Being accused of cheating when you’re innocent can take a huge toll on your relationship, and it’s not always easy to know how to respond. Do you vehemently deny and hope your partner believes you? Do you go the chaotic route and cheat since you’re being accused anyway?
Perhaps you feel like you shouldn’t have to fix anything when you’ve done nothing wrong. At the same time, you’ll often find that simply trying to prove that you’re innocent won’t deter a partner who’s convinced you’re being unfaithful.
There’s a reliable way to fix this problem without breaking up - and that’s what we’re going to explore how to do in this article.
What Is "Cheating", Anyway?
We have an article about what counts as cheating these days. But if you want to get scientific, here are two suggestions from a 1997 study titled “Cues To Infidelity” that are widely accepted today.
- Sexual infidelity refers to “sexual activity with someone other than one’s long-term partner.”
- Emotional infidelity refers to emotional involvement with another person, which leads one’s partner to channel “emotional resources such as romantic love, time, and attention to someone else.
With that said, it’s also worth understanding your partner’s definition of cheating. People have different ideas of what is considered cheating and perhaps theirs is stricter than yours. Some people consider flirtatious texting or dirty dancing as cheating while others don’t, for example.
It might be that you’ve been accused of cheating because you’ve done something you thought was acceptable, but your partner didn’t. That’s why it’s always worth discussing this with your partner and setting boundaries that you both agree on. If you refuse to agree on where the boundaries lie, it’s going to be really difficult to remain in a harmonious relationship.
The Psychological Effects of False Accusations in a Relationship
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume you’re being falsely accused of something you do consider infidelity.
Studies suggest this can have a harsh psychological impact, especially if you’re constantly accused of cheating.
Writing for Psych Central, author Hope Gilette suggests the psychological effects of false accusations in a relationship include: anger, frustration, fear, uncertainty, confusion, resentment, anxiety, and even a sense of helplessness.
Needless to say, these emotions aren’t helpful for your relationship or mental health.
So, it’s in your best interest to take action and stop these false accusations from occurring.
What to Do If You’re Being Accused of Cheating When You’re Innocent
If you’re constantly accused of cheating, here are the recommended steps to fix the problem.
1. Ask why they think you’ve been unfaithful
Try and remain calm when you’re accused of cheating on your partner. Getting angry won’t do anything to fix the situation. In fact, most people perceive anger as a sign of guilt, even though it’s a normal response to being falsely accused of something hurtful.
So, instead of launching into a tirade, sit your partner down and ask why they think you’ve been unfaithful. Make them feel heard.
Once they’ve explained their theory, ask them if there are any other reasons why they feel this way. The more information you gather, the easier it will be to fix the situation.
2. Explain yourself
The ‘Cues To Infidelity’ study included a survey that identified 14 of the most common reasons why someone would suspect their partner of cheating.
- Direct revelations. The partner confesses or is caught in the act.
- Indirect physical signs. The partner has cologne or lipstick on their shirt, for example.
- Sexual disinterest. The partner is less interested in sex.
- Changes in sexual behavior. The partner acts differently in bed.
- Exaggerated affection. The partner is more affectionate because they feel guilty.
- Relationship dissatisfaction. The partner appears or admits to being less in love.
- Physical disengagement. The partner starts spending less time with them.
- Emotional disengagement. The partner becomes more emotionally distant.
- Passive rejection. The partner is more inconsiderate or inattentive.
- Negative communication. The partner is uncharacteristically angry, critical, or argumentative.
- Guilty communication. The partner behaves as if they have done something wrong.
- Apathetic communication. The partner is putting less effort into the relationship.
- Reluctance to talk about another person. This makes it look like there’s something to hide.
- Increased contact with the third party. The partner is spending more time with another person.
We’ll ignore the first reason in this list since you’re innocent. If your partner lists any of the other scenarios as reasons why they suspect you of cheating, you should be prepared to explain why this has happened. Since you’re innocent, you can and should be completely honest.
At the same time, you should make it clear that none of these scenarios mean you have been unfaithful - and that you don’t appreciate the accusation.
There’s an argument that you shouldn’t have to explain yourself, because that stops them from learning to trust you on their own. Although that’s true, the problem is: it’s also going to fuel their suspicion if you hide information that explains your innocence.
