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Can Serial Cheaters Change?


A reader posted this question as to whether serial cheaters can change. In thinking about it I realized the answer is not a simple yes or no. Many factors enter into the prognosis for serial cheating such as the characteristics of the cheater, whether the cheating is part of an addiction, the motivation to cheat and the motivation to change.

Cheating in general is so common that it further complicates separating out what is serial cheating and what is just the normal state of affairs (as it were). The statistics I have seen are from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy:

28 Comments to
Can Serial Cheaters Change?

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  1. The statistics seem awfully high for cheating while in a committed relationship or marriage. Can you point me to some studies that corroborate those numbers? I clicked the link to the site http://infidelityfacts.com/ and there is only vague information stating that the figures come from various sources.

    Can you post an excerpt from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy that shows these figures?

    JoAnn Russell
    sisterhoodofsupport.org

    • Seemed pretty high to me too. A cursory search shows “data” all over the place depending on the researchers’ point of view and on what the respondents were willing to report. Here are some examples of discussions of this. The PsychCentral article speaks to your point. Wikipedia also has a recently modified entry on it.

  2. Linda, I find your entire article quite disconcerting.

    You stated:

    ‘Cheating in general is so common that it further complicates separating out what is serial cheating and what is just the normal state of affairs (as it were).’

    I fail to see what that has to do with your topic as to whether serial cheaters can change.

    As for those numbers, I would think that anyone writing an article for a well known blog site would have reliable, quotable sources in hand before writing the article rather than a ‘cursory search’ done after the fact.

    To add to the confusion Psych Central posted another article How Common is Cheating & Infidelity Really? By JOHN M. GROHOL, PSY.D., which offers this information:

    In general, based on the above data, we can conclude that over the course of married, heterosexual relationships in the United States, EM (Extra Marital) sex occurs in less than 25% of committed relationships.

    http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/03/22/how-common-is-cheating-infidelity-really/

    Your dubious statistics that make cheating appear as ‘just the normal state of affairs’ sounds more like a justification for cheating rather than a significant piece of information.

    JoAnn Russell
    sisterhoodofsupport.org

  3. Rather than saying, “Cheating is common,” I’d say, “Cheaters are common.” After all, they lack superlative qualities such as honesty, compassion, empathy, and the striving toward a meaningful life. They are all about Me and Now. They disregard their spouses and their children, as well as the families of their affair partners. They place more value on intrigue than on integrity. They are driven by their lowest animal impulses.

    It doesn’t matter what their husbands or wives LOOK like (why does that even enter this article?), whether they’re a 10 or a 2. Because, while cheaters may sparkle and glitter on the surface, they’re ugly inside and have standards to match. They live secret, common lives. This is true of 99% of them, and my source for that statistic is as valid as yours, Linda, because I pulled that one out of my butt.

    And while I’m speaking as an authority–or rather speaking my opinion as someone who has done a whole lot of anecdotal research, including personal experience, the ONLY chance a cheater will change is if he or she googles help instead of hook-up and seeks treatment first, without being busted by the spouse. Mostly, though, it’s just hangdog cheaters, getting dragged into counseling by their stunned and shaken partners, who will grasp with a death grip any phrase from a therapist’s mouth that gives them hope.

    I fear that’s what you’re doing here: normalizing cheating and then offering false hope.

    There’s a growing movement of women who aren’t going to stand for that from the therapeutic community any more. We’re going to call you on it every time.

    • Tania, you hit the nail on the head, about ten times.

      This was one of Linda’s better articles, but many of the comments were better still.

    • Couldn’t agree more !

    • A growing movement of women? Serial cheaters can be men or women.
      I am a serial-cheating woman starting a new relationship and I would give an organ to stay faithful. I am terrified of cheating again. This article gives me hope that I can stay faithful and not live alone for the rest of my life.

      • I read your responses to habitual cheaters and I would like to talk to you more about my wife. I’m on my last legs with her for cheating on me our whole life. Help me.

    • Tania – FINALLY!! Someone saying the truth and not trying to be politically correct or spare the feelings of the cheaters! I liked the article- because I’m completely beaten down by my chronic cheater and I am stunned, shaken and delusional, and want to have hope- but your response made me start hearing the Rocky theme song and R-E-S-P_E-C-T song, all at the same time. Please come to my house and tell my cheater to his face!! Before I leave his sorry ass!

