How do you trust your partner again when they haven't given you a reason to, the first time around? It's not an easy place to be, trying to decide whether to move forward or walk away.
Life is not a bed of roses. Everyone has their own baggage. Naturally, every time a relationship ends, you end up carrying more baggage onto your next one. Relationships can end for a number of reasons, one of the toughest ones being cheating. One of the most complicated questions that might arise is: Can you trust your partner again if they cheated on you?
Sex and relationship therapist Tammy Nelson, Ph.D. who wrote the book When You’re the One Who Cheats, talks about adultery from a cheater's perspective. Every person who's been cheated on decides that it's the cheater to be blamed, and they're right to. But in this book, Nelson attempts to understand the drive behind a cheater's decisions. She explores what motivates them to exhibit a certain behavior.
People have a pre-conceived notion about cheaters owing it to their natural talent of lying all the time, but Nelson has uncovered a new angle to it. People have misinterpreted the term “once a cheater, always a cheater", according to Nelson. “Although there may be some truth to it for some; there are a few indicators to look out for when someone is a serial cheater,” she said.
Nelson outlines four types of behavior serial cheaters exhibit which could be part of a pattern.
Why stick to one when there's a lot of fish in the sea? This is the mantra most people use when they feel like they can explore more opportunities. Nelson talks about numerous dating websites that provide an outlet for people to expand their horizons. Ashley Madison is a dating app used by approximately 60 million users, with 15,000 people who sign up by the hour. There are people who struggle to be in long term relationships and end up looking for other avenues to explore. “This perpetual vetting could mean that both men and women are struggling to feel happy in long-term marriages,” she says. After all, if the grass is always greener, it doesn’t help anyone’s fidelity to look at a bunch of lawns." said Dr. Nelson.
When something goes wrong in a relationship, both partners take the responsibility to solve a problem. A person who willingly puts the blame on you without taking responsibility for their actions raises a red flag. When they don't own up to things that went wrong, it shows that they're not mature or ready for growth or self-reflection. Serial cheaters find it easy to justify their mistakes by not being accountable for their actions or choices. "Cheaters should stop blaming their partner for their affair,” she said. “No matter how unhappy or angry they are with their spouse, they should stop using the excuse that their partner ‘deserves’ the affair.'”
Sometimes serial cheaters pursue other relationships because they want to raise their self-esteem and prove themselves. Being in a happy relationship isn't worth everything to them. Cheating is a way for them to understand that they have several opportunities at their disposal. “Sometimes people cheat to prove their worth, to show that they are good enough, or worthy enough, or desirable, and cheating can be a way to fill a gap in their self-esteem,” said Nelson. People who have low self-esteem don't mind trying over and over again, until they feel truly good about themselves.
Serial cheaters show sexual, general and obsessive behaviors to look for gratification, rather than reaching it. The hunt or the game of doing the same behavior over and over again becomes exciting. This forms a pattern which they can't avoid, eventually making it hard to change. “When a cheater repeats the same behavior over and over (here, having sexual and/or emotional affairs repetitively), then it becomes compulsive, and the need for an affair is no longer about seeking excitement or love, or passion, it is the act of seeking,” said Nelson. This behavior can be compared to a lion hunting its prey; sometimes, the lion simply hunts for the thrill of it, rather than to satisfy its hunger.
Hopefully, these traits can shine some light on how you might want to deal with a cheating partner. It's easier said than done, of course. “Infidelity is anything but simple,” said Nelson. “As much as we want to think cheaters are bad people, most want to be honest. They want to tell the truth.” So, if you feel like your relationship is worth fighting for, then it's best to meet a therapist and talk about your concerns.