Your partner might mention another behavioral reason not listed above to explain why they suspect you of cheating. Maybe they say it’s because you’ve been coming home late on weekends or that you’ve been spending more time at the bar. These aren’t incriminating in and of themselves, so there’s probably a deeper reason why they have these suspicions that is in this list. That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask if there are any other reasons. Dig as deep as possible.
3. Put your foot down
Sometimes, your partner will accuse you of lying to cover your tracks. This is a difficult situation, and it would be really easy to lose your temper here. All you can really do is reaffirm that you love them and would never cheat on them. Perhaps it will help to remind them that there’s no evidence of infidelity. If they can’t accept that, it might be best to walk away and readdress the situation when they’ve calmed down.
Hopefully, it won’t come to this though and they’ll accept your explanation.
Either way, it’s important to explain that you won’t accept being in a relationship where this keeps happening.
You could say:
“Honey, it really hurts when you make these accusations, and I don’t want to be in a relationship where there’s no trust. I’ve given you no reason not to trust me. I’m going to need you to learn to do that otherwise this isn’t going to work.”
Occasionally, your partner will respond by making unreasonable demands to help them trust you.
“Don’t stay out so late.”
“Don’t go to the bar without me.”
“Stop hanging out with the girls from work.”
It’s not recommended to cave into these demands. Beyond your agreed definition of what constitutes cheating, they have no right to tell you what you can and can’t do. If you fold here, you’re now allowing yourself to be controlled - and you shouldn’t be surprised if more demands follow in the future. Our guide on emotional blackmail in a relationship has more information on this topic.
4. Address the underlying cause
Happy couples don’t accuse each other of cheating. If she thinks you’re cheating because you came home late, it’s not just about you coming home late. Usually, there’s something deeper making your partner think you’re capable of infidelity.
So, in a quieter moment, sit your partner down and discuss what you can do to make them feel more loved. Perhaps they’ll list one of the 14 reasons for suspecting infidelity listed earlier. If so, it’s in your best interests to work on fixing this problem, not because they’re right to suspect you of cheating, but because it will make your relationship stronger.
In some cases though, there will be nothing to improve because their fears stem from insecurities that have nothing to do with you.
These studies suggest the most common underlying reasons for suspecting infidelity:
- an insecure-avoidant attachment style;
- paranoia due to being cheated on before or witnessing it in their family;
- an inability to trust you or anyone.
So, if you’re unsure where these accusations are truly coming from, ask yourself some questions about your partner. Have they shown insecure or avoidant tendencies? Have they been cheated on before? Have you given them a reason not to trust you?
In such cases, perhaps you’ll consider bringing up these issues with a partner or even suggesting you go to couples therapy to address them.
Sometimes, your partner might use their trust issues or mental health problems as a reason why you should put up with their false accusations. Don’t buy into this. You don’t have to accept or fix your partner’s baggage. It’s their job to fix it themselves. You still deserve a relationship free from these false accusations, regardless of what your partner has been through.
5. If things don’t change, you may need to end the relationship
You deserve better than a relationship where you’re constantly accused of cheating.
If your partner shows no signs of fixing this paranoia, despite the aforementioned work you’ve done to help them, it’s best to go your separate ways.
This is best for both of you.
You may love this person, but losing you might be the trigger they need to finally address their insecurities.
Maybe you’ll get back together after they’ve worked on themselves. Perhaps you’ll each find a new healthier relationship.
Either way, if you followed the steps in this guide, you must not blame yourself for this relationship falling apart. It takes two people to create a trusting relationship and you did everything you could do.
Our guide on building self-esteem in 2023 will help you to stop settling for a romantic relationship that doesn’t fulfill you.
If Someone Accuses You Of Cheating, Are They Cheating?
It’s a common strategy of cheaters and abusive partners to use smokescreens to distract their partners from their nasty behavior.
Perhaps they’ll kick up a huge fuss about a tiny thing that their partner did wrong to put them on the defensive and stop them from pointing out their flaws.
Accusing a partner of infidelity would often be a smokescreen to use because it’s such an extreme accusation.
With that said, there’s no guarantee that your partner is accusing you of cheating because they’re the ones being unfaithful. You should never assume that this is the case.
You should talk with your partner about any insecurities you have about your relationship without making any false accusations, just as you’d expect them to do with you.