      Standing in solidarity Sister!

  4. “Infidelityfacts.com” looks pretty sketchy. Where do they even get those numbers?

    Also, you claim, “No matter what the motivation for cheating as an addictive behavior, the prospects for change are good.” Are there any peer-reviewed studies to back that up? How would you even know since pretty much the only way to gather any data would be self-report by people who are known to lie and deceive about their behavior?

    Similarly, what is your basis for your claim that these behaviors will “continue to fade over the years”? Any studies, actual data? Something besides addict self-report?

    I find it frustrating that the sex addiction and infidelity treatment establishment do not have any data or evidence to offer about the efficacy of treatment, yet they frequently bill desperate families tens of thousands of dollars which is rarely covered by insurance.

    I am kind of stunned that you and your clients rate and compare spouses and sex partners based on looks and trophy status. I would think that kind of objectification would be discouraged in therapy. Would the cheating be more acceptable if the wife was a “2” and the hooker the husband met up with was a “10”?

  5. Ms. Hatch,
    The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, publishers of the journal you claim support your cited statistics, might be surprised to learn they are being linked to the infidelityfacts.com website, as you imply in this article.

    When I visited their official website, AAMFT.ORG, I found very different numbers from the ones you attributed to them. Here is the specific page address to which I am referring:

    http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/consumer_updates/infidelity.aspx

    Perhaps you meant to say that the statistics you cite are from a specific article published within the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. In that case, it would be important to provide the title, authors, and vol./pub. date. It would also be useful in determining if the authors of any such article are indeed somehow connected with the shockingly unprofessional and virtually useless and wholly anonymous InfidelityFacts.com. I cannot imagine such a connection benefitting their position within their professionals circles.

  6. Of course a serial cheater can stop cheating. The person just has to find a person that they don’t want to cheat on. It happens a lot more than you’d reckon. And it kind of blows sex addiction theory out of the water, because the addiction specialist would have bet dollars to donuts that the person was a sex addict. And then, poof! They meet the right person, and cheating stops. And yes. I bet they’re having better relationship sex, too. To say its not about sex is disengenuous. Of course it’s at least partly about sex.

    • Couldnt disagree more! A serial cheater cuesta because he or She has very troubling issues. They will cheat on ANYONE and everyone until They confront those issues

  7. No, Cheaters cannot change. They simply take their behaviors further underground and PRETEND to change. Serial cheating is usually the sign of a personality disorder (or along a PD spectrum)–these are the most difficult disorders for therapists to tackle. Under a 5% cure rate (and that is generous).

  8. It’s not a surprise Dr. Hatch, that you would see cheaters married to attractive women. There a correlation between testosterone levels and infidelity, and a correlation between being better looking and earning more money. To afford your fee, a person needs to make a sufficient amount of money. Both aggressiveness in men (testosterone) and attractiveness correlate with making more money. Bingo. Better looking cheaters in general, and partners in general.

  9. Do you think your boyfriend or husband is cheating on you? Let the country’s best female PIs help you get to the bottom of it. We are shooting a new TV pilot for and are looking to help. Please email [email protected] for further details.

