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Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?: Defining Infidelity & Reaching Recovery

Do you believe that “once a cheater always a cheater?” Due to this mindset many of us might have, we are here to explore that idea and help dismantle the stigma that infidelity is black and white. We also want to discuss how trust is rebuilt and how a couple can come back from infidelity, if both parties are committed.

There are 11 different types of cheating and on average they occur ¼ to ⅓ of the time within relationships. That’s a lot!

Let’s break down the 11 different types of infidelity:

  • There are those who are avoiding conflict about or the intimacy involved in discussing what they want sexually.

  • Those who have a one-time affair based on being under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other circumstances.

  • There are individual based issues, including those with personality disorders, who might not think of or care how their behavior affects others

  • “Philanderers” who feel entitled or driven to “score,”

  • Individuals dealing with a sexual addiction.

  • There are those who want pay-back for something they perceive their partner has done to them.

  • Other couples lead parallel lives in which one or both are involved with someone else

  • Some people really have an unhealthy relationship and are looking for an escape

  • Individuals who are trying to end the relationship.

  • There are online affairs, which can take many shapes with people met online like shared videos, texts/chats, phone calls, etc.. For these, convenience is driving an increase in these types of affairs as you don’t even have to leave the home to engage in an affair.

  • Emotional affairs

No matter how the cheating has occurred, the person we have counted on the most, has hurt us. We go through a range of emotions - betrayal, rage, grief over what we thought we had, inadequacy, etc.

Can trust be rebuilt? Absolutely, if both people commit to honesty and rebuilding, and that includes ending the external relationship. The unfaithful partner needs to:

  • Be patient

  • Offer a sincere apology (often many times)

  • Close the door on the other relationship

  • Open the windows with their partner - disclose what is asked and be an open book (give them access to your calendars, credit card records, texts, etc).

There are 3 phases to repairing after an affair: atone, attune and attach. To atone, the cheating partner must inform their partner of the affair, take responsibility, and open the windows to your personal life. To attune, they both must focus on rebuilding their emotional connection. This work is guided by the type of affair that occurred and must include rebuilding trust, commitment, and being open enough to be emotionally vulnerable - sharing your most intimate and personal thoughts. Finally, to attach we work on rebuilding sexual intimacy using regular, progressive conversations about sex. These might include conversations like: What areas do you like to be kissed? What makes sex more romantic for you? What’s your favorite part of my body?

Couples therapy and affair recovery takes work, patience, and honesty. It is not up to the therapist to decide whether a couple should stay together. Sometimes the outcome includes a pathway to a stronger relationship, and sometimes it's a pathway to going separate ways. Either way, you do not have to go through it alone.

We have clinicians on staff who specialize in working with couples and relationship repair.

Written by Clinical Director, Lisa Current, LMFT

Check out Lisa on Episode 35 of our Podcast, "On Thursdays We Thrive" on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

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