We’ve all encountered the saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” But the question is, is there any truth to it?
Maybe you’ve had personal experience with men who have repeatedly cheated in the past, or perhaps you’ve forgiven someone for cheating after they promised it wouldn’t happen again, and they stuck to their word.
We all have our own opinions on cheating, which are shaped by our experiences and past relationships. The question is, can someone make a mistake, be forgiven for it, and learn their lesson, or will they continue to repeat this cycle of being unfaithful over and over again?
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, there’s no simple answer. In fact, it’s pretty damn complicated.
Did you know that cheating happens in as many as 20% of marriages and up to 70% of unmarried partnerships? It’s not surprising then that infidelity is one of the most common causes of divorce. Here’s where it gets juicy: one study found that those who have cheated in the past are more prone to being unfaithful in the future. On top of that, people who cheat in their first relationships are three times more likely to be repeat offenders. Plus, those who have been cheated on are twice as likely to be cheated on again than those who haven’t been cheated on.
Okay, so those stats are leaning heavily towards the once a cheater, always a cheater camp, but before we jump to conclusions, let’s explore the topic of cheating in more detail.
Why do men cheat?
The ultimate question on every woman’s mind.
Why does a man cheat on the woman he’s in a relationship with and supposedly cares about?
What drives men to commit such a selfish, hurtful act of betrayal?
The answer is many different things. It could be something directly to do with the relationship itself or something completely unrelated like work, stress, or other circumstances. Here are some of the most common reasons why men cheat.
If the guy in question hasn’t been in a committed relationship before or is on the young side (teens and twenties), he might not fully be aware of the consequences of his actions. He’s thinking about what he wants and the moment, but he struggles to see past that. He might see his relationship as flexible and think it’s okay to bend the rules as he pleases.
Did you know that a lot of male cheating is linked to experiencing a midlife crisis? When a man feels insecure in himself, he can search for validation outside of his relationship. Maybe he feels too young, too old, not attractive enough, not smart enough, or not successful enough. Cheating is sometimes the ego boost he’s searching for to prove to himself that he’s good enough and worthy.
Some men out there only think about (and care about) themselves. Men like this have no problem cheating and lying to you because as long as he’s getting what he wants, he doesn’t care. Your feelings are not his primary concern. And men like this are to be avoided like the plague.
Some guys go into relationships with unrealistic expectations. They believe a woman is there to meet every one of their needs (sexual and otherwise) regardless of how she feels and what she’s got going on in her life. And, of course, it’s only a matter of time before his expectations aren’t met, which leaves him feeling unfulfilled and resentful.
There are certain occasions when a man won’t bother to lie or keep secrets from his partner because he actually wants them to know he’s cheating. He’s angry and wants revenge for something. Maybe his partner cheated on him first, or perhaps he’s paranoid she’s cheating. Whatever the reason, he wants to hurt the woman he’s with.
He wants to end the relationship
You would think that when someone decides they don’t want to be in a relationship anymore, they would be honest with their partner and break things off. Unfortunately, some men lack the courage to speak up and say they’re not happy. So, what do they do? They cheat, which forces their partner to be the one who ends it.
Some men struggle with addictions with alcohol, drugs, or even sex where they aren’t fully in control of their life. All of these can cause him to make decisions he later regrets
Some men haven’t ever thought about cheating on their partner, but when an opportunity presents itself, he takes it without thinking about the consequences.
Lack of male friendship
It’s common for people to walk into romantic relationships and end up losing their former friendships along the way. Often it’s not intentional; it simply happens because you’re spending more and more time with your partner and building a life together. The problem with this is, men need male friendships, and women need female friendships. So when a guy lacks the emotional support he needs from friends, he might look for that from his partner. She won’t be able to give him that, which can lead to him seeking fulfillment elsewhere and cheating.
Some men have experienced trauma in their childhood in the form of physical, emotional, or even sexual abuse. If this trauma hasn’t been healed, those wounds can lead to intimacy issues that show up in their adult relationships, leaving them unable or unwilling to commit fully to one woman.
Signs of a serial cheater
Now that you know some of the factors that drive men to cheat let’s talk about the repeat offenders, the ones who give truth to the saying, once a cheater, always a cheater.
