20 Personality Traits Of Cheaters According To Relationship Experts

If detecting a cheater was simple, fewer people would experience the heartbreak of betrayal, right? According to specialists in human behavior, cheaters have specific personality traits, and anyone can use that information to dodge a bullet. This doesn't mean though, that it will be easy, even with these clues. While there are obvious con artists out there — with the only surprising thing about them being how they manage to fool anyone — most cheaters are smooth operators.

Whether you are swept up in the wonder and excitement of a new relationship or have blissfully been with a partner for a while, it is easy to miss red flags when you're seeing through heart eyes. However, both trained professional profilers — and likely your grandma who has seen her fair share of charlatans — would tell you that most, if not all, unfaithful people share very obvious traits. Scientific studies are also able to detect patterns of infidelity, with research published in the journal "Archives of Sexual Behavior" indicating that an individual who cheats once is three times more likely to do it again (via Springer Link).

With a little information under your belt about the most common traits of cheaters, and by watching your prospective suitor closely, you should be able to spot a rat before it bites you where it hurts the most.

Is entitled and acts cowardly

Let's put it bluntly: most cheaters, especially serial or pathological cheaters, do so because they can. Unlike lotharios or femme fatales, who stay single so that they can enjoy their shenanigans without owing explanations to anyone, a cheater lacks the courage and self-confidence to face the world alone. After all, freedom has its downsides. Hook-ups aren't a sure thing and even the most successful pick-up artist can go through dry spells or periods of loneliness. 

Cheaters aren't self-assured enough to deal with this reality, so they want to have their cake and eat it, too. They crave adventure, variety, the thrill of the chase, the novelty of new conquests, and the ego boost that comes with all the flirting, but they also need the security, the joys, and the social status of a committed relationship or even of a family. What is worse is that they feel entitled to have the best of both worlds, with no regard for social norms, the law, or their partner's feelings. 

According to psychiatrists, this attitude usually comes hand in hand with a big ego and may be related to personality disorders such as narcissism. "People with narcissistic personality traits feel that they're entitled to more things than other people," Dr. Dennis Lin, director of the psycho-sexual medicine program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, tells Everyday Health. "They're more likely to cheat because they feel they don't have to play by the rules."

Exhibits a lack of boundaries

Cheaters tend to be bold, brazen, and boundary-challenged in the sense that they push other people's boundaries without a second thought. "The key to boundaries is respect for self and respect for others," Chester McNaughton, a counselor who specializes in boundaries, explains to PsychCentral. A person who is prone to infidelity assumes that everyone thinks, feels, and has the same personal rules (or lack thereof) as they do. They believe their advances are well received, and as a result, they steamroll over other people's limits without considering that they might be making them uncomfortable.

Poor boundaries can manifest through an eagerness to jump steps in the early stages of dating, but also by acting too friendly and touchy-feely with other people despite being in an exclusive relationship. For instance, you just started seeing each other and your partner shows up unannounced when you said you needed the evening for yourself, or you introduce them to your family and they make themselves at home straight away without being invited to do so. You may also notice they act way too close with co-workers, superiors, or recent acquaintances. In such cases, that boldness translates into a lack of respect for themselves (they are not afraid of being told off or ridiculed for taking excessive liberties) and for others.

Has insecurities

Powerful and successful individuals, men especially, have a bad reputation when it comes to infidelity statistics (via PsychCentral). And while there are many reasons for them straying, never underestimate the destructive power of the inferiority complex. Those who are wrought with insecurities compensate for this lack of confidence by seeking validation wherever they can find it, even if that comes in the form of a meaningless fling.

If your prospective partner doesn't feel like they are "enough," whether for valid or imagined reasons, they may begin to crave external approval relentlessly. Which might mean constantly testing their charms by seducing strangers or happily accepting any offer that lands on their lap, despite being in an exclusive relationship. These insecurities may be about body image issues related to weight, hair loss, or being "weird looking" growing up, or they may be brought on by age, financial or personal crises, or jealousy and resentment of others in higher social standing.

Insecurity, self-worth issues, and resentment can make the perfect storm for infidelity. "Feeling threatened can be a trigger to boost self-esteem with an affair," psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman tells Woman's Day. Should your love interest express a lot of self-doubts, trust your instincts and keep your eyes open for other red flags.

