Once a Cheater Always a Cheater? 35 Truths & Must-Knows to Help You Decide

Do you think, “once a cheater, always a cheater?” Some people believe it, and some don’t. Get the answers here as to whether or not it’s really true.

Once a Cheater Always a Cheater

We have all heard the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” It’s been drilled into our heads that it’s a true statement. But is it really? 

Most people would probably never consider dating someone who cheated. They’re probably disgusted by the very idea of it. But there are different people with different pasts, and you can’t really put a label on someone without knowing the whole story.

Yes, cheating is a horrible betrayal, and it should make any person a tad bit wary of starting a relationship with someone who has done it in the past. However, it should never be the sole reason you dismiss them completely from your life. [Read: How do affairs start? The ways they play out in real life]

Kinds of cheating

When most people think of cheating, they think of sex. But there are actually many different types of cheating. Here are some of the common types of cheating:

1. Physical or sexual affairs

Of course, this is the one that comes to mind at first. This is exactly what it sounds like – having sex or some other form of physical contact with another person that is not your partner. 

It could be kissing, making out, cuddling, holding hands, or having full-on sex. Of course, most people agree that any kind of physical or sexual contact outside the relationship is against the rules *unless you’re in an open relationship*.

2. Emotional affairs

Emotional affairs don’t involve sex or physical touching necessarily. [Read: Emotional affair – what it is, 76 signs and steps, infidelity stages and what to do]

This happens when two people get too close emotionally. They talk all the time and might even develop loving feelings and get overly attached to them.

Someone having an emotional affair might hide it from their partner or even lie to keep the relationship a secret. It generally starts innocently enough through friendship and grows from there.

3. Micro cheating

Micro cheating is cultivating inappropriate intimate connections outside your relationship in small ways.

It’s a subtle form of cheating that doesn’t involve physical intimacy, but the actions break a couple’s agreements about romantic exclusivity. 

Examples include obvious flirting, fantasizing, contacting exes, talking to people you find attractive, or talking to other opposite-sex “friends” about your intimate relationship. It can even include interactions on social media or engaging with porn. [Read: Micro cheating – what it is and signs you’re unintentionally doing it]

4. Online infidelity

Online affairs are also considered a form of cheating. They can be secret extramarital relationships that include sexual innuendos back and forth between the two people.

The affairs are conducted online through email, social media, online chat, or even through texting. Like any other form of cheating, they are damaging to a relationship and can trigger feelings of insecurity, anger, and jealousy because they lead to a loss of trust.

5. Sexting as infidelity

Sexting is a combination of sex and texting. It’s the act of sending sexual text messages, usually in the form of naked photos, semi-naked photos, or explicit videos of yourself to another person. 

This can happen via messaging on cell phones or other messaging services such as social media sites. Sexting is surprisingly popular, with around 20% of teens doing it and 75% of young adults who have. [Read: Is sexting cheating? The answer you really won’t want to accept]

6. Revenge cheating

Someone who discovers that their partner has cheated on them might want to retaliate by cheating on them back. This is known as revenge cheating.

Finding out that your partner had an affair can be devastating and can leave someone feeling hurt, deceived, and with broken trust. Revenge cheating comes from the urge to level the playing field and make the cheating partner feel as bad as they made you feel.

Is it true that, once a cheater always a cheater?

This question is not a simple one. There are a lot of factors that go into why someone might have cheated on their partner. So, that makes the statement “once a cheater always a cheater” to be one that has a lot of gray areas – it’s not cut and dry.

In essence, “once a cheater always a cheater” is not always true. Just because someone cheats once doesn’t mean that they will necessarily do it again.

It is true that someone who has cheated in the past is statistically more likely to cheat in the future than someone who hasn’t. But that doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed that they will be a repeat offender. [Read: 29 truths to stop cheating and resist the temptation to be unfaithful]

People cheat for many reasons such as low self-esteem, unhappy relationships, or just for the excitement of it. But people, relationships, and circumstances can and do change.

If they cheat once, won’t they do it again?

The common belief held by most people is that a person will cheat again if they’ve done it before. That’s where the saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” originates. 

But is this really true? It’s hard to believe that every person who has been unfaithful will ALWAYS do so forever. [Read: How to forgive yourself for cheating and not telling – must-know steps]

For that reason, we’ve put together a list for you of why the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” should be put to rest for good and how you can deal with dating someone who was unfaithful in their past.

1. There could be more to the story

Although cheating isn’t acceptable under any circumstances, there are some cases that make a little more sense. Maybe their last partner was abusive and they didn’t feel they could leave them.