There are three types of men to be careful of:
- Those with attachment issues
- Toxic alpha-types
Narcissists are often serial cheaters. To them, cheating doesn’t seem like a big deal, and their main focus is on themselves and their wants and desires. It doesn’t matter how much harm or havoc they cause other people; they won’t change their ways because they don’t feel bad in any way.
As we spoke about already, those who have experienced childhood trauma are also likely to be serial cheaters. This is because trauma like this can lead to attachment issues that go unresolved if the trauma goes unresolved. They seek out safe, healthy relationships with women, then “rebel” from these relationships, the same way you might have rebelled from your parents when you were younger. And cheating is part of their rebellion. However, I want to note that there will usually be other factors at play here, for example, an addiction, feelings of unworthiness, or something else driving this person to cheat again and again.
The final type of man you need to watch out for is the toxic alpha type—the ones who are huge, unnecessary risk takers and thrill seekers and only thrive off power. If a guy like this knows the chances of being caught are slim (for example, sleeping with a colleague while traveling for work), he’s likely to keep doing it.
True or false: Once a cheater always a cheater?
As we’ve already discussed, just because a man has cheated in the past doesn’t automatically mean he will be a cheater for life. However, the stats point to the consensus that people who cheat are more likely to do it again. But it depends on many different factors, including who he is, the relationship you’re in, and how you both feel about the betrayal.
So, if you’ve just started dating someone who has openly told you they’ve cheated in the past, or you’re in a relationship where your partner has been unfaithful, here’s what you need to consider.
1. What was the extent of the infidelity?
There are different types of cheating. Having an isolated one-night stand is different from repeatedly cheating on every partner you’ve ever had. Similarly, physical cheating is different from emotional cheating and will have different repercussions. And emotional cheating is more common than you’d think. A 2015 British study found that out of 1,660 adults surveyed, 20% were unfaithful to their partner, but 15% of those said the cheating was not physical in any way.
You might find it easier to look past a random one-night stand (although it’s normal not to be able to look past this) than an emotional affair with one of your best friends that lasted for months behind your back.
2. Is he gaslighting you?
Gaslighting is when a person deflects attention from themselves and something terrible they’ve done by pointing fingers and blaming the person who’s questioning them.
If you’re having a conversation about his infidelity, and he gaslights you by saying you’re paranoid or questioning why you’re still bothered by it, this is a MAJOR red flag. He’s avoiding taking responsibility for his actions and hurting you (again) in the process.
3. Is he genuinely remorseful?
Let’s say you meet a guy and start dating. Eventually, you stumble onto some deeper conversations about exes, and it turns out he’s cheated in the past. You need to look out for how he shares that information with you.
Is he blaming his actions on his ex? Or worse, is he laughing or boasting about it? Both of these show a lack of respect and remorse for his behavior. And if he isn’t sorry, then he’s likely to do it again to someone else in the future.
The same applies if your current partner has cheated on you. If he’s showing genuine remorse, then there’s a chance you can work things out. But if he’s not, you have to ask yourself do you want to be with a man who doesn’t even feel bad about betraying you and your relationship?
4. Has he accepted responsibility for cheating?
Here are some of the common excuses you’ll hear from men who cheat:
“She was always working and wasn’t giving me enough attention.”
“I didn’t plan on cheating… it just happened.”
“I knew we weren’t going to work anyway…”
These are all signs that he isn’t taking full responsibility for his actions. Regardless of what was going on in the relationship, he chose to be in it, so he is 100% responsible for cheating.
If he isn’t able to acknowledge this and own up to his mistakes (without blaming other people and circumstances), then he’s likely to do it again. However, if he’s willing and able to take responsibility, he’s much more likely to stay faithful to you in the future.
5. Has he figured out what led him to cheat?
I want to be clear here: if he cheated, that’s on him. What I mean by figuring out what led him to cheat is there are always certain events or issues that usually precede a man cheating. I am in no way saying it’s justified (it’s totally not), but he needs to get clear on why he cheated so you can address those issues together.
As I mentioned earlier, many factors lead to men cheating. Maybe he’s insecure, not having his sexual desires met, or he’s not fully invested in the relationship. Whatever the reason, it needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Sit down and have an open and honest conversation. If you’re both committed to making your relationship work, then what can you both do to make sure both your needs are met going forwards?
Unless you address the root cause of the cheating, it’s bound to happen again.
6. How does he feel about relationships?
Does he believe in monogamy?
Does he believe that romantic relationships can work out?
Is he ready for and wanting to be in an exclusive, committed relationship?
