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Discuss: Cheater!

This week, the tabloid press has been aflutter with news that Kristen Stewart (the star of the Twilight movies who thinks biting your lip while looking constipated is acting) cheated on her boyfriend of several years Robert Pattinson (her sparkly vampire co-star). Now, I couldn’t care less about these two people if I tried.  But the whole situation spurred an interesting discussion on G-Chat about cheating.

Growing up in the home of a divorce attorney jaded me at an early age.  Men cheated.  Women cheated.  Sometimes they felt guilty and confessed, sometimes they kept the secret for decades, more often than not, they chose to ignore what happened and press on anyway. But occasionally, they ended up in the parking lot of my Father’s office screaming it out. 

It’s not that I believe every person is a cheater-in-waiting.  Fidelity is possible.  But it exists on a case-by-case basis.

Most of the women I know have been cheated on at some point or another by their boyfriends, fiances, husbands. In college, I unknowingly ended up the other woman.  The man in question never mentioned that he had a girlfriend, and we ran in different circles so I didn’t know.  We had been dating for awhile when I spotted them standing on a street corner in downtown. 

Of course, being a hot head from the West, I confronted them.  Not like a Real Housewife with obscenities blazing, but calmly with a look of righteous indignation on my face.  Imagine my shock when I learned that even though I had no idea she existed, she knew that I did. 

“There were girls before you, and they’ll be girls after you,” she told me.  “He always comes home to me.”

Lovely.

After that experience, I vowed never to date anyone who had a history of cheating.  I’m not talking about a single indiscretion, but a pattern of behavior.  Anyone can make a mistake, but repeatedly making the same one is something else entirely.  You might assume you’ll be the one he’s different with, but how many women assumed that before you?

I also vowed never to continue dating a man who cheated on me.  This resolution came in handy some years later when I walked in on my then-boyfriend in bed with his ex-girlfriend.  There was no need for drama, because I really felt like I only had one option.  I never looked back.

Today, I’d like to hear your thoughts on fidelity.  Have you been cheated on?  Have you been the “other woman?” How did that effect your future relationships?

Do you think people can change or that infidelity is a behavior someone is doomed to repeat?  And if someone cheated on you, do you think you could forgive them, or is it just over?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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    56 comments

  1. jes says:

    I should've known better but my high school boyfriend & I decided to stay together after graduation & try the whole “long distance thing”.

    Turns out he was cheating on me the whole semester and I only found out after talking to a girl at my university who knew the girl he was cheating on me with! Our universities were more than a thousand miles apart! Small world.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  2. DGL says:

    I'm a man in the last month of his 20's, and i'm a little saddened to read that you think fidelity is possible on a case-by-case basis. I understand the reason for characterizing yourself as jaded. During my years in college I worked for a law firm that practiced family law and on several occasions i did the paper work to dissolve marriages, the reason being infidelity.

    But I also grew up with two dedicated, committed, and in-love parents. My father traveled a lot while my brothers and I were growing up because of work, and he never even came close to infidelity. Why? Not because he's perfect, or was not tempted to look at women. But he took his marriage vow to forsake all others very seriously. And i think that's missing in our generation's culture. We're quick to please ourselves without often thinking of the unintended, and often subtle, consequences. If as a man, I am in an exclusive relationship but allow myself to indulge in “looking but not touching,” I will never really stop desiring other women. Therefore, in moments of weakness, or lapse of judgment, the line can very easily be blurred if not crossed.

    Cheating isn't ingrained in us. A lack of discipline is. Athletes train their bodies to submit them to be able to compete at the highest levels. Why do we not train and discipline our hearts and emotions to compete at the highest levels? Compete to protect our marriages from all the sex being thrown our way through tv, music, movies, etc, that vie for our attention and desires.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  3. AP says:

    If a guy cheats on me, excuses be damned. It's over.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  4. Theresa says:

    I was cheated on by my only serious boyfriend to date. We got back together and a year later, he cheated with the same girl (who decided to tell me through an 'anonymous' email address a friend overheard her admitting to). I made the conscious decision to forgive and forget the first time, and I believed I had truly moved on. We continued to grow as a couple/deepen our relationship because of how I reacted to the cheating. It was unfortunate that he couldn't take what we had seriously enough — or whatever reason it was. I'm glad we got back together after the first instance, but there was no looking back after I heard about the second instance. Goodbye forever! A strong consolation prize is knowing that all of our mutual friends sided with me and were extremely supportive afterward.

    As a side note, every single gal reading CHS is going to be hoping to run into GHL – what a refreshing attitude towards tradition, fidelity, marriage, etc.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  5. Angie says:

    Belle, sometimes I think you might be reading my mind…or that Google is surreptitiously sending my search information to my favorite bloggers.