You never know the details of their last relationship, and it’s not fair to base your feelings for them on something they did in the past. Maybe they only cheated once and then left. You never know! [Read: 46 must-dos to rebuild and regain trust after cheating or lying in a relationship]

2. If they told you, they won’t do it

Generally speaking, if you found out about their unfaithful past from them, you really don’t have a whole lot to worry about. They’re being open and honest with you and are not afraid to hide anything.

They’re fully aware telling you this detail about themselves may cause you to look at them differently and even leave them, so they are really trying to air out the past in order to move forward. Let them.

Besides, who would tell you they’ve cheated if they plan to cheat? It’s like calling the cops before robbing a bank. It doesn’t make sense! [Read: You only cheated once – should you tell them?]

3. If you trust them, then TRUST them

If your gut is telling you that you can trust them, then listen to it. Even if you know about their last relationship mishap, if you feel like you can trust them to not cheat again, then don’t label them as, “once a cheater, always a cheater.”

4. They were immature at the time

Think about when they cheated. It could’ve been when they were in high school or early college. Most people at this time are too immature to be serious about anyone, leading them to make bad decisions.

If it’s been a really long time and they haven’t been unfaithful since, you can assume their immaturity at the time is what caused the cheating and you don’t have to worry about that anymore. [Read: Why do men cheat? Real reasons and 27 silly excuses]

5. They were insecure

Yes, it sounds silly, insecurity leads to someone scoring another person. But when people feel insecure – for whatever reason – they cheat because it makes them feel a lot better.

If you make them feel secure in themselves and you love them for them, they’re not going to need to seek approval from others. Maybe their past partner made them feel inadequate and it led to being unfaithful.

6. They didn’t have real feelings for them

This kind of goes along with being too immature. If they didn’t have real feelings for someone, then the remorse isn’t present enough to make them rethink their infidelity.

If they’ve developed real feelings for you and things are serious, they’re not going to skip out on you and hook up with the next hot person that walks in the door. [Read: Snapchat cheating – what it is and signs your partner is doing it]

7. They’ve learned their lesson

Most likely, they’ve learned by now cheating is wrong and won’t do it again. For the majority of people, cheating leads to a LOT of guilt and nobody wants to feel guilty all the time.

Who is likely to be a serial cheater? 

Obviously, not everyone is a cheater. So, what makes someone more likely to be a repeat offender when it comes to betraying their partner?

1. They have narcissistic tendencies

A narcissist only cares about themselves. They have virtually no empathy for other people and their feelings. So, it makes sense that someone with narcissistic tendencies would cheat. They don’t think about nor care about how it will negatively impact their partner. [Read: 43 cheating girlfriend signs, why girls cheat and must-knows to deal with it]

2. They have a history of cheating

As we said earlier, “once a cheater, always a cheater” isn’t always true and depends on many factors. However, people who cheated before are more likely to cheat than people who have never cheated at all. So, if they have a history of cheating, they might do it again.

3. They exhibit flirty behavior

Flirting can be innocent, but it can also be a form of intention. [Read: When does flirting become cheating? The guide to know for sure]

Overt flirting can be a signal to someone that they are interested in taking the relationship to the next level sexually. Someone who doesn’t flirt probably has no intentions of cheating.

4. They guard their technology

When someone has nothing to hide, they have no problem giving their partner the password to their phone. But if someone is guarding their phone and laptop with their life, then they definitely are up to no good.

5. They accuse you of cheating

This is a tactic that a lot of cheaters use. Whether it’s preemptive in order to distract you from their own cheating or if you just accused them of their betrayal, they will throw it back on you.

They try to convince you that they are equally suspicious of your own cheating. [Read: Gaslighting – what it is, how it works, and 33 signs to spot it ASAP]

6. They speak negatively of ex-partners 

Sure, many people aren’t very fond of their ex-partners. After all, that’s why they broke up, right? But cheaters take it to a different level. They want to convince you that their ex is the “bad guy” and not them. As the saying goes, “thou does protest too much.” 

7. They cannot accept responsibility

People who betray others and are cheaters can never admit it to anyone, and sometimes not even to themselves.

They can’t accept any responsibility for any of their bad behavior because they just can’t. They aren’t mature enough to do so. [Read: Immature men – 27 manchild signs and why you should stay away from them]

8. They cannot be alone 

While there are many people who have a difficult time being single, some take it to the extreme. Even if someone is in a relationship, maybe they are scared that it’s going to end soon. So, they go looking for someone else to have lined up before the one they’re in ends.

What factors might make someone more likely to cheat again?

You would think that if someone cheated in a relationship and got caught, then they would learn their lesson and not do it again. [Read: Serial cheater – 43 signs & traits, why they cheat so often & what to do next]

But that’s not always the case. Here are some factors that might make someone more likely to cheat again.

1. Boredom

Boredom can come in different forms. It could be because the thrill of the chase or infatuation is gone. 

