The sun burns, water makes us wet and once a cheater, always a cheater. The end.
Well, not really. While the sun could in fact melt the heart of the shrew and water is the opposite of dry, not all cheaters will cheat again.
People cheat for a variety of different reasons and it is these reasons that tell us whether the person will be prone to cheat again.
So Why Do People Cheat?
1. Partner Focused Reasons:
– Lack of enjoyable physical, intellectual or emotional intimacy from their current significant other
– Lack of appreciation from their current significant other
– Lack of faithfulness from their current significant other
2. Personal Focused Reasons:
– Low self esteem
– Restless squirrel syndrome
If the rationale for cheating is partner focused, the cheating may be confined to the specific partner as well.
Helen, 43, has never cheated on a man before but her current husband (Matt) no longer touches her, shows her no support or appreciation and has not kissed her for three months. Helen may find herself steering towards a man who compliments and flirts with her at work. She does this because she knows that she deserves more and realizes that she will not get it from Matt. Not only is it not likely that Helen will become a constant cheater, she will feel real guilt and pain for having done the cheating.
This applies to Richard as well. Monica was not faithful to him and it has torn him up. He’s sitting at the bar soaking in the pain when Ann comes in and sits next to him. They begin talking and Rich’s mind is still attached to what Monica did. He cannot help but subconsciously want to have sex with her to both temper the current pain and revalidate his confidence that was surely shattered by Monica’s dirty deed. Rich cheating on Monica for this reason does not make him a permanent cheater.
On the other hand, if the cheating is personal focused, the likelihood that the cheater is prone to this increases significantly and the reasons are quite simple.
If an individual has not figured out their personal self (esteem, how to deal with stress, their desire for a monogamous relationship, etc.) before getting into a relationship, they will bring that baggage and the associated consequences into it.
This same distinction in focus answers the age-old question of whether or not a cheater can become a reformed partner, change their ways.
If the cheating was for partner reasons, reform is needed, but easier to achieve. The cheater must practice self-awareness, self-management and communication.
“I was wrong to cheat. I have needs and they are not being met but I will communicate with my partner. If I do not feel like my partner is reticent to my concerns, I will communicate a different way. If they are still not reticent to them, I will move on. The temptation of another man was there but so is my integrity. I was wrong to cheat.”
If it’s personal focused, reform is needed and a lot more difficult to achieve, the cheater must practice self-awareness and self-management on several levels.
“I was wrong to cheat. I cheated because I have these personal issues. I am not ready to date again until I have confronted and have remedied these personal issues. I was wrong to cheat.”
“What is it that I want and is it something that is achievable in my mind?”
“What do I do when I get bored or stressed? Do I practice self-control? Or, do I do whatever I want that makes me feel good and alleviates the stress or the urge?”
The cheater must learn to take things slow the next go round. The personal challenges must be put to the test and not at the expense of their next partner’s feelings. The cheater must go into a relationship with eyes open about the past indiscretions and the reasons they occurred. They must also avoid the instinctual desire to ‘jump right in’ and instead assess a few things:
“I thought I was ready, am I?”
“She/he is hot, can I control myself and stay loyal to my partner?”
“We’re about to commit to moving in together. That’s a big step. Do I feel like I deserve it?”
“Do I believe I deserve him/her? If my self-esteem is challenged, how will I react?”
These are questions that get to the inherent characteristics that some cheaters have. Someone with restless squirrel syndrome never had a car, a job or movie that really satisfied them and thus it’s always onto the next best thing. A person with inherent self-esteem issues may buckle to the advances and flattery of others regardless of how attentive, attractive or great their partner is.
There are other inherent personality issues that do make people more prone to cheating than the rest but there is a final point I must make.
Regardless of the focus (personal or partner), cheating is wrong and inexcusable. I say this not to be the morality police but instead to draw a distinct line between explanations and excuses. I have just explained some rationale behind why people cheat, this is different than condoning it. And, for that matter, I have been a relationship coach for 10 years and have always had the same rules. One of them is that I will not try and salvage a relationship in which there has been cheating, regardless of why the cheating occurred.
That, my friends, is an article for another day.