When the cat's away, does your mouse play?

Is your partner suddenly wearing cologne, working-out, or working late? Or worse, does he come home with lipstick on his collar, smelling of perfume?

Infidelity is not as uncommon as we would hope. A 2001 Ipsos-Reid/CTV poll shows that one in ten Canadians who are married or living common law admit to having had an extramarital affair. And a whopping 17 per cent said they have been in a relationship with a cheater. Anyone who has experienced betrayal knows the raw heartache, feelings of helplessness and anger it can arouse. Not every spouse is unfaithful, but how do you know?

Marnie Milot and Alda Wirsche are co-owners and operators of a Calgary-based private investigation firm called Backtrack Investigations Inc.

They say adulterers exhibit universal signs of a double-life. “In fact, we’ve now made a list of 115 signs,” says Wirsche.

Here’s 6 ways to identify a potential cheater:

Dressed to impress

New haircuts, flashy shirts, a car, or cologne can indicate that your partner has a new motivation to look good. “With women, the shirts get lower and skirts get shorter. With men, the jeans get tighter and the car gets flashier,” says Wirsche. Of course, new clothes alone may not point to an affair. But if he’s suddenly looking dapper and taking the dog for long walks, one has to wonder.

Follow the paper trail

“Adulterers always leave something behind,” says Milot. “They think they are covering their tracks, but there are always signs.” Receipts from gas stations at the other side of town, liquor stores (when you didn’t receive the wine), or restaurants you’ve never eaten at; phone bills that no longer come to the house; match books from out-of-town bars—these are all items that you might overlook that may point to candlelit dinners enjoyed in your absence.

The cell from hell

Is your lover’s cell phone ringing? Does he ignore the call and not return it in your presence. Even if the call display shows “Bill” is on the line, Wirsche says it could be a code name for Ms. Number Two. “If he goes into the garage to make phone calls, you know something’s up,” says Wirsche. Of course, it’s difficult to detect flirtatious phone calls made from the office. But if you receive frequent hang-ups at home, notice that phone bills have ceased coming to your mailbox, or walk into conversations that end abruptly with “me too,” you may wonder if what you’re not hearing is: “I love you.”

The co-worker from heaven

If your spouse comes home from work every day with stories about the movie Jane recommends, the sweater she bought last week, or the new diet trend she’s testing, it may be a sign of a blossoming relationship. “Co-workers have a lot in common. They spend a lot of time together. And sometimes working relationships develop into affairs,” says Milot. Your spouse may talk about ‘Jane from work’ because he is spending a lot of time with her, he thinks it will reassure you that they aren’t having an affair, and on some level it relieves him of the guilt caused by lying about her all together. Building close ties with co-workers shouldn’t necessarily sound alarms, but if you’re suddenly excluded from office parties or your spouse starts working overtime, you may need to inquire about how much work is getting done.

Pack your bags: you’re going on a guilt trip

To deal with the guilt of betrayal, some cheaters will deflect the issue and turn the tables with snarky behaviour. “Often times the cheating spouse will accuse their partner of cheating. They try to transfer the guilt and make their spouse feel bad with nit picky things,” says Wirsche. “A common tactic to pick a fight, and then storm out of the house,” says Milot. But where are they going?

The reversal of this is remorse. One of Backtrack’s clients experienced this when she received 300 roses from her husband for no apparent reason. After calling Backtrack, she discovered he send them out of guilt. You can’t question every sweet gesture your spouse makes, but you shuld pay attention if they seem out of place.

Your solitary soul mate

When a partner become withdrawn and says nothing when you ask what’s wrong, something could be amiss. It may not indicate that he is having an affair, but continued remoteness does stem from something. Turning points in a person’s life can cause them to withdraw, but if the distance remains, it can lead to external relationships. “Many men will tell their wives they need ‘space.’ In our experience, if he asks for ‘space,’ the affair has been going on a minimum of 6 months.”

Know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em

Wirsche and Milot stress that it’s important to remember that it can happen to anyone. “Women often think that if they keep their weight down, maintain a fine appearance, or fulfill the role of a great spouse, they won’t be cheated on. Unfortunately, we know that’s not true,” says Milot. “But broken-down communication certainly is the most common reason people have affairs,” she says.

Continuously accusing your spouse of infidelity will not solve the problem. If they choose to lie, all you can do is present solid evidence and make an educated decision. “But it (discovering he’s cheater) doesn’t necessarily mean the end of marriage,” says Wirsche. “If the individual can forgive and the unfaithful person can take steps to make-up and begin re-earning trust, it can work; and sometimes the communication is better that ever. It can, however, take years to earn that trust back,” she says.

In the business of tracking cheaters for 15 years, Milot and Wirsche decided to shed light on the subject in Gotcha!!! How To Tell If Your Lover Is Having An Affair. Gotcha reveals 40 tell-tale signs, along with tips on how to detect, avoid and survive an affair. It is available at,, and by mail order at 1-877-8-GOTCHA.