These are all critical questions to ask any man you’re thinking of starting a relationship with to gauge whether you’re on the same page.
If he has a history of being a commitment-phobe, or he constantly talks about monogamy not being realistic, BELIEVE him. This is a sure-fire sign that he will not take a relationship seriously and is likely to continue exploring other options on the side.
Some men have no interest in being in committed relationships, while others want to enjoy the benefits of being single and being in a partnership. Both of these types of men are likely to cheat more than once.
7. How honest is he?
You can tell a lot about a man’s integrity by looking at how he behaves in all areas of his life.
Does he often tell lies to other people, like friends, family, or even total strangers?
Does he tell you little white lies in other parts of your relationship? Things like:
“I was working late.” When he was out with friends.
“There wasn’t any milk at the store.” When he just couldn’t be bothered to go to the store.
“I was never even dating her.” When in fact, he was living with her and her kids for two years.
If the man in question often bends the truth about certain things, nothing is stopping him from bending the truth about everything.
The first time he cheats on you, he might promise, “I’ll never do it again, I swear on my life.” But can you believe someone who lies with such ease?
8. Has he demonstrated he can (and is willing to) change?
The phrase once a cheater, always a cheater originates from the idea that a leopard can’t change its spots, i.e., people can’t change.
But is this true?
People can change, but it’s hard. It requires bringing awareness to the problem, breaking down toxic habits that may have lasted a lifetime, and replacing them with positive ones.
And they have to want to change for themselves, and not you or anyone else.
So the question you need to ask yourself is, is he committed to changing his ways? It’s not enough if he tells you he is willing to change; he has to back this up with his actions.
9. Does he continue with behavior that makes you feel insecure?
When a man cheats, this breaks the trust in the relationship and can lead to deep wounds, which will take significant time to heal. So if you’ve decided to move past the infidelity together, your partner has a responsibility to do everything he can to make you feel secure again in your relationship and regain your trust.
So, is he doing this?
Or is he continuing to flirt with other women, stay out all night and not answer his phone, and engage in behavior that makes you even more insecure?
If it’s the latter, it shows he isn’t empathizing with your feelings, and he doesn’t care as much as he ought to about you or the relationship. This is a sign that he might still be cheating on you or be open to cheating again in the future.
10. Are you both committed to making your relationship work?
Cheating doesn’t have to automatically equal the end of a relationship. If you’re both willing to put the time and energy into rebuilding your partnership and re-establishing trust, it is possible to bounce back. But you both need to be equally committed to doing the hard work—and I promise it will be hard.
There’s no set timeline for how long it will take. What matters is you both believe in giving it another go. You have to be willing to forgive him and leave the betrayal past in the past. And this is much easier said than done.
Remember, it’s okay if you try to repair your relationship only to find it’s not repairable and call it a day later down the line. There are many instances where it’s impossible for the person who was cheated on to forgive and move on. So be honest with each other and continue to communicate at all times. It’s okay to change your mind.
11. Is he patient with you as you try to heal from his infidelity?
If you decide to move forward together after infidelity, you both must set new boundaries in your relationship (this is part of Little Love Step #6). These boundaries should help you address the issues between you and help you build the trust back up.
For example, maybe you need him to be more responsive to your texts or tell you who he’s going out with, or be home by a certain time on a Saturday night. If he’s willing to respect these boundaries, that’s a strong sign he’s committed to you and won’t cheat again. However, if he ignores your boundaries, it’s an indication that he’s not committed to change. He’s not being respectful or showing compassion as you try to heal from the pain he has caused you. And you deserve so much better than that.
So, can a cheater ever be trusted again?
Sometimes people make stupid mistakes. They are plagued with guilt over the pain they caused, and are fully committed to changing their ways—and they do.
But the reality is a lot of people don’t change. And a lot of people are only sorry they got caught. There is truth to the phrase once a cheater always a cheater. But ultimately it comes down to the man and relationship in question.
It all depends on whether you’re willing and able to forgive and move forward in the relationship. Ask yourself, can I ever trust him again? Is this relationship worth saving? Can I live with the knowledge that the person I love betrayed me?
Have you ever taken back someone who cheated on you? What happened? Drop me a comment below.
PS. If you’re ready to start making men pursue you for love, then join me on this free webinar to discover the 3 steps to building emotional attraction – Register here to get started (it’s 100% free).