Is overly charming

Being charming is not a telltale trait of a cheater on its own. A person can be just as charming when they are single as they are when they enter into a committed relationship because they may just be blessed with a natural, alluring charisma and do not intend to use it for evil. The red flag arises when someone is a little too charming, too self-possessed and mysterious, and uses that charm left and right on everyone — your friends, strangers, and even the waitress while on a date with you — in a way that makes your spidey-sense tingle.

If you are aware that the charmer has a reputation as a serial heartbreaker with a history of short-lived relationships, your alarms should go through the roof. "It may indicate that they're a 'professional dater' who's been single a long time, dated a lot, and is very practiced," psychotherapist and author Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., tells TheDateMix. "If your date seems very slick and enthusiastic, but doesn't open up, has had many short relationships, or shies away from discussing personal details, don't be too trusting."

An important clue when it comes to charmers is paying attention to your intuition. If you feel that your smooth talker can sell ice to an Inuit and that they don't just ooze magnetism but flirt excessively, chances are they may use those superpowers behind your back.

Move too fast and love bombs

The sooner a cheater secures your affection, the sooner they feel safe enough to pursue their unfaithful ways. And the quickest way to achieve that is by sweeping you off your feet. Enter the famous love bombing.

According to Psycom, love bombing can be summarized as "toxic, manipulative behavior marked by constant contact, non-stop attention, and grand gestures early in a relationship." Excessive texting, flooding you with compliments, buying you expensive gifts, too many dates in a short period of time, or getting exclusive too soon are warning signs of this manipulative tactic. But while some love bombing moves may look similar to gestures of infatuation that are normal in the early stages of a relationship, they can feel too sudden and unnatural.

Normal, passionate relationships may show such exaggerations, but they evolve spontaneously and the along with mutual feelings, while love bombing appears more one-sided — like a predator versus target — with no regard for how comfortable the other feels with all that attention. Love bombing is also a well-known sign of narcissists, a personality disorder that specialists believe to be common among serial cheaters (via The Better You Institute). If something feels too good to be true, it usually is.

Has too many friends

Having many friends or being on friendly terms with ex-partners is not necessarily a red flag. However, when someone is too friendly with everyone, in a way that makes you uncomfortable or embarrasses you in public, pay attention to your instincts. You may have a cheater on your hands. For instance, if you started seeing a guy that claims to be "friends" with each barista who serves you, his co-workers, bosses and professors, his ex-girlfriend, his accountant, cleaning lady, hairdresser ... well, with pretty much every female he crosses paths with, that might be a bit too much.

At the very least, you are probably not suited for each other because you have different views on how friendships and closeness with people outside your relationship should work. Such behavior can also indicate a lack of loyalty and depth, not just in romantic relationships but in friendships also. Those who treat everyone the same may not truly care about anyone in particular.

In a not-so-pretty scenario, however, your suitor could be someone who has blurred boundaries and is prone to engage in dubious situations which can lead to emotional cheating or friendships that evolve into affairs. "Emotional cheating is establishing a close emotional connection with someone other than your primary partner," psychiatrist Srinivas Dannaram explains to Banner Health. "Whereas close friendships have boundaries and openness without secrecy, emotional affairs involve romantic flavor, secrecy, and emotional tension, which exists from the beginning or develops over time."

Displays a questionable moral compass

Although personal morals may vary according to social, religious, or cultural backgrounds, there are a few standard rules that are generally accepted — at least when it comes to what is expected of exclusive, monogamous relationships. If your love interest's views on sexuality, faithfulness, loyalty, and promiscuity are somewhat flexible and too adventurous for comfort, think twice. 

A clue that they may have a questionable moral compass is if they express enabling or forgiving views toward cheating. For example, if a celebrity is getting backlash for having an affair, your suitor may defend it or write it off by saying, "These things happen" or "People don't choose to fall in love." Or they may be unfazed by the drama created by a cheating friend, and make excuses for their behavior. Remember, it takes one to defend one.

