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Do You Think ‘Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater’?

cheater overlap
Okay so my relationships overlap

Hi Chump Lady,

What do you think about someone cheating when they’re younger in life and actually really not being that personality type, like learning the lesson?

After being chumped myself in midlife, and healed enough to not cry during every infidelity conversation, I’ve learned that many more people have infidelity stories than I thought. With full adults, I don’t buy at all the “it just happened” or “I did it once and swore to myself I’d never do it again, and haven’t”. But when someone is talking about their late teens or college years, that whole pre-frontal cortex not developed thing…. It kind of does make sense to hurt someone and realize they didn’t want to hurt people.

I guess also, I did sleep with a married man when I was that age. He’d said he was only married for immigration reasons (his wife was a foreigner) and after briefly meeting her one day I realized that she thought it was a real marriage, and he was just a scumbag liar who’d given me an STI. I never talked to him again and avoided married men in the future (even if they said they really weren’t *all* that married). It just seemed gross to date liars, was my pre-development pre-frontal cortex understanding.

Of course, I plan to warn my kids about all three sides of that entanglement, how being cheater and/or affair partner just suck. And of course how being a chump isn’t the chump’s fault, and liars can be real con-artists. It would be nice to save them some pain.

But do you have hope that youngsters who cheat can figure this out before the big attachments and betrayals come when they’re older?




Dear LearningLifeLessons,

No, I don’t believe “once a cheater, always a cheater.” Although I’m often tarred with that brush, I go to great lengths to explain my skepticism about reconciliation is based on the perks of entitlement. Cheating is an abusive power dynamic that reaps real rewards — more for me! less for you!

To enjoy cheating, you have to suppress empathy for your partner — and if you’re the Schmoopie, you have to suppress it for the chump.

I think the longer you live with the rewards of entitlement, the more that behavior is reenforced. Consequences matter. And so does the larger societal conversation around cheating as uncool. (But that’s an essay for another day.)

Of course there are people who are wired wrong — character disorder, personality disorder, sociopathy — whatever flavor of effed up you want to call it, the empathy synapses don’t fire. Google “callous unemotional traits” if you want to go down the rabbit hole of the science on this. I don’t hold out hope for these folks as they’re congenitally predatory, IMO.

But not everyone who cheats is mentally ill. Some people are just assholes. Now here’s where it gets tricky:

My partner is just an asshole! I see a unicorn!

Chumps start huffing the hopium.

I argue: maybe being an asshole works for them. See Entitlement.

And this whole argument about cheater potential and can they really be different next time sidesteps the more important argument for chumps of Is This Relationship Acceptable To Me?

But when someone is talking about their late teens or college years, that whole pre-frontal cortex not developed thing…. It kind of does make sense to hurt someone and realize they didn’t want to hurt people.

Yes, learning how to have a relationship is a skillset. And as young people we often fuck it up, or are very naive, or cluelessly arrogant, and that’s how we learn.

Uh, Tracy, I know better than to cheat on someone! I’ve known that since kindergarten!

Okay, excellent. You have a strong moral compass. Most people are wishy-washier, open to persuasion, unsure of themselves. Especially as teenagers and young adults.

People can be shitty and learn from it. Best to work that out in the training wheels stage of life, before the deep sunk costs of a mortgage, children, and a shared life.

It’s one thing to two-time someone when you’re 18, it’s quite another to conduct a double life as an adult. I imagine by the time a cheater is an adult, they’ve been practicing the art of entitlement for awhile. That’s been their relationship skillset.

That’s why I think it’s important to tell your kids about cheating, how to judge someone’s character (actions align with words, over time), how to know your worth and never pick me dance for anyone’s attention — and to immediately DUMP anyone who cheats on them. CN, I’d be curious to know what kind of conversations you’ve had on this front.

To trot out that old Maya Angelou quote:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Ask Chump Lady

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  • I don’t believe for 1 second once a cheat always a cheat ( not that I’ve ever cheated)

    But I’ve read too many stories of relationships that have started as affairs or general cheating and neither of them have cheated again

    It really annoys me when people use to say (my ex) oh he will cheat on her or she will cheat on him and I keep saying no they won’t . He’s not a serial cheater he simply fell in love with someone else and cheated on me . As far as I know he’s never cheated before and never cheated on any of his previous partners .

    Which in turn makes it unacceptable to me that he thought he could do that to me so I divorced him .

    I also think if they cheat on you they will keep cheating on you . It doesn’t mean they will cheat again in their next relationship be that with the AP or another .

    • I had a therapist tell me after Dday #3 that she didn’t know if he would cheat on his next partner (although she thought that he probably would), but that he would always cheat on me b/c he didn’t respect me and there had never been any real consequences for his cheating.

      • I’m having trouble with this therapist’s logic. Is the therapist saying that it isn’t necessarily predictive of character that someone abuses another person who can’t/doesn’t level consequences because the inability to level consequences (for whatever reason) can “make” the abuser more disrespectful than they usually are?

        That brings up a lot of interesting points. The idea seems to presuppose that cheating isn’t simply a form of plain old abuse and that the capacity to abuse might be genuinely situational rather than internally drive and deeply woven into character which goes against half a century of research on abusers and abuser mentality. The thinking also kind of harks to the old, moldy and discredited theory that abusers only seek out weakness or only abuse the weak. Many– if not a majority– seem to seek “big game” or challenging prey. In any case, veteran DV researcher Lenore Walker noted that a majority of victims showed higher than average “pre-abuse” self esteem. More than average had careers prior to being abused. Other researchers who are critical of the old, statistically disproven theory that victims are inherently deficient personalities have noted that many in helping professions are misled by something called “misapplication of contingency.” Because therapists and other helping professionals typically only encounter victims *after* the victims have been subjected to extensive abuse, the helpers then assume that these victims must have started out in that messed up state rather than understanding that abuse can break healthy people. The game of abuse seems to largely be about finding challenging prey and then systematically tearing them down, robbing them of agency (robbing of them of the ability to mete out consequences in other words) and smashing them into a shape that the abuser CAN “disrespect.”

        Is the therapist holding up some model of human that has the power to instantly stop abusers from abusing as the healthy ideal? Of course that’s a bit difficult when the abuse begins in stealth form through sneaking around and lying. But the real problem with this concept is that it seems to reflect a bit of the demented mentality by which many abusers might be seeking challenging prey to begin with. DV researcher Donald Dutton found that abusers tend to be fractured personalities. Not quite “split” as in dissociative personality disorder but more compartmentalized, as if there are short office partitions between personae. Unlike someone with DPD, the abuser knows they have different personalities that they trot out in different circumstances and can control this. That’s not so much mental illness as a criminal disorder. Dutton argues that one of the fractured “selves” abusers walk around with is the “former victim self” since all abusers were once childhood victims of some form of abuse, neglect or protracted trauma which typically involved seeing an adult caretaker being abused and then experiencing abuse themselves because the abused caretaker was too weakened to protect the child.

        Not to make light of it but from reading related theories, I get the idea that the abused-child-cum-adult-abuser turns into a kind of Smeagol/Gollum character. Some people who suffer traumatic childhoods grow up to be defenders and protectors and their backgrounds make them less likely to abuse as adults. But what defines an abuser is that they internalize whatever bad things had been done to them, emulating their own abusers but they may still retain their former victim selves as a fragment. As children, the latter also internalizes the abuser’s contempt for the victim and begins to blame the victim-caretaker for failure to protect regardless of whether the victim-caretaker realistically had the capacity to do this. As the abuser grows up, their inner “victim self” (Smeagol) is always seeking the perfect caretaker who could “protect” them from the evils of the world. The requirements for the perfect caretaker are irrational and unreasonable since they’re frozen artifacts of an abused child’s magical perspective: they want someone omniscient and unbreakable. So an adult abuser’s “victim self” is drawn to confident, healthy targets and then the inner “abuser self” (Gollum) “tests” the target to see if they break. Since everyone– even a veteran intelligence operative– will crack like a pinata if subjected to certain stressors, the abuser self-fulfillingly proves that each partner is unworthy and, because cheating is part and parcel of the abuser MO, then runs off again to find the “ideal.”

        Then again some abusers are spectacular cowards and seek to pick off the weakest member of the herd– someone who might have just experienced traumatic loss or illness or had a career setback or is naive, etc. But no therapist should assume this is necessarily the case since statistics tell a different story. Something else Dutton discovered is that most abusers operate on a “beat by need” basis, reserving the worst abuse for victims who resist. Due to current understanding of the central role of coercive control in battering, violence isn’t necessarily part of the breaking-down process and “beat by need” could also be “cheat by need” or “emotionally abuse by need” to produce the same result. This suggests that the most confident victims may end up in the most shattered state post-abuse simply because their abuser had put more effort into tearing them down. The results can perpetuates the crap therapeutic theory of the “predisposed victim” because a victim’s shattered state– regardless of how fabulous and confident they were prior to abuse– gives more fodder for under-trained therapists to misapply contingency.

        • I’m am always so impressed by your insight HOAC. This is spot on with my experience. I was the “challenging prey” – a “good Christian girl”, a virgin, confident, independent (I didn’t want to get married or even have a relationship). FW reveled in winning me over. He perfectly embodied the traumatized child you describe. He ofter railed against his mother for not protecting him from his father’s abuse. But having gone through abuse myself, I doubt she had the capacity to do anything to protect my ex. I have a fairly good relationship with my in-laws now that FW is dead, but I can’t deny that his mother seems damaged. She is almost impossible to really get to know. FW described her as having no hobbies, no personality, no strong likes/dislikes. She is devoted to her show dogs and to running and that’s about it. I’ve observed these things too. She is very walled off (though not withdrawn). It smacks very loudly of someone who has been traumatized. FW was indeed looking for someone to caretake him, to make all his problems disappear. I was (am) a very competent and giving person, and for awhile I did help him with a lot of things (especially getting his finances in order). But inevitably, there were things I did not have the power to fix, and so he turned on me and broke me to the point where I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I am fortunate that I recovered, but it took years. His next victim (schmoopie) was more the weakling of the herd: trying to get out of a bad marriage, low self-esteem, desperate for attention, mentally disturbed. FW had little to recommend him, and was married with a kid by then (unlike when I met him) so I think a strong, independent woman would have been much more difficult to get. Schmoopie wasn’t all that intelligent or experienced, either (married very young, grew up in a hick town, etc.), so everything FW said or did was “mind blowing” and the most amazing thing she’d ever heard/seen. He loved that admiration and just ate it up.

          FW didn’t get violent with me until the very end, because he didn’t have to. But when I started to develop a backbone and he thought I might leave (or expose his abuse), he did turn violent. Schmoopie, because she was a volatile and immature person, fought back, so he became violent with her much faster than he did with me. The only smart thing she ever did was leave him.

          My son is young (10), so I don’t get into the gory details of cheating, but I do make it clear to him that having another boyfriend or girlfriend while you’re married is the height of disrespect, and something we must never do to someone else. I liken it to bullying, because he understands that. Hurting someone else to make yourself feel better is unacceptable. I told him that he is never obligated to be around or spend time with people who treat him badly. I stress being kind to people. I hope to instill a strong moral compass in him so that he treats other people and any future partner with respect and kindness. Anyone who is kind, or who respects others, will not cheat, developed pre-frontal cortex or not.

          • Isawthelight–

            I wish the abuser MO summary wasn’t familiar to you or anyone else. No one should have to endure that. But abusers are never very unique or original and can be summed up in a few overlapping categories. Only their prey come from all walks and aren’t easily summed up which is why it’s so perverse that helping professions try to lump all in some pathologizing pigeon hole. But as one researcher put it, it’s not likely abusers will approach social services or seek trauma counseling and the ones who come forward (survivors) are the ones put under the microscope– unfortunately one with a warped lens.

            I think if the world had to account for how many fabulous people lose time and energy if not their lives to abuse, we’d have to account for what the world has lost if that time and energy hadn’t been held hostage and had been allowed expression. So many survivors end up making a positive impact in helping others but it’s still infuriating that we or anyone else had to live through these nightmare.

        • HOAC that’s going in the vault, to read over again! Amazing insight, and a lot of it made me think of my X. So complex, these games they play.

        • Good points. For me, I have always been a responsible and loyal, also a pleaser. Probably raised in some form of abuse. I picked a nice guy to marry and have kids with. I don’t have a lot of proof but yes cheating. Then I got the guy who smacked me. I was done in an instant. 15 years later, counseling and other “work” plus I owned a home, a car and had a career, I was the best I’d ever been. I’d also read “He’s Just Not That Into You”. Then I met the cheater. At that point I wasn’t weak. Nor was I desperate. He just knew something somehow and came on strong. Then unexpected proposed. I thought he was for real.

        • Thank you so much for this HOAC. I’d never heard of “misapplication of contingency,” but wow it makes so much sense. I was that super high functioning, high self-esteem, happy independent person hobbled into a gelatinous mess. I can’t tell you how infuriating all the victim-blaming is. When people want to imply I wasn’t as happy or confidant as I was, or I wouldn’t have “chosen” a cheater – ugh – it completely disregards their preternatural ability for compartmentalization and deception. They are predators.

      • That therapist was putting the blame on you in a subtle, mindfucky way.

        He didn’t respect you= you didn’t earn his respect.

        He didn’t have any real consequences = it was your responsibility to teach him life lessons about not being an asshole, but you failed.

        I hate this assumption that the cheater is somehow unaware consequences exist if you don’t level them. Of course they are aware. They do a cost benefit analysis and decide the benefit is worth the cost. They also kid themselves that they can be sneaky enough to avoid consequences, because they are sooper dooper smart and the chump isn’t.
        The idea that we somehow cause this by not being good enough mommies and daddies to school them on basic human decency pisses me off. They are supposed to come to a relationship as fully formed adults. Otherwise they should not be in a relationship, and I think they know this at some level. Making that stupid, reckless decision is totally on them.

        • It really didn’t feel like the therapist was blaming me in the moment. I think she was trying to get me to understand that whether he ‘changed’ for his next partner was irrelevant (and that he most likely would not), but that our relationship would not change and he would cheat on me again (and he did!)

          • Dutchie– apologies up front for any typos. Msaybe a lot was conveyed in your therapist’s tone of voice that you can’t share in text. If you feel the intent wasn’t blaming or shaming, you’re the source. If the intent was kindly, you would sense that.

            But what still bothers me is that if you swapped out your description to the therapist of your ex’s “cheating” for “hit me in the ribs with a tire iron,” what the therapist said wouldn’t quite fit. Batterers go from victim to victim. Cheaters are on the same spectrum. If a battering victim wonders aloud to a therapist whether their abuser will abuse the next partner, wouldn’t it sound odd and inappropriate for the therapist to suggest that this shouldn’t be of concern to the survivor? Instead a solid therapist trained in dv and psychotrauma would likely cite statistics– that abusers have nearly 100% recidivism. Even with prison time and therapy, recidivism is about 97%.

            That’s a concern for everyone. If you compare a cheater’s knowing AP to hybristophiliacs– aka, prison groupies who are attracted to felons, thieves, killers, etc.– maybe that concern for that potential victim is tempered. But there’s still a ton to legitimately unpack with that. How can people act as supporters or accomplices to such terrible acts? What hath God wrought in humans? This is some serious philosoohical stuff. A therapist for the surviving family member of the murdered victim of a batterer probably wouldn’t overly dissuade the bereaved family member from wondering 1) if the batterer would try to kill again, and 2) WTF is up with the killer’s prison groupies?

            After long considering the overlaps between DV and cheating, I think what is said to victims of either should be relatively interchangeable. That’s not such radical thinking these days in light of coercive control statutes that are incrementally being instituted in some countries and a few US states. If you think about it, how many cases of cheating are “just cheating” by an otherwise wonderfully supportive spouse and don’t also involve emotional abuse, gaslighting, financial abuse, physical endangerment and, in too many cases, use of children in common abd other forms of coercion as a means of control? All the latter are considered elements of coercive control that can land an offender up to 14 years in prison in Scotland, 5 years in the UK, gain victims orders of protection in Connecticut, Hawaii and California and lose perpetrators custody of children in the latter two states.

            It’s slow going but about time these laws are passed. DV advocates have been warning for ages that infidelity is a standard tool of control and torture for domestic abusers whose victims typically cite emotional and psychological abuse as the most crushing aspects of DV. Plus the MOs of batterers and cheaters are dangerously similar. Too many cheating survivors report partners being “violent for the first time” when survivors attempt to leave. It would not surprise most DV researchers.

            In any event, you would have been having a far different conversation with this therapist if your FW met coercive control standards in a place where this is criminally punishable. A knowing accomplice in that abuse, short of being criminally liable themselves, would have been discussed in that light– as a criminal accomplice and potential victim. And you’d be discussing which prison rapist had taken your ex as a pet, not who he was dating anyway.

            The point I think I’m trying to make is that what therapists say to emotional abuse survivors– if the therapist is forward thinking and attuned to justice– should reflect a view that criminalizing patterns and acts that amount to coercive control *should* be the legal standard and what they say should make sense within that context. Most survivors don’t even understand the degree to which they’ve been boiled like frogs until they’ve escaped and the clouds clear. Therapists who understand this will be more likely to draw these buried and clouded memories out.

        • I don’t think the therapist was saying it was her fault, or putting the blame on her. I think what the therapist was saying is it doesn’t matter if he’s “better for the next woman” what matters is to her, he was a cheater, and a repeat one. So the next woman is irrelevant, what matters is Dutchie’s experience with this person was that he was dishonest and selfish. Her experience of the relationship is what matters, not someone else’s. Kind of like when CL replies to the “what if he’s better for her?” letters. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how he treats you, and is it acceptable to you?

