Can a cheater truly change?
Knowing the character and true motivation of a cheater reveals whether someone can change… or not.
People only take one second to determine whether they find someone sexually attractive. Then in only three minutes, they decide whether they want to see that person again. That’s how quickly we decide if a prospective mate should be in our life — for better or for worse, and usually, when it happens that quickly, it’s for worse. Over and out!
For example: My client, Marilyn, quickly concluded that the man she had just met was The One. But as she got to know her Lothario, she soon discovered that he remained in touch with all his ex-wives, ex-fiancées and ex-girlfriends. And this dude’s harem appeared to be very crowded, since he had been married to four different women — and engaged eight times. Lothario told Marilyn that all these women were now “just friends” of his who happened to keep in touch. I told her that I concur with the When Harry Met Sally school of thought when it comes to exes: the sexual tension between our plugs and outlets makes platonic gender friendship nearly impossible.
Lothario admitted to Marilyn that all of his marriages ended because of his infidelity. However, he insisted that with Marilyn things would be different because she was different. I could not help thinking, How many times have I heard that? Marilyn then asked me if a cheater could ever truly change.
Does a leopard change its spots? Well, in a perfect animal kingdom, if a leopard COULD change its spots, perhaps it would prefer to trade traditional spots for stripes or something else more fashionable. But no prodding from another animal would initiate this change if the leopard were happy living the typical leopard life, spots included. Did Marilyn’s boyfriend WANT to change his cheating ways? Why would he? From the looks of it, he’d been deliriously happy “staying with friends” all around town. But, to be fair, even if he did want to turn over a new bedspread (so to speak), how could Marilyn trust him to become faithful after a history of total dishonesty? Marilyn listened to me, but still hoped her promiscuous alley cat would become a devoted house pet. I told her this would be a stretch for him and to adjust her expectations accordingly.
There are two schools of thought on whether a cheater can change; some believe that once an infidel crosses the line, the protective seal on the bottle of love potion #9 is irreparably broken. Others feel that just because someone cheated in one relationship, it doesn’t mean that person will cheat in all relationships. So, where did that leave Marilyn’s beau, who historically cheated in every relationship? While it was flattering for Lothario to tell Marilyn she was “different” from the pack, how reliable could his disavowals be?
I asked Marilyn to ponder these two questions to guide her in her pursuit of this potentially reckless love:
1. Do you perceive your future with Lothario as a courtship, or a battleship? (Tiger Woods’ wife could help you answer that!) As you may know, I’m sometimes called “The Country Music Doctor.” A favourite song of mine is Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar.” Dressed in her bridal gown and already in front of the minister, she’s about to wed her cheating fiancé. But right before Miranda utters “I do,” she drops the bomb that not only does she know about his dalliances, but she’s had a few of her own. This is pure revenge, country music style. Then the former bride-to-be smugly walks off with her lover, leaving her almost-husband alone in the dust. This song allows listeners to safely play that “gotcha” game by proxy, clearly enjoying only a vicarious thrill. I asked Marilyn if she liked the idea of always having to scope out Lothario when she’s not available to babysit him. Also, would she want to expend her energies concocting complex “gotcha” maneuvers as payback for his future potential bad behavior?
2. If Lothario did promise to change, would Marilyn trust him to keep his body parts to himself in the future? There are always opportunities to cheat. I name serial cheaters “cheataholics” because they are rarely motivated by sex alone. Some are obsessed with the thrill of the chase. Some look to forever polish a poor self-image or mirror the role models they’ve seen all their lives. Others cheat because they believe they can get away with it. The worst are some combination of the above. I asked Marilyn if she knew Lothario well enough to size up his true motivations. Did she know what incentive he might have — besides winning her devotion — to permanently change his ways? Marilyn being “different” was not a good enough ploy; everyone is different at first blush.
I instructed Marilyn to level with Lothario. As my Gilda-Gram says, “To stave off problems later, tell your sweetie your feelings now.” Instead, Marilyn chose to hide her concerns, hoping Lothario would arrive at an epiphany in time on his own. (Don’t hold your breath, honey.)
Robert was another one who held back from discussing his disintegrating marriage with his wife. He told me, “I know she is cheating! Last month she said she didn’t love me anymore and she wanted a divorce. After five years of marriage, this hurt so much. I guess she no longer finds me sexy.” While Robert blamed his spouse’s infidelity on his diminished sex appeal, the truth was that this couple never faced what was really happening in their relationship. Cheating is often a cop-out; it is a coping mechanism people misguidedly use to distract them from deeper issues.