    This week I found out that my boyfriend of eight months (who had convinced me to meet his family, leave things at his place, and plan a vacation later this summer) had contacted other women on the dating website where we met after he supposedly disabled his profile. He did not physically cheat or begin an affair, but it was definitely emotional cheating and an example of immature, destructive behavior. His longtime friends described this behavior as unusual and out of character for him.

    I can't say how exactly I dealt with it because I am still deciding whether to give him a second chance. I do know that if he had started an actual affair (whether physical or an involved emotional affair) I would have dumped him in a heartbeat.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  6. Sam says:

    I've never been cheated on (that I know of) but I would do just as you did — walk away and never look back. No one's perfect; most of us will face temptation at some point; but it's up to you to take a step back and think of the consequences.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  7. Tay says:

    The book “He's Just Not That Into You” is something I live by. I was cheated on by my then-boyfriend, and I never really got over it. Not because of the action, but I just don't believe you can cheat if you are truly in love (or in like) with someone. I always felt that I wasn't good enough for him after that and this feeling was destructive to my own self-image. I felt much better and happier after he was out of the picture. We all deserve someone who doesn't screw us over like that. Angie, I'm sure you are an amazing woman and deserve someone who only wants you.

    I know I could be wrong about the “you don't cheat on someone you love” thing. That is just my opinion and would love to hear if others think it is possible to cheat and simultaneously really care about someone.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  8. TMH says:

    It's sad that fidelity is such a dwindling virtue in today's society. As a woman in my early twenties, I would never think of cheating. When I commit to something, I commit. To me that means you stop looking. If you have what you want at home, why would you even waste your time still shopping around. Also, the only people who cheat are the ones who want to, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The type of person susceptible to cheating is at some level looking for it and open to it.

    While I agree with you about never dating a man with a history of cheating, even a one time indiscretion will sour a man in my eyes. Once a cheater, always a cheater. And my favorite – if he cheats with you, don't be surprised when he cheats on you. I've been lucky enough never to have been cheated on but I know that I would leave, no matter what sorry excuses he spews. Would I be heartbroken? Absolutely, but I would never be able to trust him completely and there would be a fracture beyond repair.

    If people don't want monogamy, be open about that. It is unfair and deceitful to all parties involved otherwise.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  9. CRM says:

    Amazingly I was the other woman with a married man. I still have strong regrets to this day and wish I had apologized to the man's wife. I do believe in fidelity (despite a running theme of divorce in my family – grandfather remarried 7 times)… but I also believe in flexible fidelity. I understand momentary indiscretions. A one night stand is awful but I wouldn't let it ruin my relationship. People make mistakes. But even though I was party to an affair… I could never move forward from that if I found out about it now. A long running deception is something completely different than a single mistake in my book.

    The man involved ended up leaving his marriage and after we split for a year to see where we stood as individuals we ended up getting back together and we are married now. I still have doubts every now and then about whether he can be truly faithful after what we did… But surely he has the same occasional doubts about me. We just choose to trust each other and move forward. I think that's all you can do…. history of cheating or no. If we are to follow in my other grandparents footsteps and be married for 50+ years, I think we need to be forgiving of each others mistakes.

    I know this isn't for everyone, and I don't recommend it for everyone, but we're happy.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  10. Gabriela says:

    I've only been in two serious relationships and wasn't cheated on in either of them (knock on wood), but I do think that outcome of a cheating situation depends on a lot of different factors. If I was seeing a guy and he blatantly started dating (or sleeping with) someone else, it would be a no-brainer to leave him, but if it was a drunk one-time kissing encounter, I might have a harder time walking away. I believe in monogamy and I think that lifelong fidelity is 100% possible, but I know that mistakes happen and you have to work hard to overcome obstacles in any relationship- including a fleeting attraction to someone else.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  11. mm says:

    My boyfriend cheated on me after a year of being together. While I'm in no way condoning his behavior, that experience has made me acknowledge the difficulty of being in an LDR and recognize the importance of discussing an end in sight when you're dealing with distance.

