Can Cheaters Really Change? 5 Warning Signs to Look Out For
Imagine this: You’ve started dating someone new and can hardly believe how lucky you are to have found someone who seems so flawless. You’re starting to fall for them and can’t help but think this person might be “the one”. But then, out of nowhere, they drop a bombshell on you – they cheated on their previous long-term partner. All of a sudden, your world is turned upside down, and you’re left wondering if you can ever trust them. Do you stay and take the risk, or do you cut your losses and move on?
It’s a tough call that’s at the heart of the age-old debate surrounding the infamous saying “Once a cheater, always a cheater”. Some argue that once someone cheats, it’s only a matter of time before they do it again. Others believe that people can change and deserve a second chance.
But what’s the truth? And is it possible to trust a partner with a history of cheating, or are you setting yourself up for heartbreak?
To Stay or Not to Stay?
Is your partner’s philandering past a dealbreaker? Let’s hear what the experts have to say:
31% say yes, claims Bumble’s APAC Communications Director Lucille McCart citing recent dating taboos research. But for 38%, there’s hope: they’d give a chance to a partner who proved their loyalty. McCart advises that “the most important thing is not to push yourself to make something work that makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t align with your values.” And while there is no one-size-fits-all answer on whether a cheater will cheat again, McCart says “there is the old saying that the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour”.
According to sex therapist Dr. Lee Phillips though, the myth of “once a cheater, always a cheater” couldn’t be further from the truth. He claims people cheat for many different reasons, like feeling emotionally or sexually disconnected from their partner, being curious, or having a wild fantasy. But he also believes that with effort, a cheater can change their ways.
Dr. Phillips also challenges the assumption that infidelity means the end of a relationship. If you’re not ready to throw in the towel, he believes recovery is possible if both partners are willing to work together. To assess whether the relationship is worth saving, he suggests getting curious about your partner’s motivations and seeking support from friends, family or a therapist.
Journalist and dating columnist Jana Hocking agrees, noting that the topic is never black and white. While cheating is never right, Hocking maintains there is always much more to the story than just “once a cheater, always a cheater.” So, when it comes down to it, she believes whether to stay or not to stay depends on your personal situation and the willingness of both partners to work on healing and rebuilding trust.
How to Tell If the Cheat Will Repeat
When it comes to identifying whether your partner is truly sorry or a serial cheater, Dr. Phillips advises looking out for these 5 signs:
- Secrecy and evasiveness such as not leaving their phone around or taking calls in another room.
- Inattentive behaviour where they downplay or deny things, lose interest in, and withdraw from the relationship.
- Becoming defensive or angry when questioned about their behaviour.
- Presenting themselves as single to others, such as creating a dating app profile or telling others they’re single.
- Being constantly distracted and always online, showing a lack of focus on the relationship.
When to Break Up
Knowing when to walk away from a relationship can be one of the most challenging decisions to make. But as Dr. Phillips explains, there are four essential elements that a relationship needs to thrive: trust, honesty, communication, and respect. If your partner is constantly lying and cheating, it’s time to face the music and reflect on what’s keeping you there. Don’t settle for less than you deserve and know that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go and move on.
So, can a cheater really change their ways? Sexologist Alexa Andre says it’s possible, but there’s a catch. She claims, “once a cheater, always a cheater, unless putting in some real work”. To transform their behaviour, she believes cheaters must take responsibility for their actions, address underlying issues, and work on rebuilding trust and communication.
But dating a former cheater can be a rocky road particularly if you’ve been betrayed before. To navigate this, McCart encourages the person with a history of infidelity to be patient and understanding towards their partner’s sensitivities.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works best for you and your partner. As relationship guru Esther Perel has famously suggested, infidelity can actually bring couples closer. So, the question then becomes, will you let it break your or make you stronger?
Nicole Colantoni is a dating and relationship expert. As POPSUGAR Australia’s dating columnist, Nicole will share updates on dating trends, advice, and answer all your burning questions. Slide into her DMs to share what you’d like her to answer next. Nicole hosts a podcast, Love Uncensored: The Modern Guide to Dating & Relationships, which you can learn more about and listen here.