Signs Your Partner Is Monkey Branching You In Your Relationship

Monkey branching is when someone is in a relationship, yet they’re already lining up their next romantic interest before breaking up. If it sounds like a form of cheating, that’s because by most definitions, it is. Here’s how to spot monkey branching in your relationship. If you notice these behaviors taking place, it’s probably better to get out ASAP.

  1. Your partner has grown distant. Lately, it feels like your partner has emotionally checked out of the relationship, even if they’re physically there with you. You’re starting to feel more like friends than lovers: they’re less affectionate, you spend less time together, you talk less… If this sounds familiar, your partner may have already given up on your relationship together. And now, they’ve taken their attention elsewhere, looking for a new date to take your place.
  2. Their schedule is packed. This common sign of cheating applies to monkey branching too. If your partner used to have time for you, but they’re now juggling too many other social plans or suspiciously late work engagements, it’s a clear sign that you’re not a priority. Not only are you being crowded out of their time, but a new relationship might be the real culprit behind their unavailability.
  3. You haven’t been together long. Monkey branchers swing from branch to branch quickly, so if you’re dating one, chances are they haven’t been committed to you for long. This doesn’t mean every new relationship is at risk of monkey branching. But it’s more common in the beginning when you haven’t yet developed a strong bond. Some may even believe it’s totally okay to line up a new relationship when the existing one is still new and not so serious (but FYI: it’s not okay, no matter how long you’ve been together).
  4. They were a serial dater before meeting you. The old saying “once a cheater, always a cheater” may not be true every time, and the same can be said for serial daters. But if you’re in a relationship with someone who has had a lot of significant others and has a proven track record of abandoning relationships quickly, consider this a red flag. They might be treating you the same way they’ve treated past partners, working behind the scenes to prepare their next love interest after you.
  5. They’re secretive and vague with you. When someone is monkey branching, they’re not yet ready to break up. Even if they know a breakup is inevitable, they will try to maintain their current relationship with you until they’ve secured a new option. And to do this, they must hide their true intentions. If they can’t speak directly about their whereabouts or how they’re spending their time, this may be a sign that they’re playing you.
  6. They’re suddenly working on a glow up. A glow up is a positive and intentional transformation to become more attractive, confident, and radiant. And while we should always support our partners’ glow ups and self-improvement, a superficial glow up that ignores an internal transformation (such as working on mindset and mental health) can raise some flags. Someone who is considering other relationship options might start investing more in how they look or trying out a new hobby that makes them seem attractive to a prospective partner.
  7. Their flirting makes you uncomfortable. You’ve told your partner that their flirting makes you feel uneasy, yet they continue doing it. Or they were never the flirty type before and are suddenly chatting up everyone you pass. If they’re pushing your boundaries when it comes to flirting with other people, it might be because they’re testing the waters and seeing who else is out there in the dating pool.
  8. They have new friends. Making new friends and having a thriving social life isn’t a bad thing. But putting new friends before your relationship, socializing more than usual, and getting intimate (even if only emotionally) with new people could signal that your partner is on the hunt for a fresh romance. Be especially wary if they’re constantly talking to people of the opposite sex (or same sex, depending on their preference, of course) or if they’ve rebooted their old dating app accounts.
  9. They’ve threatened to break up. One of the biggest signs that someone might be monkey branching you is that they’ve already expressed an interest in breaking up. Threatening to end the relationship or talking about seeing other people is a sign that their commitment is wavering. And to make the inevitable breakup easier, they may try to find a replacement as soon as possible to avoid loneliness or insecurity. After all, people who monkey branch in relationships often aren’t bad people, nor are they trying to hurt you. In most cases, their own fears and insecurities drive them to cycle through partner after partner. Even with that said, you deserve better. If you realize that your partner is monkey branching, let them go so they can work through their own problems and you don’t get sucked into their monkey business.
Relationship educator, writer, host of the Relationship Reminders podcast, and mental health advocate hailing from the US and currently based in Tokyo