. But in real life, when he wasn’t with me, he did. And she had no idea what he was up to when he slipped into his false identity.
You see, even if someone tries to hide their social media from you, it is too tied to who they really are to be reliably possible these days. Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook can all read your phone’s contacts to offer a list of “people you might know”. If this person is not that dedicated to cheating and is stopping you from noticing that they are preemptively blocking you on every platform, you will likely come across their pages at some point. If you don’t, you can try backwards browsing the photos from their dating profile or googling details they gave you about their life. It’s hard to make up a wrong life and stick to every lie; the truth always comes out and you can be the one to enforce it.
Once you do this, how you deal with the new information is up to you. For my part, I set up a fake date with the scammer after putting together a huge folder of evidence with my friends (and getting them to sit in the back of the bar in case it got scary during the confrontation). We almost had fun. It was very John Tucker Must Die, but less entertaining because we knew someone was going to be seriously hurt.
During the fake date, I told the scammer that he would tell his girlfriend what he’d done or I would – and I stuck with it. It was very annoying to bring news like this to someone who had no idea what their boyfriend was doing when she wasn’t around. Remember that even if you never meet the person who has been betrayed, he or she is a real person with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. If you choose to keep seeing the person cheat, don’t let this forget you. There are very few scenarios here where everyone gets away with it, but it is not your fault that the scammer is cheating. If you don’t actively incite the cheater, the fault for the double timing rests directly with them. One piece of advice, however, is that an emotional, betrayed person may not always see it that way, so let your willingness to be yelled at or labeled the home improvement factor determine when and whether to tell them.
That brings us to communication.
If for any reason you think you’re dating someone who already has a significant other, then just ask. You really can. While it’s embarrassing, you might find that they’re in an open relationship or are going through one of those messy breakups where they still kind of see their longtime love while trying to get back on the dating scene. Honesty is always the best policy, and being informed and aware is more important than being suspicious and cautious every time.
Whether you have an arsenal of evidence or just have an unsubstantiated clue, be direct. True, I’m giving you some advice that I didn’t take here as I set up a fake date to confront the scammer I caught, but I did this out of concern that he would get my number from hers The phone would lock when I text him the evidence that I was ready to write to her. (Yes, I tracked her number online, but this guide is a story for another article.) In fairness, I was very straightforward when the wrong date started. Don’t punk when they sit across from you. It is always better to know all the facts, even if you are uncomfortable with them.
Sarah N., a 29-year-old New Yorker who refused to give her last name, has this advice. When she was attending a conference a few years ago, she started talking to the keynote speaker and found that they had a lot in common. One thing led to another and they had sex. On the third day of the conference, she noticed a ring on his finger, but said to herself, “You must be in an open marriage.”
Do not be mistaken or make up scenarios in your head when you catch someone. It is worth repeating that if someone is cheating on their partner with you, no matter how aggressively you flirted or what you look like, it is not your fault. Give them the benefit of the doubt, sure, but if you see anything suspicious, confront them. Sarah did, and the keynote speaker was surprisingly honest with her.
“He was completely dry like it was normal,” she recalled. “He was almost disgusted when I asked if they had opened. He said, ‘No, definitely not’ so I asked, ‘You cheated?’ He said yes so I asked if it was the first time. He tried to pretend it was and I got angry. Then he admitted it wasn’t and told me about the other women. I just didn’t want to be the girl he ruined his marriage with. “
Let’s get one thing straight: if someone is cheating with you, you haven’t ruined the relationship. It’s you, period, and even then the relationship couldn’t be broken. People talk about infidelity all the time. (Here is how.) Sarah says the keynote speaker is still married to his wife, although she doesn’t know if he ever told her about his wandering eye. The man who cheated on me is still with his then girlfriend and I can personally confirm that she knows exactly what happened.
Again, once you find out the big secret, it is up to you what to do. If you find a box of tampons in the bathroom of a seemingly single man, you can leave a note in it that he is a scam or you can just close the drawer. If you find the real partner of a date on social media, you can send them a DM or close the app. You can keep seeing the person or block them and hope they don’t just cheat with someone else again. Most importantly, you should know and be able to make an informed decision. Now go out there and be curious.