Catching your partner cheating is one of the most painful things that you can experience in a relationship. Unless you absolutely cannot get over the fact that your partner cheated, a one-time thing doesn't automatically have to mean the end. So how do you know if your partner is a serial cheater or this was just a mistake? According to experts, there are some
habits of cheaters who remain unfaithful and habits of one-time cheaters that may set them apart.
Affairs happen for a variety of reasons," Tammy Nelson, PhD, certified sex therapist and an expert consultant for Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people, tells Bustle. According to Dr. Nelson, the claim, "once a cheater, always a cheater" isn't necessarily true. "Often an affair happens because of opportunity," she says. For instance, if someone is in an environment where cheating happens a lot, they may be more encouraged to cheat. More opportunities to cheat can lead to a habit of cheating. Others who aren't as exposed to cheating, may do it one time when the opportunity presents itself, feel remorse afterward, and never do it again.
But rest assured, if you are dating someone who is truly remorseful for their mistake, they likely won't carry that habit with them into the future. "They’ve likely worked on moving past those actions and can’t imagine doing that in a relationship again," Bethany Ricciardi, sex educator and relationship expert with
Too Timid “The Romance Company” tells Bustle. But for a serial cheater, this may not be in the case. In short, getting them to change is going to be quite the challenge.
So here are some habits serial cheaters are more likely to have than one-time cheaters.
They Establish Unpredictability In The Relationship Early On
Serial cheaters are good at avoiding established patterns or routines in a relationship, Kevin Darné, dating expert and author of
, tells Bustle. So if you're dating a serial cheater, take note if you aren't falling into a routine. In fact, Darné says they might make it a point early on to make themselves as My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany) hard to pin down as possible. They may carve out a "free night" for themselves, or they will find ways to explain why routine doesn't work with their lifestyle. "Essentially they will find a way to create time and space away from their mate early on to avoid raising suspicions later on," he says. Smart, but super shady. One-time cheaters are less likely to manipulate your relationship in a way that suits their needs.
They Keep Their Phone Face Down Whenever You're Around
If your partner makes a conscious effort to keep their phone away from you at all times, they might be having an ongoing affair. "Even if the relationship is brand new, or they have nothing to hide, old habits die hard," Amica Graber, relationship expert for
SafeSwipe, tells Bustle. "If someone is used to hiding information from their partner, they're likely to be jumpy about you so much as touching their phone." So watch for red flags like walking into another room to take calls, answering late-night texts, or keeping their phone faced down on the table whenever you're around. After being caught, one-time cheaters will likely be more transparent with what they're doing on their phone in order to rebuild trust.
They Do Their Best To Convince You That They Won't Ever Cheat Again
"Serial cheaters will talk a good game about being faithful in the future but they will display no distancing behaviors to the people and situations they were involved in at the time they cheated," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for
Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. In other words, their actions won't match their words. If you don't feel like your partner is being sincere with you, trust yout gut. One-time cheaters will back their words up with actions. They will not only give you a meaningful apology, but will do their best to prove to you that they can be a devoted partner.
While not all risk-takers are serial cheaters, people who have
difficulties controlling impulses may be more likely to cheat. As Graber says, "Risk takers may discover that cheating provides them with the same adrenaline rush as other risky behaviors." One-time cheaters are less likely to view cheating as a way to get an adrenaline rush. Because of that, they're less likely to seek it out again.
They Tend To Keep A Lot Of Things To Themselves
Serial cheaters will give you just enough information to make you feel like you know them, but you might still be left guessing. "They’re very vague when it comes to telling you about their life or what goes on when you’re not around," Ricciardi says. If you want to know more about them, they might get upset and give you the excuse that they like to keep their life private. In turn, you might feel bad for "prying" and won't ask again. Regardless of what they say, never feel bad for wanting to get to know more about the person you are dating. If your partner cheated one time, it may be more shocking to you to find out since they were likely much more open with you from the very beginning.
They Take A Lot Of Selfies
While not all selfie-enthusiasts are prone to cheating, serial cheaters can be narcissistic, Graber says. Typical behaviors of a narcissist can include attention-grabbing behavior on social media. "Narcissists are preoccupied with feeding their ego, which makes them prime candidates to be serial cheaters," she says. So if you notice that your partner is very into themselves, that's a red flag to keep in mind. For serial cheaters, it's all about them and what they can gain from their affairs. One-time cheaters will care more about their partner's feelings and reactions.
They Know How To Easily Win People Over
Serial cheaters have a lot of experience getting others to trust them. They know how to use their charm in order to win people over pretty easily. As Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of
, tells Bustle, if your partner says what you always want to hear, be careful. "It might really be just what you want to hear and not the truth," she says. No matter how uncomfortable the conversation will be, one-time cheaters will tell you the truth of what happened. They'll even put in the effort to help your relationship overcome this rough spot. Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences
They Might Shower You With Gifts
"This is a huge habit for a serial cheater because it helps their guilty conscious," Ricciardi says. Serial cheaters may be quick to distract you, but "[t]ake it as a red flag," she says. "Chances are, they’re saying sorry for something they’ve done without wanting to admit it." One-time cheaters may give you gifts in an effort to help make things right. But more importantly, they will do their best to prove to you that they're going to be faithful moving forward.
They Use Self Diagnosis To "Explain" Their Behaviors
When a serial cheater is caught, they will look for different ways to justify their behavior. According to Graber, "applying an armchair diagnosis," such as "a fear of commitment" or a "sex addiction" is an easy way for them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Unless they legitimately have a problem they're seeking treatment for, this may not be true. "Watch out for someone who uses these types of excuses for treating you badly," she says. One-time cheaters, if they're truly remorseful, will own up to their mistakes.
They View Cheating As A Norm
Serial cheaters don’t think cheating is as big of a deal as one-time cheaters do. As
relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle, serial cheaters are used to cheating. "Somewhere in their history, whether it’s parents, mentors or the culture they grew up in, they saw cheating as normal," she says. "So when they talk about it, they will make it seem like it's not such a big deal." One time cheaters, on the other hand, will be more introspective and regretful. Their infidelity will likely have made much more of an impact on them.
If you catch your partner cheating, only you can determine whether or not that's something you can live with. For some, a one-time thing is a total dealbreaker. For others, they'll give their partner a few more chances before they decide it's finally time to go. But if you've caught your partner once and you're wondering if they're going to do it again, these habits can help you figure out which category of cheater they fall under.