    We did get back together after a six month break up, and I wish I could say we've completely moved on from the past, but there are still moments when I completely resent him. He's a better boyfriend than ever; however forgiving him has been a work in progress even after two years.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  12. CLR says:

    I was cheated on by someone I cared for deeply and decided that I could get past it. I couldn't….I haven't and it has done major damage to my self-esteem. So, long story short I would suggest to be TRUE to yourself. LOVE yourself more than to be degraded in such a manner. It might not ever happen again….then again it might – and that's the part that I just can't get over.
    Great post by GDL, however the looking but not touching statement caught me a little off guard. You're human and coexist with other females…hell, you're 20 – you are going to look and that should be fine as long as it doesn't go any further.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  13. m says:

    hate to point this out, but you can't ever really know that you've never been cheated on…

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  14. BBB says:

    I think CRM took the words – all of the words – out of my mouth. I am preparing to marry a man and our relationship began under similar circumstances, although he was not married to that woman. It is something I think about, but not something I dwell on. I've made the decision to trust, no looking back.

    While I was still casually dating, I always said that if a boyfriend were to cheat on me, I would immediately end the relationship and leave. If a husband does it…that's something entirely different. Sure, he broke his vows…but does that mean I should so quickly throw mine out the window, too? Or shouldn't I try to forgive and move forward. I'm yet to be put to this test, and hopefully never will be, but I like to think it's how I would react.

    In either circumstance, I agree with CRM again – A long running deception is something completely different than a single mistake.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  15. M says:

    I used to be the “other woman” more than i'd like to admit. Before being in a serious relationship i always brushed it off as something that wasnt my problem since he wasnt my boyfriend. That was a long time ago, and karma truly is a bitch (pardon my words)

    In college, i had been in a relationship with this guy for 2 years and I started to suspect that he was cheating on me. I finally found out that he cheated on me with one of my sorority sisters, so i broke up with him. A few months later, after listening to his seemingly sincere apologies and requests to get back together, i contemplated taking him back. I then found out he started seeing another girl only 3 weeks after we broke up and was still with her while he was trying to get me back! heard through some mutual friends that he cheats on her too.

    Needless to say i have a different outlook on cheating now, because it is a big deal and there is no pleasure in contributing to someone else's pain, be it a loved one or complete stranger.

    People only change if they want to change. If they are a perpetual cheater, they clearly dont want to change and you shouldnt be their experiment. Once you get cheated on, its time to end it.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  16. TA says:

    My ex-boyfriend would hang out with a good friend of his, who also happens to be a girl. She never liked me and she always tried to sabotage our relationship. She made me feel uncomfortable and she would call him when she knew we were together. Was it wrong of me to feel like I was “cheated” on when they would be at a bar at 2:00am, getting drunk together when he told me that he would be in the library working on a project and we couldn't go out that night? We had a huge fight about that and after 3 years of dating he dumped me in a Potbelly because I questioned his relationship with her. That jerk. I was immature and young then and I have learned that dating a cheater is bad news. Three years later, I'm now engaged to be married–never thought the tables would have turned and I'm happier than I ever was.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  17. L says:

    I was in a very similar situation to the one that Belle was in. I was with a man for a few months before ending our brief fling. I found out later that he had a girlfriend that he had been dating since college, and he is now 28. I felt terrible about the situation even though I didn't know she existed.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  18. Angie says:

    @Tay thank you for your supportive words.

    I'm curious to know other women's (or men's, since one mature guy in his 20s already weighed in) opinions on emotional cheating in the form of online flirting- is it the same as finding out someone physically cheated as Belle did? To me, it shattered my trust in the same way, and I wasn't as classy as Belle was in confronting my boyfriend (I definitely went “Real Housewives” and shouted all manners of insults at him over the phone after I found his online dating profile).

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  19. Belle says:

    DGL: I guess what I meant by “case-by-case basis” is that I'm not one of those people who believe all men or all people cheat, but I recognize that people sometimes do, and you shouldn't discount that it's a possibility.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  20. Belle says:

    m: True, no one knows for sure. But you have two choices: If you don't know that you have, you can either trust the person you're with has been faithful or you can be suspicious every moment. The latter sounds miserable.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  21. Parker says:

    I agree with DGL that a a lack of commitment seems to be a definite character trait of our generation. Personally, cheating on someone is out of the question for me. Not because I cannot imagine being attracted to other people or could not fathom being severely tempted, because I think that could happen to anyone.

    I think when you're together with someone for the long run, you will grow and sadly sometimes not always in the same direction. There will be times where you are very vulnerable to outside temptation – even if before you where in that relationship you could have never imagined it. [Because let's face it, according to statistics at lot of people who can never imagine even being tempted when they are young, do end up cheating[. The key point to me is that when you made a commitment to that other person, ESPECIALLY when that commitment happened through traditional marriage vows, you made a commitment “for better, for worse”. and it is your duty to stay true and pay more attention to my relationship, especially in those times where its hardest. I think after those vows you owe it to yourself and your significant other to work through whatever it is that has you or them feeling confused / sad / angry / unhappy / distracted without turning to someone else.

