There is no indication that cheating is a disease, an addiction, or a personality trait. Affairs happen for a variety of reasons. In fact, there are as many reasons for infidelity as there are people.
Often an affair happens because of opportunity. If your partner is in a business environment or in an industry or has a hobby where cheating is rampant or even encouraged, they may be more likely to cheat repetitively. Because they have more opportunity to cheat, it can be easier to take risks.
But it doesn’t mean they will always cheat.
Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?
Repetitive cheaters also tend to be adventurous risk takers and crave excitement. Those who have multiple affairs are often more apt to do things that are illicit or forbidden.
Many people claim that cheaters are always going to be cheaters, that after one affair they will continue to repeat their cheating behaviors. They say, “once a cheater always a cheater.”
These individuals might actually be speaking from their own personal experience. Or they have been cheated on themselves. Or perhaps they believe they’re an expert because they have seen it on TV.
However, not every cheater is a repetitive cheater, no matter what “people” say.
That being said, if your partner continues to cheat on you, repeatedly, and without remorse, it might be time to leave the relationship. Lack of remorse is not necessarily a sign of a serial cheater, but it may be an indication that your partnership is simply not sustainable.
The Three Stages of Affair Recovery
Recovery from infidelity has three phases: the crisis, the insight, and creating a new vision.
The crisis stage occurs right after the disclosure or discovery of the affair. If you have just found out about the affair, you may be in pain and your life may be in chaos. Don’t worry about whether or not you should stay together or if there’s a future for your relationship. Instead, focus on feeling safe, addressing painful feelings, and get help if you need it from an experienced couples therapist.
The insight stage involves exploring the motivations behind the affair. This is more about being curious about what’s behind the infidelity, as opposed to nailing down every detail. Explore what caused the cheating, talk about what led to the outside relationship and if you are still in a relationship, have conversations with your partner about what happened right before the affair began. Try to dig deep and communicate. If you’re lucky, this affair could wake up your relationship and you might find you are stronger than ever as a couple.
The final phase is creating a new vision. Even after the wrenching pain of an affair, or even multiple affairs, couples can consciously co-create a new relationship by drafting a new more ongoing monogamy agreement, one that works for them, not one that they may have fallen into and hoped that a one-time promise would last the lifetime of their relationship. What works now for you both?
Many times this new relationship includes better communication and a more passionate intimacy, which leads to hope for a better future together.
For more on creating a new monogamy, watch for my new TEDx talk, posting on the TED site soon. Or go to my website to buy a copy of The New Monogamy; Redefining Your Relationship after Infidelity.