Or it could be sexual boredom. Some people get bored with vanilla sex and feel a need to spice things up, and that could include finding another sexual partner. [Read: Vanilla sex – what it is and 26 hot ways to go from boring to OMFG in bed]

2. Codependency 

When someone is codependent, they attempt to control their partners in order to feel better. But if their partner doesn’t do what they want, then they will feel unappreciated, victimized, and angry. They might be likely to cheat because of that.

Or their partner might feel like they are being suffocated by their codependent partner. In order to stop feeling that way, they might seek out someone else to distract themselves. So, these are possible reasons for either partner to cheat. 

3. Childhood trauma

From a psychological perspective, there may be a connection between people who fall into a pattern of serial cheating and those who experienced early childhood trauma such as abandonment or abuse. 

Because of this trauma and fear of abandonment, it could make having a healthy relationship difficult, which could lead to cheating. [Read: Abandonment issues and how it affects your relationship]

4. Commitment issues

People who have a hard time committing may be more likely to cheat in relationships too. Also, commitment doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. 

The relationship status or whether it’s casual or exclusive might be foggy. And it’s likely to like or love someone and still fear making a commitment to them.

5. Lack of emotional connection

Maybe someone doesn’t really want to cheat on their partner but they feel emotionally abandoned by them. They might have even talked to them about it and tried to fix things between them.

But if their partner still can’t emotionally connect with them, they might purposely or accidentally find someone who they can connect with. And that will likely lead to emotional or physical cheating – or both.

6. Difficulty controlling impulses

Cheating can be premeditated, or it can be impulsive.

So, if someone has impulse control problems, they might not be able to control themselves “in the moment.” They might jump at the chance to be with someone without even thinking about it.

This can be for a variety of reasons, such as factors affecting the brain. It could be something like A manic episode, an injury, or stroke. These make someone have poor decision-making skills and give in to impulses more than other people.

7. Intimacy issues

Many people like being emotionally connected to other people. And one of the ways they achieve this is through sexual contact. They find the experience to be enjoyable because they feel closer to their partner.

However, some people feel very uncomfortable with this sexual and emotional connection. So, if they sleep around with other people, they can have a sexual connection without getting emotionally close to them, which makes them anxious.

8. Lack of sexual connection

It’s not too uncommon for two people in a relationship to have different drives and preferences for sex. One person might have a high sex drive and the other one has a very low one. That would leave the high-sex drive partner frustrated and unsatisfied.

Even if the frequency of sex is satisfactory, maybe the type of sex is too vanilla or boring for them. They might like to do some kinky things or even BDSM. But in order to do that, you have to find a willing partner.

9. Strong sex drive

Some people’s strong sex drive can be a motivation to cheat too. Someone who wants to have sex as much as possible might look for opportunities to do so even without any other reasons.

Even if someone is in a sexually fulfilling relationship, they still might want to have sex with more people and more often. This might result from the high level of sexual desires, not necessarily any sexual or intimate issues in the relationship.

Dealing with a previous cheater

If you know the person you’re seeing slipped up and cheated on their past partner, your insecurities might be running a little high and your trust running a little low. [Read: How cheaters react when accused – anger and what you should expect]

Here are some of the best ways to deal with dating a previous cheater.

1. Set boundaries

Come right out and tell them cheating is a HUGE no-no in your book and if they do it, you’re gone. End of story. Set those standards and leave them there. They will respect someone who is set in their ways and follows through with what they say.

2. Communicate often

If you’re feeling like they’re being a little shady and your trust is wilting because of it, you need to tell them.

More than likely, they’ll reassure you everything is alright, and they’ll probably be more communicative about what they’ve been up to. [Read: How to communicate with your spouse without resentment or fighting]

3. Don’t judge them on their past

Sure, it’s really hard, but try to forget about their past. Everyone should have a clean slate when it comes to a new relationship and you should give them that. You wouldn’t give up on them now because they once had a mullet, would you?

4. Ask for details

If you want to know more about their cheating incident, just ask for some details. 

Tell them it would make you feel better knowing the details surrounding the incident so you can really understand what happened. If they’re honest, they’ll be willing to share. [Read: 25 secrets to catch a cheater red-handed in the act and with the right proof!]

5. Trust them

Have trust that your new lover is going to treat you the right way. Trust them to be honest with you and don’t use their past as a way for them to lose your trust.

They’re with you now and not the person they cheated on. Everything is different, so trust they’ll be there for you and only you.

[Read: Should you forgive a cheater? How and 21 MUST-KNOWS to make a choice]

None of these are excuses to cheat on anyone, but they do offer some insight as to why they might have done it and why they won’t do it again. Just remember, your new beau should not automatically fall under the “once a cheater, always a cheater” stereotype. 

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...