    I don't buy the “I wasn't thinking” for a second. Even if that may be true for that moment – there was a stage that led up to the moment of actual cheating where the cheater was thinking and neglected to live up their vows.

    Now, that said, if your spouse cheats on you once, no matter how much that sucks, that doesn't change your vows and you should still hold up your end of the bargain, even if the other party didn't. If it happens again, then for me it is time to break it off, because one person cannot hold end up both sides of the bargain and in that case it is clear that the spouse cannot be relied upon to hold up his.

    By way of background, I am married, had a few relationships and thus far I consider myself lucky to have never been cheated upon (that I know of) and have not cheated on a significant other, either. Over the last decade or so, I have witnessed very many instances of infidelity in people I know and close to me, whom I never though capable of that. As such, I would say I am definitely realistic about the possibility of that happening to anyone, yet still a believer in the institution of marriage itself and on the inside carefully optimistic for myself.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  22. Belle says:

    Angie: It wasn't so much “class” as it was the fear that if I let my inner rage beast out of the cage, the cops might be called.

    But I think emotional cheating is as bad and maybe worse. It think the reason is that you get the same endorphin rush from being emotionally connected to someone as you do from sex.

    I have an ex who I tried to be “friends” with, and I found that even without the sex and without the physical stuff the emotional connection was so passionate there was little difference. When I found out he was starting to date someone, I called it off because there was no way I could do that to another person. Sure we were “just friends” but we weren't, we were in a relationship without the sex.

    So I guess you need to decide how far the emotional cheating went and if it took away from things that should have been just yours. Or if it wasn't as serious as all that.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  23. C. Michael says:

    When I was 11-years-old my dad asked me to get his wallet from upstairs. I peeked inside of it and he quickly scolded me, “Sweetheart, never go through a man's wallet…unless he is cheating on you…then take everything.”

    I am all for forgiveness, but I believe it takes many different forms. And for me, closure is something that I give myself. So, if someone should ever cheat on me, yes, I would forgive them, but I would move on faster than I would welcome R-Patz into my arms.

    Chelsea Clinton's prenup makes cheating hurt $10 million times: https://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/chelsea-clintons-cheat-proof-prenup-we-love-it-1366265.html

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  24. Lindy says:

    What does this have to do with fashion?

    No offense, but this is not what I read this blog for.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  25. Angie says:

    @Belle thanks. It doesn't excuse his behavior, but a lot of the impulsive browsing on a dating website was related to mental illness that he is (supposedly) taking steps to address. What I am trying to figure out (and I suppose only time will tell) is whether he can keep this type of impulse under control and whether I can live with the trust breaking in the first place.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  26. Belle says:

    Lindy: We do one of these posts every Friday. I try to make them as interesting as possible, sometimes they have a fashion-bend, sometimes not.

    But I like to treat this blog like a big group of girlfriends…we talk about clothes, work, makeup, and more. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't but I enjoy it and so do others.

    If it's not for you, it's just one post of the 15 you get a week. Those aren't bad odds.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  27. C. Michael says:

    @Angie: Sorry to hear about your recent event discovery :(. My view on emotion cheating is that it's very dangerous because many times, it takes more thought and planning than physical cheating. It's less about getting “caught up in the moment” and making one single poor decision and it's more about calculating ways to get away with small choices that have greater consequences than we realize. But, that's just one twenty-something's opinion. You deserve to be in a relationship which you don't have worries or questions. Think about if one of us was asking you this question…how would you be advising us? You will find your answer…trust yourself.

    @Lindy I can't believe Belle provided a positive place where both men and women can construct meaningful conversation. GOSH BELLE I HATE IT WHEN YOU DO THAT.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  28. Amy says:

    Lindy it's not too difficult to just not click on the posts you don't want to read. Belle has regular posts about professional and social etiquette that might not be for the fashion readers, and vice versa.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  29. helixy says:

    @Lindy – Hi, you must be new here. Discuss posts are not always fashion oriented. There's more to Belle than good style, and sometimes she shares some of her insights with us so that we, the readers (who want to, anyway, since you clearly don't) to perhaps connect a little more.

    If you don't like the concept of the post by the first paragraph or so, get on with your day.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  30. G says:

    My fiancé recently had a lewd conversation with a common acquaintance on Facebook. It wasn't horrible (though it was certainly unambiguous) and I honestly believe he hadn't sought to do this. It was strictly opportunistic, born of horniness and… well, digital distance. I think this current at-your-fingertips smorgasbord of instantaneous sexual gratification (porn) that is, for men, largely sanctioned by society has led to a blurring of “the lines.” it becomes easier and easier to move towards actual contact, as opposed to “just looking.”