I have worked with hundreds of couples, both married and single, with cheating issues. I wrote How to WIN When Your Mate Cheats to help them restore their love after an affair. The book shows that unless two unhappy people readily admit they have a problem and are willing to work on it together, it will only get worse.
Could Marilyn’s relationship go forward? I told her I didn’t know how. She’s now married to a terrific guy who bears no resemblance to Lothario in his words or deeds. She trusts him and enjoys peace of mind in their relationship. While Marilyn wasn’t happy with my advice about Lothario, she can’t stop thanking me now that she’s chosen someone else!
Relationship expertDr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.,has a private practice and is an associate professor at Mercy College in New York. Her best-selling books include99 Prescriptions for FidelityandHow to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit herwebsiteand send your relationship questions to her atDrGilda@DrGilda.com.
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As for what you've been through, I have no words, really. I wish you find happiness and satisfaction in other domains than romance as it seems to be too late for trust.
How sad there aren't enough people with your determination Lys Tigre!
FreakieGirl - WAKE UP!!! I could write a book about this subject from my personal experience, plus all the friends, family, co-workers etc etc etc that I watched go thru this, and not a single one had a happy ending!
As for myself, I got involved with a man going thru a divorce. They both had cheated on each other, and he had lied a lot to her as well. Needless to say, I got pregnant, then decided to marry for the wrong reasons. I cried thru the whole ceremony because deep down inside, I knew someday I was going to get the same as his ex-wife did!
He has lied to me about everything I can possibly think of, and repeatedly, thru our decades of marriage. We shouldn't have lasted a year with what he put me thru, but I stayed because of the kids (another wrong reason).
About 20 yrs into our marriage we were finally getting somewhere, then I found the love letter. Yeah, he lied that one all up and down too, and then 'IT' showed up in our lives and I would never be the same.
He brought 'IT' literally into our lives/house and I realized 'IT' was who the letter was for, but there was NOTHING I could do to stop what he did right in my face. I maybe could have handled a one night stand, but he was emotionally involved with 'IT' before the physical part even started - bad, bad combo!
I have had every possible proposition down to marriage proposals throughout our entire marriage, but I never did that to him - how sad for me, because if anyone deserved it back, it is him!
You must already know how he lied and lied and lied about it and I could never get confirmation from him even tho in my heart I knew he did it.
Almost 8 yrs later I 'accidently' finally found out the truth, and it almost killed me! I am physically, mentally and emotionally torched - I mean my body actually shut down!
Here I was, basically everything a guy could want in a wife, all his co-workers, respectable men, younger guys and so on were always trying to get me away from him, and he was perfectly safe and he knew it. 'IT', on the other hand, is an evil conniving, heartless ex-con, drug addict, prostitute, and a better liar than him, and that's what he chose over me - try to live with that!
Any self esteem I had is totally gone, even tho most friends and family still don't even know it happened.
We have not been able to get thru this yet, and I honestly don't think I ever will. Even tho I am physically suffering, I would still have no problem finding someone else if we divorced, but now I have NO faith in men and my serious trust issues would not be fair to someone else, especially if that someone happened to be an honest, faithful man!
He has not been faithful to 2 wives now, what's stopping him from doing it again? - nothing and nobody can except him, but guys like 'Lys Tigre' are not the norm!
I had everything a person could want - any boyfriend I ever wanted, great looks, nice body, very skilled in many things, intelligent, fun loving, nature loving, fabulous cook, great sense of humour, extremely soft hearted and an amazing good listener to hurting people - NONE of it was enough! Freakiegirl, what makes you think you're so special that a guy like you're with won't do it to you??? There is no such thing as being special enough for a partner that is so inclined, just look at the movie industry!
Do something for yourself now! - take the writers advice and move on! It's not worth taking that chance, I KNOW - oh, if only I could turn back the clock.......
Personally, I find it true enough.
There is the whole issue of trust that is not very much talked about either. Well not enough for my opinion :P
I can speak of personal experience, I`ve cheated in more than one relationship, and my only reason was because I lacked of self control I think. Anyway, my wife, knowing that, told me that if I was to go to somewhere else she would sit and wait for me, and still be there for me when I return, even tough the pain she would live.
And I knew she would hurt, but not as much as if I kept it a secret from her. Only to think about my beloved in emotional pain cools me off enough not to seek anything of the like. By her honesty, she therefore gave me the control I lacked in the past. And I never cheater on her, and never will.
What excites you most about fall?
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- Cooler weather
- Cozy fashion
- Kids are back in school
- I'm NOT excited about fall
- None of the above