          I don’t think the therapist was saying Dutchie didn’t earn his respect either. I think the therapist was being realistic in saying he does not respect you, so trying to continue to play the pick me dance will not fix that, or stop him from cheating, and he’s not suffering any consequences if you continue to forgive him every time he cheats. That’s the same as CL saying don’t do the Pick Me dance. Especially time and time again. Consequences are leaving his ass. And we all know how hard it is to do that. Especially when they grovel and hoover and fake remorse.

          • Kara– the therapist could have phrased it differently rather than evoking very familiar and outdated ideas. And if battering victims are commended for being concerned about the next victim in line, why aren’t emotional abuse survivors?

            • It was not about the next victim in line. The therapist’s comment was an astute observation destined to help Dutchie with her healing, and I personally find the way the therapist framed it to be helpful.

          • This is the one. This is exactly what I took the therapist to mean. I can understand the concern for her phrasing, but we have to remember that was 1 line out of 1 session out of 9 months of counseling (and I do have a different therapist now). And honestly, because she was so direct, that line stuck with me. It’s probably the line that helped me the most to finally leave after the 4th dday. Happy to report that we are divorced!

        • “because they are sooper dooper smart and the chump isn’t.”

          Yep, my fw to a T. Oh he knew I was book smart, but of course I was naïve and just not as clever as he was.

          To this day I still say I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the mayor called him in and said “you are busted, hand over the Captains bar.

          That promotion was the most important thing in the world to him, the office, the power, the prestige. And he had the proverbial good woman beside him to helped him get it. Then he dumped the good woman for the whore; and… poof.

    • Once a cheater always a cheater. The deviance is a lack of character. What a cheater learns is how to hide the evidence, observe vulnerabilities to tap into, and the narrative to utilize. Just once is really enough.

      • Ever see this standup routine?

        It’s true there are a lot of “steps” to cheating, each one requiring a decision, each decision requiring its own rationale. There are a lot of steps to lying to a partner and a lot of damage done by lying. Gaslighting is abuse. One must have the capacity to basically watch your partner rolling around on fire– suffering from gut level suspicions and confusion and denial, even if subconscious– and refuse to get a bucket of water, i.e., tell the truth and stop the torment.

        Those are very particular traits and mental patterns. Here’s something a bit less funny about how that works:

        I don’t believe for a minute that good people can “temporarily” or situationally adopt the traits and system of rationalization required to pull this off and then instantly shed those traits and the rationalization machine later. I don’t believe that anyone capable of genuine love can do this or knowingly participate in it either. Someone honorable would be honorable about splitting with someone who wasn’t right for them. Someone honorable would refuse to get involved with a partnered person because they wouldn’t have the rationalization machine in place to justify it. Put two people like that together and they may be adept at image managing their relationship. They might be extremely skilled at controlling each other to neutralize the tendency each knows the other has and/or they develop a “mutually assured destruction” dynamic that keeps them both in check. But I wouldn’t buy that a relationship like this resembles anything healthy behind the scenes.

      • Agreed. Once I found out about everything —- I also learned, I wasn’t the first wife to be cheated on and I won’t be the last person he’ll cheat on. now that he has a taste of that lifestyle I believe he will keep cheating. It’s entitlement and I ignored all the red flags because I thought he was my knight in shining armor. Not.

    • Did he cheat for long? Did he tell you or did you find out? Is he in love with the AP or just with himself. I bet he was also once in love with you. But love and being in love are 2 different things

      • I don’t buy into any FW’s definition of being ‘in love’.
        FW in my case was very much ‘in love’ with me until OW came along. Just words…..
        Love is an action word as far as I’m concerned.

    • Karmeh: Did he have enough character when he was cheating on you to tell you right away so that you would not keep investing time, etc. in him? Honesty, empathy and traits like that is what I think of when I think of this subject. To not be up front about a person’s feelings for another is dishonest to me. I think the statistics are in the 90% range about whether when one leaves one relationship after infidelity whether they do the same thing to the person they had been cheating with. I actually know someone who married someone they had cheated with who ended up having a long happy relationship. Glad you can see the potential in your X for current spouse. Best to you.

    • I know a fella who got involved with a younger woman and then divorced his wife, they’ve been together for about 10 years now. I know (small town – no secrets) that he did ‘cheat’ on his affair partner at the beginning of their (public) relationship after his divorce with possibly two other women. But I’m pretty sure that he’s been ‘faithful’ to her since (but he travels a lot – who knows if he pays for extra activity or trolls for it – he’s a huge flirt, guessing both may be true). He seems to keep his hands to himself in town, but he’s getting older now and she’s ten years younger. He told me that he’s too old to start again with someone new. So I think that yes, he has those cheating tendencies, but now doesn’t have the energy or options he once had, and wants to keep what he currently has.

      • Skunkcabbage, he almost certainly cheats when he’s out of town. I wouldn’t care to guess if he’s paying for it or not, but, since he’s getting older, I bet he does.

    • “But I’ve read too many stories of relationships that have started as affairs or general cheating and neither of them have cheated again”

      Sez who, the cheaters? 🙄😂 Consider the source. Very unlikely someone who cheated in a previous relationship is going to admit to doing the same in a present relationship. Impression management!

      “He’s not a serial cheater he simply fell in love with someone else and cheated on me”

      One doesn’t “simply fall in love with someone else.” It takes a conscious decision to put oneself out there, and become available to others, coupled with a decision to try and eat cake. Unless you’re saying your ex went out once without you, their eyes met, kaboom! they’d fallen in love, and he came rushing back to confess and ask for a divorce.

      “As far as I know he’s never cheated before and never cheated on any of his previous partners”

      Exactly. As far as you know. Is that what he told you?

      “I also think if they cheat on you they will keep cheating on you . It doesn’t mean they will cheat again in their next relationship be that with the AP or another”

      Why not? As the psychologists say, past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

      • Agree to everything you said.
        And I think there are some that just can’t be bothered blowing up their lives again…finances, impression management (justifying the cheating), getting older etc.
        If there is no further cheating, it doesn’t mean it’s soulmate city, there could be many less than virtuous reasons the cheating ship sailed with the last Fuckwit partner.

      • Right. “I slipped on a banana peel and suddenly all of my clothes got removed and my hard dick fell into this random pussy who I just found and fell in love with etc. etc.”

      • Yep to entire post.

        “Unless you’re saying your ex went out once without you, their eyes met, kaboom! they’d fallen in love, and he came rushing back to confess and ask for a divorce.”

        And double yep to ^. The cheating starts in every case before the sex, or even the touch.

        I do believe a young person can do something stupid and then grow the hell up, but likely not often, and quite frankly I think once they have a taste of illicit behavior; it is hard to turn that around. They just get better at lying.

    • “As far as I know” is doing an awful lot of work here – especially regarding an ex whose fidelity is no longer your problem.

      Sure, it’s possible that he doesn’t cheat unless he has a strong emotional connection to someone. It’s also possible that he will cheat again on his new AP if he falls in love with somebody else.

    • I agree it is possible for them to not cheat again. But it is impossible for us to know for sure whether they do or not. Cheaters by and large are really good at lying and hiding who they are. Many never get found out at all.

      If they never fall in love with anyone else again, maybe they won’t cheat, but one does not generally fall in love unless they spend time with someone (with or without sex) so that in itself is cheating.

      To me if ones response to “not being happy” in a marriage is to start looking, instead of seeking to solve the issue or ending the marriage ethically sans cheating, then that is a cheater whether they do it again or not.

      I believe one of my brothers was a unicorn. He cheated early in his marriage (early 60s). He got caught nearly lost his wife, but he straightened him self out (my dad backed his wife and reamed him out good). He from all signs remained devoted to his childhood bride until she died fifty years later. Of course I have no way of knowing for sure, but I do believe he was a unicorn.

      My fw was an arrogant ass wipe and he barreled on causing pain and disruption the rest of his life. Luckily I was out of it, and schmoops got what she earned, but my son endured some shit from him until fw died.

  • I agree with ChumpLady.

    The real predators never change.

    Don’t wait round for it to happen.

    It’s worth investing in the skillset that helps you to recognise the real predators.

  • Yes. Once a cheater, always a cheater. For every one I have encounter, this has been true. And there’s a connection between being a liar as a kid and cheaters. Somewhere in their formative years they learned by example. My ex from his dad, for example. His dad wasn’t a cheater. But he lied to win something and involved his son. And it was formative.

  • My friend of 25 years, told me a couple of years after supporting me through my craziness- (I didn’t know about the howorker and FW addiction) she had cheated early in her 40 year marriage. Her husband (FW best friend until he lost his moral compass) was doing his surgical residency in the military, friend was a radiology tech working with cancer patients, they were across the country from family, she had married at 21. She felt sick about it, told husband. She said she remembers him pacing & running his hands through his hair. Then they did counseling, and he forgave her. She never did it again. They waited until married 8 years before having children.

    • I think women can stop cheating. I think the likelihood of men stopping is miniscule. Just my opinion and observation though. I wouldn’t take my chances on either.

      • I think that’s bullshit and sexist. Women’s moral compasses aren’t any better or worse than men’s. It’s a character flaw.

        • I do notice some gender gap in flavors of heterosexual cheater, though, not because there’s some inherent difference in moral code based on our bodies at birth, but because women and men are socialized very differently.

          With women cheaters (ones I know in my life and on all the forums I obsessively read), it seems like it’s often about feeling neglected in the relationship they’re supposedly committed to and taking a shallow, teenage approach to stirring up a froth of excitement by fantasizing about someone new, finding validation through triangulating, plunking the burden of their missing self-worth on some rando. With the male cheaters, it often seems like a different kind of toxic entitlement— compartmentalizing their lives and feeling like they have a right not to be accountable or integrated at all to their partner, getting ego kibbles from other women the same way they might numb and self-sooth with a video game or a couple of drinks. I notice more with the women it’s about their partner—stirring up a lot of drama to make up for deciding that the long-term partner is boring, obsessively pursuing ego kibbles because they got an ego injury or feel rejected by the long-term partner—- with the men I see a lot more of the equal-opposite— it’s NOT about their partner (“ it didn’t have anything to do with you“, “ I wanted to keep those parts of my life separate“). It’s all about being super immature emotionally, morally, psychologically and spiritually, but the way that women are unhealthily socialized to place so much value and self-worth on validation from our partners, and men are unhealthily socialized to place so much value on the right to enjoy a pussy buffet does lead to some gendered differences in infidelity.

          • Right. It’s not that women are more moral or don’t like sex as much. It’s that we’re raised in a culture that says men are entitled to women’s bodies and are entitled to sex, and in fact pretends that men are just dumb animals who can’t possibly control which way their dicks point. (Sexism is bad for men too!)

          • I think you’re postulating distinctions without a difference. The driving force is selfishness and entitlement, the result is “I’ll do whatever I want to get what I want, and fuck everyone else”.

            • Bingo. It’s about selfishness and entitlement.

              Once my ex exit-affaired me, I saw several events in his past (including at least one episode of cheating on his highschool/college girlfriend) in a different light than I previously had. Before, I just saw them as unrelated youthful indiscretions he’d grown past (see CL’s argument above). After discard, I looked back and saw a pattern of narcissistic entitlement, where nearly every time that something he’d agreed to kept him from something he really wanted, he’d break the agreement in a heartbeat (and justify it with all kinds of crazy mental/moral gymnastics).

              Children are by definition selfish and entitled, as their brains haven’t developed fully and everyone around them has taken care of them (at least for some period of time). Most children grow up. Some never do, for one reason or another. Cheaters fall in the latter category, IMHO.

          • You can “spackle” it any way you want to. Men and women cheat because they feel entitled, and don’t give a damn about hurting their spouse or family. The rest is a distraction. I’m a guy-I can stand here and tell you honestly I NEVER cheated on my ex, but she sure didn’t mind cheating. And I learned after the divorce from a member of her family that she used to screw everyone he worked with before we met, and they believe her first marriage ended because she cheated on her first husband (I’m #2; she’s on #3 now, the a-hole she cheated on me with).

          • I’ve been thinking about things that are adjacent to what you’re describing – the different ways heterosexual men and women deal with / show up in committed relationships.
            I was listening to a podcast recently where the guest was Laura Stassi. She said something that resonated with me, about how women are more likely to file for divorce if they’re unhappy in their marriage, whereas men – equally unhappy – tend to prefer to stay in the marriage and “find a workaround.” Workaholism, drinking, video games, or affairs.
            My ex-husband, when I busted him in his affair with justafriend coworker, would much have preferred to stay married to me, although he was not willing to give up his AP. His exact words were, “the kids are losing more than we’re gaining.”
            I’m thinking maybe men are socialized to place moral value on staying married and keeping the family intact, and see cheating as their reward for working hard and being the family man.

          • SpackleCity, that makes total sense to me. Thank you for putting it into words.

            To be completely open, I cheated once. At the age of 20, I had a big row with my partner about my incessant partying (he was a sensible chem engineering student on a placement year, I was ..well, very much an arts student in the early 1990s, UK). I felt neglected because he wouldn’t come out to play, went to a rave he didn’t want me to go to, dropped an e, danced, kissed more than one boy, then went home and ‘fessed. It was gutting and terrifying to see the hurt I caused, and I learnt a hard lesson, very fast. We got back together after a year apart, but it was never the same, and I had to accept that I’d broken something I couldn’t fix. Never treated a partner that way before or since and, in every other way, a complete chump.

        • I agree. But societal norms say men cheating is normal and women who cheat are immoral. People raised in western society are programmed from childhood to accept these standards. What boys get exposed to is society’s indulgence from which comes entitlement as adults. Hard to buck the system but there are equality laws and men who believe women’s rights are human rights. Doesn’t mean all husbands, chumps lawyers and judges are on the same page or believe in applying them fairly.

          • Absolutely agree that there’s a gender difference. Women in the patriarchy don’t have the sense of entitlement that men do, and they don’t have the same societal support for cheating that men do (calling men with many sexual partners “Players” but women with many sexual partners “sluts”.) Plus there’s that ridiculous argument that men biologically are driven to “spread their genes” through promiscuity. You can’t argue with mother nature, right? 😆

        • I don’t think women are morally superior even if women seem to be statistically less prone to overt violence than men. The gender division in rates of overt violence are stubborn and haven’t shifted even with the advent of feminism (read Richard Wragham), so there’s probably something biological at play. Vive la difference. But studies have found that more women than men engage in indirect social aggression. What is cheating if not sneaky?

        • Agree!

          If a male partner cheats, it’s usually with a woman who knows he’s married. So that woman is fine with hurting another person to get what she wants.

          So much for women being better humans.

    • My x, a radiologist, tried to cheat 4 years into our marriage. He asked out a friend’s girlfriend (a nurse, who made the rounds in more ways than one). She declined. He told me on our 4th wedding anniversary–at Applebees of all places–and then said he was sorry and wouldn’t do it again. BUT he didn’t think it was wrong. He was young, she was so sexy. I needed to “up my game” if I wanted to stay married. Young, naive, embarrased, I stayed. Fast forward to year 29 of our marriage, and I found out he’d cheated with a hooker in our home. Same entitlement, actually worse since he told me he wasn’t sorry, and I’d have to learn to accept this money expenditure. I spent a summer pick-me-dancing while he continued to text, call, meet up, pay the prostititute. I should have told him to leave immediately. It’s been over two years since I found out, just shy of 2 months that our divorce was finalized. I’m sure he’ll cheat on his next partner; it’s who he is. I regret not leaving when he showed his true character–my youth, my misplaced loyalty all wasted on someone who literally had no love for me at all. I am thankful for my two sons–but if I had to do it over again, I would have left at when I was 26.

      • Wow, he was so cold and cruel in both instances!!! What an arrogant, horrible man.

    • “She never did it again.”

      How do you know? Because she told you so?

      One lie makes everything a person subsequently says suspect.

      • She’s told me lots of personal things since then about younger years, she could be lying but I don’t think so. Maybe she pictured her life with him $uccessful plastic surgeon versus without. 😉

  • Cheating on your serious long term partner is abuse, and someone who does this is damaged. I feel that abusers probably suffered trauma at a very early age and their brains were wired to be antisocial. They attack others because they’re in a great deal of pain and they lack the tools that healthier people have. The only solution is to leave them, avoid them, and find people whose brains function more normally. It’s so sad and unfair, but early childhood trauma literally builds our brains to react in certain ways. There’s no fixing it.

    The more we learn how to support and love babies and little kids, the less future abusers we will see.

    • Most people have childhood trauma. Most people are “damaged”. Why doesn’t everyone cheat?

      The difference is CHOOSING not to hurt people. That’s it.

      • ^^^^^^^^
        Spot on. Chumps here are usually very good at spotting and eviscerating cheater rationales

        What the hell has got into everyone today??!! 😳😳

    • I agree cheating is abuse. What I am extremely sceptical of is the use of descriptors such as “damaged” and the, to my mind, unwarrentedly charitable assumption that “they attack others because they’re in a great deal of pain and they lack the tools that healthier people have.”

      What evidence is there that these people are “in a great deal of pain”? All the evidence suggests that in fact they very much enjoy what they do, get off on deceit, and are usually determined to eat cake whenever possible.

      I will never forget fuckwit’s self satisfied smirk when he told me his response to the rat faced whore’s comment that if it was her, she’d immediately be suspicious; “chumpnomore6 trusts me”. In a great deal of pain? No, just enjoying the fact he was successfully fooling me. 👿

      “…. they lack the tools that healthier people have.”

      What tools would they be?

      • I hear you, chumpnomore. Sounds like you had the sociopathic type of cheater. But they’re not all like that – my ex is clearly very distraught when she hurts other people. (And it’s not just an act.) She acted more confused (and yes, damaged) than sly or scornful after D-Day #2. I really don’t think she enjoyed sneaking around for the most part – maybe just in limited doses, when she got to feel “naughty.” The whole reason she disclosed that affair to me is that she couldn’t take the stress anymore. Of course, that meant that her disclosure was all about her, rather than out of any consideration for me.