    In my case, my fiancé told me mere days after the fact, and after we discussed it thoroughly and he apologized profusely, I put the matter to rest. Neither of us has forgotten, because otherwise what was to be learned? But we don't dwell. I know that if he does something like it again, I should be more worried. But I'm willing to write it off as a mistake.

    Physical intimacy with another, however? There is no forgiving, not for me. I'm better at moving on than most people I know. In this case, it worked out in my fiance's favor. But I will do what I need to do for myself if something worse happens.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  31. M says:

    I believe that once cheating occurs, for whatever reason, it is absolutely impossible to get the trust back and to resuscitate the hurt egos of the parties involved. Walking away is the only option. I speak from personal experience being both the cheater and cheated on in the same relationship. And I mourn the two years I will never get back that I spent in agony after the truth came out.

    Now, is fidelity possible? Absolutely. I am sorry I don't remember my sources, but I have read many shrinks' thoughts on the matter. The general consensus is that people in a committed relationship don't cheat if there are no underlying issues in the relationship. People simply act out their dissatisfaction with each other or the relationship by cheating. I think the solution is not to get involved with a person you don't genuinely want to be with and to get out of a relationship that is not working before you feel the need to cheat (if you can't work out your issues).

    Also, I do believe that for some people open relationships are the solution, as long as people can handle it and are honest about boundaries. Of course, that is not for everyone.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  32. ST says:

    Can we please please please stop using the “once a cheater, always a cheater” phrase?! Are we supposed to never give someone a second chance? Are we to believe that no one is capable of learning from their mistakes regardless of what those mistakes might be? I think not.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  33. Belle says:

    ST: I absolutely believe people can change. But if you have a repeated pattern of cheating on the people you are with, you can't just tell me you've changed and expect me to hope for the best. And that is what happened in my case.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  34. KM says:

    Belle, you are a mindreader…this topic has been weighing heavily on my mind recently. I was with a guy in college for three years when I found out that he had cheated on me. I was devastated, and left him. I cut off all contact with him for almost a year. In the past year or so we have been talking again, and discussing potentially trying to repair our relationship. At this point, I am not sure if I believe the whole “once a cheater, always a cheater” idea or not…I know that I have changed immensely in the time that we have been apart. Why couldn't the same hold true for him? I know that I value the relationship that we have enough to try again…but I also know that I would be crushed if he were to cheat again.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  35. DGL says:

    @CLR haha, nooo, i meant i'm in the last month of my 20's decade, not my 20th year. I don't think I was very measured in my thoughts back when I was 20. And on the issue of “looking but not touching,” I didn't mean inadvertent or unavoidable looking. I mean, I work on the hill in an office with four very attractive female coworkers. Obviously I can't avoid interacting with them, but what i meant was more along the lines of indulging in the looking. You know this in the form of a guy rubber-necking as you walk past him. He may have inadvertently seen you, but he indulged in a prolonged stare, which contrary to dismissive opinion, that does affect whether or not we remain satisfied physically with whom we are in a relationship. You indulge in enough prolonged stares and soon enough you'll wish you had THAT instead of what you have.

    @Angie, I guess what I said in my response to CLR is applicable to the online dating scenario. Although i would add the caveat that there is a level of degree that can be attributed to different actions. Actually sleeping with someone i would say would hurt me more than if my significant other flirted, even heavily, with someone else. BUT, the breaking of trust is still there. At that point, the degree of hurt would be a factor in how willing or unwilling someone would be to work things out.

    @Belle Thanks for clarifying. I definitely agree that no one should ever discount that it could happen. From my parents' example, i think that's why my father took what some would call “extreme” measures in safeguarding against infidelity – precisely because he didn't exclude himself from possibly falling for the allure of an attractive woman.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  36. AJL says:

    Cheating is not permissible, in my opinion, on any level. 'Once a cheater always a cheater' is something that I've witnessed to be true first hand since I was young. Men and women can claim to have 'slipped up' but I personally feel that if the decision was made to have either a physical or emotional affair, that the relationship is damaged beyond repair.

    I don't view fidelity as a possibility. When in a committed relationship it should be an expectation, not a hope. If that is not a certainty for either party in a relationship, then perhaps they should reconsider being in one.

    DGL–I completely agree with your comments and wish there were both more men (and women) out there like you.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  37. CRG says:

    I was never cheated on (that I know of), but I made the mistake of cheating. Spare me the ridicule– I'm not proud of myself. And I will always feel guilty.