Grant Hilary Brenner MD, DFAPA, clarifies this twisted reasoning on Psychology Today: "People who engage in infidelity are more likely to convince themselves affairs are acceptable in order to lower cognitive dissonance (a form of inner conflict)." Or as the old saying goes: The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Has trouble committing and a permissive attitude

Following the aforementioned, people who are prone to have affairs or to being stolen from one relationship to another were probably raised not to see sex, infidelity, and commitment as a big deal, and have more flexible rules on such matters than most people. If a potential partner reveals such permissive thoughts at the earlier stages of the relationship (and you think differently) consider running for the hills instead of trying to "reform" them, no matter how attractive their other qualities may be.

According to Truity, serial cheaters share traits other than low empathy that make them likely to stray. Two of the most telling ones are "a lower level of commitment and a lower sexual ethic, also known as unrestricted sociosexual orientation (being more willing to engage in casual sex or sex outside of a committed relationship)."

If you perceive such tendencies in a suitor and dealing with infidelity drama is not on your plans, be quick to tell them "it's not me, it's you" and vanish before you get emotionally involved.

Acts too flirty

Plenty of people flirt playfully from time to time, and some may have a cheeky, bubblier personality that may come across as teasing even when the intentions are totally innocent. What may be perceived as flirting also varies across cultures and upbringings. For some, smiling a lot can mean one is flirting when it is actually just the person's demeanor. And of course, different couples set different rules on what is acceptable within a relationship, as relationship expert Jor-El Caraballo M.Ed tells Healthline. "Cheating is any behavior that a person takes that crosses and betrays a boundary of that specific relationship," he said. That may include flirting.

If your potential partner flirts around in an unmistakable fashion — or even right in your face — to the extent that others are all over them as if you were invisible, openly engages in shady contact on social media, or creates misunderstandings with colleagues and acquaintances, that is a giant, blazing deal-breaker.

For relationship gurus Olga Levancuka and Gary Amers, an excessively flirtatious character is one of the major red flags that indicate a bonafide cheater (via the Evening Standard). "Cheaters often flirt with everyone, even when you are together," they said. "They get a buzz out of the flirtatious exchange and they perceive it as an invitation for more. This need for validation and feeling desired can eventually lead them to cheat on you."

Has an unstable love history

While most people have a love history with past mistakes, a long record of short-lived relationships usually suggests a mischievous pattern. If the person you are seeing has a rocky past with lots of drama, openly admits to having cheated on former partners, or says that all their exes are crazy, there can be cause for alarm. 

Another red flag is if all their exes hate them. While keeping exes at a cordial distance may be the healthiest thing to do, and being too friendly with exes can lead to awkward situations, there is a difference between being remembered fondly or indifferently from afar, and being deemed the ex from hell. And if their exes try to warn you, don't dismiss it straight away. Although taking their advice with a grain of salt is advisable, more often than not, where there is smoke there's fire.

"If you want to know the future, study the past" is a saying that means history tends to repeat itself. "Infidelity can become a persistent pattern and may be the most obvious indicator of serial cheating," according to marriage therapist Nicole Artz (via Choosing Therapy). "People are 2-3x more likely to cheat in relationships if they have cheated on their partners in the past."

Has a bad reputation

If your love interest has a reputation as a player, beware. While reformed philanderers exist, it may be best not to rely on the happy exceptions. According to coach and best-selling author Tim Veninga, creator of the love advice site Change Him, having a "colorful" history really is a terrible omen. "Players are often very good at getting into relationships, but notably worse at staying in them," he says. "So they spend their whole lives jumping from one relationship to another. These relationships often overlap with each other."

And if your reputed Casanova or maneater is willing to leave someone else to ride off into the sunset with you, you may want to be more scared than flattered. Apparently, science proves that a partner who is "taken" from a relationship is very likely to repeat that behavior in the next one. According to Joshua Foster, a professor at the University of South Alabama who led a study on psychological traits associated with infidelity, "individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships." They also pay more attention to romantic alternatives, perceiving them to be of higher quality, according to news.com.au.