        I read the dump of texts between ex and AP #2 that ran to 500 pages (over about 7 weeks), so I got a pretty unvarnished view of what ex was thinking “privately.” There was a lot of virtual hand-wringing. She did not actively and openly denigrate me – it was more passive-aggressive little zingers like “my domestic life is boring,” etc. She definitely devalued me, but not in any Machiavellian sense. She was pretty honest with the AP, even when the AP did not appreciate what Ex was saying.

        CL’s excellent point, which I eventually internalized, is that even though my ex did not actively seek the thrill of a double life, it did not hurt her *enough* to hurt me. She is more of the delusional, disordered type who didn’t think she was hurting me as long as I didn’t know about what she was doing. And afterward, she just “had no choice.” One night, I had genuine concern that she might hurt herself, and not just as a gesture to control me.

        Don’t get me wrong: these types of disordered cheaters can also be very dangerous emotionally, because they are such sad, sad sausages that they literally cannot hear others telling them that they are being hurtful. They go straight to the toxic shame place. Not a very gleeful place to be – so the only alternative, for them, is to escape (from those of us who might hold them accountable) to a fantasy life. Rinse and repeat.

        So, as Mia rightly said above, we chumps just have to have rock-solid boundaries and be prepared to walk away. That can be very hard when we have committed to someone and see them writhing in anguish. I did that for about 15 months after D-Day #2, hoping that the anguish would eventually propel my ex to do the work to be safe for me. But that ship had already sailed, and I just got sicker. I could not heal until I left.

        All very sad. And I see pretty clearly now how my ex became damaged in this way. I just can’t do the healing for her – I hope, for our kids’ sake, that she eventually does.

        • I totally agree, LezChump, if I’m understanding what you’re saying. It’s not that my ex-FW wasn’t entitled and selfish. He was. He knew he’d made a mistake marring me, he knew it right away, he wrestled with it for years and tried to suppress his feelings, but in the end he just couldn’t do it anymore and chose the easy way out, cheating, vs telling me, I think precisely because he couldn’t bear to see my pain if he told me. So he embarked on cheating and just kept kicking the can down the road until finally he couldn’t bear the weight of the double life anymore and tried to kill himself. That’s when I found out for sure he was cheating. Was he an entitled, selfish person? Yes. But I don’t think he took any pleasure in hurting me or set out to do it. He just put his needs first and that was the natural result – I got hurt. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have major character defects; he does. But I don’t think he was enjoying it or doing it for some sick perverse pleasure in knowing he was duping me.

        • LezChump. Yes, I agree. At the end of the day, it’s just sad. Life is sad. It’s always the cheater’s fault, but eventually that fact isn’t even the point. The only point is that divorce is necessary. Breaking up is the best, most sane, solution. And the silver lining is that there are healthy people out there too.

      • I was not trying to be charitable towards cheaters by pointing out that their disorder came from early childhood. I believe betraying your spouse over a long period of time is abuse. It’s pure evil, and most normal people couldn’t bear to do it to someone else. By talking about how it all started, I was trying to say that it is not fixable. We can’t fix these disordered people. We can only run.

      • “chumpnomore6 trusts me”

        Yep, my fw stood right there in front of one of our best friends, and said Susie wouldn’t believe I was fooling around unless I told her. And ironically up to that moment he was right. But, the instant he said that, I knew he was. He left two months later for the town whore.

    • I appreciate your viewpoint because it reminds us that protecting the next generation from abuse should always be a major focus. I tend to reject “genetic criminality” theories because these treat adult criminality as a fait accompli that, rather conveniently, removes responsibility from society to protect children. Saving children is expensive. And powerful people abuse children. Powerful people are scary to cross, so there’s a political deterrent from expanding the definition of abuse and against applying protections equally across all classes. And the private prison industry depends on the prison pipeline for slave labor. So the fait accompli attitude is tempting.

      Plus the theory of genetic criminality (or “genetic zero empathy” as it’s trendily called) is basically Nazi crap. I did a deep dive on the subject when I was working as an editor for a health publication and even if the discussions of it get involved and “sciency,” these are things everyone should understand so I’ll share my (sorry if boring!) spiel on it. It seems the “genetic criminal” concept was derived from the totalitarian theory of the “born enemy” (see Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper) that began with Plato’s weird Pythagorean theorem of a genetically “moral ruling class” which, by default, suggests the existence of a moral underclass. I took an interest after reading several books and papers on weaponized science– how private prison, arms and oil industries keep trying resurrect the zombie “bad seed” concept with junk science (the MacArthur Foundations “Law and Neuroscience Project” is one chilling example) for expedience. For instance, if the public can be led to believe the enemy (usually poor brown people in oil and mineral rich countries who resist invasion and exploitation) is genetically immoral or empathy-impaired, then the public won’t be so upset when the enemy’s children and other civilians are slaughtered by drone attacks. Those kiddies were all future terrorists, see, so no harm, no foul. Another example is the twenty year longitudinal Dunedin study that “concluded” that the Maori are genetically violence prone and carry the “warrior gene.” Never mind the centuries of systematic abuse and displacement, ghettoizing and exploitation, those Maori are just “like that” (ugh). Though the “warrior gene” theory got a lot of flak for shitty scientific foundations (, western journalists didn’t put two and two together that the racist theory coincided with a long campaign for oil and mining companies to get access to protected Maori blood-lands and that some of those industries were stealthily backing the study.

      Then read the book “The War Against Children of Color” by Dr. Peter Breggin for a horrifying example of how the “born criminal” theory had been used in relatively recent history to subjugate minorities in the US. I sent a copy to a friend who was getting her doctorate in sociology. First she puked in the middle of reading it, then she changed her entire thesis to medical ethics.

      Anyway, I don’t trust the bad seed theories. I don’t trust the brain scan scams that claim to find differences in the brains of certain criminals and argue that these are genetic when those studies never control for brain-structure-altering exposure to illegal and legal drugs (many violent criminals are medicated in prison) aside from other potential causes of structural changes (most fetal head injuries are due to domestic violence). Leading independent geneticists will argue that human genes don’t code for behavior and leading criminologists reject the idea of “genetic abusers,” arguing that there’s sufficient evidence to prove that the behavior is learned.

      Fortunately not everyone learns the most evil lessons of their youth. You know the old story about two brothers raised by an abusive, criminal father. One becomes a criminal and says, “How could I have turned out otherwise with a father like that?” The other becomes a law-abiding, empathic type and says, “How could I have turned out otherwise with a father like that?”

      No one knows exactly why two children subjected to the same horrors can turn out vastly different. I read one theory called something like “the bulletproof child” where a traumatized child may have one, even fleeting encounter with a positive role model that sticks forever in their minds and makes all the difference. That theory really stuck with me. Again it gives more responsibility to the social context to protect children rather than “relieving” society of that responsibility.

      • You make great points. I guess what I’m thinking is: A cheater should not be married. Maybe the cheater is technically redeemable in other areas of life. Maybe he actually helps people in other ways. But he will never be a good romantic partner. Two things are true at the same time: the origins of his disorder are not his fault but 2: It doesn’t matter. Don’t try to stay in a committed relationship with him. You don’t owe him anything. He does not deserve the security and free labor of a “wife”. He should be with other nonmonogamous people only.

    • This is true. And unfortunately it is not our responsibility to fix adults with emotional connection issues like this. A lot of us try and that creates trauma bonds and codependent relationships. Are some of them dealing with childhood damage? I’m sure some of them are. Is it your job to fix it? No.

  • Yesterday’s comment by CL hit me right between the eyes: “People who are unethical tend to be unethical in other areas.” While I really want to believe that cheaters can change, my experiences cloud that wishful thinking. I think the key is entitlement; whether a whipper snapper cheater or a bit long in the tooth, if one feels entitled – it tends to spill over to other areas in life. And the cynic in me thinks that kind of person will never change themselves: they just change the situation, partner, friends, job…whatever challenges their sense of entitlement.

    • I agree with really honing in on the part about unethical people being unethical in multiple areas. My ex is a defense lawyer (currently defending the indefensible – he is BAD for our democracy), and he is 100% unethical in his professional realm, along with believing that traffic and parking laws should not apply to him. Such red flags. I will never miss them again.

      I struggle with how to help my kids not follow his example and think critically about the behavior they see him modeling. I want them to see him for what he is, but he is also so damn good at impression management and manipulation. It took me years to see it, and I’m an adult.

    • FW changed friends on the regular. Every 5 years or so it was a new, completely different set of people. He cut off the old friends and replaced them. This tended to happen when those friends stopped kissing his ass (or when FW felt “slighted” whether the person had actually slighted him or not – he tended to view people living their own lives and having their own projects to be an insult to him). I saw 3 or 4 sets of friends in the time I was with him. He also tended to think that NEXT job was going to be the one that made him happy, and inevitably got fed up with it in a few years and moved on to the next one. He dumped me for schmoopie. When our marital home needed repairs he wasn’t able/willing to make (he didn’t maintain it AT ALL, just let it crumble around him), he dumped it back on me and moved to a new place.

      It’s a mindset.

  • I cheated when I was 20 years old and between toxic partners and friends.
    I was toxic and narcissistic and I definitely didn’t have anyone around me to call me out.

    I didn’t however learn my lesson because in my mind I kept pining over one of those toxic people.
    I couldn’t explain it, I didn’t have the tools.

    I was determined not to cheat on my partner, however I was trauma-bonded to that person and didn’t have the tools to disentangle myself. I looked to my partner for help with that and he didn’t care (he was already cheating himself and disinvested in the relationship). We were around 27 years old at this stage. Both on the autistic spectrum, but we didn’t know.

    I, however, grew more serious about my boundaries and keeping external influence out of my relationship, as I was determined to protect it. My partner went the exact opposite way and escalated the cheating through the years. He also had been physically abusive, which is part of why I was pining over someone else, in a bid to escape mentally.

    I didn’t have the emotional, mental, MORAL or financial resources to see just how dysfunctional all of the situation was. Then it came to a head, I got out of the relationship, LEARNED ABOUT ENTITLEMENT, and wish someone would have called me out on mine. It would have clicked for me and given me that resolution sooner.

    I want to stress that my own experiences parallel to what the cheater was doing made it especially hard for me to assign responsibility to him because “I wasn’t any better” (with many differences, but still. I hadn’t been the faultless chump, in my mind). I knew what it was like to reform, though. He never even acknolwedged that he needed to (he didn’t want to). I was the “unicorn” at one point. So it made what he did additionally hard to process for me, I had a lot of shame for ending up in the position I did, as I felt that I shared responsibility.

    Even writing this, I feel like I’m justifying myself and I don’t want to do that.

    • I feel you on a lot of this, Quetzal. People with consciences who do shitty things own up, do hard work that takes commitment and serious self reflection, and learn to self-regulate and behave better, because they personally choose to grow and learn and change.

      It’s totally possible. It’s really rare, so it’s not generally wise to wait for a person who has cheated on us to do it — but it’s totally possible. The key is the deep personal intrinsic motivation.

      When we see we have harmed others, people with consciences seek out our own resources and therapy. We’re reluctant to ask for or accept forgiveness because we don’t believe the person we’ve harmed owes it to us or even should give it to us. We don’t whine and snivel, and when we apologize, we don’t make excuses or ask the victim of our shittiness to make us feel better in our guilt.

      We take responsibility, and we take action, and we self-supervise on the topic for the rest of our lives.

      Cheaters often put on a big show of these things for a short time, but it usually doesn’t take long for the “when will you be able to put this in the past” vibe crop up.

      I’ve done a few shitty things to people in my time, and I don’t WANT to put them in the past. I want them present forever. They are measuring tapes for present day experiences, part of my self supervision. I don’t want to self-flagellate forever (that’s just another distraction from accountability anyway), but I do want to remember, and do better, because better is what *I* want to be.

      Don’t know if I’m spot on to your point, but this is what your words inspired.

      • Amiisfree … Ex-frickin-zactly.

        Brilliant piece of writing on really important topic/s. CL made the point along same lines, that a measure of character is if actions align with words, over time. Sorry is as sorry does.

    • I was in an emotionally and financially abusive marriage – over 25 years. I had wanted, needed, to get divorced for so long but I was scared and had no financial resources. When someone gave me affection and attention, when I hadn’t felt loved in so very long, I was vulnerable. And yes, I cheated.

      That did get me off my ass to file for divorce within 4 months (yes, that is the true timeline). I moved out shortly after. And the person I was cheating with, a serial cheater, eventually cheated on me. Boy did that open my eyes to the whole meaning of betrayal.

      I look back to the person I was, and the person that has emerged from that cocoon. Yes, I am everything that I did, and that was done to me, but I no longer am under that narcissistic control and so I have been able to grow and heal. And I NEVER want anyone to feel about me the way I feel about the cheater.

      I’ve had one relationship since the cheater and I am ashamed that I will always be labeled a cheater, even though I will never hurt anyone like that again. my ex never found out, but as I have learned, that doesn’t negate the betrayal at all.

      So eviscerate me if you want. I know where I came from and how I’ve grown.

      • “I was in an emotionally and financially abusive marriage – over 25 years. I had wanted, needed, to get divorced for so long but I was scared and had no financial resources. When someone gave me affection and attention, when I hadn’t felt loved in so very long, I was vulnerable.“

        This is essentially my story, and I didn’t cheat.

        Because of the topic today, I am
        sincerely curious what the difference is between our responses in similar situations.

        • Did someone shower you with attention and love-bombing (A term I didn’t know then)? Was your best friend a cheater that encouraged you to go for it? Was your father a cheater? Did I want a reason out of the marriage?

          Can you answer yes to all of those? Even if you can, maybe you are just a better person than me.

          Will I cheat ever again? No. Only time will tell obviously. I am ashamed of what I’ve done, and I know that it is always a part of who I was. I didn’t wait for discovery, I did file for divorce instead of eating cake, something I should have done long before.

          • just like i tried to get my spouse to hit me, so that the abuse was more than emotional, I tried to sabotage the marriage by cheating. I didn’t seek it out, but I did it and I’m not proud.

            And when I was cheated on, the cheater thought I had to forgive, because I was damaged goods and was a cheater also. That I should accept that they cheated.

            Know better, do better.

            • “just like i tried to get my spouse to hit me, so that the abuse was more than emotional…”

              WTF??!! You are one manipulative bitch.

              Quite frankly, your post disgusts and horrifies me.

              ” I tried to sabotage the marriage by cheating. I didn’t seek it out, but I did it and I’m not proud”

              Straight out of the cheater play book. Sounds like you and your ex at least didn’t spoil two houses. Blech.

              • It’s not very ‘nice’ to try and manipulate someone into hitting you so you can then claim physical abuse.

                It’s not very ‘nice’ to try to sabotage your marriage by cheating, instead of ending it ethically.

                It’s not very ‘nice’ to imply calling out such behaviour is ‘not nice’.

                I’m not ‘nice’ to selfish, manipulative liars.

              • I didn’t claim that anything I did was nice or ethical. I was broken and vulnerable and human. Not an excuse, but a fault. I did remove myself from the dysfunctional marriage. Not in the right order, but I didn’t wait for a d-day to happen.

                Do you know what emotional abuse is like? Do you know what it’s like when your kids start treating you the way that your spouse treats you? Do you know what happens to a person that has been isolated and moved away from friends and family and has had their self-esteem trampled? Thinking that the emotional abuse wasn’t a good enough reason to leave, because no one would understand, but if he hit me? Well then I would have a valid reason. It takes a broken person to think that.

                But you are a perfect martyr CNM6 so I would never expect you to understand.

                You can celebrate that karma found me. You know what’s funny though? Karma baptized me.

                I have listened to everyone’s stories. Now that I know better, I will do better.

              • “I didn’t claim that anything I did was nice or ethical”

                No, instead you are providing emotionally manipulative reasons to excuse your behaviour, which is exactly what the majority of cheaters/liars do.

                “I was broken and vulnerable and human”.

                So are we all, but most of us don’t use that to excuse manipulating another human being into hitting us so we can claim physical abuse, because emotional abuse just isn’t enough. Neither do most of us deliberately have an affair in order to sabotage a marriage, because we don’t have the character or integrity to bite the bullet and end the marriage *ethically*.

                “I did remove myself from the dysfunctional marriage.”

                But not before you had tried manipulating another human being into attacking you physically, in order to provide yourself with a reason to leave the marriage which made you into a cast iron victim.

                That sickens me because of the number of women who have genuinely experienced physical abuse within their marriages/relationships, and still, even today, have to fight against those who assume they did something to deserve it. You appear unable to see this, and obviously think this kind of vicious manipulation was justified because you weren’t happy.

                Would you think a man who did this was justified in trying to frame his wife/partner as physically abusive because he wanted a good sounding reason to end the relationship?

                “I didn’t wait for a d-day to happen…”

                No, you’d already set the scene for a D-day for your ex by deliberately having an affair to sabotage the marriage. I was going to say it amazes me you cannot see this, but actually your rationale perfectly encapsulates the typically entitled cheater mindset. You planned it, you lied, and I’m supposed to sympathise? No.

                “Do you know what emotional abuse is like?”


                “But you are a perfect martyr CNM6 so I would never expect you to understand”.

                In what sense do you think I’m a martyr? It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

                Cheating, along with all the lies, deceit, and gaslighting, was, is, and will always be, a deal breaker for me. As soon as I discovered it, I filed for divorce.

                What I understand is, you think your behaviour was justified by your circumstances. I disagree, all cheaters and liars think the same, and your emotional manipulations of your ex, and your emotional manipulation of others doesn’t impress me, or take me in.

                I am just astonished and horrified that some people here are not only prepared to swallow your sob story, with all its typical cheater justifications, but are also prepared to denigrate me, because I’m calling you out on it.