    Being the cheater will haunt every subsequent relationship you have, especially if you consider yourself a person of moral value. Why? Because you realize that anyone can cheat. Perhaps that's the conscience I deserve to live with. I will always be hyper-concious of the reality that it can happen to anyone, and anyone is capable of it. Because of my own breach of trust, I will never trust anyone completely.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  38. Kim says:

    I really don’t believe the adage “once a cheater, always a cheater,” to be absolutely true all of the time. I’ve been the cheater in one relationship before, and looking back, I feel ashamed and guilty and horrified over my actions. At the same time, I’ve also taken objective steps back to examine my actions; I’m much older now, and when I cheated, I was barely 19, in a LDR, and didn’t know how to maturely end things. I learned the hard way (my boyfriend found out) that my actions had consequences, and I had to learn firsthand how to properly and maturely deal with ending relationships I would have in the future. It’s been nearly 10 years since that breakup, and I’ve had numerous relationships end without cheating on my part or my partner’s part. So sometimes, I think a lot of cheating has to do with case by case circumstance. Are you far away from your partner? Are you insecure? Are you immature?

    I had reservations in dating my current boyfriend because of his past, after he was up front with me about how he cheated on his ex-girlfriend before me. For nearly a year into our relationship, I really castigated him and made him feel bad about his past actions (his ex never found out, and he ended up ending the relationship due to guilt.) because he had cheated on her with multiple girls, over the course of a year, while he was teaching abroad in Japan and she was in Chicago. I was so paranoid that I nearly broke up with him six months into our relationship because I had convinced myself of the “once a cheater, always a cheater” mantra with him. I finally sat down with him and asked him to explain to me why he cheated, and he was up front and honest about it. He was 23 years old at the time, he was away for a year in a different country, he was afraid of ending his relationship when he wanted to and hurting his girlfriend, and he was insecure, because she was 8 years older than him and as he perceived himself to be sexually inexperienced, he felt that he had to “sexually” catch up. My boyfriend will be 30 in a few months, so I really had to take a step back and honestly evaluate his past to his present. I honestly (albeit, I have my doubts sometimes) trust my boyfriend not to cheat now, and I think growing up has a lot to do with if people learn to break a habit of cheating. He’s been very forthright, honest, and open with me.

    In the end, I really don’t believe once and cheater always a cheater. There are definitely people that are serial cheaters, and I would never, ever want to get involved with them. But I think it’s important to evaluate every person’s past objectively before writing them off completely.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  39. RMS says:

    I think that more often than not cheating is a symptom of a problem, not the entire problem unto itself. That's why it's easy to breakup once it happens. Sometimes it's almost a sigh of relief to have a concrete reason to end a relationship rather than just saying it isn't working.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  40. Heatherskib says:

    Once upon a time….
    I was engaged to marry the guy I dated my senior year in highschool. A month before our weddign he asked me to sleep at a hotel so he could have sex with another girl in our bed. Needless to say I declined. I found out he'd been cheating on me nearly constantly the entire time we were together ( and realized I'd ignored quite a few things) He contaced me about 2 years ago and was trying to rekindle a “friendship” yeah, he's married now- guess he hoped I'd be the other woman.
    Twice I was the other woman First time knew it, hated myself for it and hated him for it. I bought into the “This just isn't the right time to tell her/end it, etc” Second time got drug out of bed by my hair and didn't know the guy was attached elsewhere,
    Once I was the cheater- I'd gone on a few dates with this guy, let him stay over once went to work came back home and he had moved in while I was gone. tried to make it work for a while. He left me financially drained when I was in London. He wouldn't finish high school or get a ged and was not interested in a better life. I came home and told him I wanted out. He said he didn't have anywhere else to go, so I put him up in the other room and went back to dating. Apparently that was the cue for him to realize it was over after a few weeks of me having dates. It's not ideal, but it worked, and I feel bad for it.
    In my current relationship my husband has been cheated on in the past, and well I've got the trifecta. We discuss things that are pressuring us in our life including not so positive people and interactions. (ex- the girl at his office who has slept with nearly every guy there and was having inappropriate conversations with my husband)

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  41. mm says:

    Agree with Kim. In my boyfriend's case it was a combination of distance and immaturity, and when the time difference spans across an ocean, it's difficult to fully appreciate the relationship especially when you're so young and craving the novelty of different experiences. I don't justify his actions but I do try to understand the situation and try as much as I can to move on from it.

