Once a cheater, always a cheater?

In my previous post “The story of my boyfriend who had another girlfriend” I told my personal story. The response to this post made me wonder: Did my ex-boyfriend cheat on his girlfriend many more times? Was the saying “Once a cheater, always a cheater” true? I decided to ask around to see what people thought of the saying.

My friend Mary had a very direct answer: “Yes, once someone is capable of crossing that line, they will have no problem crossing it again many times after”. “But isn’t there a chance of someone doing it once, learning the lesson and never doing it again?” I asked. “No, if you can do it once and you don’t get caught, you will probably do it again”. “And if you get caught?”, I asked intrigued. “You will act as if you were ashamed of yourself, but you will probably do it again, just better. In other words, the lesson you learn is how not to get caught”.

A few days later I went out to dinner with Lucy and her boyfriend, Tristan. She believes that if you are capable of doing it once, you can do it again. In other words, she agreed with Mary’s theory. She said “I believe that once you do it one time, then you lose the fear of getting caught next time. Besides, it is an ego thing”. “An ego thing?” I asked.

“Yes, even if they get caught, they don’t regret it that much. Cheating makes them feel like ‘they still got it’”

What an interesting point of view. Was it truly an ego thing? Could it be, as well, the fact that if someone cheats their relationship is already broken and they are finding an excuse to break up? But what about serial cheaters? Does it mean they never have strong feelings for their partners?

Tristan had a theory: there are two types of cheaters. First, there is the “only once and because of a stupid excuse” type of cheater. This is the kind that has a fight with his/her partner, gets drunk one night and ends up cheating. The second type is the “serial cheater”, one with low self-esteem that requires constant approval and therefore cheats to get it. #MessedUp.

I agreed with Tristan, obviously cheating once or a million times, every time hurst the same, or even more. However, is there a chance that someone can learn from their mistake and never do it again? Is there a type three kind of cheater?

With this question in mind I went to talk to Jay. He is a long time friend of mine who cheated once and got caught, but who as well got cheated on. I wondered what his opinion was in regard to this topic, he had experienced both sides.

He said “I think the saying is stupid shit you find in magazines, with no basis in truth”. So he believed just the opposite of Mary. He went on to explain: “You know how i believe that you either trust or you don’t. Trusting is an action that one does independently of what partner they have. You decide whether to trust or not, it doesn't matter the action of your partner. I have seen people trust in spite of knowing they were cheated on several times, and they would always believe that it was the last time.”

He continued: “I have lived situations where they have suspected of me even when I haven’t even looked at another girl. Honestly, I don’t believe trusting is related to the action of someone’s partner, but how the personality of the person cheated on actually is”.

“I understand”, I said, “but you are talking about trust and the person that is cheated on, but in regard to the cheater, why does a cheater cheat again or never does it again?”

He laughed: “because of the same reason some people make a mistake and learn from it and others don’t.”

So he believed in my theory of type three cheater, let’s call it “The Learner”.

Everyone’s opinion is based on their own personal experience. In my case, I had two boyfriends that cheated on me (that I know of). Both of them demonstrated with their behaviour that they will cheat frequently if they have the chance. However, I want to believe “The Learner” exists, that people can learn from their mistakes. Am I being too utopian? Probably, but shouldn’t we believe that people can improve?

The truth is that even though I want to believe in “The Learner”, I wouldn’t be able to continue in a relationship where my partner cheated on me. Once trust is broken, I don’t think it is easy to build it back up.