Once a cheater, always a cheater. How many times have you heard that line before? The statement does make sense. If someone had the capability to cheat once, what's going to stop them from doing it again? But according to experts, "
once a cheater, always a cheater," isn't necessarily true for all cases. In fact, there are things one-time cheaters do after being caught that differentiate them from serial cheaters.
According to a 2107 study published in
the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior , it was found that people who cheated in their first relationships were three times more likely to cheat again. Numerous studies have tried to find out what makes one person more likely to cheat than another. Is it the size of their ring finger? A family history of infidelity? The type of career they have? Although some of those things can factor into it, the reality is anyone is capable of cheating.
"While there’s no excuse for breaking the trust of an intimate relationship, mistakes do happen," Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for
Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "With that being said, it’s crucial to know whether you’re dealing with a serial cheater or someone who truly regrets their one-time transgression."
So here are some major things one-time cheaters do differently than serial cheaters after being caught, according to experts.
They'll Be Truly Remorseful
"Typically, one-time cheaters are searching for
a way to fill the void of what is missing in their relationships, be it emotional or physical affection," relationship coach, Jenna Ponaman, CPC, tells Bustle. Regardless of their motivation, one-time cheaters will be truly remorseful. "Even though they committed the ultimate act to hurt you, they don’t actually want to hurt you," she says. "So when they’re caught in the act, it hurts especially hard for them because they ended up doing the one thing they were trying to avoid."
Serial cheaters, on the other hand, will likely play the victim. "They might blame their partner for causing them to cheat," Ponaman says. They'll say they felt suffocated by the relationship or that you stopped caring or stopped paying attention to them. "They’ll try to make you take the blame for it to ease their own guilt," she says. If that's the case, don't believe it. Cheating is never your fault.
Getting Caught Won't Give Them An Initial Sense Of Relief
"Serial cheaters, after being caught, probably feel more relief than initial remorse," relationship coach,
Andi LaBrune, tells Bustle. Although she says their habits may not necessarily be built upon emotional attachment, they do have a lack of something either within their current long-term relationship or within themselves. Sex, for instance, is one way many cheaters choose to fill the void. Even though they recognize that it's not healthy nor good for their relationship, they'll still continue to do it. "Now that they've been caught, they can be honest about what they truly need to feel loved and accepted just as they are," she says. For one-time cheaters, there may not be relief, but more of a sense of guilt.
They Won't Get Defensive Or Try to Justify Their Actions
"One-time cheaters describe their motivations, honestly and without defensiveness," sex and relationship coach,
Ken Blackman, tells Bustle. No matter how difficult it is, they might eventually reveal what they were thinking and feeling. "They're not looking to be excused, but they do hope to be understood, as a way to open the possibility of moving forward," he says. Serial cheaters, on the other hand, might apologize, dismiss their actions and motives, and promise never to do it again. Whether or not that actually happens is really up to the individual.
They Acknowledge The Pain They Caused
When you love someone, causing them emotional pain is the last thing you want to do. Often times, it's just so easy to try to move forward without actually addressing the issue. But according to Blackman, one-time cheaters will apologize for what they've done, own up to their mistake, and acknowledge the pain they've caused. "Serial cheaters mainly express their fear of losing their partner, and beg for forgiveness," he says.
They'll Try To Downplay The Act Itself
One-time cheaters that don’t want to cause anymore hurt, might downplay their actions or leave details out. "One-time cheaters know they caused pain and will often try to avoid causing any more by trying not to talk about it,"
Lesli Doares, Couples Consultant and Coach, tells Bustle. "But unfortunately, this often makes things worse." In order to get through infidelity, the reasons for choosing to cheat must be identified and shared. "This is really hard for both partners and, without guidance, can be done too superficially." Serial cheaters may also downplay what happened, but the reason behind it won't be the same. Instead of preventing more hurt, serial cheaters just want to move past the issue as soon as possible.
They Might Want To Talk About Ways To Make The Relationship Work
"One-time cheaters are ready to discuss ways to make the relationship better, for both of them," sex and relationship coach,
Ken Blackman, tells Bustle. "Serial cheaters are focused on how to keep the relationship the same as it's been." As weird as it sounds, cheating can make your relationship stronger. Many times, it causes you and your partner to really open up and figure out what needs to be changed in order for you two to be in a happy and healthy relationship.
According to Noelle Cordeaux, relationship coach and CEO of
JRNI, sometimes monogamy might not be for your partner. "I have worked with lots of folks who have decided that monogamy is not for them after causing a partner (or partners) pain," Cordeaux says. "Some folks really just can't do it and for others non-monogamy is a downright and legitimate sexual orientation called polyamory. Consensual non-monogamy has its pluses and minuses as a lifestyle but it does remove the stigma, secrecy and pain that comes from cheating on a partner."
They Might Do All That They Can To Rectify The Situation
"After being caught, you truly open up to see, experience, and feel the pain caused to your loved one and even to yourself," LaBrune says. "It creates a ripple effect in all parties involved. A one-time cheater most likely does not wish to re-live these painful moments by cheating again after being caught." One-time cheaters will do all they can to rectify the situation. If that means getting an STI check because their partner wants them to, they'll do so without any question. Maybe they'll try to seek professional help to get the relationship back on track. Maybe they'll just need to give their partner some space to process and figure things out. Whatever their partner needs done, they'll do it.
When you catch your partner cheating, LaBrune says you have a major decision to make. Should you stay or go? "Yes, you’ll be plagued with 'what if’ scenarios every time you close your eyes or see them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a decision now," she says. "Hanging their transgression against you (or you over yourself) isn’t the answer to healing." Regardless of the whether or not it was just a one time thing, forgiveness won't be easy. But it is necessary in order to truly move forward.