    BF and I are still in an LDR, and you can imagine how much I questioned my own steadfast belief in the “once a cheater, always a cheater” mantra when we got back together. We're happy now, but it took a lot of time and effort to work through our past.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  42. J says:

    I've been the cheater and I've been cheated on. Guess which one sucked more? I cheated on two previous boyfriends, which were both screwed up relationships falling apart at the seams. I was too immature to break up with them after their deplorable behavior (including cheating) and I need a confidence booster to end the relationships. So, I cheated. Being with another guy was the first time in both those relationships that I felt like someone liked me and wanted to be with me – even if it was only physically. Plus, cheating was…well, fun. Keeping a secret with another person, meeting up in secret, it's all a rush. And when you know the “damage” you're doing isn't half as bad as what they did to you, there isn't much to stop you. Eventually, those relationships ended. And in relationships after, I didn't cheat or even want to. It seemed to be directly related to how the person treated me, and I hope now, if I needed to break up with someone, I'd do that first instead of cheating. I hope I've grown that much anyhow.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  43. CynthiaW says:

    When I was a younger woman, I really believed that I'd leave if someone ever cheated on me. Now, after being with my husband for 18 years and being married for 13 of them, I really don't know – but I lean (heavily) towards staying.

    I think that it would really depend on the exact nature of what happened – was it a one time thing? Was it a purely sexual thing? Or was it a long-term emotional relationship? I think that I could get over the first two (although I'd really prefer to just not know about them). It's the last one that would give me pause – and, even then, I would think that it would depend on if he had broken it off with her on his own or it I caught them and if he was willing to go through couples counselling.

    I know that many younger women will find that attitude baffling, but I would have an almost 20 year relationship at stake and that's not something that I'm willing to throw away over a single mistake. I'm at the point where I've been with my husband for most of my adult life and we have a huge history together – leaving him would be like cutting myself in half and I can't fathom it.

    That being said – if I walked in on him in bed with another woman in our house, it would be over – because that's a level of disrespect that's intolerable.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  44. Britt says:

    My boyfriend (of 7 years) has cheated on the 3 girlfriends he had before me, jumping from one relationship to another. Most people would consider him a “serial cheater” and move on. However, we have had open and honest dialogue about why he cheated on his previous GFs very early in our relationship. I believe his view on cheating is spot on:: if you're missing something in a relationship (and you're not discussing with your partner) you will find it else where.

    I think people who cheat are missing something – the physical cheat and have sex, the emotional may chat online – whatever that missing “thing” is, they will find. The only way to really prevent this from affecting any relationship is to have open and honest conversations about your feelings. If you angry, happy, sad, feeling unloved, needing attention – whatever it might be – talk about it.

    I do not believe the “once a cheater, always a cheater” adage.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  45. Anonymous says:

    I was in college and was seeing a guy for a while when I found out he had a girl back home who still thought of him as her boyfriend. He told me they had broken up but they hadn't. She found out about me through a friend that went to our college. Me, being a stupid Freshman, kept going in the relationship despite that it was often really terrible for me and didn't believe what her friend told me, thinking the girl was being a crazy ex.

    A year later, he was studying abroad and didn't call a whole lot. I thought it was the time difference or that he was busy. Turns out, he was doing to me what he had done to girl #1. I broke up with him before I found out. A few months later, we lived together in a campus house with a bunch of other people and it was awful. At the very end of the semester, he brought girl #3 to this house for two weeks to live with us but didn't tell me she was coming till the day before she got there. A friend of his called into a talk show before this happened seeking advice about whether this was a good idea (um, no?!) and it blew up on our small campus.

    A few years later, in a whole other area of the state, he's moved to the town I live in now. I found out that he did the same thing to girl #3. And I'm sure he'll do it to #4, considering his history. Lovely guy, right?

    Worst part is I saw him at a bar last Fall and an acquaintance started flirting with him. I felt I had to tell her but knew I would sound like a crazy ex and get back to having to deal with him again. So I didn't.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  46. Belle says:

    Britt: I can see that.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  47. Belle says:

    CynthiaW: Married is totally different than dating. It's much easier to just cut the cord of a relationship when you're not married, esp when you have no children. I don't think the two are comparable.

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  48. JMR says:

    After two years together, my college boyfriend cheated on me with his roommate's girlfriend. He was my first serious relationship, and at the time, I was absolutely devastated.

    Like Belle, I have vowed to never continue dating someone who would be unfaithful to me, but recently I've had trouble with cheating in a different sense. One of my closest and oldest friends who helped me through my break up recently admitted she had cheated on her boyfriend. They are still together, and her nonchalance about the whole situation has really soured my feelings towards her. As an outsider to their relationship, I know I don't need (or want) remind her of my own experience or share my opinion. This however has only made me feel resentful towards her, something I do not enjoy or wish to continue.

    For those who have been cheated on and found themselves in my current situation, how have you felt towards your friends? And what, if anything, have you done about those feelings?

