We’ve all heard the saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” If someone has cheated in the past, we automatically assume they will do so again. After all, whether the person has cheated on you or someone else before you, hearing that your partner was unfaithful can make you worry and even reconsider your relationship.
With that being said, everybody makes mistakes. People also change and grow. So, is there any truth to the assumption that once a cheater, always a cheater?
Well, the answer is yes and no.
People cheat for a wide variety of reasons.
For instance, they may be unhappy in their relationship, fear being alone, have attachment issues, and many more. So, it’s hard to determine whether someone who has cheated in the past will do so again.
According to a 2018 study by the Archives of Sexual Behavior, someone who has already cheated is three times more likely to cheat again. It can stem from feeling they can get away with being unfaithful and escape scot-free.
There are also several types of ways people handle cheating. Some apologize, attempt to make amends, and feel genuinely remorseful about what they’ve done. Others don’t feel any guilt and may even try to make their partner feel responsible for their actions. Each of these ways can be a huge indication of whether someone will cheat again.
Whether “once a cheater, always a cheater” is true also depends on how someone cheats.
Kissing and sleeping with someone else are two different forms of cheating. Emotional and physical cheating is also different. Whether someone cheats again is also dependent on how long someone has been cheating. For instance, a single indiscretion is much different than a long affair behind your partner’s back.
Someone capable of maintaining a high level of deception for several months while cheating on their partner might have serious unresolved issues that could come back and drive them to cheat again.
But this might not be the case for someone who was young and unfamiliar with romantic relationships at the time of cheating.
In the same way, maturity levels also play a huge part in whether someone will cheat again. For example, young people who aren’t mature yet, both mentally and emotionally, might see cheating as a way out of a relationship.
So, instead of communicating their feelings, they might choose the so-called “easy way out.” In most cases, people mature and realize their mistakes, which makes them unlikely to cheat again. But sometimes it might become a long-term issue that requires work and introspection.
Psychology Today also focuses on relational self-awareness (RSA) as a factor in whether someone will cheat again.
Relational self-awareness relates to the ongoing practice of understanding who you are and bettering yourself in intimate relationships. When you look at how you act and what makes you behave this way, you’re able to fix your mistakes and take ownership of your mistakes.
For example, someone who has cheated in the past and tells their current partner their actions were justified for one reason or another has low RSA. In this case, they might not feel any remorse, which makes them more likely to cheat again.
However, someone who regrets cheating and is able to consciously evaluate what drove them to this horrible action is less likely to be a repeat offender on the love front.
Finally, as hard as it might be to imagine, people make mistakes, and these mistakes can sometimes include cheating. But personally, I don’t want to believe that anyone should be characterized by their worst and lowest behaviors.
We all strive to learn from our mistakes and become better, more compassionate individuals. So someone cheating in the past shouldn’t put them in the category of someone who isn’t capable of maintaining a healthy, monogamous relationship.
Ultimately, whether someone will cheat again after being unfaithful in the past is very individual. Still, if someone has crossed that line before, there’s a higher chance that they might do it again at some point. But according to research and common sense, it’s safe to say that the saying “once a cheater, always a cheater” is simply untrue.