There’s a list of the “five best ways to check if your man is cheating on you” that resurfaces every now and again on Japanese matome and magazine sites. If you’re harbouring doubts about your man’s fidelity, you’re supposed to watch how he responds when you try out one of these five awesome tricks (spoiler alert: like many things in life, they’re not that awesome).
After we’d gotten over our disappointment that none of the suggestions involve hidden cameras or going out undercover in a big coat and fake nose, we started to wonder where these ideas had come from. We did a bit of digging, and it turns out this “top five” first appeared a few years ago on the Japanese variety TV show Honma Dekka!?, in a segment with marketing expert Megumi Ushikubo and clinical psychologist Rie Ueki.
Ushikubo suggests five traps you can lay for your unsuspecting man, explaining how the guy’s response will show whether he’s cheating on you or not.
The trap: At the DVD shop, point out a movie you haven’t seen, and casually mention that time you watched it together.
Cheater: Will say something like, “Did we?” He’s questioning you because he feels guilty.
Good guy: Changes the subject because he doesn’t really care who watched what with who.
The logic here is that a guy who feels guilty will go on the attack, whereas someone with nothing to hide won’t really react. But surely it’s pretty normal to react when your girlfriend “remembers” watching a movie with you that you’ve never seen? Ushikubo says this first little trick has a 20 percent success rate…which is another way of saying that 80 percent of the time, it doesn’t work.
The trap: Hide an earring under the seat of his car. Later, pretend to find it and ask him “what’s this?”
Cheater: Quickly takes it from you to get a closer look at it.
Good guy: Doesn’t try to take it off you.
A dropped earring could be evidence, explains Ushikubo, so the guilty party wants to keep it as close to him as possible. This one has a 28 percent success rate, presumably because 72 percent of the time it’s perfectly legitimate to wonder what a random earring is doing in your car.
▼ “Hey girl, are these yours?”
The trap: You think he went somewhere with another girl. Tell him, “hey, my friend saw you at (wherever).”
Cheater: Goes on the attack. “When? Where? Which friend?”
Good guy: Hasn’t done anything wrong, so responds with “aww, she should’ve come over and said hi!”
All of which assumes that your cheating boyfriend is a terrible liar. If he’s cheating on you, though, he’s probably quite a good liar.
The trap: Tell him about your friend who broke up with her boyfriend “just because he cheated on her”, and say how sorry you feel for the guy that got dumped.
Cheater: Agrees with you and sympathises with the cheating guy.
Good guy: Says something normal like “but maybe that wasn’t the only reason they broke up?”
So, apparently you should tell your boyfriend that you don’t think cheating is that bad? This trick seems particularly cruel seeing as, by agreeing with you on something, he supposedly reveals himself to be a bad apple.
The trap: Wake him up in the morning and tell him, “hey, erm, I saw your phone…”
Cheater: Tries to work out what exactly you’ve seen, asking, “wha- what did you see?” and “what were you looking at?”
Good guy: Doesn’t have anything to hide, but just tells you not to look through his phone.
Just after he’s woken up is the best time to catch a guy out, Ushikubo says, as his guard is down. This top tip has a 53 percent success rate, apparently.
The psychologist, Rie Ueki, says men’s reactions in these five situations can be explained by theories of approach-avoidance: the psychological conflict that occurs when we make a decision about whether to pursue or avoid something. A cheating guy will go on the attack, she says, because when we feel guilty about doing something, we tend to accuse others of doing the same thing.
It’s hard to recommend any of these suggestions, though. Sure, you might learn something about your partner by testing them like this, sneaking around laying traps is always going to end badly, whether it’s making innocuous-sounding statements about movies you’ve never seen, or hiding things in his car so you can “find” them.
If romantic comedies have taught me anything (doubtful, but bear with me), it’s that relationships don’t get better when we play games or try and trick people. They get more complicated and more messy, and then you end up in that sad middle part of the movie where one party is (justifiably!) mad because the other one lied. And in real life, you don’t get to have a reconciliation scene in the rain where the guy realises the girl was only doing those dumb crazy things because she really loved him. He’s probably already gone off to find a girl (or guy) who isn’t trying to catch him out all the time.