Once a cheat always a cheat… This term is often tossed around as truth, does a cheater ever change or do they find someone who makes them change?
I do not subscribe to the idea of once a cheater always a cheater. But I also don’t believe that a person finds someone who makes them change. I acknowledge that there are some people out there that don’t accept that the grass is green everywhere and others still who have serious issues with commitment and compulsive behavior, but to say once a cheater always a cheater lumps people together unfairly. And to say that a cheater may find someone who makes them change shifts the blame on to the person being cheated on, which is also unfair.
Let’s think about it differently, why are people deciding to cheat? Usually because there is some kind of problem in the relationship. Again, cheating is just a reaction to an existing problem in the relationship albeit a poor one. So, instead of, “once a cheater always a cheater,” I would say, “once a poor decision maker, always a poor decision maker.” And let’s not let the person who either ignored the signs or ignored their instincts off the hook either.
Not necessarily in my book. I cheated once. And only once. It was back in college. I dated this guy Will for a couple of years, but he was older than I was, and thus, graduated before me. And then, he had to move for his career…to a city that was 4 hours away, but we were in love, so we were determined it wouldn’t be a big deal. And for a while it wasn’t. I’d visit him on weekends or he’d visit me. We’d talk on the phone (long before the days of text messaging). All was well. But eventually, the visits got harder to make. And wrapped up in my own 20-year-old life of studying, partying, working, I got a little too busy for quite so many phone calls. The truth was that the distance was too much–and not just the physical distance. We were now living two completely different lives. I still loved him, but he was a working man, and I was a college kid. We had become very different without really changing that much at all. And then, one fateful night when we were at a fraternity party (it was Will’s fraternity–I know, I’m not proud of where this is going, either). And my friend E and I were drinking and hanging out, and there was this guy there: Bob (not really, but you know). Bob was hot. I mean ripped. And E wouldn’t stop talking about how damn hot he was or what she’d do if she didn’t have a boyfriend (who also lived in this same fraternity house). And obviously, we weren’t very subtle (and were very drunk) because he noticed us staring at him, and he came over.
Now, I didn’t know him really well. I knew enough to know he was my boyfriend’s fraternity brother–and that he knew who my boyfriend was…and that he had a girlfriend…in another sorority (following this soap opera). Anyway, he started talking to us and eventually E, all giddy that he’d even acknowledged are existence, went off with her boyfriend. And Bob and I kept chatting and drinking. Until the party had basically ended, and there were only a few of us still awake. And then he invited me up to his room. And I knew. I knew what was going to happen. But in my head I said, “He’s my boyfriend’s fraternity brother; he’s just being nice to me; we’ll hang out and talk or watch TV is all.” Of course, what actually happened is we had hot monkey sex, and I snuck out before anyone was the wiser. Well, my friend Shelly, who was also trying to sneak back into our house was the wiser because we ran smack into each other and screamed: “OMG! What did you do??” And I couldn’t not say: “I had sex with Bob!” Lots of screaming ensued. We woke up Colly, who also wanted to know what we’d each done that night–because we were clearly very naughty girls that night.
Anyway…here’s the thing: I kept sneaking around with Bob, which at such a small college, where everybody knew your business was no easy feat. And it wasn’t that I was bowled over by Bob. It was about what I wasn’t willing to admit was wrong with my relationship with Will. It was about the fact that I loved Will too much to simply end it, but that really, it was over, and I wanted out. I kept up with Bob until finally Will’s suspicions culminated in an explosive argument that ended our relationship (and any hopes we’d ever be friend again–yeah, he’s married w/ kids and still hates my guts, but I can’t really blame him.)
Ultimately, cheating got me what I wanted even though I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted it. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned that you can still love someone even though a relationship is over. I learned to recognize and accept that and be a responsible adult and end things before doing something stupid. I learned that loving someone sometimes means letting them go even if it will hurt them and that’s the last thing you want–because ultimately, you will end up hurting them more. As a result, I have never cheated again. And I don’t think I will. But for me, it was a one time thing. If someone has a habit of cheating, I think that’s different. Look at Bob. He cheated on his girlfriend with me. And later (after we began our own relationship), he cheated on me with some just-turned-18-year-old girl with a belly chain and a face that looked like she’d been hit by a mack truck. And I’m sure that wasn’t that last time he cheated either.
Because there’s a difference between cheating and being a cheater.
Let me make this clear enough that even a caveman can understand what I’m saying: You cannot change anyone; Your love is not going to heal all his/her wounds; he/she doesn’t have magic genitalia; You are not Jesus! [This is Jesus]
The only thing that will change a cheater is, well, the cheater deciding that he can’t live that kind of life anymore and make a conscious decision to make better choices. I should know.
In my early twenties, my indiscretions were…wait for it…legendary. Yeah, OK, I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I could not stay faithful to any girlfriend…ever.
It wasn’t until the bottom dropped out in my life. [my ex-wife and I were both guilty of doing this to each other before we got back together and got married…funny, I guess she didn’t give up that behavior].
I took a hard look at my life and realized I was tired of the shame and embarrassment, or potential shame, of the life I was living. I decided that I was in control of me and was going to make better choices [Which is how I kicked a gambling habit that would haunt my marriage].
Notice my use of the word shame/embarrassment and not guilt. This is an important distinction to understand. Someone who cheats and feels actual guilt has a built-in failsafe that will likely prevent them from ever cheating again. Guilt can be a powerful motivator and powerful deterrent.
Most people in today’s culture do not feel guilt, rather shame.
This is because most people are narcissists. It is the albatross of the entitlement generations [Aka, Gen X and everyone afterward who got trophies for things like “Best Nose Picker” in school].1
Shame is not the same as guilt. Narcissists don’t think about “OMG, I’m hurting another person.” Instead, thoughts are mostly centered on how their lives will be impacted if the truth comes out. The focus is on them, not the other people involved.
When they do get caught, they trying and defuse the situation with a press conference [Bill Clinton] or go into fake therapy [Tiger Woods]2
The narcissist will not change for you. They will only change because they want to live their lives a different way, drama and shame free.
Remember, ethics is what we do when no one else is looking. For the narcissist cheater, ethics are…wait, they have ethics?
- There have always been egoists and egotists, but never has it been as prevalent as it is today [Just look at how many asshats have their own TV programs or clothing lines].
- Can Tiger go back to fucking skanky women please? He was a much better golfer when he was using his putter on different greens every night. I’m grown bored with Tigerless golf!
<- She’s cooking up a sweet post, so we’ll enjoy her cute face while we wait!
Thanks to all my contributors!! – TJ
Stay Tuned, Tomorrows Question – Would you date someone who cheated? What’s the reason for your answer?