Once a Cheater Always a Cheater?

Question: I was looking around your site, but I wonder what BAN has to say about the old adage: Once a Cheater Always a Cheater???

ANSWER:
Once a cheater always a cheater is NOT true. That said, statistically it has largely been true. This is due to the many myths and misconceptions about affairs.

Generally embraced ideology still emphasizes that affairs are caused by problems in the marriage and that both husband and wife should take responsibility for their parts in the affair that occurred in the marriage.

At BAN, we agree that an affair takes two people; the unfaithful spouse and the affair partner! Should it be true that one day we all get to stand in front of God and give an accounting of our lives, one question God will not be asking the faithful spouse is “why did you make your spouse have an affair?” The ones involved in the affair will stand alone to give an account for their behavior.

The betrayed spouse is responsible for ways they may have failed their spouse in the marriage, but this is an entirely separate issue. It is not cause and effect. For every marriage with problems where there has been an affair, I can show you another marriage with bigger problems where there has not been an affair.

If you are unhappy in your marriage, there are healthy and right ways to address the marital issues. No one is “making” anyone have an affair.

The truth is affairs happen in good marriages too. While we agree that marriages with problems are more likely to have affairs, the fact remains that all marriages are vulnerable, and reasons for the choice to have an affair lie with the persons having them, not with the innocent spouse who would give anything for the affair not to have happened.

One clients’ situation strongly emphasizes this point. Her husband was in the military. She had been married for thirty years when I first saw her. Every five years of their marriage the husband had an affair, and each time they sought the help of a therapist to recover, and each time the therapist helped them to discover what she (the innocent spouse) did wrong to cause her husband to have an affair (the belief that it was her fault for not meeting his needs).

Five years into the marriage apparently he cheated because she was too busy with babies, and not giving him enough attention, so she gave him more attention. Ten years into the marriage it turned out he had an affair because they weren’t having enough recreational companionship together. She took up golf with him.

Fifteen years into the marriage he had an affair because she wasn’t adventurous enough in bed. They got some lingerie, books and sex toys and she became a sex goddess. Twenty years into the marriage apparently he cheated because she didn’t keep the house clean enough. She added that to her list of burdens to carry with her growing heartache. I could go on. When the affair happened thirty years into the marriage, she admitted herself into the psych ward at the hospital!

The more I support people, the more I feel like shaking the globe and shouting, “Why are we looking for reasons for the affair with the one who isn’t having them? Why are we missing the obvious? A person choosing to have an affair is responsible for the affair, and it is this person that has some changing to do.

It also needs to be noted that when a person has an affair, and that marriage ends in divorce, and in time they remarry. More often than not (unless they do their personal growth work), they have affairs again in the new marriage. Why? What is the problem here? The innocent spouse not meeting their needs?? No, of course not. The one who is repeatedly having affairs in sequential marriages is responsible, because they have not addressed THEIR issues.

So to answer your question, when the person having the affair is willing to step up to the plate and stop blaming their spouse and everything else for THEIR behavior, and start looking inside themselves for the reasons, and when they take initiative to do THEIR personal growth work, then THEY can certainly change and become faithful ever after, and many have.

So is a person once a cheater always a cheater? No, absolutely not. Any person can decide to change and become a better person, but the tenacity to do so must come from within the one who cheated. You can’t do it for them. If the root causes for their affair are addressed, then certainly they don’t need to repeat their affairs.

What does not work in ensuring faithfulness are promises or willpower alone. It takes understanding, personal growth, and corresponding change. If promises worked the wedding vows would’ve been sufficient the first time.

James Vaughan was faithful to his wife Peggy Vaughan for 30+ years following several years of affairs with multiple partners, honoring their wedding vows from the time of his change forward “’til death do us part.” Peggy never bore affair heartache again.

We help those who’ve had affairs understand and address the core issues behind why they cheated. If your unfaithful spouse is serious about being faithful forever forward, they will want to register you both for the Healing From Affairs Intensive.

For those where a group situation is not a consideration, due to a high profile nature of your work, private intensives are available.

Write to us directly and confidentially at anne@beyondaffairs.com or brian@beyondaffairs.com .

PS – You may wish to suggest the Man of Honor weekend to your husband.