Exhibits extreme jealousy

A partner that displays extreme jealousy, and is overly suspicious of you to the point of accusing you of cheating could be giving you clear signs that they can not be trusted. And they may even be the ones acting shady in the first place. As reported by Daily Mail, psychologist Daniel Acon elaborates on this guilt-projection move. "If you're dating someone and they start accusing you of cheating or they're worried that you're talking to other people without any evidence, it usually means that they're cheating and talking to other people," he says. "They're just worried that you're doing the same thing. ... People tend to project what's inside of them onto other people."

This is a theory shared by blogger Cheatlierepeat — a victim of a serial cheater herself — on Paired Life. "The very fact that they are capable of being unfaithful puts them on the defensive and paranoia sets in. If they are doing it, they assume their partner must be doing it also."

If you started seeing someone who doesn't trust you for no good reason, spend less time defending yourself and more analyzing their actions, while getting ready to hit the road before it's too late.

Is very inconsistent

An inconsistent date — someone who is hot and cold, flaky, elusive, and is not constant in their affections or contact — can mean several things, and not necessarily be a red flag for a cheater. They might not be that into you, may not be ready for a serious relationship, they may have unfinished business with their most recent partner, or may just be playing hard to get.

However, inconsistency is also a common characteristic of serial cheaters. Love coach Ronnie Ann Ryan, of Magic of the Heart and Soul, decodes that people who send mixed signals can be busy elsewhere. "On again off again efforts to see you and build a strong relationship can be a symptom of several undesirable aspects," she explains. People send mixed signals because they might be dating lots of people, or keeping you "on the line" as a time filler until they find someone they like better. 

So, while inconsistency is not a sure sign you have a cheater on your hands, it can be an early warning that you may eventually be cheated on, or the person may even be using you right now to cheat on someone else.

Has Ugly Duckling Syndrome

Remarkable physical beauty or an obsessive focus on looks are common traits associated with potential cheaters (via The Pleasant Relationship). However, don't disregard a potential partner's capacity for deceit just because they are plain-looking or don't care too much about their appearance.

While an attractive person is used to getting lots of attention and admirers, someone who always stayed in the shadows may be way more open to compliments and advances and jump at the opportunity if a sexy intruder tries to seduce them. In fact, science seems to back this up. A study on infidelity from Florida State University concluded that women perceived as less attractive are more likely to engage in an affair, according to Business Standard.

The danger doubles if the "ugly duckling" suddenly gets a wake-up call, starts taking care of themselves, and has a late glow-up. They will often overcompensate for their lost years by dressing provocatively, posting suggestive pictures all over social media, and flirting with everything that moves in a way that cries insecurity. According to The Good Men Project, "when you suddenly become attractive to everyone, there's a tendency to want to go crazy with your options. You might find yourself unable to say no to sex or cheating when you thought you'd never do it. That's because getting validation you never got before can be quite addictive."

Is attention-seeking

Attention-seeking is never a desirable trait in a partner, but according to science, it also happens to be one of the most telling traits of serial cheaters, along with poor self-control and selfishness (via Big Think). People who constantly need to be front and center may feel that an exclusive relationship doesn't give them all the validation, adoration, and drama they crave and seek to boost their ego wherever they can. This can include flirting (or worse) behind their partner's back.

But other than an over-the-top presence on social media and other clownish or diva behaviors, how can one spot an unhealthy attention seeker early in the relationship? Dating blog Marriage.com compiled a straightforward list: a self-absorbed attitude with little to no concern for other people's needs, becoming too familiar and oversharing too quickly (possibly on the very first dates), constant fishing for compliments, and bragging are some strong indicators of this character flaw. When combined with other factors, they can be part of an unfaithful lover's typical blueprint.

Has an extroverted personality

If you are falling for a social butterfly, pay attention to other aspects of their character before getting too involved: experts in human behavior believe that extroverts are less likely to be faithful and keep stable relationships.

PsyBlog reports the conclusions from a review of 51 studies on infidelity conducted worldwide, and some results are food for thought. Researchers found that "people who are more extroverted are ... more likely to cheat on their partner." This is likely the case because extroverted people have a wider social circle and therefore have more opportunities to cheat. Logically, being outgoing is not a risk factor in itself. A person can be friendly and lively and still behave properly. The real problem comes when extroversion adds to other risky features, such as disagreeableness and low consciousness, which translates into carelessness, poor organization, and difficulty in resisting temptation.

