What is Monkey Branching? – 21 Red Flags to Look For

Have you been getting signs from your partner that indicate they may not be fully interested in you anymore? Sometimes it’s just a vibe that you get, while other times there is concrete evidence that’s making you think this way. Monkey branching may be to blame.

In this article, we’re going to talk about what monkey branching is, why people monkey branch, and some of the signs that you can watch out for. By the time you’re done reading, you should be able to determine why your partner isn’t in sync with you anymore.

Table of Contents

What is monkey branching?

Monkey branching refers to a relationship where one partner is acting like they’re single while they’re actively flirting with other people and looking for another relationship. The goal may be to completely break off the relationship with you once they’ve found someone new, or they could be attempting to find someone to cheat with.

Monkey branching can include behavior such as flirting, giving away their phone number, acquiring other people’s phone numbers, texting people outside of the relationship, and even meeting up with people they’ve met in the interest of dating.

Sometimes this monkey branching behavior will occur when a relationship is starting to fall apart, and a person wants a backup relationship to rely on. It’s very similar to cheating, but the goal is usually to set up the scenario so that person isn’t without a relationship at any point.

The term monkey branching refers to how monkeys swing from branch to branch, finding a new stable branch before they’re able to let go of the one they’re holding on to. Some even liken it to monkey bars, grabbing bar after bar as new options appear.

Why do people monkey branch?

It probably doesn’t make sense to you why someone would want to be dishonest and monkey branch, but they have their reasons for doing so whether it seems like they have their moral compass in check or not.

Low self-esteem

Sometimes people with low self-esteem seek out additional attention from others to help validate themselves. Monkey branching can be a way to boost your self-esteem temporarily.

When you get compliments or attention from someone else, it can make you feel better about yourself. For someone with low self-esteem, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of a new partner and forget about all your problems.


Monkey branching can also be used as a form of revenge after a fight or disagreement. Out of spite, one partner will seek out another person in order to feel better about the situation that just occurred. Essentially, they feel like they’re getting back at that person for what’s been done.

Something is missing

People often monkey branch because there’s something they feel is missing from their current relationship. This could be stability, support, love, or passion. They may see the relationship crumbling before their eyes but aren’t ready to break things off yet. In hopes of having something to fall back on, they begin seeking attention elsewhere.


There are situations where a person tends to have an overdependence on other people in order to achieve happiness. They fear being alone and want to make sure that they will always have someone to be in a relationship with. That safety net is unhealthy, and it’s also disrespectful for the other person involved that doesn’t know the monkey branching is occurring.


Monkey branching is something people just do when they’re getting bored with their current relationship, even if things are going well. Some people don’t do well with long-term commitment but enjoy having someone they can be with when they want to go out or be intimate.

The stages of monkey branching

There is a process that will occur when monkey branching is occurring. Let’s take a look.

The attraction phase

The first thing that will happen is that one partner will experience attraction to another person outside of the relationship. This attraction can occur at work, out on the town, or even through a dating app. Eventually, phone numbers will be shared and there may be continuing conversations between them.

Partner exploration

This process is much different than a one-time interaction. This is a purposeful process that will eventually hurt the other partner when they find out. Communication will continue either on the phone, through texting, or by meeting in person. They may go out on dates together, but the communication can also remain casual. However, it’s much different than conversing with friends.

Hiding the relationship

During this time, the other partner in the original relationship does not know what’s going on. The person doing the monkey branching will hide what’s happening and begin to keep secrets. Information like who they’re talking to, where they’re going, and what their intentions are will become a secret.

You may find that your partner becomes hostile or defensive if you question them about their phone use or where they are going when they’re monkey branching.

Attempting to end the relationship

While it seems appropriate for the monkey brancher to end the relationship on their own at some point, they tend to try and sabotage the relationship, so the other person ends it. This can include starting fights or pointing out flaws about the other person so they feel inadequate.

You may feel very disappointed in your relationship at this point. Your monkey branching partner may be prioritizing their other relationship which results in canceling plans with you or being MIA. This is your time to acknowledge something is going on.

Leaving the relationship

If you suspect that your partner has been monkey branching or they confirm this to you, it’s important that you acknowledge their branching relationship and leave. You deserve much more than what they’re providing you and you should not condone this behavior.

