Can Cheaters Change?

Is cheating a behavior that can be overcome? Or is it a deep-seated personality trait that you can’t get rid of?

When a person’s infidelity becomes uncovered, they often promise to never cheat again, but the sad truth is there’s no real way of telling if they can and will follow through on that promise. We’ve all heard the saying “Once a cheater, always a cheater”. And for those who have been betrayed, it can certainly seem difficult to even fathom how they can ever forgive, let alone trust, their cheating partner again. Infidelity is one of the most catastrophic, crippling things that can happen in a relationship, leaving scars in its wake. Sometimes the scars last a lifetime and can affect a person’s ability to truly love and trust another.

You may have been deeply hurt and betrayed by your partner and find yourself asking these questions:

  • If he/she cheated on me once, does that mean he/she can and/or will cheat on me again?
  • Can I ever really trust the two-timer again?
  • Should I give him/her another chance?

People reeling from shock and pain after an infidelity will try to grasp answers to these questions in an effort to bring back a semblance of control in their lives. While these questions are certainly important to ask, unfortunately, there are no easy, simple answers when it comes to cheating.

Marriage and Infidelity Statistics

Cheating is a more common problem than you might believe. According to Statistic Brain:

  • Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional: 41%
  • Percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had: 57%
  • Percent of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had: 54%
  • Percent of men who have strayed at least once during their married lives: 22%
  • Percent of women who have strayed at least once during their married lives: 14%
  • Average length of an affair: 2 years
  • Percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered: 31%
  • Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught: 74%
  • Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught: 68%

The fact that infidelity is so common makes it even more difficult distinguishing between what serial cheating is as opposed to infidelity that is unique or those that are isolated cases.

Likelihood of Changing

Before you can determine the likelihood that a cheater will change, you have to establish why the cheating occurred in the first place. There can be a variety of factors to contribute to the reason a person decides to cheat, and it’s important to identify they underlying cause before you can assess if it’s possible – or even wise – to place your trust in a person who has hurt you again.

  • Were you having problems in your relationship?
  • Did he/she need to feel excited again? Was the novelty of your relationship wearing off?
  • Did he/she fall during a moment of weakness?
  • Is this the first time he/she has cheated on you, or anyone, for that matter?

Some of these causes can be easier to resolve than others.  For instance, if the cheating occurred during a stressful time in your relationship, you can both agree to work on strengthening your bond and addressing the root of the problems you have been experiencing. However, if the underlying reason is something that is beyond your control to change, such as sexual addiction on your partner’s part, it will most likely be more difficult to work through and infidelity can happen again. The type of adultery that occurred can also play a part in determining if the cheating person can successfully walk away from the affair.

With counseling and a deep and unswerving determination to change, a 180 degree turn from philandering ways, while difficult, is possible.