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  49. Bailey says:

    Anonymous re: the cheating boyfriend in college while on study abroad. I'm sorry to pry, but I have to ask – did the friend call Dan Savage's talk show for advice? Because I feel like I've heard (a version) of that before, likely on Dan Savage's podcast. Either way, it sounds like you're better off without him

    July 27, 2012/Reply
  50. Allison says:

    i unknowingly was the other woman ( girl? ) in a right out of high school relationship. i am so not that girl. if i had known the boy was dating someone else i never would have per sued him. my ( guy) friends knew and didn't tell me cause they didn't want me to get hurt. it ended dreadfully when I went to see his band play and the g/f was there.

    now. my husband is in the military currently we are not living together and its been that way for the last 2 years. i have never once been tempted to cheat and the same goes for him.

    July 28, 2012/Reply
  51. CynthiaW says:

    Belle – I totally agree. If someone cheated on me when we were dating, he would be so gone. I don't think that I would ever really trust that person again and I couldn't imagine marrying someone after he had cheated on me while we were dating.

    So, maybe it isn't really that my opinion has changed with age, just the circumstances of looking at the situation from the viewpoint of someone in a long marriage as opposed to someone in a short-term or long-term dating situation.

    July 28, 2012/Reply
  52. Nicole says:

    In law school I dated a guy for almost six months before finding out that his ex-girlfriend was neither his ex, nor in fact just his girlfriend (they were engaged). His excuse was that it was a volatile on-again, off-again relationship and they were on an “off” phase when he met me. I broke it off with him.

    Months later, he came back to me saying he wanted me back. He told me he was officially broken off with the fiancee, and against my better judgment I agreed. However, I never really opened my heart to him again because I knew what he was capable of. He seemed shocked and truly heartbroken when I eventually came to my senses and broke it off for good with him.

    I've decided now that if you cheat on me or use me to cheat on someone, it's your funeral.

    July 30, 2012/Reply
  53. elizabeth says:

    i've been cheated on multiple times, by multiple different boyfriends. i think my problem is i tend to fall for “cocky” guys who are actually deeply insecure. and i don't think people cheat b/c they aren't in love- as one earlier commenter suggested- but more b/c they need some kind of external validation about their worth. the other women were never very attractive or charming…in fact oftentimes they were almost the opposite– and perhaps worshipped the guys more b/c of it…in turn feeding the guys' egos the much-needed love and affection. or maybe i'm just a cold bitch who didn't worship them enough 🙂

    in reality i suppose people do things for a number of different reasons. and i think before you can determine if someone is a lifelong cheater, you have to figure out why they've cheated. it seems like most everyone who has commented here is on to this in some way or another, but i think it's really the most important question.

    July 30, 2012/Reply
  54. HBC says:

    I always used to say that if someone cheated on me, I would instantly cut it off and leave them immediately. I adamently believed this and would repeat my beliefs whenever I read a story about a celebrity cheating. However, when I found out (in dramatic fashion) that my boyfriend of 2 years who I lived with cheated on me, I couldn't bring myself to leave him right away. I thought that I could move past it (which I couldn't). For whatever reason, it took me 2 months before I finally broke up with him and almost a year until I completely cut off contact. When you are hurt, you hear what you want to hear and believe what you want to believe, no matter what advice others give you. The choice to stay or leave someone is a personal one, but in the end the cheating just became another crack in a relationship that didn't have a solid foundation and was not worth it in the end.

    July 30, 2012/Reply
  55. Rachel says:

    I'm late but I think I have a different perspective so I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

    I've been married for 16 years (wow!) and we've been totally faithful to one another. He's my best friend. I still love being married.

    I used to say that if my husband cheated on me I'd leave him, no questions, no wiggle room. Now I know that isn't true. I adore my man. He is the love of my life and the father of my children. If we ended our relationship tomorrow, our relationship would still have defined my life. So after all we've invested in each other, I know now that I would forgive him for cheating. And probably multiple times.

    I hope I never have to test this, but there is something different about forgiving a cheating boyfriend and forgiving your husband after a long, happy, fulfilling life together.

    August 2, 2012/Reply
  56. Spiritmom says:

    I grew up in a divorced home thanks to a dad who would not keep his pants zipped outside the home. When we got engaged, we agreed that no matter how rocky things got, divorce was not an option. We've now been married 17 years and have 4 children and are very much in love. Neither has ever cheated, but even if he did, I wouldn't leave him. Call me crazy, but I won't put my kids through what I went through. No way. I'd rather stay and learn to forgive.

    August 6, 2012/Reply