Attempted reconnection (sometimes)

In some cases, if the new relationship doesn’t work out the way the monkey brancher thought it would, they may try to come back into your life. They may beg and plead or even try to play the pity card but you have to remember why they left in the first place.

Attempted rekindling can happen shortly a long time after the previous stage. Maybe they see that the grass isn’t greener. Although people can change, if someone is willing to monkey branch one time, it’s possible they’ll do it again to another partner.

21 Signs your partner may be monkey branching

If you suspect something is going on in your relationship that’s out of the norm, there are some warning signs to look out for that will point you in the direction of a monkey branching partner.

Something doesn’t seem quite right

It’s always a good idea to trust your intuition. If you sense that something is going on that you’re not quite sure of, it’s probably likely that you’re correct. You can approach your partner with your concerns, but don’t expect to get an honest answer. After all, they’ve been going behind your back all this time already.

If your partner doesn’t seem willing to work on issues that the two of you are having, in order to strengthen the relationship, their lack of effort might mean they’ve moved on emotionally.


Gaslighting refers to someone that uses psychological tactics to try and get a person to question their own sanity or beliefs. For example, your partner might try to make you feel like you’re the problem to cover the fact that they’ve been seeing someone else behind your back in preparation of a breakup between the two of you.

Strange charges on their credit card or accounts

Maybe they have a charge from a fancy bar downtown that they never mentioned they were going to. Watch out for charges from restaurants or clubs in the next town over as cheaters usually stray away from meeting at the usual in-town spots where they can be recognized.

Charges for hotel rooms are also extremely common and easy to identify.

It’s important to remember that just because there are strange charges, doesn’t mean they’re monkey branching, you have to take everything into consideration. Are they normally very transparent with their whereabouts when they go out with friends or to a happy hour after work?

Does your partner scapegoat you?

As a way of making themselves feel better about what they’re doing, your partner may start to point out your flaws, critique you and blame you for fights or issues. This is classic scapegoat behavior that could indicate they’re trying to find a way out. They’re likely trying to get you to end the relationship so they can feel better about going off to be with someone else.

You may also notice that your partner is becoming more critical of your appearance, behavior, interests, etc. You simply aren’t the new person they’re seeing and it’s starting to break down the relationship without you knowing it.

Projecting guilt

Is your partner attempting to make you feel guilty all the time for things that you’re doing? Do they accuse you of things they’re actively doing themselves? This is another form of projecting blame onto you in order to justify their actions.

Hiding computer activity

Does your partner quickly change tabs or windows on the computer when you walk in? Do they sign out of all their email and social media accounts immediately on shared devices? Communication with a new potential partner can take many forms. When it’s not a phone, a computer is usually the next best option.

Timing doesn’t add up

Have you noticed that your partner isn’t around as much as usual lately, but you don’t know where they’ve been? When you ask them what they’ve been up to, they may not answer you, they could change the subject entirely or try to make up a story about that day’s events. The information might seem suspicious or not add up to you.

A sudden change in how your partner looks

In order to fit in with their new partner or please them, your monkey branching partner may change their appearance slightly. You may notice they’re doing their hair differently, wearing clothes they normally don’t wear or even carrying themselves differently. This is all to accommodate their other relationship.

A suspicious past

A partner that has monkey branched in the past will likely have a lot of exes. That’s because many of them overlap with one another. Your partner has an issue with being happy in a relationship long term, so they’re frequently switching from one relationship to the next. It’s likely they write off those relationships as having failed because of things the other people were doing.

Changing their behavior towards you

As they’re losing interest, your partner may stop being as affectionate with you. They’re actively thinking about another person, making it difficult for them to desire you. Your sex life may change as well. If they were always very touchy-feely early on in the relationship but have since switched gears, there’s probably a reason for that. You might have a monkey brancher on your hands.

New interests that are uncharacteristic

It’s perfectly normal to take up a new hobby that interests you, but has your partner changed a number of their interests and activities recently? Does it seem like they’re a completely different person that is focusing on new places to hang out, different movies to enjoy and even a new way of speaking? Your monkey branching partner may be branching out and are known to change themselves to fit in with whoever they are with.