According to psychiatrist Grant Hilary Brenner, extroversion is associated with other basic personality traits, like openness to experience and neuroticism, when it comes to spotting a potential cheater (via Psychology Today). With that said, if your love interest's bubbly nature rubs you the wrong way, make an effort to analyze their character as a whole to discover if there is an actual reason for your discomfort.

Displays dark personality traits

Although it can be far-fetched to conclude that each and every cheater suffers from personality disorders, experts believe that a lot of them share at least some personality traits associated with "the dark triad," which are narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy (via Psychology Today). 

According to behavior analyst Carmen McGuinness, EdD, BCBA-D, psychopathy or sociopathy and narcissism have a strong correlation to infidelity (via MindBodyGreen). "The traits shared by psychopaths and sociopaths are the traits that make both types more likely to cheat: a disregard for social morals and the rights and feelings of others, and a failure to feel remorse or guilt," she says. Psychopaths also tend to have a higher number of lifetime sex partners because they are better able to separate love from sexual activity. 

As for narcissists, McGuinness believes that they take part in the same anti-social behaviors, although they are driven by something different. "The narcissist believes they are better-looking, smarter, fitter, and more worthy than their spouse, which leads them to believe they are entitled to cheat," she explains. In any of these cases, the generally accepted professional advice for anyone dealing with a partner that displays such characteristics is to break up and cut contact as soon as possible. Or if you are not involved yet, walk away before you get attached.

Views social media as a hunting ground

For serial cheaters, social media is their playground, where they find vulnerable targets and get their much-needed ego boosts. If you started seeing someone who spends a lot of time on Instagram, Facebook, and the like, and takes great pride in the engagement and likes they get, reconsider dating them unless, of course, they are professional influencers or content creators whose job depends on it.

And in any case, if most of the interactions they get are raunchy or suggestive comments from friends or admirers that are a little too forward, you can only imagine what their DMs look like. Obviously, the content that they publish and the pages or people they follow and encourage will tell you more about their character.

A sure sign of a cheater, however, is how protective they are of their social media accounts. If they refuse to acknowledge you as their partner in public although you are supposedly exclusive, and continue to chat with others via DM or worse, dating apps, you got yourself all the proof you need (via Marriage.com).

Is prone to vices and addictions

From drugs, alcohol, or sex addiction to gambling, questionable get-rich-quick schemes, and illegal activities in general, serial cheaters often have many vices. After all, they tend to have poor ethics, a lack of self-control, and no morals, in addition to a blatant disregard for rules. 

According to the Addiction Center, addictions actually encourage infidelity in people who are already prone to it. "The secrecy of getting away with a taboo indulgence and the thrill of living a double life can entice people to continually cheat," experts say. "Drinking or using drugs to gain "liquid courage" to stray outside the bounds of a relationship is common for some individuals."

According to psychotherapist and author Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., cheaters don't understand self-discipline, so they just believe that they can get away with things (via Woman's Day). To make matters worse, people who like to party tend to hang out in spots where, with their inhibitions lowered by substances, it is easy to pick up willing casual partners. A cocktail for disaster indeed. If your love interest dabbles in drugs or any questionable business, be warned that cheating may be just another unpleasant issue you will have to deal with in the long run.

Lies regularly

Frequent lying, even about meaningless things, is a prevalent trait of habitual cheaters. According to the testimonial of an Australian private investigator reported by the Daily Mail, cheaters "lie about big things and small things" and double down their lies when confronted by getting defensive and gaslighting, or distorting reality and making you think you are delusional.

A telling sign of a petty liar may appear early in the relationship, with lame excuses for canceling plans, for instance (via Insider). "Cheaters know how to lie, and how to lie well," author and psychotherapist LeslieBeth Wish says. So well, in fact, that they will "sometimes lay the groundwork for future lies ahead of time in order to cover their tracks later on in the relationship."

If you find you are being lied to, remember that it is about them, not about you. It's not your fault that these people spent their lives rehearsing how to lie convincingly, and unless you are the police, it's not your job to catch petty charlatans. Be gentle to yourself and just make sure that you will not let them fool you twice.