In the mid-aughts there was a reality show called Cheaters, which was kind of like Jerry Springer meets Cops. It was as awesome as it sounds. Hosted by the singularly smug Joey Greco, the formula was simple: One half of an aggrieved couple, convinced their significant other was cheating, tasked Greco and his team with finding and documenting evidence to prove them right.
Inevitably the philanderer would be caught in the act—usually while doing something unspeakable in a parking lot, or a camper, or once, memorably, on a boat. And while the cheating went down in different ways, the suspicious behavior was always the same: He'd been distant, she'd been secretive, there were late night phone calls and lipstick stains on collars.
These days cheaters are more likely to be found out through their texts, emails, or Pokemon Go habit but I like to think that a little bit of Joey Greco beats on in the boats of our hearts, borne back ceaselessly, forever doing something stupid and getting caught. We asked people how they knew their partner was cheating. Here's what they had to say. (All names have been changed)
I found out my college boyfriend was cheating on me when People magazine did an article on Mia Tyler (Liv Tyler's younger sister). He was in a picture with her, and the caption described him as her "beau." A friend from college called and told me I needed to find someone who subscribed to People since it wasn't on newsstands yet (and this was before everyone had a cell phone), but they didn't exactly tell me what to expect, so I found a copy of the magazine and then promptly drove to Northampton from there to confront him.
My idiot (now) ex-boyfriend got drunk and brought home a girl and had sex with her. One of my best friends was sleeping with his roommate at the time. She heard them fucking in the next room and was like, "Um, that's definitely not Allison."
When I was in Montana for grad school, my long-distance girlfriend at the time (still in Florida) cheated on me with her previous boyfriend. I found out about it while staying with her over Christmas break. I needed to use her laptop, and when I opened it, her Facebook account was still open. I clicked her FB messages because I was a little suspicious. She'd been distant since I came back; her excuse was that she needed to get used to having me around. Curiosity got the best of me, and I saw she had a new message—from her ex. He had responded to a long diatribe she had written him about how they shouldn't have slept together and how he had used her and blah blah blah. I didn't say anything to her about it until I caught her in another lie later in the week.
I became incredibly suspicious when he suggested we go see one of the Twilight movies.
The boyfriend I had right before I started dating my now-husband was older and kind of troubled and unsure of what he was doing with his life, but I deeply loved him for a while, and we dated for like a year.
It was my junior year of college. This guy had just graduated, and he was drinking a lot and hanging with weirdos all the time. One night, at like 3 AM, we were at his apartment asleep, and someone started banging on the door and yelling his name really frantically. I got freaked out, obviously, and he just kept telling me to go back to sleep. I suspected that he owed someone money because he had been playing lots of poker.
After tons of begging him to tell me who it was, he broke down and told me that he'd was at a party at met a young shaman-in-training (I swear he said that, and the person he was referring to was a 30 year old white dude from Vermont), and they went back to his apartment to share some opium and got super high, and the shaman started showing him all the cool pressure point stuff that he was learning, and it led to him pressing around his upper thigh, and then, you know, things got kind of weird, and he let the dude blow him.
And then he said, "I didn't like it, but I did cum." He was furious at me for not being more understanding about how weird it must have been for him to be in that situation, and weeks later he told me my reaction was homophobic! I was like, "Uh, I don't care who it was—you cheated on me."
I was in an ill-advised long-distance relationship in college that neither started nor ended well: He eventually slept with one of his roommates over Thanksgiving break.
I found out because when I actually did come to his hometown to visit, for Christmas, I became incredibly suspicious when he suggested we go see one of the Twilight movies, which I liked ironically and was interested in seeing. Why was he being so agreeable? My senses were further heightened when we got back to his apartment and he, noticing the health department letter visible on his desk, was like, "Oh, yeah, by the way, I got tested for STDs and don't have any!" OK. I asked him in a sort-of-joking voice if he had cheated on me, and he said yes.
He broke down and told me that he'd was at a party at met a young shaman-in-training, and they went back to his apartment to share some opium.
My girlfriend and I were together for three-and-a-half years and had pets and furniture and a lease together and were making plans about the future, marriage, and children. Liz had started waitressing at a pretty fancy place. She had never been much of a drinker, but she started drinking with "the girls," so some nights she would come home drunk very late. I started fighting with her about drinking and driving.
After a few months at the fancy restaurant, Liz had made a new friend, a server named Chris. She insisted they were just friends, and he was an artist like she was. She talked about him more than anyone else, and it made me nervous. She was still going out and drinking with her girlfriends each night, and she had started crashing at her friend Suzy's house. I agreed that was a better idea than driving home drunk at 2 AM.
I noticed that Liz's behavior began to change. She was manic all the time, which I attributed to bipolar disorder. She was also spiteful and more short-tempered. We were still intimate, but not as often. We started to fight more about trivial things, and I saw less of her.
One night I noticed she had left her personal laptop on the coffee table. It was open and turned on. Liz took it with her everywhere and she always put it away when she was done, so this was very peculiar. At this point, I was going insane, so I looked at her desktop. She had left a word document open and my eyes immediately picked the word "Chris" out of the block of text on the screen. This was it. I started reading this very messy, disorganized journal that she had been keeping. It was anachronistic, and parts of it didn't flow correctly. Most of it was probably written while she was drunk. Eventually I got to the end of it. The last paragraph started with, "Chris and I finally hooked up in the parking lot. It was amazing."
I'd experienced grief before. I had survived the death of a family member. But betrayal? The betrayal of someone who you felt was the love of your life, who was your future, your everything, is absolutely the worst feeling I have ever experienced, and likely ever will.
But the fact that she had left her laptop open—that told me she wanted me to see it, so I could read what she didn't have the courage to tell me.