Utilizing a moral compass

Getting to know someone includes learning about what their morals and beliefs are. Someone that doesn’t have a strong moral compass will have no issues with cheating on you or partaking in monkey branching behavior.

How quickly did your relationship start?

Did the two of you meet and immediately start a relationship? If things progressed quickly, your partner may be an expert at moving from one relationship to the next. Someone who takes their time learning about you and developing a relationship will usually be someone that’s in it for the long haul.

Are you included by your partner?

Does your partner try to include you in their plans to go shopping, go out to dinner, meet up with friends or coworkers or tag along when they’re stopping by their family’s house? If they leave you out a lot, they aren’t looking to incorporate you into the different areas of their life. This could be because they’re frequently exhibiting monkey branching behavior and don’t want you too involved.

Flirtatious behavior

Flirting is the first sign that monkey branching is about to take place or is already taking place. Your partner may be flirting with other people behind your back when they go out, go to work, text other people, etc. They may even be doing this right in front of your when you’re together. Watch for them flirting with an employee at a store, a bartender at a club you’re at or when running into an old flame.

You don’t know their friends well

As you get to know someone better and better, it’s common to meet their friends and develop your own relationships with those people. However, you might find that a monkey brancher keeps their friends secretive.

The reason for this may be that they don’t want their friends to slip up and report to you what they’re doing behind your back. They may also be trying to keep the whole situation from friends as well. Seeing your partner with more than one significant other will clue them into what’s going on.

Lines of communication

There will inevitably be times when you and your partner are not together. When that happens, how often are you communicating with one another? If it’s on a regular basis and it stays consistent, then there probably isn’t much to worry about.

Communication that slows down or pauses for certain periods of time indicates monkey branching might be going on.

They’re on their phone too much

Many people are addicted to their phones these days but spending more and more time on there could indicate that your partner is talking to someone else, making plans with someone else, or trying to find other people to monkey branch with.

If you question what your partner is doing, they may quickly put their phone down, try to hide the screen or they’ll become hostile about their lack of privacy. They probably keep their phone locked with a passcode that you don’t know.

Low self-esteem

A partner that has low self-esteem may end up making a lot of mistakes in order to create security for themselves. They’ll stop at nothing to make sure they’re not alone or validated by the person they’re with. That can include hurting you.

Conversation topics are limited

Do your conversations with your partner remain very limited? Have you stopped talking about your feelings and relationship and simply talk about generic topics like the weather and current events? This is a major red flag.

You’re going out on your own more

Instead of making plans together, you and your partner are going out separately or hanging out with friends more often than seeing each other. The distance is starting to stand out.

What should you do if your partner is monkey branching?

Do you have suspicions that your partner is engaging in monkey branching? The last thing that you want to do is come at them aggressively and start yelling at them. There are other options that will help you understand more about what’s going on before deciding if you can salvage the relationship.

Gather your thoughts and evidence

This can be a very emotional time and it’s important to take time to gather your thoughts and any evidence you have. Review exactly why you think your partner may be acting suspiciously. It’s important to stick with facts, rather than emotion.

Gathering evidence is also important because once you bring it up to your partner, they may try to delete or erase any incriminating evidence.

Give your partner an opportunity to explain

Confront your partner in a calm manner, allowing them to explain their behavior and their point of view. There’s a possibility that your suspicions are wrong, so keep an open mind.


If the two of you think that the relationship is worth fighting for, you can find a relationship counselor in your area that can help you work through the problems that you’re experiencing. This is something that takes dedication from both sides.

Call it quits

There’s nothing wrong with being so hurt by your partner’s actions that you feel the only option is to move on from the relationship. Be mature and decide to part ways, learning your lesson so you don’t experience the same behavior from your next partner.

Is monkey branching cheating?

The majority of people and relationship professionals do indeed consider monkey branching to be the same thing as cheating in many regards. This is the process of flirting or dating another person while you are still with someone else. Even if the relationship isn’t doing well or it looks like it might end soon, there’s no excuse for not waiting until after the breakup to move on.