                “Now that I know better, I will do better.”

                I certainly hope so, for the sake of those around you.

              • “Do you know what emotional abuse is like? Do you know what it’s like when your kids start treating you the way that your spouse treats you? Do you know what happens to a person that has been isolated and moved away from friends and family and has had their self-esteem trampled? Thinking that the emotional abuse wasn’t a good enough reason to leave, because no one would understand, but if he hit me? Well then I would have a valid reason. It takes a broken person to think that.”

                Yes. To all of it. And I didn’t cheat. I used to wish my husband would hit me, I used to beg him to, if it would make the verbal abuse stop. It was so bad. You can’t show people emotional scars, and everyone thought he was a wonderful person. The emotional abuse took far longer to heal than the bruises I suffered. My self esteem was crushed beyond recognition. I barely knew who I was anymore. I felt completely unlovable, unwanted, undesirable. I was broken. I didn’t think I could survive on my own. I was extremely vulnerable. My husband was cheating on me.

                I still didn’t cheat. I didn’t even consider it.

                FW claimed he cheated because I didn’t make him feel loved enough. “What else could I do?” he said. Not cheat. That’s what. Why are so many people on here making all the same excuses our FW’s made? I don’t get it. In my case, schmoopie would have said SHE was vulnerable (abusive marriage), SHE got love-bombed by FW, SHE wanted out of her marriage. She ended up in a worse situation than the one she left, since FW ended up abusing her too. But I have no sympathy for her, and I have no sympathy for people who behave the way she did. Being in pain or unhappy is no reason to behave unethically or to hurt others. If we do that, we are exactly the same as the people who did it to us. Schmoompie regretted her actions. But not because she hurt me, or her husband, or her kids, or my kid. Only because she suffered the consequences of her actions. Understanding betrayal only because YOU got betrayed makes no sense to me. You honestly didn’t know what you were doing was wrong until someone did it to you? I have a better imagination than that. It’s called empathy. In my case, schmoopie would rail against her husband for cheating on her, WHILE SHE WAS CHEATING WITH MY HUSBAND. Lack of empathy. I don’t care if you’re damaged. If you have empathy, the last thing you’ll want to do is hurt someone else. If you have integrity, the last thing you’ll want to do is behave unethically or dishonestly. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

              • There are times I wish this site had a block button, for sure, MamaMeh. 😊 But it turns out I’m also good at ignoring. Good grey rock/no contact practice.

                Snark is funny, and strong boundary setting is respectful and worth listening to. In contrast, sanctimonious, useless vitriol is just like wind for me — white noise that is irritating, sure, but passes away soon enough.

                (Of course the person spewing the vitriol is obviously perfect, and I’m obviously horrible and stupid and wrong, so there’s no need for the person to care what I have to say or even respond to it, right? Ahhhhh, if only.)

              • “(Of course the person spewing the vitriol is obviously perfect…”

                Well, Chumpnomore6 here, the person you accuse of “spewing the vitriol”. I name names, Amiisfree.

                I have never claimed to be perfect, but I have never cheated, or tried to manipulate someone into hitting me, or deliberately had an affair to sabotage my marriage, so I could escape a situation which I was too gutless to actually confront head on.

                “I’m obviously horrible and stupid and wrong…”

                I don’t think you’re horrible and stupid, (neither did I say so, so why imply it?) but in this instance I certainly think you’re wrong, along with everyone else here today who are falling over themselves to justify and excuse typical cheater behaviour and rationales. I am just totally mystified and horrified as to why so many people are doing this. And I’m not just referring to ‘not my screen name’ (although I think her story is egregious), but all the others who are profferring various justifications for cheating and lying, which would normally gain no traction here.

                “sanctimonious, useless vitriol…”

                If it’s ‘sanctimonious’ to state I’ve never cheated, and would never do so in any circumstances, guilty as charged.

                As for ‘vitriol’, if you consider it vitriolic to call out emotionally manipulative cheaters and liars, and their morally suspect justifications, that’s fine with me.

                I’m just astonished you and others are falling for it.

                “so there’s no need for the person to care what I have to say or even respond to it, right”

                I don’t care for passive-aggressive responses either, but I’m responding. 🙄

              • Hey Chumpnomore6, I’ve read a few of your posts now. How’s about showing some empathy here for people opening up to their own demons? Instead of calling them nasty names & blasting them from your holier-than-thou attitude?! This woman did nothing to you, but you call her a B? You got problems, girl. Go figure that shit out.

              • “How’s about showing some empathy here for people opening up to their own demons?”

                I don’t see ” people opening up to their own demons”. What I see is some people offering snivelling attempted justifications for typical cheater behaviour and rationales, and expecting sympathy for it.

                “Instead of calling them nasty names & blasting them from your holier-than-thou attitude?”

                I called her a manipulative bitch because she stated 1) she deliberately tried to goad her husband into hitting her so she could claim physical abuse as a reason for ending her marriage. Given the number of women who have experienced genuine physical abuse at the hands of their partners, I find that particularly appalling. Obviously you don’t. 2) she stated she deliberately had an affair in order to implode the marriage, instead of ending it ethically. There have been many examples here of cheaters stating they did this, and receiving condemnation for it, but many people here are giving her sympathy and offering unequivocal absolution for it. Why?

                “… your holier-than-thou attitude?”

                This is a blog for *chumps*. Trusting, believing people who were lied to, gaslit, stolen from, by the very people they most loved and trusted. If it’s ‘holier than thou’ to have contempt and anger for such behaviour, because most of us would neber do such things, guilty as charged.

                “This woman did nothing to you, but you call her a B?”

                She attempted to goad another human being into hitting her so she could claim physical abuse. This is a slap in the face and an egregious disservice to all women (and men) who have genuinely been physically abused.

                Your argument that because she has done nothing to me *personally* is therefore specious. Somewhat akin to the equally specious argument put forth by an OW/OM who thinks because she/he made no vows they are justified in what they do.

                “You got problems, girl. Go figure that shit out.”

                A stupid and shallow remark. I certainly do have problems with cheaters and liars, and I can figure it out just fine. I don’t and won’t think it’s OK under any circumstances, and I want nothing to do with such people.

              • This is so hard for me to wrap my head around. The behaviors admitted to here are egregious, they are beyond the pale. They make you step back and say “who does this!” Because on our worst day, it would not be us. As someone who was abused, there is so much here there isn’t enough time in the day to analyze.

                That said, I don’t believe every situation is the same. The people who kissed someone else at 16 or 19 are not in the same camp as the person who cheated on their spouse / committed partner as adults with life plans that were serious and not daydreams. I believe people can make mistakes – big ones- and comeback from those mistakes. Otherwise we would never celebrate addicts who become sober (long term, proof they are, in fact, committed to sobriety). Doing things over and over, even if not the exact same things but on the same plane, if that makes sense, does not scream redeemable. Those who actually own their behaviors without qualifiers also own they won’t immediately be embraced by the world. Some consequences are life long. But I would like to believe there are people who fall far from grace, and through grace, become the people they should have been all along. Is that what we have here? I don’t know. But I will pray for her.

        • “This is essentially my story, and I didn’t cheat.”

          Me too.

          “Because of the topic today, I am
          sincerely curious what the difference is between our responses in similar situations”

          Integrity and character.

          • Similar situations and yet very different backgrounds. Throughout my life, there were so many examples of cheating. My dad, my brothers, my friends. The other side of it, the devastation, was never something I observed. Not until it happened to me and I discovered CN and heard all of your stories. Some life lessons are learned through experience.

          • I grew up with cheating – my dad, my brothers, my friends. It was modeled. I never saw the other side of it, the devastating betrayal. Until it happened to me, and until I discovered CN and heard your stories. It’s a life lesson I learned by experience.

            I don’t deserve forgiveness, I know that. But I know that relationships and life are complex. And I know that I will do better.

            When you know better, you do better.

        • During the worst of my marriage, I would daydream about having an affair. I’d fantasize about meeting a man who was NICE to me, who thought I was a worthwhile person instead of the useless, lazy, antisocial bore that The Entitled One was working so hard to convince me was the truth about myself. In hindsight, the fact that my big fantasy was about someone who’d treat me like a human being should have been a huge kick in the pants to leave, but I hadn’t found Chump Lady yet. By that point, I was staying because I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my kids half the time.

          I’ve often wondered if someone “nice” or just a lovebomber (which I wouldn’t have recognized as a red flag at the time) had come along, if I would have acted out my rage and resentment and misery and actually had an affair. By the time the final D-Day hit, I was so broken down physically, emotionally, and mentally that I barely recognized myself. I don’t think my character is better than other chumps here who’ve admitted past cheating. The truth is I can see how it could happen, and how it’s not an absolute to lead to a lifetime of cheating. (Which of course doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make wreckonciliation with a partner who cheated a good idea.)

          • “… if I would have acted out my rage and resentment and misery and actually had an affair.”

            And so many cheater rationales are *exactly* that. In your mind, what’s the difference?

    • I have a somewhat similar story, Quetzal, having been on both sides of the issue as well in my early 20s. I don’t think anyone should stay with someone who is abusing them. There are also a lot of stories that don’t break down so easily into “abuser/abused” and thank you for telling yours.

    • Quetzal– your circumstances don’t paint you as an inherent cheater. As a former advocate for DV survivors, I found myself sometimes irrationally wishing that more victims would “monkey branch” their way out of abuse to break through the captor bonding/Stockholm syndrome. I say “irrationally” because, in reality, among other obvious dangers from doing this, people with unresolved PTSD have a doubled risk of ending up in a subsequent abusive relationship to the degree that abusers are typically adept at playing “rescuer.” But it’s the one instance where I would not call it “cheating” to overlap relationships even if survivors rarely ever do this.

      After seeing enough badly set broken jaws and collarbones, I think if someone raises a hand to you, you owe them nothing. People from Christian backgrounds might not agree and may argue about the God-given sanctity of vows. And I would partly agree with the latter that it’s not the healthiest option to protect one’s “soul” just in terms of trauma survivors needing time and healing to piece themselves back together before launching into future relationships. Then there’s the problem that chronic cheaters, like batterers, always play victims to their own victims and pretend to be abuse survivors as a rationale to abuse. So extending that loophole to victims of violence would be leapt on by abusers as a green light. Advocates would never recommend it in a million years but most wouldn’t automatically assume that a victim of violence who did this was inherently lacking in character.

      • I am Christian, very faithful, and there are legitimate reasons for divorce. Cheating / abuse is validation to leave, and for those who need it, pursue an annulment. My pastor was very clear that Jesus would not expect me to endure abuse like I was. He loves me too much. This isn’t to say everyone has the same amazing pastor I do, or the same thoughts, but I would venture to say the majority of Christians fall in my camp.

  • I now think the underlying issue is LYING, and cheating is just another symptom of that underlying issue. After the noise of DDay subsided, I started realizing how much Traitor Ex lies, about everything. I told him I only believe what he says if it’s verifiable.

    Everyone has free will. Everyone can make a a decision to be honest, or decide to be dishonest. Do I believe someone dishonest can decide to stop lying and start being honest? That is possible, but it might not be possible for me to trust them. I definitely can’t if they have a history of infidelity in relationships.

    It takes work and time to make sustainable character changes, and if someone is cheating, they are a very long way off from having made those changes and restoring their credibility rating. In my own case, it was discovered that Traitor Ex was on Tinder while secretly living with the Craigslist cockroach he left our MIRAGE (marriage) for. And he still lies lies lies lies lies.

    I never cheated or was a side piece, even in my younger years as an untreated practicing alcoholic/addict. I have 37 years in recovery now, and I would prefer to associate with people who have the same track record. So “once a cheater, always a cheater” is a moot point. I am not going to be able to trust someone with a history of infidelity, and if I can’t trust them I can’t be in a relationship with them, platonic or romantic.

    I think it’s best if people who are cool with cheating stick together,. I prefer to stay away from them, and also anyone who claims to be a reformed cheater.

    • PS

      And for the sake of brevity, I didn’t want to get into the weeds on the underlying issues beneath lying……

      Keeping the focus on my ability to trust, and the criteria which determines that, is more helpful to me than wondering whether cheaters can change.

      Trust is a subjective decision that each individual has to make for themselves.

      Concern with my own trustworthiness, which is what I control, is a more effective place to spend my attention and energy….


      • I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that, without the ability to monitor someone 24/7/365/indefinitely, I can’t say with any authority what someone else is doing or not doing, or did at one time and doesn’t do anymore.

        I can comment on whether or not I am able to trust someone, and decide those conditions and circumstances, and if I should continue to trust them, or if that trust is broken beyond repair.

        When Little Hammer was in elementary school,, we walked to school every day and often had conversations about how to handle
        social situations. I taught her that if someone hurts you, if they are sorry and change their behavior, maybe you can be friends again. If they aren’t sorry, you can’t. Of course, this was about mostly kid stuff and not the level of infidelity. She ended a few relationships with kids she was friends with, and told them why. She was able to reconcile with others.

        Based on the guidelines I gave her, cheating is too big, too intentional, too extensive for me to be able to trust that person again, no matter what kind of amends are made. Like John Belushi in Animal House, smashing the folk singer’s guitar and then saying, “Sorry.” It just doesn’t compute.

        If someone else wants to gamble on someone who has cheated, that’s a risk they assume that I don’t want to.

        I trusted Traitor Ex because I did not know about his secret sexual double
        life. All the history of Traitor Ex As Nice Guy came into question and that is what really messed with me.

        Where I ended up is that it didn’t matter if all the Nice Guy stuff was genuine. The cheating negated all of it and was a dealbreaker to focus on.
        As the shock wore off, I began to see and recall more and more lies and broken agreements, future faking and promises not kept.

        The damage of infidelity that I struggle with is my ability to trust MYSELF.

        • “Where I ended up is that it didn’t matter if all the Nice Guy stuff was genuine. The cheating negated all of it…”

      • Which is exactly what CL means when the litmus test of any relationship is “is this acceptable to me?” It bypasses all the noise and cuts right to the heart of things.

    • Spot the F on, Velvet Hammer! All the lying IS cheating, and the thing we call “cheating” is the intimate/romantic/sexual lying, which hits particularly deeply. The lying that underlies cheating is abusive across the board, and is the real root of the problem for sure.

      (People fib about things like loving screechy violin while their kids practice and learn to play songs well. That’s not what I mean by “lying”. Cheaters split this hair all the time, but it’s a fool’s argument. We all know which are fibs and which are intentional abusive deception. It’s not a tough thing to understand.)

      • Yes!! I agree with you and VH. Lying is the main issue.

        I don’t know or really care if x cheats on his AP-now-wife. But I would bet that he’ll lie to her, and she to him (after all, she cheated on her x, too). So, they belong together, but damned if I know how two people who’ve demonstrated that they are untrustworthy can have any kind of meaningful relationship.

        I want to be with people I can trust. There’s no relationship without it.

    • ….as for cheaters who “stay together and are happy”…..

      There is no need to wonder “will they be faithful to him/her?” They never have been. They were with you when they began their relationship with the OW/OM.

      I don’t care how long they’re together or how happy they seem, I wouldn’t trust that anyone had changed unless they ended the relationships with AP’s and began establishing relationships with people who are genuinely single and available. That would be evidence of learning and change, IMHO, not staying with an AP.

      I just don’t believe that cheaters who leave their committed relationships and stay together with an OW/OM have learned anything. I don’t think the OW/OM has learned anything either.

      Affairs are dysfunctional and evidence that the people in them have some big problems. As it was taught to me in counseling, and I agree.

      Relationships can only be as healthy as the people involved, and a relationship which began as an affair has the dysfunction baked in. Staying together does not remove it.

  • I just spent 15 or 20 minutes trying to figure out if my ex FW was/is a serial cheater. I got as far as reviewing his romantic relationships and their proximity to his male friends. He was the fun, goofy sidekick who attracted the women already involved with alpha (?) males.

    Then I realized I had just spent about 10 or 15 minutes more than FW in analyzing his hurtful behavior. It’s about entitlement and preemptive self-forgiveness. As far as I know, he was “faithful” for all but a few months of our 30 year marriage. But he always thought his foibles were charming.

  • Don’t really know if this is true but based on my observation, cheaters tend to repeat their cheating. I don’t have time for liars and cheaters in my life. I do not want to invest in a relationship of any kind where there is no genuine honesty and integrity. You have to trust someone to let them into your life and give them time and energy. You cannot trust liars.
    Oddly enough, I have a chump friend who thought she had a unicorn but just found out a few days ago that she did not. She wasted about three years reconciling with this so called reformed cheater. Evidently, he just got better at lying and hiding his activities. Hopefully, this time she will not get caught in the RIC. I feel for her and hope she realizes that she needs to get rid of this FW.

    • I get very disturbed about people who are still with abusers after Dday. Their desperation, their denial, ….. it hits too close to the darkest memories in my life in the 18 weeks after Dday when I was pick me dancing for my life, smoking the hopeium pipe, and XH’s abuse ratcheted up 100x. It still makes me sick to think of it and that was 8 years ago, divorced 5.5 years now (25 year marriage – completely blindsided – sociopath X).

  • There are too many redemption stories throughout history to believe “once a loser, always a loser.” Everyone has the opportunity to become a better human. The operative agent is “desire” to change for the better.

    Cheaters have high risk tolerance. However, they don’t have high pain and suffering tolerance. Sometimes they risk it all and lose everything; other times there’s not much to risk and little to lose. They gamble losing all they have (spouse, family, children, home, financial assets, relationships, reputation, etc.), and learn the hard way. Once their own pain and suffering exceeds their ability to cope with the consequences, Cheaters realize they gambled and lost.

    Only then might they begin to address themselves, which may lead to growth and change.

    If they fail to change themselves and wallow in pity, blame, excuses, and unselfishness instead, then they’re likely to keep repeating risky behaviors until they’re degenerates or become a sad sausage that barely exists in new relationship(s).

