How Often Do Cheaters Cheat Again? 'Once A Cheater Always A Cheater' May Be True, New Study Finds

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
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Being cheated on is not only an awful feeling — it can totally destroy your relationship. "Cheating and its consequences are one of the most devastating moments in a relationship," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "It turns your whole world upside-down when you find out your partner is cheating, [and] you begin to look at everything in your relationship as a lie, and your self-esteem plummets." It's hard to bounce back from, but it turns out that if your partner has cheated in previous relationships, then science wants you to be extra careful.

A study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior asked 484 people in relationships about their behavior. First, we need to talk about the fact that they didn't use the word cheating, oh no. They had to report their "extra-dyadic sexual involvement" or having sex with someone outside of their relationship. That's the phrase they used — "extra-dyadic sexual involvement" — and it's the best. So next time you're slamming someone for cheating, I highly suggest you throw out "extra-dyadic sexual involvement" into the mix.

But back to the findings. Folks in the study were asked to report their own cheating and whether they suspected their partner had been faithful. And what they found was really interesting. Because as much as we might not want to believe it, there was definitely something to this 'once a cheater, always a cheater' thing.

Those Who Had Cheated Were Way More Likely To Cheat Again

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That's right, people who had cheated before were a lot more prone to unfaithfulness. Like a lot  more. Those who cheated in their first relationship were three times more likely to cheat again. So it may not be that people are learning from their mistakes, instead they may just be getting used to their bad behavior. If you do it once and come to terms with it as something you do, then it may just not seem so bad the next time you that you do it.

But it may not always be the case. "I think that there is all different types of cheating so it's sort of hard to quantify," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "The first type of cheater is a compulsive cheater who really gives their behavior much thought. They don't have much impulse control or much empathy and awareness of others. They are likely to cheat in their first relationship and many subsequent relationships. However, there are people who are young and a bit thoughtless who cheat early on but not always. They can learn from their experiences and relationships and have capacity to change. They may not always be cheaters.   They may also have considered their first relationship to be more casual with loser boundaries but feel and behave differently when in something that they consider more serious."

But The Association Went Both Ways...

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So this is weird. Not only were cheaters more likely to be cheaters again, those who were cheated on were more likely to be cheated on again. Twice as likely, in fact, than those who hadn't been cheated on. Granted, it's a small study and more research needs to be done on why that might be. Could it be they're also getting used to their past behavior? Could it be a coincidence? It's hard to say, but it's something that should definitely explored more.

It's a tricky situation, because cheating is so personal and you want to give someone the benefit of the doubt. But it's hard to argue with the facts. Sure, if someone has cheated before it doesn't mean that they'll definitely do it again. But damn, it sure doesn't help.