Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

My way to spot a cheater
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The Independent Online

I started to suspect that something was afoot on our third date, when Michael, the very successful entrepreneur who had sweetly invited me to dinner at his flat, was peeling potatoes. I remarked that for a guy who was separated from his wife and had two kids, the furnishings in his bachelor pad seemed very sparse.

"Actually, I still live in the house with my wife," he said, sheepishly, handing me a glass of wine. "I go back there at weekends, but we don't sleep together, and I'm only staying for the sake of the kids. I guess I should have mentioned it, but I was waiting for the right time."

"Let me guess," I said, grabbing my bag and heading for the door. "That ideal moment would be after you'd shagged me, right?"

Most of my girlfriends have had run-ins with philanderers at one stage or another, and we all realise that the guy who doesn't give us his home number, speaks in hushed tones on a cell phone, or keeps boxes of Tampax lying around for his "sister" is probably shady.

I always knew that my first love, a gorgeous French guy, would be a nightmare. One night, at a Mexican restaurant with friends, I caught a brunette giving him evil stares. I had a burning sensation in my gut, and it wasn't down to the enchiladas. "You spent the night with her, didn't you?" I asked him later. "No, no," he said, "It was only 15 minutes in the bathroom." He wasn't even being ironic.

But sometimes, cheaters can be harder to spot. Last Saturday night, I went to a birthday party for my girlfriend Liz, who's not only stunning and sweet but also a top entertainment lawyer. She was totally shocked when she found out that her boyfriend of four months had another girlfriend. "I sensed that something wasn't right, because I never met his friends and we only saw each other once a week," she said. "Then I told him in bed that I thought I was falling in love. He said, 'Well, I guess there's something I should tell you then,' and admitted he'd been seeing this girl the entire time. He even took a week-long holiday with her, and told me he was with his family!"

She calmly raided his BlackBerry to get the girl's digits, called her and left a detailed message about what he had been up to. Then she punched him in the face and walked out.

As for Michael, after our ill-fated encounter he spent days leaving me tearful messages swearing that it had been over with his wife for years, that she knew he dated other people since they had "grown apart", and that their divorce would be final in a few weeks' time. He was so convincing that I started to doubt myself. Could he be telling the truth? Was I being paranoid? Then I did a very bad thing, which I can only put down to temporary insanity. I hacked into his voicemail, and heard an intimate message from his wife detailing what she wanted to do to him that night.

In my heart, I already knew that a relationship where the concept of wiretaps and video surveillance were starting to sound appealing isn't somewhere I want to be. I guess I just needed confirmation that my instincts were right. So, I forwarded his wife's message to him - from my phone. We haven't spoken since. Love may be blind, but it sure as hell isn't deaf.