Once a Cheater Always A Cheater: Studies Indicate Patterns Are Difficult To Overcome

Stacy Ann

Kyle Bearden/Unsplash

Recently I posted on one of my social media accounts around the subject of infidelity, primarily around the fact that many couples stay together after it happens in their relationship.

The backlash was swift and the general consensus was that if someone cheated you should never stay in the relationship and that person would always be unfaithful in future relationships.

In fact, I can sum the response up to one saying that I am sure we are all very familiar with.

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

Now, I personally don’t believe I could stay in a relationship after the trust had been broken to that degree and I would likely have to move on.

But to say once a cheater is always a cheater and not give someone a chance because of their past?

Let’s dive a bit into whether or not this common statement is based in any truth.

Research has shown that someone is more likely to cheat after they have cheated in previous relationships

Several years ago the University of Denver did a study to see whether or not someone was more likely to cheat in their next relationship if they did in their past ones.

To sum up, their findings are as follows:

“Results from this study indicated that people who engaged in infidelity themselves knew about a partner’s infidelity, or suspected a partner of infidelity had a higher risk of having those same infidelity experiences again in their next romantic relationships.”

According to this research, it appears that someone is much more likely to cheat in the future if they have done it in the past.

However, does that mean if you have cheated or if you want to date someone who has moments of infidelity in their past, that it is doomed?

I find that to be false based on my experiences and here are the reasons why.

People have the ability to change and work through their mistakes/past behavior

Another reason I don’t like the saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater” is because it’s dealing in absolutes. The reality is that someone who has cheated can view their past in a different way than someone who has done the same thing.

Let’s review two different scenarios that involve infidelity as an example.

Scenario #1.

Gabby and David have been dating for several months. One night Gabby discloses to David that she cheated in all of her past relationships. There is no remorse, she has an excuse for every single time that it happened and ultimately blames her exes.

Scenario #2.

Julie and John have just started seeing each other. John really likes Julie and wants to be completely honest with her. After only a few dates John informs Julie that he had several relationships in the past where he was unfaithful. He recognized that it was a pattern and began therapy to figure out why he was repeating these behaviors and to try to change them.

Now, both Julie and David have every right to decide they don’t want to date someone who has cheated in their past. However, these are two very different people. Gabby is obviously not sorry for what she has done and because of this, her behavior will likely repeat itself. John on the other hand has been working on his relational self-awareness and may be able to prevent himself from repeating past mistakes.

At the end of the day, people have to want to change

There was another angle to the comments on my social media post that I mentioned earlier that I want to touch on.

Numerous people said that they were in relationships and that their partner constantly cheated and came back, promising to change, and then did it again. These people waited years and years for a change that didn’t happen because their partner didn’t want or feel the need to change.

“In most cases, change doesn’t happen until someone wants it for themselves. If they don’t seem willing to address problematic behaviors, waiting and hoping may simply leave you in a position where you accept pain again and again.”

From my experience, when someone has been unfaithful towards me, I am unable to rebuild the trust that I once had for them. However, I have also been with partners who worked through their past behavior and things ended for reasons that had nothing to do with infidelity.

Ultimately it is completely up to you whether or not past infidelity is a dealbreaker when it comes to dating.

After all, if someone wants to change they can put in the work to make it happen but that choice is entirely on them.





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I am a writer & relationship consultant that primarily deals with narcissism, overcoming abuse & trauma, and self-love. Contact me @ Blog: carriewynn.com Instagram: carrie_wynnmusings


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