Sunday, July 17, 2016


At some point, after you discover your mate is cheating on you, or that they cheated on you in the past, you are bound to wonder what will happen next.  And, a likely question, particularly if you are considering whether to remain in a relationship with that individual, is:  will they do it again?  And, if they have left you for the other person, will it last? 

Cheating is perhaps one of the more devastating types of betrayal we know as humans.  There is something about discovering that your mate was involved in a whole other relationship with another, while with you, that does not feel good, and does not feel right.  It is a very painful realization, and one that may take weeks, or months, or years, or perhaps a lifetime to get over.  People often develop Posttraumatic Relationship Disorder from these situations. 

It is not unusual for people to try to stay together, after finding out that their partner cheated on them.  However, relationships require trust, and once that trust has been broken, it is difficult to restore.  And, one of the reasons, though not the only reason that the trust is difficult to restore is that there is this question in the back of the persons’ mind:  Will they do it again?

There has been research in this area, to attempt to answer this question.  There is no precise answer, but there are ways to get to the most precise answer possible.  For one, knowing whether your partner will cheat again depends on the situation in which it occurred.  If your partner cheated while drunk, or otherwise intoxicated (we will term them ‘accidental cheaters’), then the odds are better that they might not do it again, as long as they take care of the issue with intoxication, and address any underlying issues related to their choice to cheat.  However, if your partner was not intoxicated when they cheated, or if they cheated over a period of time, rather than a one-night stand, the odds are against them, and you, regarding whether or not they will do it again.  Stated more clearly, the odds are that they will cheat again.  A research study conducted by Kayla Knopp at the University of Denver, presented at the APA Convention in 2015, indicated that cheaters were 3.5 times more likely to cheat again, compared to non-cheaters.  And, unfortunately, people who have been cheated on are more likely to get into another relationship where they will be cheated on. 

Some people want to know, if their relationship ends because of this, and the cheater tries to stay with the person they left you for, how likely is that new relationship to last. 
There is a term used within this area of thinking:  Poaching.  It is the idea that one gained their current partner by taking them from another relationship.  So, in this case, the poacher would be the person who approached your partner, and enticed them into a relationship.  According to Foster, et. Al (2014), “individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships. They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality, and engaged in higher rates of infidelity compared to non-poached participants.”  So, in other words, the person who took your partner from you now has to worry about being cheated on, themselves, by your partner.  And, more than likely, they WILL worry, because in the back of their head, they remember the way they got their partner; their partner needed to agree to leave the person they were with, through deception, in order to make it happen, and what is to say that they will not do this again? 

What was interesting to Foster, et al (2014) was that, contrary to conventional wisdom in this area, it was the introverts who were most likely to be ‘poachable;’ in other words, while they may not be the ones who are the most socially connected, and may not be the ones who most easily connect with others, they were the ones most likely to jump at an opportunity to start a new relationship, compared to extroverts.  It may be that they realize that, because of their introversion, they are less likely to have opportunities to move from one relationship to another, so when one of those scarce opportunities presents itself, they jump at it. 

If you are in a relationship with someone who cheated on you, it is probably not correct to ask:  Will they do it again?  Rather, it is probably more correct to ask:  Do I wish to be in a relationship in which I will have this uncertainty indefinitely?  Some solve the problem of the uncertainty by keeping one foot out the door, so to speak, but then the question becomes:  Do I want to be in a relationship in which I must keep one foot out the door in order to maintain my own emotional equilibrium in this situation?  As stated before, if the affair was more than a one-night-stand, and if alcohol or drugs cannot be used as an explanation for the infidelity (the ‘accidental cheater’), the odds that the cheater will cheat again go up.  If the cheater has a history of cheating in past relationships, this increases the odds that they will do it again in the future.  And, if the cheaters’ attitude towards the cheating is anything other than alarm and disgust at their own behavior, COUPLED WITH evidence that they took serious steps to insure that this never happened again, then the odds go up that they will in fact do it again.  So, if the cheater cheated in another relationship in the past, and if the cheating occurred for months, and if the cheater essentially did nothing to fix their problem (lip service to change is not enough; there needs to be evidence for a concerted effort, such as months of therapy, or a spiritual awakening followed by long-term commitment to that new awakening, or something else that was rather dramatic), then more than likely they will do it again; it is just a matter of time.  Knowing this, the question you probably should be asking yourself is:  Do I want to be in a relationship with that risk? 

There are partners who do learn to live in a relationship with that risk; probably the most successful approach to such an individual is to expect that they will cheat, and to insure that you are able to cope with this, emotionally, when it happens.  Again, as stated before, this may mean you have to keep one foot out the door, so that when the cheating occurs, you can regain your equilibrium by withdrawing from the relationship for whatever period of time you need to heal yourself.  Or, it may mean that you never agree to a monogamous relationship with the individual, and insist that they have other partners, so that the requirement for faithfulness is skipped.  This, of course, requires a very liberal mindset, and very liberal boundaries in a relationship, and most people are probably not interested in such a setup, because most people want a secure relationship where they know that the person is there only for them. 

Do you think that cheaters suffer from attacks of conscience, or from despair about their behavior?  Do they ‘get their karma?’  It is likely that they do experience anxiety and despair, when they are discovered, and everything falls apart.  However, it may well be that, for the serial cheater (as opposed to the ‘accidental cheater,’), the anxiety and despair is because they were caught, and they know they will face anger, and negativity, and their security and stability will likely decrease for a while.  And, now they have the memory of a horrible situation that they must somehow figure out how to repress, or rationalize, and they know that they will need to expend a great deal of emotional energy adjusting their thinking so that they can return to relative peace.  As well, they are likely worried that they are going to lose something important to them, such as possessions, or position, or something else that they value, including even perhaps the relationship with the person they cheated on.  It is far less likely that they are worried about losing the love of their life, because they have already convinced themselves that this is what they will be getting from the new person, rather than from their established relationship.  And, while it may be distressing for them to see their established partner in emotional pain, it is more than likely because they do not want to have to deal with this, rather than that they empathize with their partner.  One of the reasons that serial cheaters are serial cheaters is that they cannot love in the true sense of the word, and thus do not have that barrier to hurting another that someone who loves has.  What they call love is actually infatuation, or excitement over newness, or the passion of having a new lover, or the acquisition of yet another person in their life who craves them.  They confuse this feeling with the feeling of genuine love, and often do not seem to learn, despite multiple journeys down the same road, that they will never experience genuine love through this process.  In some ways, it is a sad life, because the serial cheater leaves behind them a path of destruction in relationships, builds up a list of enemies who may wish them harm, and never experience that feeling of true love that keeps you warm at night and gives you hope that life will get better and better as we go on. 

What do you get when you make somebody else’s partner your own? An analysis of relationships formed via mate poaching.
Foster, Joshua D.; Jonason, Peter K.; Shrira, Ilan; Campbell, W. Keith; Shiverdecker, Levi K.; Varner, Sydneyjane C.

Journal of Research in Personality, Vol 52, Oct 2014, 78-90.

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