    My sample of one became the sad sausage. High risk tolerance with weak desire to change.

    • Yes, studies show cheaters have poor impulse control and have risky behavior. This contributes to the chaos of their lives. Teens and young adults show risk taking and poor impulse control, but alot grow out of it when their prefrontal cortex forms. Sadly, adults with this would have to have alot of insight, willingness to change medication and therapy to overcome themselves. They are their own worst enemies.

    • Cheaters may change or not. It really is up to them. But in the end it doesn’t matter. Trust is broken. I don’t have to stick around and find out if they reformed or not. At that point I no longer care. What they did to ME is unacceptable (and unforgivable) to ME.

  • I don’t believe, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” But I do believe, “Once an adult cheater, faithfulness always suspect.” And more to the point, “Once an adult cheater, unacceptable to have in my life.”

  • Thank you for sharing this letter, CL. Even more, I appreciate your reply. WISDOM!!!

  • I cheated on every boyfriend I ever had, from age 13 to 25. Absentee father issues. Being a blossoming alcoholic made it worse/made it easy to “fall into” situations where it was easy to cheat. I actually did feel empathy for my boyfriends and felt horribly guilty at the time, every time, but I was so needy and insecure and starved for love that I just threw myself at anyone who would pay attention to me.
    Got sober mid-20’s, met my future husband, married a few years later, never even looked at anyone else or thought about cheating in our 24 year marriage even though he barely gave me anything emotionally and withheld sex because he knew it hurt me. He probably cheated throughout.
    I’m the poster child for the “developing brain” theory. I ended up in the exact same situation (living with someone who was “supposed to” love me and take care of me but didn’t), but handled it completely differently as an adult.
    I should have left him way sooner but I guess I stayed because it was a familiar dynamic.
    I have doubts as to whether I will know how to be in a normal relationship in the future.

    • I have similar doubts. My childhood was messed up, and my marriage of decades was messed up. Frankly, I’m focusing on good friendships and my grown kids at this point. And that’s fine.

  • I actually believe that once a cheater is always a cheater. I am just 34, but I did grow up close with my cheating father. It may not always be physical cheating, but my father (who is now in his 70’s) is still emotionally cheating through social media. As far as I can understand it, cheating is about the objectifying of partners through a (cheating) skill. It is all about the duper’s delight. And I have never really seen any cheater who changed, but I have seen men who never cheated because they have strong self-awareness.

  • I couldn’t agree more that having age appropriate discussions with your children about cheating is so important. It should encompass not hurting others, having respect for themselves and behaving with dignity which will serve them well in their personal relationships including friendships, work relationships and their relationships with themselves. While immaturity does make teenagers and young adults do stupid things and they have a lot to learn, if they always act with integrity they will do just fine.

  • As a child with messed up parents, I found out my Dad was having an affair. I was parentified by my mom and became her emotional caretaker and therapist at 13. She was an unstable person and not a great mom. But when I became a mom she turned nice and was a great grandma. I am thankful for those last 7 years of her life. I was afraid of intimacy and was told by my mom that men were bad. I was scared of men. Back then you could date multiple men and not be exclusive. Now everyone wants to be GF or BF immediately. So I had overlap relationships and I wasnt exclusive with too many people. I met FW in college at 19. Up until 19, I was a bit of a mess up. When my prefrontal cortex formed, I made a conscious decision to be a better person in all areas. I started to care about learning, about school, worked hard, decided to be a good GF with good character. Decided to be the person of character I am today. I have not wavered from that and because of that I am better and wiser as I age and learn from my mistakes. So yes teens and young adults are not fully formed. They can get better. As with cheating, it is a choice. A conscious decision. Cheaters choose to be bad people of poor character. Chumps choose to be good people and we make that choice everyday.

  • I truly believe that there are things we should be learning in our teen years that people don’t teach us because they’re afraid we might have sex if we know things. It feels like a weird mass-culture cognitive failure. (Since when did teens avoid sex because of what they don’t know? Tell you what, the place I walked into more actual sex than any other in my life wasn’t college — it was church camp.)

    I think we build cheaters from the ground up culturally. When we discuss sex with youth, we often don’t effectively teach about healthy boundaries. We don’t discuss the baseline of clear, enthusiastic, and adjustable consent, or how giving others STIs (through intent or negligence) is abuse (and possibly killing), what pregnancy and delivery actually mean anatomically to the body short and long term, what date rape is and what it actually does to rape victims short and long term, etc.

    And — most importantly — we don’t clear talk about accountability, what it is, what it isn’t, and what real remorse and true apologies are.

    We don’t teach people to respect each other during relationships and sex.

    It’s literally killing us.

    So, I say, demonstrate accountable behavior, teach accountability throughout life topics when they arise, and call out (and/or call in) poor accountability where I see it, especially in relationships. I have to be pretty brave to do that, but important things often take grit and risk.

  • This is a tough question because the person in question poses a conundrum: 1) If they have cheated in the past, it is a legit reason to be skeptical about trust. 2) Being upfront about it shows a willingness to admit to past misdeeds.

    I don’t think if someone cheats once they will always be a cheater. When I was 19 I cheated on my first college bf with his friend. I don’t speak to either of them anymore. (I’m 35.) When I was about to get married, that guy tried to contact me and tried to bring up “us.” I told him word for

  • A slightly different perhaps less popular perspective. I did this in my late 20s (emotionally). I was unhappy and did not like how I was being treated and the relationship wasn’t working for me and counseling after d day helped me admit that to both myself and my ex and divorce ensued. It doesn’t make him the good guy – he should be accountable for his then treatment of me (and to this day has no remorse). But I can only control my behavior and so that still doesn’t make my choice right. I lied and kept secrets and it was wrong and hurt others. It also hurt me, because I like to think I’m a decent person. This was not the behavior of a decent person and not in line with my values and it disconnected me both from friends and myself because of the required secrecy. It was wrong, I knew it was wrong and I hated myself for it for years. I will never do it again, and feel confident saying that as 20 years later I haven’t come close as I have done the work and learned to recognize what my still hard but healthier more mature choice options were to handle that situation and what I should have done differently. So do I think once a cheater always a cheater? I think many times yes. But it depends. I think we all make mistakes the difference is do you admit it? is there remorse and do we learn – ie is that behavior ever repeated? That seems the more important question to me in determining someone’s character.

  • i think past behaviour indicates future behaviour. and what’s going on in cheating is LYING and that’s not going to change. i feel like using capitals today–be forewarned.

    you never really know a person, you know? but you can look at behaviours. so looking at “but she never cheated on her next husband” isn’t enough evidence to know about THE LYING. i need more of a forensic review of their behaviours.

    when i look back at my X there were red flags about THE LYING, or, in other words, LYING all over the place. here are a few:

    1. worked a contract job at a think tank and, when he left, stole a copy of the (CONFIDENTIAL) reports he worked on because he “wanted a copy”. then LIED about it to the boss who confronted him. FYI he signed an agreement re: leaving intellectual property behind, as professionals do.

    2. financial LIES galore–hiding lines of credit; denying/hiding big ticket purchases.

    3. instructing the KIDS TO LIE about big ticket purchases made in their presence. “don’t tell your mother. she gets too anxious about spending money”. uh, no, i ask questions about where the money is going to come from to pay for said big ticket purchases. so, not only did he teach them how to lie but he inferred i was a little bit crazy.

    i just cleared out the filing cabinet, an unholy mess because the X is incapable of filing, and found receipts for some of the big ticket purchases, the ones he minimized. i see the pattern. consistently halving the costs of his purchases. how many times did i hear this sort of thing: “it was just $4500, a good deal.” uh, no, it was $9000.

    i’ve got the receipts, literally and metaphorically, and the evidence is there.


    • Such a good point, DIFBTBAC!

      So-called innocous lies, white lies, innocent lies are everywhere. It’s testament to, “When someone shows you who they are – believe them.” Instead, we ignore the growing entitlement behind the deeds while red flags are waving. Young children learn from parents. How often do we see and hear:

      Order a water. Fill it up with soda when you get to the fountain. No one knows.
      The cashier forgot to charge me for the items on the bottom of my cart. I got $30 of free merchandise!
      If it’s free, it’s for me, and I’ll take three!
      Don’t tell him. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
      Call the manufacturer and tell them the product is broken. They’ll send you a new one.
      Hide it while she’s here. She’ll never know anything.
      Don’t pay that bill. They won’t pursue collections; it’ll be a write-off.
      Ignore the sign that says ‘One per person’. What are they going to do about it?

      These are so few of the many dishonest and entitled ways children learn to live. We can all think of hundreds more. Deeds are the very expression of the mind and heart. Deeds are either right or wrong, but can’t be both.
      When someone shows you who they are – believe them!

      • A brilliant summation, latitude. Lying, cheating, a sense of entitlement, starts small and ratchets up. Spot on.

  • (Grrr wasn’t done…)

    I told him word for word “I’m getting married and you need to leave me alone.”

    He hadn’t talked to me between the incident and my engagement (roughly 4 years.) And no contact since.

    I also think it’s not accomplished without a willingness to self-examine. You have to really understand it is selfish and hurtful. And accept the person you hurt may never want to see you again. If that’s the case, accept it and leave them alone.

    I’ve heard more stories of teenagers and very early 20’s cheating and leaving that behind and being faithful as adults than I have of grown adults cheating and being better people.

    I do believe however, the phrase “If they’ll cheat with you they’ll cheat on you.” Is pretty true. How many people here have stories of the AP getting upset because cheater cheated on them??? Plenty.

  • Most cheaters don’t want to give it up, even after they are caught. So there’s that! And LIAR’s become so skilled at the art of lying, the entitilment is irresistable. My x was a master liar and a serial cheater, I think he loved both – they went hand in hand. IMO they simply like the thrill.

  • Inherent to cheating is devaluing the partner, then making a series of decisions that lead to physical, emotional and/or financial cheating and the thrill of duper’s delight. Cheaters have seen their partner as an opponent to outwit and defraud. Once devalued, I doubt that a cheater will regain respect for the person they chumped, even if they feel remorse. They may intend to reform, but I think it will be easier for them to cheat a second time.

  • Once a cheater, always a cheater ( it’s very suspect and very doubtful for the future, will need to corral their entitlement if change and maturity has even the slightest chance of happening, but it’s already pretty doubtful, since they are waving a big red flag of very questionable moral integrity, lack of character and empathy and a habit of lying and deceit out of the gate)

    Once a serial cheater, always a cheater. Absolutely true IMO, they crossed the line of no return and aren’t coming back as a good and faithful spouse, because they tasted and enjoyed the devious side of life and gave themselves permission to imbibe. They aren’t going to miraculous wake up and remember to care about someone else besides themselves. They believe in their hearts that no one is more important than themselves, they live that narrative.That’s not a fixable situation.

  • Once a cheater always a cheater? Absolutely! But, my therapist explained it to me this way, “No one wakes up and suddenly decides to be an adulterer. The need to lie and cheat has always been in him, it was just manifested in different ways. Did he cheat in school? Does he cheat on his taxes? Does he lie to advance himself or project a certain persona?” Yes, to all of the above and more. In our marriage, his lying and cheating in other ways escalated to adultery. (And, it became part of his pattern of abuse.)

    I know he’s cheated on the AP. As part of our divorce case, he was deposed—lie after lie after lie. In testimony given under oath, no less, with my counsel sitting across a table from him with multiple documents proving he’s a liar. He can’t help himself. He’ll never change.

  • If you step back and focus on the dynamics, cheating is just a bad behavior. That behavior is fueled by limitless entitlement and complete lack of empathy to a person you vowed you would never hurt and your children.
    Narcissism is not cured by bedding or dumping a schmoopy – my opinion, they will not change.

  • Not once a cheater, always a cheater. I cheated when I was young. We all seemed to do it in my small-town circle. Then I got disillusioned with the small-town, moved to the city, went to school & acquired better friendship/relationship skills.
    Then I married & never once cheated for 24 years (even when flattered by a handsome colleague doctor or a fawning friend’s husband…she finally dumped him!). The point is I learn through my mistakes & try & do better. My xFW thinks he’s perfect so….🤷🏻‍♀️

  • Mr. Sparkles is a cheater through and through, he is the disordered variety for sure. Lots of FOO issues that contributed to his current inability to connect emotionally, show empathy or any basic human emotions. My experience comes from finding online personal ads he posted; his XW coming forward to confess she became his OW whenever she came to town to visit their kids that lived with us; and I found a trove of emails where he responded to personals and booked “dates” with people from Craigslist; and the pesky little details around burner phones and hotel room receipts notwithstanding.

    THEN… after he discarded me for the replacement… he continued. As I was gathering info for my divorce, I found he was still online and cheating on her. As they say, when the OW replaces you… someone has to replace the OW. She subsequently dumped him before our divorce was even final (after nearly two years) and he was in a new relationship with a new “twu wuv” from the gym within weeks – he’s very good at grooming replacements (see “Impression Management”).

    He spent ZERO time reflecting on his role in the failure of his relationship(s)… he’s not interested in changing. Cheating works for him, why would he.

    As CL says, none of us has a crystal ball… will they, won’t they… doesn’t matter… what is acceptable to you is what matters.

  • I have two local friends in my age group (60’s) who have admitted to me that they were cheaters in their early 20’s and ended up having multiple abortions because they were spotty with birth control. But they righted themselves, married well in their 30’s, and now have decades together and lovely grandchildren.

    Time proved that they had changed. They look back at their 20-something selves and are frankly horrified, but they handled it. I agree that the root is entitlement and a lack of empathy toward the partner though. If it is turned around when you are relatively young, there may be hope, but time will tell.

    Mine was a “gray” divorce, and frankly, at that point, the chance of a major turnaround in anything is low. Our mutual therapist had a sub-specialty of senior mental health, and she told me over and over to let my ex go because the patterns were set. He had the formal personality disorder diagnosis from her, but I somehow thought we’d overcome that, naive me. Ultimately, I “came to” though, thankfully.

  • My father cheated on my mother, married his AP, and they have been happily married for 25+ years. He was a cheater once and then never again (presumably). I think it depends on the person and the situation. My dad lost a lot of money (and some other things) in the divorce so it’s possible that he wants to cheat on my stepmother but knows that it’s probably not worth it. Or it’s possible that his marriage to my mom wasn’t right, his marriage to his current wife is, and his big/only mistake was not ending relationship #1 before starting relationship #2.

  • I don’t know if my ex cheated more than what he confessed to me (a one-night stand) and I don’t know if he’ll cheat again. It’s not my problem now. 😀

    I do know he felt guilty and that rather than owning up to his guilt, he spent years treating me like absolute crap. Anger issues, dismissing me, withdrawing emotionally from me, devaluing me. And that relationship wasn’t acceptable to me. I had a moment of clarity after he confessed when I realized I had been trying so hard to save *this* relationship and I didn’t really have to do that any more. It was freeing.

  • Although I’ve never been a fan of Ronald Reagan, I’d read that he did cheat on Nancy, very early on, got caught, and was genuinely remorseful and faithful for life. So maybe it does happen. I agree so very strongly with Chumplady: this is about entitlement and power, and I assume in that case RR figured out pretty quickly he was losing a woman he really loved and did the math.

    I think it’s less likely for a man to become a recidivist cheater when the power in the relationship is more evenly distributed. But one observation here: I understand asking the issue is important if you’re staying married, but I really don’t get the significance of whether he’s “reformed” after your divorce, with the new wife appliance. Is it a way of validating the fact that his cheating was never your fault? I see so many women upset because the AP is now the wife and they’re living in a house the chump had always dreamed of living in, or AP bought a car that FW never allowed the chump to buy during the marriage. And I’m personally not worried, maybe it’s all for show. Maybe the divorce actually scared the hell out of FW and he’s trying to love-bomb AP pre-emptively. Maybe he’s doing it all deliberately to spite the chump.

    In my own marriage: it’s over, and whatever lessons he’s learned, or not learned, are of no concern to me. He damn well knows he lost the best thing he ever had.

  • Sure, people can change, even cheaters. The question is, how likely is it that they’re going to change, and what have they done to show that their past behavior is not the best predictor of their future behavior? And is there a reason to believe them other than wishful thinking?

    Rabbi Danya Rutenberg has done a lot of good writing on repentance that puts the burden on the person who caused harm to do the hard work of repairing the harm the did – instead of buying into the “everybody deserves a second change” nonsense the RIC peddles.

  • It seems very odd to me there are quite a few chumps today prepared to believe what cheaters say, and take them at their own evaluation! Cheaters are ipso facto liars, why this desire to believe them when they assert they’ve seen the light, have never cheated again, will never cheat again? 🙄. Shaking my head in amazement.

    “Once a cheater, always a cheater”.

    In my opinion, yes. Because the core is *entitlement*. A person who believes they are entitled to lie and put something over on someone else, whatever rationale they cook up to explain/excuse their behaviour, is extremely unlikely to change fundamentally.

    In any event, to me, whether or not a cheater is capable of change, is irrelevant. These are not people I want to have any kind of relationship with. Life is too short to engage with people who have shown themselves to be untrustworthy liars – I have no interest in investing in that.

    • I also have to say I find it very upsetting that quite a few self-styled ‘chumps’ ( on *this* fucking blog, of all others!) are coming out of the woodwork to admit they’ve cheated themselves in the past, but are proffering various self-serving rationales for their behaviour.

      I thought this blog was a safe place for honest to God *chumps*, not cheaters who have ‘repented’, or provided themselves with pretty sounding excuses for their past behaviour.

      And you people now designate yourselves as chumps, because you’ve been cheated on, and lied to, which is precisely what you did to others/another in the past, but of course you feel very guilty now and are very sorry, and will never do it again. Cheaterspeak word vomit. 🤮👿🤮👿

      I really don’t know how you have the fucking *nerve* to be here. Because it was a long time ago, that makes it forgivable? Not to me.

