The other day I heard someone say once a cheater, always a cheater! Then I promptly sat down and watched seven episodes of The Office. Unrelated events, but they have compacted on top of my ongoing ideas about infidelity. The language of infidelity does not help those who cheat or those who have been cheated on. It doesn’t provide useful critiques at why infidelity happens or how it can be prevented in the future.
Once a cheater / always a cheater implies that if someone has cheated they are likely to do it again because they are untrustworthy human beings. This follows the same narrative as only bad/evil/hurtful people cheat, which hardly aligns with the statistics on infidelity.
Instead I propose a new way of thinking about this phrase.
If the original issues that caused the infidelity are not solved, it is likely that the cheater will cheat again, providing truth to the original statement. They cheated once, and they did it again. You cannot determine why the infidelity happened if you just assume that someone was a bad person and did something to be hurtful. You have to look at the issues that led to the infidelity and completely irradiate those issues. That can be a painful process – since infidelity is painful – particularly if the couple does not want to remain together.
Everyone is capable of infidelity. Some people are more capable of handling the stressors that lead to infidelity. And, in truth, some people are better people. Better at self-analyzing their behaviors. Better at acting quickly. Better at knowing what they want and need and how to safely get there. Better at communicating.
Instead of making the assumption that someone who cheated is physically incapable of being monogamous, it’s better to assume that there is something clicking out of sorts that needs to be fixed.
Ultimately I think the most important thing to be done with infidelity is to determine why people cheat to begin with, and focus on preventative measures. This could be things like frequently appreciating your partner, making sure that sexual needs are always being met, and finding ways to balance stress so you can always have time to be present together. I also think that it’s important to readjust the narrative about “finding the one” because I believe couples force relationships to work when they are no longer truly happy anymore.
Since there are so many reasons people cheat, it remains important to talk about what happens afterwards. And my vote is that we look at it more critically than once a cheater, always a cheater.
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