Q. Glen, Is cheating an inherent personality trait or a controllable behavioral one? Can a guy or gal who strays learn to stay home?
A.We'd all like to think that people can make changes, learn to compromise, and make their relationship stronger.
Unromantic men can learn to buy a card every once in a while; women who nag can learn to stop themselves at least a few times they see toothpaste in the sink, or whatever it is. But those are small changes.
The big changes -- the changes that can make or break a relationship -- are the ones most of us are really concerned about. And perhaps the biggest question of all -- when you consider that 25 percent of men admit to cheating in relationships and about 15 percent of women do -- is this: Can cheaters change? Is cheating an inherent personality trait or a controllable behavioral one?
Can a guy -- or gal -- who strays learn to be a house cat?
For these purposes, we'll consider cheating full-on sexual contact -- not only sex, but also its close relatives. (I fully know that 60 percent of men say that even having drinks with an old flame is cheating, 50 percent of men say visiting strip clubs is cheating, and virtually all women say emotional betrayal is worse than physical betrayal. So I know cheating is complicated, but here, we'll go with the traditional "Where did my underwear go?" definition.)
The average woman says that the No. 1 reason for divorce is infidelity -- so that indicates to me that for women, their answer is no, cheaters can't change (or if they do, they don't believe he deserves a second chance).
After I give you my take, I'd love to hear your thoughts about this very question, because I think your perception of this issue may very well depend, in some major way, on whether you've been burned -- or have done the burning.
Once someone crosses the line in the relationship (again, that line being different things to different people, but for argument's sake, we're talking here about the horizontal hora), it's like a seal being broken on a pill bottle.
Though some of it may depend on whether it was a drunken fling or an ongoing stealth hookup with someone at work, the fact is that once that trust is compromised, the offender will have a hard time resetting the relationship to its startup condition. Even if the victim accepts the offender back into the relationship, the offender will be likely to stray again -- because he knows he's already gotten away with it once.
The bigger picture, really, is the fact that he (we'll assume the cheater is a he; sorry, guys) cheated for a reason -- that something in his current relationship -- for example, one study showed that couples with infidelity issues showed greater dishonesty, arguments about trust, narcissism, and time spent apart -- made him explore other options. And that's ultimately what makes him prone to do it again. But...
Can Cheaters Change? Absolutely!
Just because someone has cheated in one relationship doesn't mean that he's always a cheater in his next relationships -- for the very same reason.
In the relationship where he cheated, he was willing to gamble it away. So if he enters a committed relationship where he feels there's much more to lose, there's a less likely chance he'll wont want to risk it.
Does that mean he won't, or that he couldn't succumb to the temptations of the tight-topped bartender? Of course not. Cheating certainly can make some relationships impossible to continue, but some infidels can indeed change -- that is, if he hopes to make other relationships even remotely possible.
Can't we all (both men AND women) just get along?
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