      • So, what, I’m an untrustworthy perpetual cheater for the rest of my life because I made out with my boyfriend’s friend once when I was 19? 16 years ago? This singular instance makes me vomit worthy? I’m 35 years old now and I haven’t spoken to that guy since 2008 when I told him to leave me alone. I’m not going to flagellate myself for the rest of my life for a thing I did as a teenager with a person I have had no contact with for over a decade. I usually don’t even bring it up now because this man (boy, because he was 18 and I was 19 at the time) is fairly irrelevant to my life now.

        But how about the people in their 20’s being beaten by partners desperately throwing themselves at anyone who’s nice to them because they’re desperate for affection but too terrified to run?

        That’s the same as a serial cheater in their middle adulthood having multiple years long affairs??

        We don’t deserve to dare be here?

        I’m sorry but that’s completely unfair to put us in the same position as repeat cheaters with no remorse and continued entitlement and chronic narcissism. Especially those who put themselves through the therapy and difficult emotional work to deal with the toxic choices they made and found themselves in 20+ year marriages being completely faithful. Nobody here who’s admitted to past poor choices has said anything about it being okay or acceptable and has also admitted those choices often lead to worse consequences or set them up for making poor choices in future partners, and it took a lot of time and pain to break the chain of bad relationships.

        This doesn’t deserve the same kind of vitriol we reserve for unrepentant narcissists and serial cheaters who turn blame on their partners. It just is not.

        If you shoplifted a lipstick when you were 16 would it be fair to say you’re as guilty as a kleptomaniac who takes thousands of dollars from every retail establishment they enter?

        Or if you lived with someone who took away your ability to survive on your own threatened you with violence every day if you didn’t bring them money every day, so you resorted to less than legal means to do it out of pure fear for your life, but when you got away, you got honest work, would you want everyone to see you as a criminal no matter how many years passed?

        Probably not.

        Whether you agree or not, no, not all situations are the same. We see a LOT stories of very unoriginal, self-centered, highly entitled cheaters and even more encouragement from society at large for them to never be sorry. That much is true. But we also have to remember a lot of chumps also come from backgrounds and situations that set us up to be trusting, vulnerable, and oftentimes also desperate for validation. And without a strong source of support through complicated situations and complex issues as kids, teens, and young adults, it can lead to being unable to maturely handle toxic relationships and poor decisions that will satisfy immediate needs for attention in the moment, but ultimately don’t solve the deeper problem. This is the case for a lot of young people. Sometimes it comes out in the form of cheating in early relationships, other times it comes out as depression, self harm, poor anger management, or all of these. Whether or not they have the resources to get help for this is another complication. Some do.

        But you can’t expect a person to be the same as they were when they were a teenager or 20 when they’re in their 30’s or older. Especially when they’ve demonstrated they’re not.

        The people who ARE still that immature and the people who are not sorry and keep making the same bad choices well into adulthood, have at THEM.

        • Thank you for responding to a very disrespectful comment. No one is perfect we are all human. But there is a BIG difference between a serial cheater who blames everything on the other has zero remorse plays victim and says things like “you made me do it” and “you have no one to blame but yourself “ than a human who can admit to a bad choice and working to be better. Most chumps here have experienced only the former. There are evil jerks and serial cheaters and those that continue to abuse by blaming and denying. There are also a few people that can make a mistake, ADMIT IT, feel remorse, make amends, own poor choices and learn from it and demonstrate good character through behavior after that.

          • “Thank you for responding to a very disrespectful comment”

            I see no reason to be respectful to, or respectful of, cheating, lying behaviours.

            Do you think one should be respectful of criminal/and/or abusive behaviour because the perpetrator now says they’re sorry?

            • It very clear by your rudeness and the sanctimoniousness of your other comments, including calling someone who opened up about painful thoughts she had when she felt broken by abuse “a manipulative b*tch,” that not only did you not actually read what I said, but you have a sense of inflexible moral absolutism.

              Yes, it is disrespectful. Especially when you resorted to that kind of name calling.

              A lot of people have opened up about the dysfunction they experienced and their regrets and difficult to face thoughts of self-loathing, pain, and depression. NOBODY has been saying it was ok. It’s extremely difficult to open up and be honest about emotional pain and talk about the worst parts of abuse because of the additional fear of not being taken seriously or

              People like you who’s reaction is verbal cruelty and complete lack of compassion. Seeing your comments, I wouldn’t want to tell you anything about my experiences with my abusers if I knew you in person. Let alone feel comfortable enough to trust you with confessions of my own mistakes. You’re hanging everyone from the same gallows with no empathy and the sense of moral superiority is noxious.

              Stop it.

              • “… calling someone who opened up about painful thoughts she had when she felt broken by abuse “a manipulative b*tch,””

                This person you are feeling so sorry for admitted she had deliberately tried to goad her husband into hitting her so she could claim physical abuse. And you are seriously telling me you are OK with that. To me that is a deliberate slap in the face to all those women who have genuinely suffered physical abuse at the hands of their partners. (including myself).

                She also stated she deliberately planned, and had an affair, in order to implode her marriage, instead of ethically ending it.

                Many cheaters have been featured here who did exactly the same, and were called out for it, yet this woman gets a pass. Why?

                These weren’t ‘painful thoughts’ she had, they were *actions*. Committed deliberately and planned. And considering she has admitted to manipulative behaviour, and admitted to planning for, and having, an affair, which necessarily entails lying, deceit, and gaslighting, I would take her claims of being abused with a large amount of salt.

                As for your comments on my character, you’re entitled to your opinion, as am I. Evidently you feel that cheating and lying, and deliberately trying to set up someone else to physically abuse you is excusable under certain circumstances. I don’t.

                All of the self-styled ‘chumps’ who have stated they have cheated, have all trotted out the exact same reasons for doing so as covered by various posts, not to mention LACGAL itself. They have all expressed, in many cases in the exact same words, the same ‘remorse’ as other cheaters have. I’m not impressed by any of it.

                And don’t tell me to stop expressing opinions because you don’t like what I have to say.

              • I agree with Kara. The name calling shaming and frankly bullying is making me feel unsafe and regret sharing.

                How is attacking people here by calling them a “manipulative bitch” or “dubious moral compass” ok? That’s two examples of many! Chumpnomore how you’re talking to others isn’t ok. You may not like what they said or did but you have a choice on how to respond and there are more respectful ways than calling someone a “manipulative bitch” . That’s in bullying territory and frankly makes me and many others here feel unsafe to be vulnerable again.
                I also do not think you’re reading these because no one is saying things like “cheated and it’s ok”. I haven’t seen one admission where anyone said what they did was ok. I’ve seen people who made mistakes when they were young and immature and lacking appropriate relationship and coping skills, felt terrible about their choices, clearly stated that EVEN when their partners where awful their choices were still wrong (the opposite of blameshifting) accepted the consequences did not blame others and did the work to understand why and develop healthier coping skills. I also see no one who made these mistakes later than their 20s so youth and immaturity can definitely cause mistakes ans the difference between entitled sad sausages and humans is the admission of a mistaje and the self reflection and work done to fix what was broken within. I thought this was a space of humanity and compassion where you could share without someone calling you names and attacking you verbally. It is how we learn and handle mistakes that shows character. Your choice of response has been disrespectful and hurtful to others. You have every right to not agree and we all empathize with your pain because we’ve been hurt too – not hist by cheating but how it was handled and how we were treated after. but how you say that is in your control.
                I hope never to see bullying or name calling here again.

              • “I agree with Kara. The name calling shaming and frankly bullying is making me feel unsafe and regret sharing”.

                Oh please. So what upsets you is 1) the fact I called ‘not my screen name’ a manipulative bitch. If I had left off the ‘bitch’ and simply called her manipulative, (which is what she is) would that have been OK? All right, strike ‘bitch’, and leave manipulative.

                2) “shaming and frankly bullying”. This I find interesting. So if someone comes onto a blog called “Leave a cheater, gain a life” and which moreover features posts outing the self-serving drivel spewed by cheaters, OW/OM, apologists and sophists, and posts about how they not only planned an affair in order to implode their marriage because they didn’t have the courage to end it ethically(and let’s not forget planning an an affair requires malice a forethought, lying, deceit, gaslighting), but also admits they deliberately tried to goad their spouse into hitting them so they could claim physical abuse, because

              • Oops again. Had to reset my phone a few days ago and since then it has developed a life of its own. 🙄😂

                To resume.
                2)… because emotional abuse wasn’t enough, and admitting to planning an exit affair, because they were too gutless to end their marriage ethically, calling them out for such manipulative and immoral behaviour is “shaming and frankly bullying”. What specious nonsense.

                3) “dubious moral compass”. If you’re prepared to condone and excuse the behaviour outlined in point 2, then in my opinion your moral compass is certainly dubious, if not nonexistent.

                4) “I haven’t seen one admission where anyone said what they did was ok.” Exlifelessons stated she cheated because everyone in her circle did. I presume she thought that was OK.

                5) “I’ve seen people who made mistakes when they were young and immature…”. Look up the definition of ‘mistake’. Every lying cheater has framed their behaviour as a ‘mistake’, including my ex fuckwit and his rat faced whore. Oh, I shouldn’t use such language, it’s disrespectful, shaming, and bullying. 🙄

                6)” Your choice of response has been disrespectful and hurtful to others.” I have no respect for those who lie, cheat, and manipulate others.

                7) “You have every right to not agree and we all empathize with your pain because we’ve been hurt too – not hist by cheating but how it was handled and how we were treated after. but how you say that is in your control”.

                Your gracious condescension humbles me. 🙄 Many cheaters and liars squeal about “how they’ve been hurt too”. Yes, my mode of expression is in my control, and if you don’t like it I don’t give a flying fuck.

                I’ll close with the observation that not one of you who have taken it upon yourselves to castigate me, has shown one iota of empathy for the poster SoSad, and not one of you has addressed the points I made about the manipulative, unethical, and immoral behaviour admitted to by ‘not my screen name’, so I have to conclude it’s just fine with you. It was just a ‘mistake’, right?

              • I think you need to learn that just because someone doesn’t directly address a point, doesn’t automatically mean they believe an action was acceptable and ok. That’s a huge leap in logic. If you say “I like llamas and hate oranges, I hate them so much I destroy all the stock of oranges in every produce aisle at the store!”

                And I respond with, “I like llamas too, do also like alpacas?” Does that now mean that I think you destroying the produce aisle is okay? No, it just means I asked you something else.

                But since you’re SO determined to believe that everyone thinks it’s all ok, then fine, I will address your points. Also, in case you didn’t know, which I bet you don’t, it is domestic violence awareness month. And you definitely need some awareness.

                Not all abusive relationships involve physical violence, but all abusive relationships that progress to physical violence require emotional abuse to get there. Emotional abuse in and of itself is so destructive and mentally debilitating, yet leaves no external marks. Which is part of the insidiousness of emotional abuse. A lack of physical marks makes it that much more difficult for the victims to be believed, because there’s that much less “proof.” Without bruises, cuts, or scars, it becomes a battle of “he said she said” and manipulation by the abuser to make the victim have as little power over the situation as possible.

                Because of this, it is actually not uncommon for victims of ongoing emotional and mental abuse to wish their abusers would actually hit them, because that gives them something “real” to point to. An incident to name, that can be seen by others. It’s morbid, but for someone who has been living day in and day out with the mental torture of someone abusing them and very little hope of anyone outside the situation believing them and listening, it’s a thought that comes up like “If he would just hit me, I know he wants to, why won’t he just DO IT, if he did, maybe someone would see it…” it’s a deeply painful and desperate hope for some way out.

                At the risk of you turning your ire and bullying in my direction (which I’m sure you are already readying your fingers at the keys to call me any number of names you can come up with, go ahead. Do it. Since you’re so confident in your feelings.) I have had these thoughts myself. I know EXACTLY what it feels like. My abuser yelled at me daily, controlled what I wore, who I talked to, punished me with the silent treatment (I have PTSD from that now) and at times would literally stand over me, yelling and screaming curses and telling me how bad of a person I was and how lucky I am that he stays with me, while I sobbed in a corner on the ground. Often I wished he’d hit me. Then I could show someone that he wasn’t the awesome guy he showed to the world. If someone saw a bruise, a cut, some kind of physical harm, then someone would believe me. Once I even told him I wished he’d hit me, then I could point to a reason to get away from him that others would believe. His reply? “Well yeah, that makes sense.”

                Seeing as you have seen ONLY Not My Screen Name mention that she wanted this to happen, and ONLY that she cheated as a way out (you have zeroed in on these things and ignored both context and everything said about the situation thereafter, which you’ve also done with everyone else who’s admitted their past) you have chosen to ignore how she also said that when she did these things, she felt completely BROKEN. I quote “It takes a broken person to think this.” She is right. These are the thoughts and actions of a person who has been so utterly broken down by abuse they can’t see other ways out. She did not say what she did was okay, she did not say it fixed her situation, nor did she say anything close to “I was abused so it was alright for me to do this.” No, she said she felt depressed, lost, desperate for one person to treat her like a human being, and utterly broken inside.

                And you called her a bitch. Tell me. If one of your best, closest friends came to you, told you she had something terrible she needed to talk to someone about, told you she had been abused for so long by a partner (who in the outside seemed like a “great guy”) and she felt so painfully lost that she slept with another man in hopes it would make her abuser leave, and wished desperately that the abuser would just punch her so she could finally have proof of the abuse, would you honestly look her in the eye and tell her she’ll get no support from you because she’s a “manipulative bitch?” I sure as hell HOPE not.

                You also don’t seem to understand false equivalents. Oh when a cheater sad sausage says “I had to cheat because you made me empty the dishwasher” you understand false equivalents, but when someone says “I was in my early 20’s and slept with another guy because all my friends were doing it, but I’ve been loyal to my husband for 10+ years” is NOT the same as “I’m a cheater who goes out and sleeps with multiple women every weekend because my wife is caring for our toddler and doesn’t meet my needs like I want her to.” These are false equivalents. They don’t just apply to the narcs who write into Vogue.

                And while we’re at it, the person who admitted to cheating on her partners in her 20’s because all her friends were doing it as well, does not mean this person STILL BELIEVES THE SAME THING THEY DID AT THE TIME. In fact, they said their friends at that time were very toxic, and nobody was calling anyone out on their terrible behavior. She also wished that someone had called her out on hers. She got away from those people, and stopped the narcissistic behaviors. To this day, she checks herself and remembers the lessons she learned. (Another situation where you seem to have ignored both context and everything said about the situation thereafter. You see the only thing you want to see and then go on the attack.)

                Nobody said what they did was okay. Nobody. You don’t fully read what’s being said, and just assume they think it’s ok. If everyone doesn’t address specifically every tiny point you make, you assume they think it’s ok. You’re not applying any reading comprehension or any critical thinking to the words in front of you. You’re seeing what you want, assuming what you want, and being a bully.

                The question posed was “Do you believe once a cheater, always a cheater.” Several of us here, from personal experience, have said based on their experiences in their own lives, their answer is a resounding NO. Not a single person here has told you that you have to agree with that sentiment. Nobody said So Sad has to agree with it either. Nobody said you have to allow someone in your life who has a history of cheating, even if it’s from 20+ years ago. It’s your prerogative. But it’s pretty interesting that others who disagree have found a way to do so without aiming personal attacks at anyone and without resorting to name-calling and bullying. Seems to me there’s other commenters who are perfectly capable of agreeing to disagree without being rude, cruel, or sanctimonious.

                And I didn’t say you’re not allowed to voice an opinion. I said STOP IT as in STOP BEING A BULLY. I know you’re a grown woman in her 70’s. That’s damn well old enough to know how to express an opinion without being rude, disrespectful, and mean. You’re more than twice my age. Act like it.

              • I wasn’t going to reply to this, as there seems little point, since, as I said earlier, your attitude is that under certain circumstances, cheating, lying, and manipulating others, is, if not OK, excusable and understandable. I disagree, and your logic fallacy of appealing to emotion doesn’t hold water – either one believes these behaviours are reprehensible under any circumstances, or one doesn’t.

                However, on second thoughts, I’ll respond.

                “I think you need to learn that just because someone doesn’t directly address a point, doesn’t automatically mean they believe an action was acceptable and ok. That’s a huge leap in logic.”

                Your reasoning is specious. In any discussion, argument, debate, disagreement, failure to address specific points made by another, is indicative of a desire to avoid, sidestep, the points made. The implication is they can’t answer the points. Very often they use the logic fallacy of an appeal to emotion instead, which is what you are doing.

                “.. in case you didn’t know, which I bet you don’t, it is domestic violence awareness month. And you definitely need some awareness.”

                Why assume I don’t know? Whether I know it’s “domestic violence aware month” is irrelevant to a knowledge and awareness of domestic violence. Which in fact I have, as I was physically abused by the ex fuckwit.

                ” Because of this, it is actually not uncommon for victims of ongoing emotional and mental abuse to wish their abusers would actually hit them, because that gives them something “real” to point to. An incident to name, that can be seen by others.”

                I quite agree. However, *wishing* someone would hit you is not the same as deliberately trying to manipulate/goad someone into doing so. Which is what ‘not my screen name’ admitted to. And since you brought up” domestic violence awareness month”, trying to manipulate someone into hitting you is not what it’s about, and not something that would be condoned.

                “… you have chosen to ignore how she also said that when she did these things, she felt completely BROKEN.”

                No, I didn’t. I pointed out that many of us who have gone through it also felt broken, but we didn’t try to manipulate the situation by goading the other into committing physical violence, nor did we plan and carry out an affair in order to implode the marriage, instead of ending it ethically. Affairs automatically carry with them lies, deceit, and gaslighting. And entitlement. You either find this reprehensible, or you don’t. Appeals to emotion are illogical and meretricious in this instance.