  10. My husband of 21 years has always cheated , always lied n I always believed him until last few years, I have seen more nude pics from his women than I’d want anyone to see, I have seen nude pics of him of which he has never sent one to me, he acts talks and is a totally different person w me than the women, I’m currently in school about to be done where then I’ll make a life change for me n my 3 kids, the thing that gets me is that he talks so much meN stuff about me to these strange women , things that are very private to me, and he tells them he’s only here for kids when in fact he is never here, he loves to buy them things tho, things I’ll never b able to buy them (kids) but the mean crap he says about me is just …. I lost a baby at 20 weeks it was still in sac, I called him n he was 15 min away but to busy to come home, I had cancer cells that I had to go b tested every day for ever , he was to busy all of my close family that has passed he was to busy , our son w autism n all his testing too busy, I did this without complaining I raised our children so he can be to busy I take care of home inside n out he pays bills, I work n school n still all this n he complains about me !!! I just do t understand , he comes home n acts like nothing different , I couldn’t believe what I just read when I looked at his cell n logged on to his pod n meet me crap, he treated me like gold n yet these things at same time , took me n our children to a restaurant where a a girl worked heck she served my food, after him knowing I know, n I still had a ways of school left he played to b the godly changed husband , well guess what he never stopped, I found a different email he was using n got the password n I logged on sure enough more dating web sites n hookup one even displayed a pic of his penis for all to view, he never stopped never no remorse nothing the only reason I looked well infection down stairs , my godly changed husband gave me an infection without telling him I got to looking before he went erasing , my goodness over 60 women he was “talking n sharing pics with” and one at the new restaurant he just started goin to, he tells me I’m selfish n only think of myself, he tells me it’s all nothing I’m overreacting , okay being on a web site that displays ur penis is ok? Being on a website that name is moms I want to f*** is nothing?? The world has changed n I have 3 kids I want to grab them n hide in a cave somewhere to keep them safe from this gross world filled w ppl that has no self respect no morals no care as to what this can do to not just the person ur married to but your children , if I can see him on these sites , then u know the kids n there friends may come across these , God hVe mercy on our souls n our children !!!

    • I read your story and thought someone just wrote about my life. I kicked my lying cheating husband out after having another gut feeling of another affair whilst sat in a house with three kids on my own every night. I’m now in a happier place knowing he is now cheating on his now girlfriend the victims in his lies will always be my kids as they know what there dad is like and that hurts to know they will never think of their dad who should have protected them.

  11. Had to be written by a woman. So inaccurate. One cant help it. If you keep getting peppered by men and women, sooner or later they will crack and cheat.Cheating is the new norm. Just need to be open minded and not fight it coz fidelity is dead people.

  12. Serial cheaters can change. My boyfriend cheated on me 7 times to my knowledge (I know its more) and he gave me an std from one of his tarts. We have been together 6 years and the first three was when he was cheating. Being mentally unwell (personality disorder), I was very unbalanced and I chose to take him back but it made me worse than ive ever been. After i found out he was a jerk about it but because i loved him “so much” (pathetic) I couldnt leave him. Slowly over the years ive become bitter and extremely strong, ive come to hate his presence, waves of repulsion wash over me. He, on the other hand, has turned into the perfect man, never leaving my side, being clingy. A completely different person. He was never romantic before and never affectionate. Now he wont leave me alone! Ugh. Ive asked him plenty of times to leave because I dont love him but hes so determined to win my love back I put up with him hanging around…I treat him badly now and he seems to relish in it. Its strange. At first he was a blinding light but when he betrayed me and I saw him truly his ugliness shone through and sickened me. So yes, cheaters can change….just a little too late. They need someone strong to whip them into shape.

  13. And to tempest. Do not stereotype. I have a personality disorder and I have always remained loyal and faithful. In fact, every boyfriend ive ever had has cheated on me. People with personality disorders are very vunerable people.

  14. The numbers look spot on to me. My BiL cheated. My SiL cheated. My wife cheated twice. My coworker cheated. 4 of my wife’s coworkers cheated. My friend cheated. As did her husband. A FB friends husband cheated. But I digress. I took offense to the comment about the men that cheated were married to ‘beautiful women’. Really?! That’s relevant? And what is beautiful?

  15. This was spot on. I just GoogleD the topic after admitting what I had done unprompted. Because I don’t want to do it anymore. I want my wife to leave, well because she deserves better. I’m riddled with guilt, I don’t know why I do shat I do. I simply cheat with whoever is willing, of course I prefer a more attractive woman, but I’ll always settle. I also read some of her other writings and it read perfectly. I want to get help, I’m so unhappy and it hurts. I want to be a good husband and a good father. This struggle is real, it’s probably to late for me. And yes, mental health issues run deep in my family. Had the most amazing wife, and the most wonderful daughter and I probably just lost them all. If your commenting/reading this and just try being argumentative then you have no idea what it’s like to be in the head of someone like me. I’ve prayed (yeah that was useless), ive hoped, ive vowed to be better, and it just never happens. I’m sitting in tears after my confession trying to understand myself and wanting to be happy with happiness right in front of me. Begging, please change me.

