A couple years ago when our story aired on OWN via the show Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal several people would say, “You can’t love your husband, and he can’t love you if you both cheated!”
Yep, that’s right, we both cheated (understand we’re not proud rather transparent for educational and inspirational purposes). He cheated during our first year of marriage, and I during our engagement. But before potentially passing judgment on us, I lovingly encourage you to read on please.
We have been together happily for 18 years! Yes, affairs can transpire even in the happiest of marriages (like ours did) if you both are not careful in being sure to “Infidelity Proof” your marriage. But if cheating does happen, you’ll also need to prepare you marriage for it’s survival. This is something I wish we would have known then, but I now teach clients how to do it for their marriages.
So you’re probably asking me, “You mean to tell me that a spouse can cheat while being happy?” Correct! Let me start out by saying, I do not condone cheating. At the same time, a spouse cheating does not unequivocally mean the spouse does not love their spouse. Being in love and cheating are not mutually exclusive of one another.
Many believe a lack of love is the ultimate cause of cheating, and there are many reasons behind why some believe this phrase to be the Bible truth. At the same time, I know from experience (perhaps you do, too) that it is possible to love someone and still have cheated.
When those of us, who are brave enough to come forward in our confession of cheating, most people will look at us like devils. We instantly become cheaters and are branded with scarlet letters and sent to live out our lives under this invisible black gloomy cloud of shame, almost being sentenced to some repetitive cycle where all we do is cheat every chance we get. This cannot be further from the truth.
Do you mind if I enlighten you? I’m not a cheater, but I cheated. Do you see the difference? Cheating once does not make one a habitual cheater or as I refer to them in my book as “repeat offenders.”
This horrible expression reminds me of cancer in that it spreads rapidly, causing very damaging effects, rather we realize it or not. It pigeonholes people: as being untrustworthy, cruel, sinful, immoral, along with the many other negative labels society has added. Let me say for the record, sure there will be some who are habitual cheaters whom this applies to, but that is not the goal of this article. Let’s stop executing those of us who made legitimate mistakes and consider forgiveness where it is warranted.
As much as we would like to believe that cheating is simply black-and-white. It’s not. The expression, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” negates the complexity of the issue and discounts the external factors affecting the situation. It is one of the most common and reasonable responses from someone who’s been betrayed. It offers the option of dismissing an unfaithful partner’s cries for “I’m so sorry, and it will never happen again,” while eliminating the possibility of getting hurt again. Therefore, making it easier for them to potentially never trust again—which can be dangerous as life requires us to trust.
The dilemma of the “once a cheater, always a cheater” concept is far too simplistic in its blanket statement. The first fallacy of the statement is that it fails to address why individuals cheat in the first place (which will be a good basis to predict whether or not they are capable of betraying you again). For that reason, it’s one of the important questions to ask if you are a victim of infidelity.
The psychology of cheating is rather complex, much more than the current moralistic dialog about it where people are “good”, “bad” or “flawed”, therefore dismissed as damaged goods.
Many spouses fail to think about the why; instead they rely on the knee-jerk reaction of assuming their spouse did it intentionally to hurt them. They don’t consider it from the other point of view; they only see it from theirs. I refer to this as the blame game in my book. All too often if the person who cheated offers an explanation, it becomes an “excuse.”
We have been asking the wrong question of “Can I ever trust him/her again”? Instead ask the right question of, “What contributed to my spouse betraying me —why did they choose infidelity“? The first question is an unanswerable one as trusting your partner following an affair has more to do with YOU and how YOU choose to respond to being betrayed. The second question is much more interesting, and, if answered correctly, more likely to keep you safe if you decide to heal and evolve together following an affair as we did.
Not all people who cheated will be honest and tell their partners, as I did. However, I appeal to those who have had the courage to tell their partners, not the ones who were busted in the act.
I don’t see myself as a cheater, and if you have also cheated, don’t let some societal expectation define you as a cheater. I’ve gone scuba diving once, but it doesn’t make me a scuba diver. It’s the same idea: Just because you’ve done something once, doesn’t suddenly make you an expert.
You are what you believe of yourself! So don’t fall victim to doing it again because people expect you to. Don’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One deed does not define you.
One mistake should not blemish the rest of your life. It should not become a burden to bear; rather, it should serve as a lesson learned to remind you of how you’ve grown.
We are humans, shaped by life’s trial and errors, mistakes and experiences. We learn from everything we do (hopefully) and are constantly in a state of development. People do learn from what they’ve done as we have, and someone who has cheated remains just as compassionate, loyal and worthy of someone’s love and affection.
BMWK, do you believe in theory of “once a cheater, always a cheater”? Is cheating the ultimate relationship betrayal for you?