Relationship Coach Amy North begins with, “The saying goes ‘once a cheater, always a cheater.’ But does it always hold true? Will a cheater always cheat? And should you forgive your boyfriend for cheating and try to salvage the relationship? The answers may surprise you…”
She continues her introduction by citing statistics on cheating among married people (22% of men; 13% of women) and a study on 482 serial cheaters.
So you can see that cheating is being defined as sex outside of you and your guy’s relationship, not specifically just marriage. You may remember that I don’t advocate sex outside of marriage for a plethora of reasons, but this is 2021 and we must go with what is. As a reminder, your reviewer is a long married, more mature woman, with more experience in the dating world than I wish I had had. ;-0
Coach North then begins with a question, (1) “Should you forgive a cheater?”
This question is unanswerable by Coach. However, she now goes through a number of different scenarios stating how a woman can make an informed judgment about her man’s likelihood to reoffend and therefore make a choice about forgiveness.
Let’s see what this mature woman thinks of Coach Amy’s scenarios under this first question.
- Genuine remorse is a sign of change: “If you’re trying to decide if you can trust your partner again, you need to look for genuine remorse for their cheating. This goes beyond just an apology. They need to show you that they regret their actions and are taking steps to change their behaviour.” Agreed, and I’d add, the changed behavior has to be exhibited for a significant period of time. A second time and he should be outta there.
- Intention is important: “You have to both have a desire to make this work or it’s all for nothing. So remorse needs to be backed up by action that shows both desire and evidence of change.” Agreed, details above.
[Editors note: There is an old saying, “Hope is not a strategy”. There must be a clear plan of action, mutually agreed upon, to prevent a relapse. Hoping that it will not happen is a setup for failure.]
- Circumstances matter: Here’s where Coach North breaks down various circumstances.
- “Revenge: Often partners will cheat in an attempt to hurt their partner. If this is the case it’s often a one time thing and they’re trying to be caught.” Coach opines that this is hurtful and destructive. Ya think? The silver lining: he still cares. This guy is still an adolescent. Dump him, I say.
- [Editor’s note: This is a symptom of a deeper problem, an anger management problem. This is a red flag that should scare any normal person off.]
- “Growing apart: This is a common reason for infidelity. In this case, your boyfriend is cheating either to feel some of the intimacy that has been missing from your relationship or he’s doing it to try to get a rise out of you and make you fight for him.” Don’t look back, because this is not a healthy relationship for you if he uses passive aggression to extricate himself from your relationship.
- [Editor’s note: This is a symptom of a deeper problem that needs to be addressed quickly if you want to save the relationship. This is a red flag that should prompt swift, decisive and strong action.]
- “One mistake: This is the cheating of romantic comedies, where alcohol, a work crush and an out of town conference come together in a perfect storm that culminates in one night of regrettable passion.” Coach says this may be the easiest to forgive, and I agree–which doesn’t mean I’d recommend it.
- [Editor’s note: This is a symptom of a deeper problem that should be addressed quickly, decisively and thoroughly because it shows how low he can go.]
- “Sex addiction: While often used as an excuse to justify infidelity, sex addiction is a real disease with real consequences.” Coach says this is a real thing; I’m mostly skeptical, but not 100%. She recommends professional help as VITAL. Well, if he recognizes this and willingly agrees to seeking professional help, perhaps you’ll at least want to see it play out. I’d sure be mighty cautious. Very few people truly change their spots.
- [Editor’s note: This is a symptom of a deeper problem that needs to be addressed quickly if you want to save the relationship. The word “disease” is being totally misused. This is a character trait or habituation. It didn’t just come upon him like a cold. It’s buried further down in his psyche.]
- “Escape: Many people will have an affair in an attempt to end their relationship.” Run, and don’t look back–you don’t want to turn into a pillar of salt.
- [Editor’s note: Yes, it’s over. Call it a day.]
Coach North adds at this point, “If he admitted it to you because of his guilt then this shows remorse and desire to change. On the other hand, if you caught him cheating or found out about it some other way then trust will be much more difficult to rebuild.” Agreed, but use extreme caution no matter the scenario. Do some serious self-reflection: Assuming you are not married to this guy, are you just afraid that if you don’t hang on to him despite the cost, you’ll never find another man? If so, you are selling yourself short.
- Look at his history: “…a history of cheating is a good indicator that cheating will continue. That said, this is easily hidden so it’s much more difficult to factor in. Another consideration you must make is [minor edit] the state of your relationship before cheating. Basically, how long have you two been together, how close are you and what does the future hold for the two of you. If you two have been together for a long time and have been growing apart then sometimes this can actually be an indicator of the possibility of change.” Bingo!
- [Editor’s note: This is a good time to identify the top several needs each person has and to make sure they are being met. It is not enough to identify only one person’s top several needs. Both people have needs that must be met and usually, the top several needs are different from the other person’s.]
(2) Forgiving a Cheater Is Your Decision: “This is an extremely personal decision but hopefully I’ve given you some insight. But first, I’ll ask you this: Do you see any hope of this relationship working out? If you can still see a future with this man, even if it’s remote, then forgiveness is possible.
“You need to do it for yourself and for the sake of the relationship. Don’t forgive him because you feel like you have to or in an effort to sweep things under the rug. True forgiveness takes time.” Yep, it can’t be rushed.
[Editor’s Note: The concept of forgiveness is a commonly misunderstood one. You need to define for yourself what forgiveness is. Most people hold to one-sided forgiveness. That is, one person forgives even if the other person doesn’t want forgiveness or doesn’t care about being forgiven. The more logical definition is that forgiveness is two-sided; that is, both sides must respond to the other person in a way that will reconcile the two people. In other words, forgiveness is a synonym for reconciliation.
This means that forgiveness can only take place when the guy admits and the girl agrees to restore the relationship. If only one side is willing to work on the relationship, then there can be no forgiveness.]
(3) Can you Prevent Cheating Before It Happens?
“Ultimately, whether or not you two can move forward together comes down to one question: CAN you forgive?
“We’ve talked about all the things that can make forgiveness and change possible but the truth is that sometimes forgiveness is not possible, regardless of circumstance.
“Remember, “forgiveness doesn’t mean that their actions were okay.”
Coach Amy concludes with, “If you can’t make the effort to forgive this cheater then the negative feelings can really eat you alive. Plus, it will make future trust and intimacy more difficult. But remember that you get to choose what forgiveness looks and feels like. Sometimes, it’s just about getting closure and moving on.”
This last paragraph sums up the initial question, “Once a cheater, always a cheater?” quite neatly. Genuine forgiveness is not out of the realm of possibility, however, the cheater needs to not only have genuinely felt remorse and sought forgiveness, he needs to have demonstrated his change in behavior over time.
Some people have character flaws that don’t bode well for marriage commitment or even for an exclusive relationship. If you are seeking either, consider deeply and as dispassionately as possible whether or not you have been wise in your choice of a partner/husband.
I’ve often said that it is better to be ready for marriage, then find the right soul mate, than to find the right soul mate but one or the other of you is not ready for the serious commitment marriage entails. Sometimes the timing is what is most wrong.
[Editor’s note: Cheating means that a fundamental need was not met and that the need was perceived to be satisfied elsewhere. The solution to preventing cheating is to identify the need that was not met and find ways to make sure that need is met. There’s an old saying, “You don’t go out for hot dogs when there’s steak at home”.]