                “Tell me. If one of your best, closest friends came to you, told you she had something terrible she needed to talk to someone about, told you she had been abused for so long by a partner (who in the outside seemed like a “great guy”) and she felt so painfully lost that she slept with another man in hopes it would make her abuser leave, and wished desperately that the abuser would just punch her so she could finally have proof of the abuse, would you honestly look her in the eye and tell her she’ll get no support from you because she’s a “manipulative bitch?” I sure as hell HOPE not.”

                Again, you are appealing to emotion. In the first place, in the scenario you outline, it’s unlikely I wouldn’t already know my friend was suffering in this way, and would have already advised her to leave, and provided as much support as I possibly could, to help her to do so. However, if she told me out of the blue, “… she felt so painfully lost that she slept with another man in hopes it would make her abuser leave…” yes, I would find that reprehensible, and would tell her so. Using someone else as a patsy, in order to avoid dealing with something is not a good or moral approach.

                ” you don’t seem to understand false equivalents”.

                I think it’s *you* who doesn’t understand them. You postulate that cheating is different under certain circumstances, and is dependent on whether sufficient time has passed, and that the person states they have never, and would never cheat again. The basis of all cheating is selfishness, entitlement, willingness to deceive and lie to another. That is the *core*. If you wish to assume someone who admits to being an entitled liar in the past but now asserts they have changed, that’s your prerogative, but that’s what most of them say. As I pointed out before, one lie makes anything said subsequently suspect and susceptible to proof.

                “Nobody said what they did was okay. Nobody”

                Well of course not! These people are not going to come onto *Chumplady * and boldly make such an admission, I wouldn’t expect them to. However, if one comes onto Chumplady and makes these admissions, then one should expect to be called out for it, and one’s integrity and character questioned, at the very least. No amount of rationalisations, justifications, ‘reasons’, declarations of remorse, assertions one has never, and would never, do it again, changes the fact that at some point, whether in the past or not, they were prepared to lie, deceive, keep secrets others were entitled to know, gaslight, and felt entitled to do these things, because ‘reasons’. I suppose it’s *possible* they have seen the light, and have genuinely changed, but the residual entitlement I see in the excuses and rationalisations proffered makes that unlikely.

                “But it’s pretty interesting that others who disagree have found a way to do so without aiming personal attacks at anyone and without resorting to name-calling and bullying.”

                The only name-calling I did was to call one poster a manipulative bitch. In retrospect, I should have left out ‘bitch’, and retained manipulative. As a victim myself of domestic violence, her manipulative admission appalled me, but my response was too emotional.

                “personal attacks”. Well, that’s a bit rich, coming from you, after your excoriations of my character. 🙄😂 I presume you’re referring to my responses to ExLifeLessons, Recently Discarded, Kara, and yourself. I don’t remember any others, but I’m sure you’ll tell me if you bother to read this far. I don’t consider my responses to be attacks, but I don’t pussyfoot around, and I call a spade a spade. You’re perfectly at liberty to call that “personal attacks and bullying” if you so wish.

                “I know you’re a grown woman in her 70’s. That’s damn well old enough to know how to express an opinion without being rude, disrespectful, and mean. You’re more than twice my age. Act like it.”

                70 actually. And as I’ve already stated, I feel under no obligation to be polite or respectful to cheaters, liars, and entitled people.

      • I agree, Chumpnomore6, all of the “I was young”, “my brain wasn’t fully formed” tripe is nauseating.

  • I like the sentiment: if you want to be sure you’re with a cheater, stick to the person that cheated on you.

    Asking, will they cheat again, is a bit fool-hardy. It has elements of prediction and control that aren’t based in much reality. Get away from them, because they manipulated you, and are unsafe. Get away from them, so you can see their deeper patterns.

    I don’t think we put criminals in jail to rehabilitate them, at least not primarily. We put them there so that they can’t harm us again. We might hope that they’ll rehabilitate themselves, and not commit another crime, but in the meantime, the best we can predict and control is to remove them from immediate harm. Removing them from your life isn’t jail, but it’s the same mechanism: remove them, so they can’t hurt you _again_.

  • I had a relationship with a man who was separated from his wife and going through a divorce when I was a young single woman. As much as he told me how much he loved me and I was crazy about him, l learned the hard way he was also with another woman. I was definitely stupid and inexperienced and it changed the relationships I had going forward. I’ve thought during this shit show about that experience and realize what a shit that man was to women. I’m not saying I am innocent, I knew he was married yet he was living alone and did get a divorce during our relationship. If I hadn’t learned about his other relationship I would have stayed with him. I did have significant self worth issues which resulted in my choice of men as partners. I had boundary issues which I’ve resolved by just not trying to get in a relationship with a man. Is that healthy-no. But at this age I am just done with romantic relationships. Hugs to newbies!

    • Why are you here? You were an OW (separated is MARRIED – whose word did you have about his divorce? HIS??? Did you look up the public records to see that he’d filed? My ex lied about our divorce, about the fact that we weren’t still seeing each other. Everything.). You are EXACTLY the sort of person my ex husband cheated on me with (except she was also separated). She had “self-worth issues” too. And then you state that if he hadn’t been unfaithful to YOU, you would have stayed with him????? So cheating is cool when YOU are doing it, but not when someone does it to you?

      Why are you in a place for CHUMPS? What you did is exactly what helped nearly destroy some of us emotionally, put our health at risk, harmed our kids.

      It used to feel safe here, but geez. The comments on this particular post have me debating whether I ever come back.

      • “It used to feel safe here, but geez. The comments on this particular post have me debating whether I ever come back.”

        Don’t say that. Xx. I ‘m horrified and amazed myself, but they’ re only a few people, most of them self-admitted cheaters, who’ve seen this post as an opportunity to hop on and vindicate themselves. Why some previously stalwart chumps are buying into all the sob stories and giving them a pass is a mystery. Maybe it’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”? Hugs to you hun. 💕

  • I think that anyone can make a decision to change their life IF THEY WANT TO. However, some personality types may learn to say they want to, only as a social measure to mitigate consequences, and they have no intention to change. Perhaps they are truly lacking the capacity to change or see no advantage to changing? I don’t have the answers there, or the medical/scientific credentials for a definitive answer. I know my cheaters had cheated before, hid it from me, and spoke against cheating. One “loved” the TV show Cheaters! I think he actually used it as a learning tool to avoid detection.

    There are many character flaws which are unacceptable to me. As an adult I have learned to avoid folks with these flaws. I had to learn how to set boundaries. I had to reevaluate my own behaviors and make changes in myself to stand up for myself and love myself enough not to tolerate these negative behaviors. My FOO culture did me no favors when it came to marital expectations.

    When I was young, and my adult personality was in the early development stage, I made many cringeworthy mistakes. I hope I am not judged, as an adult, by these early missteps. I hope I am not judged by my choice of marital partners.
    I was fortunate and did not have alcohol, or drug addictions, or suffer from bi-polar disorder, but all those things ran in my family. I saw the consequences of denial when family members did not accept reality or take responsibility for their actions. It scared me, and “fixed my picker” early when it came to those choices. I do not envy anyone who had to overcome substance abuse, or deal with mental illness.

    My point is, I was in my forties before I became who I am today. I am still a work in progress, but I think I have already learned the hardest lessons. I certainly hope so. I chose to change. I do not want to be a user or be used. I try to live by the Golden Rule, but if others treat me poorly once, I see no point in subjecting myself to another go around. As a result, I do not date, and I have only a few good friends. I am open to further change, but I would have to see the actual changes another person claims to have made, over a period of time, before I would really believe the change.

    Living an authentic life, based on honesty and integrity is a hard choice to make in our society. It is definitely not the “norm”. If you choose this path, you may not be “popular”, but you will know peace. For me, it was a good choice.

  • I don’t know if they will cheat again matters when we are talking about a full-grown adult. They have proven that they may lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.

    Who knows when the next want will come along. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. I don’t really care. I’m not going to live with my head in a guillotine hoping they “keep their word” to never release the blade.

  • Yes, they can certainly learn life lessons about cheating and they can reform. The problem is that most do not want to. Their character inclination is to satisfy urges and receive gratification, not to live an authentic life and be honorable. They just don’t see the reward in that.

    When we are young, we are more impulsive and focused on instant gratification. Maturity should correct that, if we attain it. Many of us do not, for one reason or another. Arrested emotional development is quite common. For an example, look at all the people who think getting drunk and making an idiot of yourself is fun, well into their forties, fifties and beyond. This adolescent behavior is socially acceptable because it is so common.

  • Today’s letter reminds me of my ambivalence with that acclaimed TV show “Never Have I Ever”. I really liked the series until the main character two-timed her boyfriends during season 2. It was the most sympathetic of situations; the two-timing girl was only age 15/16 and was bummed out about moving out of the country. She wanted to get the most out of the few precious weeks she had left in the USA, so she didn’t say no to the opportunity to date both of the boys she’d miss. She figured consequences would be minimal compared to leaving the country. OTOH, the show didn’t shy away from showing her selfish teenager moments, and that she thought there was something cool about having two boyfriends. There were bad consequences, both too extreme & too easily resolved (like how Paxton lost his sports scholarship, but forgave her anyway, too easily). Still, I don’t know if it was fair of whatever in me lost interest in the show after that.

  • I honestly think it’s good that some of us are coming forward and admitting to things we did as teens and early 20-somethings. The self-reflection and discussion of the situations looks wildly different than the letters from APs or vapid stories going through the UBT. Some of the comments here I’ve read today are very sad stories of very abusive relationships and the desire to feel actual love, and those of us who are owning up to the toxic habits we had in young age are mature. It seems a lot of us, myself included, were too young, with toxic family/friend groups, with equally immature partners, or dealing with real mental health issues we were unable to name and therefore did not have the coping skills to manage. Someone also mentioned a lack of actual sexual education that includes how to understand boundaries and consent, and recognizing abuse. I actually did not know emotional abuse was even a thing until I was 21. My therapist opened my eyes to that reality and it was like an avalanche of emotions I couldn’t explain or handle.

    The biggest difference I see in these confessions today, and the “confessions” of cheaters of Esther Perel’s ilk and the likes of Vogue or whatever magazine runs those stories like clickbait candy is the accountability. I don’t see blameshifting, I don’t see victim-complexes, I don’t see the self-absolution. Nobody who has admitted to cheating in the past today has been spinning some bullshit story about it leading to Twu Wuv. There’s no delusion that it was a good choice. It lead to consequences, it solved no problems, in some cases, it created more. And nobody reached the decision to never do it again without extensive introspection and emotional work.

    • Exactly. There is also no humble-bragging, or dupers delight seeping between the lines.

      Most of the click-bait stuff always reads to me like they just have to tell someone, because on some level they are so gosh dang proud of duping their significant other. Sure, there is also a hint of wanting validation that their actions are Right – but the main dish is always a serving of “I’m so great, so many people want to sleep with me, and my life is sooo exciting and dramatic that I simply must right the local news!”

  • Pretty the cheater I was married to is perpetually stuck in the lie, cheat, repeat cycle. Can’t survive on less than 2 concurrent relationships. Still sees hookers as well. Even though I am no contact he still tries every couple of months, showing up and begging me to take him back. No chance.

  • I cheated once when I was in my early twenties. It was a long term, long distance relationship with an abusive alcoholic who had cheated on me several times. We had a huge fight one night where he humiliated me in front of an entire party and we broke up. I cheated on him that night. You could say since we were broken up it wasn’t cheating but we broke up and got back together constantly because it was a toxic abusive relationship. So, when we got back together a couple weeks later I didn’t tell him for a while. To me, it was cheating. What kind of asshole waits 20 minutes after breaking up with their long term partner to hookup? A pretty shitty one.

    We weren’t hace sex so I didn’t expose him to anything and didn’t have unprotected sex with anyone. I confessed and got tested, but still, it was awful. Does this make any of it better? Hell no! I felt terrible then, and still feel terrible. The relationship eventually ended for several reasons, the main being he was an abusive alcoholic, but I learned a lot about myself. I couldn’t live with it and the stress of my awful actions ate me up inside. I haven’t cheated since, but it made me realize that cheating is just as much about our own character as it is about our boundaries and the situations we put ourselves in. In every relationship, since, I’m so careful about boundaries and situations that could even breed cheating or cheating behaviors because I know how important it is to stop long before you even find yourself in a compromising position.

    I’m upfront about my past history with everyone I date and know. I’m not proud of it, and I’m not that person anymore, but I respect it being a deal breaker for people. It would be for me if someone talked about cheating in a certain way. I accept being judged for it and all I can do is be honest about it and what happened. There is no excuse for cheating. He was abusive, you know what I should’ve done? Leave, cheating didn’t make anything better or him less abusive. It didn’t fix his alcoholism, my misery, his cheating, or anything else, it just made it all worse. It also made me a terrible person. So, I don’t believe once a cheater always a cheater, but once you cheat on someone the bond is forever broken.

    I worked hard to fix what was broken in me to make me be such an awful person and I have no one to blame but myself.

  • ChumpLady: And I would add that it’s not just “empathy” (for the chump), it’s character and integrity (to yourself). I.e., honesty, not lying, and abiding by your word/contracts, especially to your spouse/partner.

  • I don’t believe once = always. If someone makes a bad decision, feels horrible about it, takes responsibility and then doesn’t do it again, that might be forgivable if you want. Trouble is, most of us have had cheaters who are not only not sorry, they’ve made it our faults. I always liked the continuum cartoon that CL did. It was useful to show the different cheater types.

    • But it’s not “a” bad decision. It’s a HUNDRED bad decisions. With a hundred chances to stop before you actually fuck the other person. I don’t care if someone “feels horrible” about it. Should’ve felt horrible somewhere along the line and not done it. You don’t “accidentally” have sex with another person. There are many, many small steps from meeting someone to taking their clothes off, even if it’s a one-night stand.

  • I’m in the “once a cheater always a cheater” camp. While they may not have another affair, I think cheating or dishonesty will always be prevalent. It might be with money (hiding money, embezzling) or using lies to manipulate others, but it will always be there.

  • I frame it as “once a selfish, abusive person, always such a person.”

    I have no idea if my father Harlow the philandering philatelist is cheating on his third wife. My parents marriage ended after twenty-four years and marriage number three has lasted for over thirty years. I met his second wife only once after a church service one Sunday.

    What do I know and what did I witness ? The horrible treatment of my mother and his egocentric behavior after she died, fifteen years after their divorce. Going through her house with my brother, who flew in from out of state, whilst I was at work after taking a couple of days off. His driving with the third wife (Hell) from NYC to northern NJ the morning of her death (at home) after my brother tipped him off. The universe was protecting me that day-they arrived after a couple of friends waited with me for the undertakers to take her body to the funeral home. The ridiculous notion that he should be able to view her body at the funeral home before cremation.

    He thought it was funny that he presented his second wife with a prenup the morning of their wedding. The poor woman was left to fend for herself during chemo for terminal pancreatic cancer whilst he went off to a stamp collectors convention in Europe. I think Hell was nipping at the second wife’s heels during her slow death.

    Wife #3 was competing with another woman for my father’s attention. The other woman had the sense to run when she realized how selfish he is. There’s a photo of #3 in my grandparents’ dining room with a Cheshire grin on her face. An aunt and I refer to it as the “I won !” photo. I don’t remember if Hell targeted my father through working at my grandfather’s law firm as a paralegal (though she calls herself a fiduciary accountant) or through the stamp collecting club. She was encouraging a then single niece to join club because “these men have money”. She and my father come from vastly different backgrounds; my father is named after his grandfather, a nationally prominent legal titan. A big feather in this woman’s hat who is a first generation immigrant. No prep school or Seven Sisters college for her. I’ll never forget the look on her face one Christmas when my father gave her a card with an image of fat reindeer, poking at her appearance.

    She’s in it for the long haul/the money. Private mortgage for her son and his wife which was satisfied within a month. Four years of private uni for her older granddaughter. Lots of international travel. The two recently moved to assisted living outside of Boston and I see her dying before he does. There must be a lot of pussy blocking going on from her. My father’s modus operandi is to tune out people and she’s always been quite a chatterbox. One of my brother’s friends joked “your dad does a stellar job of ignoring Hell, doesn’t he ?” after a dinner with them shortly after their marriage.

    The therapist we all went to back in the day told me “your father is emotionally unavailable.”

    • Ps. Hell’s niece married an abusive asshole, they had a daughter and the niece died last year of breast cancer. I saw the asshole out with other women ie sitting in his lap. No obit for the niece.

    • Not sure about the rest of your comment
      but this ” A big feather in this woman’s hat who is a first generation immigrant.” stood out to me
      I am a first generation immigrant who is a titan in her fields with accolades.
      I didn’t appreciate your insinuation that your father is better, just because he is the descendant of a nationally prominent legal titan.
      I would appreciate if you kept your perceptions of immigrants separate from the topic of cheating

      • Don’t presume to know my perceptions of immigrants.

        She does consider her marriage to him to be a feather in her cap. My grandparents and father were interviewed for a piece about my great-grandfather.I was present for the taping. Mrs. Pushy thought she should be interviewed as well but the producer shut that down. I thought “Who the eff does this woman think she is ?! Not related to the man and never met him.” Their wedding announcement was published in the Sunday NY Times at her insistence. My father’s second wife didn’t pursue this. Why don’t you look up the meaning of hypergamy.

        The aunt who laughed about Mrs. Smug’s smirk is married to my uncle (an American) but has never sought citizenship. She is a scientist and professor at one of the world’s top universities. Two doctorates and trilingual. And then there is my sister-in-law from South America. Why didn’t she pursue a college degree ? Because her father didn’t see any reason for his daughter to be educated. She can’t advance in her profession due to a lack of a degree.