    • I’m in the same boat, did u find help?

  16. One long-term friend who I’m in the process of distancing myself from has taken to telling me about all of the affairs and one-night-stands he had on his 2nd wife (he’s on his 3rd) when he found out I was getting divorced (by the way neither my wife or myself ever cheated during our 25-year marriage).

    He’s now 67 and has self-destructed from alcoholism, obesity and lack of exercise. In addition to his telling me about his affairs, he kept telling me that there would be no end of women available to me when my divorce was finalized, which I told him I did not want to hear. (I have no desire to find another woman right now – it’s time to heal). Finally, I had to tell him very directly to lay off, and stopped taking his calls.

    His third wife (who works long hours) and their son are frequently going places without him as he has become a couch potato and a leach, so she’s probably getting fed up with him.

    My thoughts in his case are:

    1) He wanted what he couldn’t have, so he cheated.
    2) Now that he’s reached the point where he is so undesirable no one will cheat with him, he wants to relive his glory days and is jealous that I could find other women (even though I’m not interested in other women right now).
    3) He obviously has serious problems that weren’t as apparent when I knew him earlier on. I didn’t know about all of his cheating in the past – I find it disgusting that he did that, and downright weird that he needs to brag about it (it would be different if he confessed it to me and sounded embarrassed or repentent). He’s now a mess; he fell when drunk over 10 years ago and broke his back, eventually got fired because of his alcoholism, and I’ve been keeping my distance from him for 10 years. I learned that others are cutting him off, so he’s running out of people to call.

  17. I just got out of a bad relationship with a somatic narcissist, who lies, denies and drinks heavily…daily. I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on anyone. I appreciate the online blogs that helped educate me and get me through this whole ordeal. The no contact is definitely the most effective way to go. They try and suck you back in to their webb of deceit and deception. Thank God I’m OUT!!

  18. From my past experience they DON’T CHANGE unless something really major happens or tragic or a financial disaster or emotional disaster and then still most use THOSE as an excuse to cheat. Bottom line some of them are just plan old selfish and narcissistic to the point of pathological and they don’t care who or what they hurt to get what they want when they want it. They feel life owes them and everyone else owes them. Life isn’t fair, boo hoo, life is hard, boo hoo, they want all the sympathy, sex, $, admiration, easy ride, emotional support, everyone else to sacrifice for them, they want, want, want, and can’t even act honorable or have 1 oz of integrity in return. I’m sick and tired of making up excuses for people who CHOSE TO CHEAT and chose all kinds of other crap behavior to make themselves feel better because they are miserable! Instead of manning the frig up or womaning up and growing up and facing up to reality and dealing with issues instead of running from them or using excuses to cop out instead of fixing their current relationships at hand. Get a divorce or counseling or at least let the other person know you are opting out of the relationship or want out before you go and wreck and ruin lives for your own selfish gain. It’s sad is what it is. I’m tired of the excuses.

    • And another thing it doesn’t not matter what you look like or what type of education, class, $, size, hair, tall, skinny, small, bigger, smart, na├»ve, rich, poor, SELFISH NARCISSISTS do not care! The only thing they care about is THEIR MEANS TO AN END! I had a good friend that was drop dead sexy, a size 1, perfect in every which way, had a lot of $, great career, and her husband cheated with whoever whenever just BECAUSE he wanted to. Then he would come crawling back after getting his jollies off. I had other friends that would do EVERY DAMN THING for their husbands, cook, clean, run errands, work 50+ hours a week, take care of the kids, run themselves into the ground and their husbands would turn around and still cheat. One of my friend’s husband said he LIKED VARIETY he wanted to try out all kinds of different women. That’s nice, why in the hell did he ever decide to say I DO is beyond me? Why waste anyones time? Why? Because he wanted a wifey poo at home being his doormat while he roamed around with every pootang on the side. Best of both worlds in his delusional selfish double leading life. If he were that miserable he would have divorced, so he just wanted cake and eat it too. So, give me a break, back to the every excuse to cheat and choose to be piggies.

 

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