If You Can't Stop Cheating On Your Partners, Here's What You Should Do, Experts Say
As much as we all might wish cheating is rare, the fact is, it happens... a lot. For some folks, it’s a one-time thing. You make a mistake, learn from it, and move on. But for others, cheating can become more of a pattern, and they can feel as though they can’t stop cheating, even if they want to. It is shockingly common.
In a 2015 study published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers found that the average person has about a 42 percent chance of cheating on their partner. Yikes. Another study, conducted in 2017 and published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, showed that once someone cheats, they are three times more likely to cheat again. Double yikes.
But why? Why do serial cheaters cheat? According to NYC relationship expert Susan Winter, there are many motivating reasons for repeated infidelity. She says it could simply be the desire for personal validation. "Who doesn't want to feel attractive?” Winter asks Elite Daily. “The cheater feels elevated by their conquest. This proves their worth. And the more hits of recognition and personal validation gained, the better the cheater feels about themselves."
It could also be about a feeling of entitlement, says Winter. "Many cheaters bank on their power and status to get them what they want in life, including sexual partners," she says. "These individuals are convinced that they deserve a bevy of partners because of 'who they are.'"
For some, Winter says the impetus to cheat is about unhappiness in a relationship, explaining that "serial cheaters ... can be motivated by resentment. If their spouse is constantly belittling them, cheating is one way of getting even. It shifts the power dynamic and feels like a win for the partner that holds long-standing resentments."
Or it could simply boil down to self-esteem issues. "Insecurity demands that more is better," Winter says. '"When in doubt, increase the numbers [of partners] to pump up your value, attraction and desirability."
Any of these could be the cause, but relationship expert and host of the Dates & Mates podcast, Damona Hoffman, thinks cheating comes down to another common issue: addiction.
“Serial cheaters are essentially addicts,” she says. “They are addicted to the endorphins that come from falling in love (even if it's just for one night) and the adrenaline that comes with the potential for being caught.”
Understanding why people are unfaithful is one thing, but what about serial cheaters who want to change their ways? It is possible to turn over a new leaf if you’re willing to put in the work? The short answer is yes and, well, no. Here is what the experts say you should do if you just can’t stop cheating on your partner.
1. Get some professional outside help.
For a repeat cheater to change their ways, Winter says the most important factor is that they want to change — without that personal drive, it’s a non-starter. However, if they do want to change, then Winter’s advice is to seek out a qualified medical professional to “get to the root of the issue, and commit yourself to healing the obsessive need to cheat.”
Hoffman agrees that the first step is working with a professional to uncover the cause of the behavior, saying “it's important to understand where this drive to cheat is coming from and why there is a disconnect from the hurt and pain you cause your partner when you do it.” The reason for this, she explains, is that it has to “be dealt with from the root cause, not the effect.”
2. Practice total transparency.
One of the ways to help break out of the cheating pattern is to make it much harder to keep secrets from a partner. Not only will this reduce the chances of you slipping back into old behaviors, but total transparency is a good way to help rebuild the trust you and your partner may have lost. Hoffman suggests you “give them your password logins, share a calendar, over-communicate about your comings and goings. It's paramount to build trust back up again. That can take a long time but it begins with being completely upfront and ensuring that your words match your actions time and time again.”
3. Embrace it and be honest with your partners.
This last suggestion may seem radical, but Winter says if you are a serial cheater and you don’t want to change, your best move is to just lean in and embrace it as part of who you are — but do it with integrity. What does that mean? Well, simply own it and be open about the fact that monogamy is not for you.
“Live your life in honesty, and accept this reality," says Winter. "Making peace with the fact that you cannot or will not be faithful is a huge step in relieving the guilt and shame you've been carrying." Instead of cheating, seek out partners who are comfortable with non-monogamy, or even explore polygamy. The key, says Winter, is to make sure you “inform all prospective partners as to this truth. This eliminates your need for lying and betrayal. It isn't the truth that hurts us. It's the lies that we're led to believe.”
There you have it. You've got some legit options. You can either work to change, or just embrace your truth and follow a less traditional — but honest — path.
Knopp, K., Scott, S., Ritchie, L. et al. (2017) Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater? Serial Infidelity Across Subsequent Relationships. Arch Sex Behav. 46: 2301. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1018-1
Watkins, S. J., & Boon, S. D. (2016). Expectations regarding partner fidelity in dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33(2), 237–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407515574463
Updated by Elite Daily staff.
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