10 Scary Signs Your Man Is Living a Secret Life

marriage liesWhen 7th Heaven dad Stephen Collins was caught on audiotape admitting to molesting at least three young girls, the country was shocked. But you can only imagine how his wife of almost 30 years, Faye Grant, felt. Think about what that would be like. You've been married to your spouse and living with him for years, maybe decades. You've known him even longer than that. And then one day, boom, without warning, you suddenly find out that your husband is living a double life.

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It could be anything: Perhaps he gambled away all your money. Or he has a second wife and family. Or he's gay. Whatever the secret is, it finally comes to light and blows your world to smithereens. But were there signs?

People can be so good at hiding a secret of that magnitude that sometimes there really are not. But other times, those leading double lives do have a pattern of behavior -- one you may not recognize as deceptive until it's too late. Here are 10 signs your partner could be living a secret life.

1. Your gut is telling you something is wrong. One of the first, best, and strongest indicators that your partner is up to no good can be your gut. Too often, however, we dismiss, minimize, or rationalize those feelings. A gut feeling can be as subtle as your stomach tightening when your man tells you where he's been all night. Or general anxiety about your relationship. Or just a feeling that's he's being disconnected emotionally from you.

"The best sign anybody can have that something is not quite right is her instinct," says Donna Andersen, founder of LoveFraud, a website that educates people about sociopaths. 

Andersen was once married to a conman, chronic liar, and, she believes, sociopath, who defrauded her out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, cheated on her repeatedly, had a baby with another woman while they were married, and pretended to be a highly decorated soldier. Says Andersen: "I was sure something was wrong, though I didn't know the extent of it. But I was upset all the time."

2. He disappears or travels a lot. Someone who has a job that requires a lot of travel -- such as airline pilot, salesman, or truck driver -- shouldn't automatically be suspected of living a double life. But a person in a position like that does have much more opportunity to lead one, and those prone to duplicity are drawn to those types of jobs. According to Millenia Black, author of 7 Smoke Signals Your Man Is Living a Double Life, the number ONE cover for a man who has a second (or even third) family is frequent travel.

Watch if he checks in at the same time each day when he's away -- and what happens if you try to vary the routine. If he always calls you first, he may be trying to preempt you calling him because he'll be "busy" later. Try getting in touch with him when he doesn't expect it. If you get a negative reaction like, "Why are you bothering me now?" then that's a clue something could be up.

And in particular, watch out for men who claim to be in the CIA or part of some covert military operation and give the excuse that their whereabouts are "top secret" if you ask where they've been. 

3. He has unreasonable boundaries. Everyone deserves some privacy, but a healthy relationship means blurring boundaries and doing so joyfully in order to foster intimacy. Someone who is constantly putting hard boundaries in place might have something to hide. Maybe you can't visit his hometown or meet his parents. Maybe he refuses to acknowledge you on Facebook. Perhaps he won't let you see bank, credit card, or retirement fund statements. Or maybe you're not allowed to go into his basement/office/den/shed for even the briefest of times.

4. He won't answer direct questions. Should you want an answer to where your man was, where the money from the account went, who that woman is, or anything else that you find suspicious, a spouse or partner who is hiding something usually has a wide array of diversionary tactics at his disposal. He may guilt you with a comment like, "Let's not ruin this beautiful day by talking about that," or play it stubborn by saying, "I don't have to explain myself to you," or even threaten you: "If you keep asking me about that, I'll leave, and then you'll have to pay the bills on your own!"

Refusal to answer point-blank questions can also come into play with the phenomenon known as gaslighting, in which he uses tactics to make his significant other sound crazy. So if you express concern about something, he may reply, "I can't believe you're so paranoid," or "You really need to learn to trust me."

In any case, do a gut check after you ask a question. Do you feel satisfied with the answer, or do you just feel foolish for asking?

He may even do something more extreme. Whenever Barbara Bentley, author of Dance With the Devil: A True Story of Marriage to a Psychopath, came close to uncovering some of her husband's outrageous lies, he'd fake illness to distract her.

5. He lies. While unfortunately not everyone who leads a double life will be caught in their lies, others will. Lying is a big clue that something is amiss. Bryn Collins, a therapist and author of Emotional Unavailability, says to look out for explanations that seem too complex or convoluted for the event. "Liars often over-explain," she says.

6. He exhibits confusing sexual patterns. People who lead secret lives are often controlling, and sex can be a way of controlling you -- not only by having it, but also by withholding it. Notice if sex is used as a distraction ("Let's not talk about that right now, Honey; come to bed with me, you sexy thing") or is taken away when you ask too many questions or refuse to follow instructions ("If you don't go along with this, I don't feel like sleeping with you").

7. He blurts out the truth. Strangely, people leading a double life will sometimes tell you about it. Andersen's ex-husband, the conman who swindled dozens of women, once told one of them (not Andersen): "I live off women. That's all I do!" Andersen says that a friend of hers once dated a man who told her right off the bat: "Stay away from me; I'm bad news." He was. Unfortunately, women often don't want to heed these warnings. "If a man tells you who he is, believe him," warns Andersen.

8. He keeps secrets. Smaller secrets can be covering up bigger ones. Secret credit cards, cellphones, email accounts, second mortgages, etc., can all be signs of a double life. Especially if, when you ask about these things, you get a nonsensical or suspicious explanation.

9. He has "data confusion." This is when a guy might say something like, "This reminds me of that time we were in Colorado," and yet you've never been to Colorado with him. If you confront him, he's likely to have some strange answer like, "No, I meant when we do go there; I always wanted to go there." Chances are he's confusing you with someone else. He might also say, "I know I told you about that," but it's something you've never heard of before. If this happens once in a blue moon, no biggie, but if you feel like you need a tape recorder to keep your conversations straight, there might be a secret life behind it all.

10. Your friends and family don't like him. People who care about us are often able to get a better read on a man we're in a romantic relationship with than we can. We're blinded by love, hormones, hope, faith, trust. They are not. It might seem unfair and hurtful if the people you love don't like your guy, but it could be a sound warning. In Andersen's case, both her father and brother suspected early on that there was something very wrong with her new husband -- but she refused to listen. She should have. Remember, friends and family rarely have a reason to dislike someone we love -- they generally want to see us happy.

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If you see most or all of these signs in your relationship, you might want to seriously consider taking a closer look at it. But, according to Andersen, don't feel like you need "proof" of a double life before you bail. Many people who lead secret lives are so good at covering them up that if their significant others are waiting for solid proof, they'll be waiting a very long time -- maybe forever.

Ask yourself if you have a history of feeling uneasy in relationships, accusing your partner of shenanigans, or being distrusting. If the answer is no, then there's no reason to believe you're making it all up now.

For more ways to figure out if your significant other is leading a double life, check out Andersen's book Red Flags of Love Fraud.

Have you ever found out a partner was leading a secret life?

 

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