Your partner may feel a lot more secure and comfortable about themselves when they have some sort of backup plan in place. However, this plan isn’t about being loyal to you and your relationship. There’s a very real possibility that the person your partner is monkey branching with is also in the dark about what’s going on. This means your partner is wrongdoing both of you at the same time.

Monkey branching vs. rebounding

Monkey branching and rebounding are two very different things. For starters, rebounding refers to starting a new relationship with someone very shortly after a breakup has occurred. This is different from monkey branching in that the relationship has ended and a person has moved on. It may seem fast, but there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to potentially cheating or not being loyal.

That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt to find out that your partner is rebounding quickly from you. You might be sitting there wondering how they were able to switch gears with their emotions so fast while you’re still sitting there trying to forget the good times that you shared together now that you’re apart.

FAQs about monkey branching

It’s common to have questions about monkey branching if you’ve recently found out that your partner was engaging in this behavior. You may also have come across this information while trying to figure out why your significant other is acting out of sorts. Here are some frequently asked questions about monkey branching.

Is monkey branching a sign of narcissism?

Monkey branching occurs when a person wants to make sure that they are in a relationship at all times. They’ll start a new relationship with someone while still seeing you, not giving any thought to how this affects the other people that are involved in the situation. This is a form of narcissism because your partner is very much focusing on themselves and their own wellbeing. By definition, narcissism is excessive interest in oneself, and this situation fits the bill.

Is one gender more likely to monkey branch than the other?

Monkey branchers can be both men and women. There isn’t one gender that tends to exhibit this behavior more than another. The qualities that lead to this behavior like narcissism, insecurities, and low self-esteem can be experienced by both men and women.

Will my ex come back after monkey branching?

There’s always a chance that your ex will decide that they made a mistake and that they shouldn’t have done you wrong in the first place. You may find that they come back to you looking to reconcile once their other relationship has fallen apart.

However, you’ll want to ask yourself if this is something you would be willing to entertain. Your partner was dishonest with you and didn’t care about your feelings the first time around. Why would anything change now that they’re coming back? It may just be another situation where they don’t want to be alone and you’re an opportunity to fill that gap again.

Do monkey branching relationships last?

The majority of monkey branching relationships don’t last for very long once the other partner finds out about what their partner is doing behind their back. There is a certain degree of trust that is broken during this process. Most people don’t feel that they have the ability to move past that broken trust to rebuild the relationship. After all, you weren’t necessarily a priority to your partner.

Of course, there are couples that will make things work despite having some bumps in the road. There may have been a reason why a partner chose to monkey branch and they’ve since realized where they went wrong and why they should improve their relationship skills. People can change, and it’s up to you whether or not you’re willing to stick around to see if that happens in your situation.

Should I be worried if my partner is getting too close to someone of the opposite sex?

Have you noticed that your partner is starting to get close to someone of the opposite gender? This could be a relationship at work, a friend that they haven’t seen in a while but recently came back into the picture, or a casual acquaintance through friends just to name a few.

It’s perfectly normal to wonder what’s going on between the two of them. While a man and a woman can just be friends, getting really close while either of them is in a relationship can be a warning sign that something else is going on.

You can talk to your partner about your concerns with their “friendship”, but you should be careful about how you approach the situation. You don’t want to immediately accuse your partner of anything, but it’s important that you get your point across so they know you suspect something might be going on.

If they care about your feelings and nothing is going on, there are a few ways to rectify this situation. They may distance themselves from this new friend to make you feel more comfortable. You may be involved in an introduction with that person to help clarify that nothing is going on.

Of course, you could be right and there’s a situation of monkey branching going on.

Our final thoughts on monkey branching

We’ve covered much of the basics regarding monkey branching. To the degree that you should be able to spot it if it’s happening in your own relationship. It’s important that you don’t become a victim of cheating or infidelity. You’re worth so much more than that, and you should be with someone that respects you and cares for you.

If you’ve noticed that your partner is exhibiting some of the signs that we talked about in this article, you have information to use to address the issue. Know that there are also resources out there which can help you navigate this situation.

The important thing is that you don’t feel like you have to stay in a relationship that makes you feel inadequate or disrespected. There are plenty of people out there that will remain loyal and true to you.

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