#059: Once a Cheater Always a Cheater? How to Know
You’ve heard it before:
“Once a cheater – always a cheater.”
Maybe you’ve said it yourself a time or two.
Yet now, as you struggle to cope with the aftermath of infidelity in your own relationship, you may be wondering if the saying applies to the person you love.
However, before we take a close look at the “cheater” in the relationship, it’s important to take a look at the source and tone of the “always a cheater” comment.
The Shame of Staying
Often the “always a cheater” remark is made by someone venturing an opinion on your relationship and choices. What they are really expressing is doubt about whether your relationship can recover, no matter how hard you try.
They are, in essence, discouraging forgiveness and even effectively advising that you shut the door on the hope of reconciliation at all, because they aren’t 100 percent certain your partner can remain faithful.
It’s safer to say they are a problem that can’t be fixed. So, they tell you to “get out” or “move on.”
Of course, this is often all very protective and filled with good intentions. However, this can also be very intrusive and shut you down if you still love your partner and want to salvage the relationship.
What people don’t know, is that their remarks generally don’t reflect reality whatsoever. It just amounts to undermining conversation. Such advice and opinionated commentary ultimately just exacerbate your emotional pain and amplify your insecurities.
Moreover, many people in this situation end up feeling shamed by others for even considering staying with those who cheated on them!
The truth? You need support to stay in a relationship after an affair. Hence, the development of my Facebook group called: It’s Okay To Stay – Healing After Infidelity. This group supports those who choose to stay together. All posts are anonymous and members can ask for opinions, advice, or support from others in the group as well.
So, the next time someone makes you feel stupid, weak, or gullible for staying, let them know that you have nothing to be ashamed of and keep moving forward. You’ve made a courageous choice.
Why People Are So Sure Cheaters Won’t Change
People need certainty to survive. A deep sense of uncertainty is created by betrayal, thus we seek to restore peace of mind. People declare that cheaters will always cheat because they want and need to be sure of something when a relationship falls apart.
Following upset or disturbances in our lives, the natural cycle of certainty looks like this:
A need for certainty > the desire to catalog/categorize people > a false sense of certainty > feeling somewhat relaxed and safe.
So, when things are rough, it gives us a sense of safety to enter into this cycle, present it as truth, and try to restore some semblance of order.
Thus, we tell ourselves that the one who cheated on us will continue to do so. At least then, we feel we know something for sure. That is, what they did is who they are- a cheater.
But is that really true? It seems safer and more comfortable for us to believe all infidelity is the same. Yet, the world is not made of black and white truths. What might you discover if you look deeper?
The Danger of Categorizing People into “Cheaters” & “Non-cheaters”
Let’s be clear, chronic cheaters do exist. In my practice, I do meet 2 or 3 couples annually in which a partner will fit the “always a cheater” moniker perfectly.
While it is very rare, there are people who have been cheating on their spouses for years, repeatedly. They cheat even after being caught. They cheat even after they promise to stop.
However, by and large, those types of “cheaters” have little in common with the usual variety of unfaithful people recovering from infidelity I see every day.
When we lump all infidelity participants into one box labeled “never to be trusted again” we unfairly do the following:
● We ignore all the other characteristics the person may have that contradicts the “cheater” profile
Is your partner a loving parent? Do they take good care of your home or finances? Are they a helpful son or daughter? Can they still be counted on by friends or at work? Are they remorseful and committed now?
● We ignore the richness of the marriage or committed relationship.
Do you share a long history? Did your relationship contain a deep friendship at some point? Are children part of your union? What travels, hobbies, passions, dreams do you have in common? How do or did you spend fun time together and with loved ones?
● We ignore the times this person actually was faithful to us and had our best interests in mind.
Can you honestly say that your partner never cared or showed concern for you? What sacrifices has your partner made to keep your relationship together in the past? What myriad of things have they been honest about over the years?
It is wise to assess a person according to these variables rather than just one behavior. A person needs to be considered for the entire depth and richness of their character and their relationship with you.
Categorizing is a two dimensional, shallow way of understanding the “why” behind betrayal.
Reducing an unfaithful person down to the infidelity alone keeps things simple and easy to manage mentally. It also makes it much easier to make their behavior an unflattering pathological problem too.
In other words, you can use categorizing to convince yourself that something must be “wrong” with the unfaithful person. Their personality, morals, history, psyche, culture, etc must be wrong. We can then just assume they are broken beyond repair and keep ourselves safe from risking further relationship.
But, again, those black and white assumptions don’t add up.
Why? Because we know deep down that in all actuality, that kind of pathology only covers a very small percentage of people and betrayals.
Generally, there’s nothing wrong with the unfaithful person’s mental health, morals, or past. More often than not, I find that the affair is a one-time betrayal occurring in an otherwise loving relationship.
The unfaithful partner is most likely not a monster. They aren’t cruel. They aren’t an irredeemable, pathological cheater, liar or jerk. “Once a cheater, always a cheater” simply does not describe the person who has, admittedly, made a serious relationship mistake.
The Cost of Clinging to Our Categories
Okay, if you do categorize cheaters with a permanent personality defect in an effort to cope with uncertainty, how does it hurt really you? Is there any real loss compared to the betrayal you’ve already suffered? What creates bigger uncertainty than learning that the one you trusted cheated on you?
I get it. If you were a faithful partner, the uncertainty you now endures is immeasurable.
Perhaps you feel you don’t know your partner anymore. Or that you can’t trust one word that comes out of their mouth. Maybe you feel like your partner is a stranger rather than the person you spent years knowing intimately.
So you jump into the certainty cycle for the best comfort you can muster: an illusion of the truth and certainty to ease the pain. Your betrayer is categorized as “always a cheater.”
The problem? Your unfaithful partner may NOT fit the mold you and or our society cast and your assessment is even more destructive to the relationship. You can not move forward. You live in fear with the belief that one day your partner will cheat again.
Waiting for another bout of betrayal and heartbreak, and humiliation can prove too much. As a result, your relationship may not survive.
So How Can I Know for Sure?
It’s perfectly natural to want to know whether your partner’s infidelity was a one-time thing or a personality flaw that will drive future episodes of betrayal.
The bad news? You can never know for sure. But the good news is that you can absolutely see signs indicating whether your partner is or isn’t “always a cheater”:
To help you with this,my The 5 Ways to Know if You’re Dealing with “Always a Cheater” PDF guide is a good way to take stock of your relationship and your partner’s behavior. It’s an actual tool you can use to rate certain situations and draw your own conclusions about whether your unfaithful partner is likely to continue cheating.
That way, you are less susceptible to what society, loved ones, or other people say. You’ll see your relationship clearly, for yourself.
I do hope this information was helpful to you. So many betrayed partners encounter tough choices and concerns in the aftermath of infidelity. I hope this and the free guide will help you evaluate your partner productively at this difficult time.