        I could go on with other examples amongst my friends and acquaintances but why bother. Hop along ☮️

  • I think when the cost of cheating outweigh the benefits to them cheaters may choose not to cheat. Like an ex smoker is always a smoker who chooses not to smoke as he has realised the consequences and risk to his health of continuing may be dire. I do not think the wasband will give up his porn or online cheating even
    now he is with the OW. Whether she knows and just accepts that I do not know or care. She chose to be with a cheater so that is the risk she takes. Be careful what you wish for! It’s about risk assessment and cheaters pose a higher risk of future cheating in my opinion

  • From 17-22 I was in a relationship with a perfectly nice boy. Neither of us could figure out how to break up for real. Over the course of the relationship, we split, came back together, cheated, tried don’t ask don’t tell.

    We did eventually break up.

    Later, I was married for 12 years. Again, we couldn’t figure out how to split for a while, and both of us had sex with other people. We divorced.

    I haven’t cheated since then. That was 30 years ago.

  • I admire the forthrightness of people who have come forward today to say they cheated when younger, felt remorse, learned and didn’t do it again. This is a world apart from the cheaters we discuss here, who have no remorse and learn nothing. So kudos to all of you who have genuinely changed your ways. 👏

    I also believe that if your partner is abusive, he/she has already broken the commitment, the vows, and your heart. This person does not deserve your consideration. However, you owe it to *yourself* to behave with honor, so the person you are really betraying is yourself, not the abuser. I couldn’t give a single damn about the supposed hurt feelings (really just ego) of abusers when they get cheated on. Asked for it and received it. You don’t open the door by betraying your partner with abuse and then cry foul when they betray you by finding somebody who treats them better.

    I’m aware many people believe cheating is a terrible wrong no matter what the situation. I say that in this situation, it wrongs only the self, not the cheated upon. I am not religious, so I am not a moral absolutist. I believe it is permissible to wrong oneself, not others. I don’t get to judge you for how treat yourself as long as innocent others are not affected.
    If that makes me a cheater defender in the eyes of some people, I’m okay with that. On matters such as this I have had differences with people, particularly highly religious people, and I stand by my own personal principles. I do not believe immorality is about sin, I believe it is about harm, and more specifically, harm to innocents.

  • I just feel so sad today, This was a place I felt safe in, this was a place that I felt was honest. I feel like the ONE place I could go that was safe and the one place that ethically I shared a bond with people was here. I have never cheated I have NEVER felt the urge, i have been in abusive horrible relationships and even as a TEENAGER I knew this shit to be shit and know never to do it, nobody can claim they don’t know this is harmful behaviour, people know!. I just feel so shocked and confused so many people I have followed and listened to are just parroting the EXACT same things my cheater said but for them it’s all good, I mean they are so sorry now so that makes it okay!. I am just so so sad so much lying on this site so much deceit…..I just don’t know what to do with this to be honest.

    • So Sad, why so sad? No one is lying personally to you here. This isn’t your relationship here. This is a blog (not a therapy group) with people who’ve had a similar experience but come from different backgrounds. Does CL put up a disclaimer saying only people that have never cheated are allowed here? No. The people who have cheated & are here are ones that realize they’ve caused harm & have gone to great lengths to rectify that. So while you may be “disillusioned”, this is real life & sometimes people’s pasts aren’t as squeaky clean as yours is. If you need a “100% never cheated” group there might be one on Facebook or you could start one so you feel more “safe”.

      • “So Sad, why so sad? No one is lying personally to you here. This isn’t your relationship here. This is a blog (not a therapy group”

        What a very condescending and sneering reply to a chump who is bewildered and saddened by the rash of cheater apologists on this post. But no sympathy, right? That’s reserved for cheaters and liars today.

        “No-one is lying to you personally here”.

        Honest people are revolted by liars, whether it’s personal or not.

        “This isn’t your relationship here”. What is that supposed to mean? Because it isn’t one’s personal relationship, one isn’t allowed an opinion?

        “This is a blog ( not a therapy group)”

        You’re wrong there, for many of us honest to God chumps, Chumplady is in many ways a therapy group. Most of us came here reeling and devastated by lies and betrayal, perpetrated by those we most loved and trusted, and found help, sympathy, wisdom, and laughter from those who had been through it themselves. A *safe* place, and not in sneer quotes either.

        “The people who have cheated & are here are ones that realize they’ve caused harm & have gone to great lengths to rectify that”

        All I’m seeing are the same old tired and sickening cheater justifications and ‘reasons’ trotted out again ad nauseam. What great lengths have been gone to to rectify harm? I don’t see any, just the endless repetition of ‘sorry’ and ‘I feel so bad’. Just the same old cheater playbook.

        “So while you may be “disillusioned”, this is real life & sometimes people’s pasts aren’t as squeaky clean as yours is.”

        I can’t even begin to articulate how revoltingly smug and condescending that is. This is real life?! Yes it is, and So Sad, like most of us, has gone through hell because of the behaviour and actions of people like you and your fellow apologists. How *dare* you smugly insinuate So Sad and the rest of us don’t know what real life is!

        “… sometimes people’s pasts aren’t as squeaky clean as yours is.”

        So now you’re sneering at people who haven’t cheated and lied, and insinuating that those of us who haven’t done so are what, naive? That you and your fellow apologists are somehow more ‘sophisticated’?

        Of course So Sad is devastated at the turn this post has taken – hijacked by sophists and apologists, having to read the same crap we’ve heard many times before,
        from *all *
        cheaters. And those of us who call out your hypocrisy and faux ’empathy’ are sneered at and lectured on our supposed lack of sympathy and understanding, lack of sophistication, and naivety. Yawn. Heard it all before.

        Interesting how angry you all are when you’re called on your hypocrisy.

    • I agree with you, So Sad. I was in a horrible, abusive, lonely marriage. I was miserable. And NEVER ONCE did I consider cheating. I didn’t even date during our separation (4 YEARS). I was still legally married, and whatever my stbx did didn’t negate MY promises on how I would behave. I genuinely don’t understand all the justifications I’m seeing here, “parroting the EXACT same things my cheater said but for them it’s all good”. Yes, my cheater used many of these excuses, including childhood trauma, claiming I was abusive, that I broke my vows first so that made it okay (in his warped mind my broken vow was that I didn’t praise him to the skies, suck his dick every day, stay skinny enough, nor did I make enough money that he could stop working; but someone who wants to cheat will find a justification, no matter how bizarre), that he didn’t mean for it to happen, that it was a mistake. He said he was sorry. He promised to have better boundaries. Bullshit, all of it.

      Honestly? Maybe people can change. But “I never did it again” is no guarantee. They haven’t done it again YET. My sister married a reformed alchoholic. He was an alcoholic as a teen/young man and had been sober for 20 years or something when she married him. But he relapsed after they got married. Many times. Causing problems in their relationship, endangering his health and their finances. Forever, my sister is going to have to worry that it might happen again, no matter how sorry her husband is, or even how hard he works to stay sober. It’s just looming there. So for me, even if someone cheated as a young person, the possibility is always there because what I see in so many of these replies is that GIVEN THE RIGHT (WRONG) CIRCUMSTANCES, cheating is okay. Or the cheating was “a” mistake. But it’s not. It’s a result of a hundred choices. And don’t we say on here that there is NO justification? That cheating is abuse? “I beat up my first wife so badly she ended up in the hospital, but it’s okay. She left me but I learned from my mistake and I never did it again.” Would you want to date that person? Would there be an excuse (“I was young”, “I came from a troubled home”) that would make it okay? Not for me. Cheating is abuse. I don’t care why/when/how it happened. I knew cheating was wrong as a child, as a teen, and as an adult in a really bad situation. I never even considered cheating, not as a way out, not as a way to feel loved, not okay because he was already cheating. That’s what FW did – an exit affair because he didn’t feel loved and appreciated and he considered that I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain (i.e. “supporting” him to his satisfaction). In his mind he was perfectly justified in his behavior. Fuck that. I’m sure FW “regretted” it too, when it all blew up in his face, and had he lived, maybe he would never have cheated on AP. That doesn’t mean he would have been a good or honest person. Just that he was afraid of consequences. Schmoopie only apologized to me when FW started abusing HER. She wasn’t sorry she hurt me, she was sorry because it didn’t work out for her and she suffered negative consequences. If fear of reprisal is your only reason for refraining from bad behavior, you’re not an ethical person. If “it didn’t make me feel better or solve anything, in fact it made things worse” is your only reason for not doing something again, you are SELFISH. Cheating is selfish by definition. If you care about anyone beside yourself, you’d NEVER do that to someone. We all know how devastating it is.

      I’m not sure what to do with all this either.

      • You are describing a situation where you were a grown adult in a marriage you committed to. That’s not what others have been describing here. Most of us are describing situations of being teenagers in dysfunctional environments without support or resources to know how to handle them.

        That’s pretty different.

        • Actually, about 90% of the cheating stories I’ve seen on here were people in their 20s. One or two were people in long-term marriages, as exit affairs. Not so different.

          If you lied to hide it, you knew it was wrong. I don’t care if your brain is fully developed or not. If you wouldn’t want your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife to do it to you, you know it’s wrong and harmful. If you did it and didn’t care how it affected other people – then you are just like all the cheaters we talk about on here every day. Some of the chumps here are quite young, and they know it hurt them deeply. How many stories here are of FW’s cheating with REALLY YOUNG women? Do we excuse those OW because they’re in their 20s?

          I’m sure OW in my case could have produced a LITANY of reasons why she did what she did, including being “broken”, “naive”, “desperate for love”, “low self-esteem”, “self-worth issues”, “lonliness in her marriage”, whatever. I don’t care. She still behaved reprehensibly. And yet I’m seeing all these “chumps” today parading out these same damn excuses.

          It’s not like CL, in her responses to several letters, hasn’t scathingly told OW/OM who’ve been chumped that they don’t belong here.

          • “It’s not like CL, in her responses to several letters, hasn’t scathingly told OW/OM who’ve been chumped that they don’t belong here.”

            Spot on. 👍👌

            • Guys, please don’t speak for me. I famously HATE moderating my site. Saying that who you are at 18 is not who you are a full adult does NOT make me thinking lying, cheating, etc. are okay at any age. The OP was absolutely aware she screwed up. I reserve my scathing comments for people who show zero accountability and are narcissistically clueless. That’s NOT this letter. I’ve also answered letters from OW (a bazillion times) who ask if they should tell the chump and I tell them they should, without snark. It’s very easy to be tarred with a “once a cheater, always a cheater” brush. That’s the playing field apologists want to fight on, because absolutes and certainty about the future are never givens. I argue the ODDS are long AND you don’t want that kind of person in your life. Dear God, my arguments are all over this blog. Be KIND to each other here. PLEASE.

    • To So Sad, saying that the cheater had a warped childhood and is mentally disordered is absolutely NOT excusing him in any way, shape or form. We are clear that betrayed spouses should LEAVE their abusers. Two things can be true at the same time: 1) They are irrevocably damaged by things that happened to them in early childhood. And 2) That means that they should never have access to you again.

    • “I just feel so sad today, This was a place I felt safe in, this was a place that I felt was honest. I feel like the ONE place I could go that was safe and the one place that ethically I shared a bond with people was here.”

      Yes. Although I don’t feel sad, just angry at the hypocrisy.

      ” I just feel so shocked and confused so many people I have followed and listened to are just parroting the EXACT same things my cheater said but for them it’s all good, I mean they are so sorry now so that makes it okay!”


      “I just don’t know what to do with this to be honest”

      I think we just have to accept there are shitty people with dubious moral compasses everywhere, even here. There are still people here who haven’t swallowed all this specious clap trap, thank God, so let’s be thankful for that. Hugs hun. Xx🤗💕

    • So sad, You must understand that their brains weren’t fully formed yet. 🙄

  • Once a cheater, almost always a cheater.
    And I don’t want to play those shitty odds. I’ve got better things to do with my time, money, emotions, etc.

  • I think this is true because it happened to me. I was the affair partner. I didn’t know the young man had a GF back home (we were in college; I was 17 and he was 20). There was no sex, we just went out for a few months. I know now that he tried to tell me. Years later I confronted him. We ended up having a brief emotional affair after his marriage which I ended. I believe that he had never cheated on her before, and never have since. I have stayed out of his life. They look very happy. I am married and happy but he was a first love and I’ve never forgotten how much we loved each other. I truly believe it was a youthful love that just wasn’t meant to be. I know that we hurt his wife badly and I’m glad they ended having a long, loving and successful marriage. I do think that youth, inexperience and naivete can contribute to these situations. I was very badly hurt by this relationship and was never again tempted to enter into an extra marital relationship because I knew of the hurt. Just my two cents.

    • “I do think that youth, inexperience and naivete can contribute to these situations.”

      I agree, this is why I over looked some bad behavior early in my marriage. He really seemed to be maturing and presented a faintly man image etc. Unfortunately, he was living a hidden double life for most of our marriage.

      I think that is why I tend to just not think they change. But I do believe in some cases they do change. I also think it is rare.

      Also, your picture looks so much like my dads sister, (when she was young) she was such a sweetheart of a person. Miss her so much.

  • One of my friends has a dad who I felt sorry for for the longest time because he had been with an extremely abusive woman (not his mom) for 25+ years. This woman had repeatedly lied to him, cheated on him, and kept telling him to stop supporting or seeing his kids (he didn’t stop supporting or seeing them). I once had the misfortune to meet her, during which she told me (a friend of his daughter) what a horrible person he was – apparently she keeps trying to make sure he has no friends. He seems like a classic chump – jumps to help people in need, so she just plays sad sausage/timid forest creature with him and it works.

    Anyway, I felt very sorry for him but recently discovered that he actually got with this horrible woman by cheating on my friend’s mom (his wife at the time). I was dumbfounded – he seems really chumpy. I feel like he has changed – the initial cheating happened when he was 23, and it does seem like this woman manipulated and abused him. At the same time, I can’t forgive a cheater and I question whether he’s really changed. This post helped me think this through.

    • My ex used to “jump to help people in need”. But he was actually a horrible person, and extremely abusive. The two are not mutually exclusive. Public vs private face.

      • Yep. Mine would help every body except me. I remember he drove 50 miles to put a lock on the rat faced whore’s door, but when I asked him to pick up my prescription from the chemist, a drive of three miles, he threw a screaming tantrum, throwing things and frothing at the mouth.

        • Covert Narcissist, anyone? To the world they are the quintessential “nice guy”, but behind closed doors, where they are most comfortable, the mask is allowed to slip off and the monster comes out to play. Sad, but it’s all about their image.

  • I believe once a cheater always cheater beyond the youthful learning curve. I cheated in my twenties and I can’t tell you how profoundly that guilt changed me. He didn’t suspect, so I wasn’t watching him suffer or gaslighting him when he questioned me bc he was oblivious. It was short-lived and I ended the relationship with both parties and never cheated again.

    However, with full formed adults, there’s no one off. The premise of cheating and leaving for greener grass reveals their magical thinking – this doesn’t end until they’re too old to make it happen.

    My work is chock full of entitled narcissists, and I’ve known many a male colleague, who’ve left wife number one for an affair partner, only to cheat again and again. It’s not about love, it’s about their magical thinking that the next sexy friend will cure what ails them, hold their interest, meet all of their selfish needs. The will stay with the affair partner bc neither want to publicly fail at a relationship everyone said was doomed. Instead they fight and hate each other until they die.

    • “It’s not about love, it’s about their magical thinking that the next sexy friend will cure what ails them, hold their interest, meet all of their selfish needs.”

      This is really well put.

  • Mine had a high school cheating history and I thought exactly as the writer does. What I should have thought was “let me hold out for someone who didn’t cheat in high school, that would be a better bet.”. Instead I chose Mr I Learned Better and got cheated on for 25 years. Bottom line – it’s not worth the risk.

  • Sam Vaknin, a well-known psychologist says that often quoted quote: “past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour” and he’s warned several times in his Youtube videos that if a potential romantic partner has cheated in the past, run away.
    My ex cheater cheated on his very first high-school girlfriend, when he was 16. He was very remorseful about it and said he was young and stupid. I was naive so I believed him. He cheated on me when we were 41. So I guess he never learned his lessons as a 16 year old…

  • 100% once a cheater, always a cheater in my own ADULT experiences only.

    I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball with the rest of humankind’s future decisions lol. Maybe there’s a quintillionth % chance that a cheater will “change” for the next relationship but I’ve NEVER seen evidence of this.
    Not that I’ve looked for it either, I simply don’t care.

    The last 2 FWs I married (yah not at the same time lol), both cheated with far more disregard and abandon than with me. With me first one actually TOLD me itself lol! Yeah that’s rare. But I’m sure he thought it would come out, so he faced it.

    I kicked him out that day. Got helluva victim blamed by it’s family though! Nup, not having that shit. It was ALL on FW.
    Funny not funny, years later, FW was devastated finding out HIS dad was cheating. Blubbering to me (like I cared).
    MY response was “wow what did your mum do to cause this?” He was horrified lol. Till I pointed out the stupidity of such comments.
    THEN I said “Wow I bet you’re glad I escaped from you with the kids then? Them being too little to care about such crap like you’re going through? Pity your kids there have to put up with all this”.
    I SAVED my kids from all that. (With that person anyway!)
    Besides that FW trying to bed me again, whilst I was married mind you, full No Contact was overdue.

    Next? Psychopath, exactly the same behaviours I discovered much further into the marriage sadly for us.
    Minus the home to sleep in. Minus my income to thieve. Minus the kids and I to hide behind as his facade was blasted to smithereens.
    NC asap.

    Can a cheater change?
    Don’t care if they do or don’t really.
    If they cheated on ME, broke Wedding vows to ME, betrayed ME, then it’s done and dusted.

    Onwards and UPwards CN
    Love Chumpantidote.

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