He seemed so sincere when he looked you in the eye and swore he was through with her. Later you realized that he could say this because it was, in fact, the truth. He was through with her — just not the woman after her.
And now the cycle starts all over. He tells you she didn’t mean anything, it was a mistake, it will never happen again. You watch over his shoulder as he deletes her from his cell phone, his e-mail, and his social media contacts. He says he loves you and begs you to stay with him.
Will He Ever Stop Cheating On You?
If you’re single, your friends urge you not to take him back. If you’re married, they tell you to get a lawyer. You don’t know if you can get past another betrayal, but you don’t know if you can be without him. You wish someone could tell you: will he ever stop cheating?
There is no crystal ball that can answer that question. But there are signs that indicate that he’s serious about changing his behaviors.
Signs That He’s Serious About Stopping His Cheating
In order for you to decide if your relationship is worth keeping, he needs to agree to one or more of the following:
Your partner might benefit from individual and group therapy with a trained or certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT), and you could both benefit from couples therapy to determine if the relationship is salvageable.
One of the worst things about finding out your partner has cheated is when you don’t get the full story initially, so that every added revelation is a new injury. Because they’re never sure if they’ve heard the whole truth, partners perseverate on what the cheater might have done and get into a destructive pattern of interrogation.
Couples therapy aims to disrupt that process by facilitating a structured disclosure in which the cheater lists all of his sexual acting-out behaviors at one time. The partner then has the opportunity to ask questions and express hurt and betrayal in a supportive, contained environment.
Once a full disclosure has been made (and energy is not being spent on keeping secrets and/or trying to dig them up), the partners can negotiate a plan for moving forward in integrity — whether separately or apart.
Persistent betrayals may indicate an underlying sex and love addiction. Your partner is not going to be able to give up cheating on his own just as an alcoholic cannot give up drinking without the support of a 12-step program. Your therapist will be able to recommend support groups in your area or you can find meetings listed online.
What You Need To Do After Someone Has Cheated On You
Let your partner’s therapist handle his treatment. Your job is to heal yourself and to do that you need to figure out why you are choosing to be with someone who isn’t fully committed to you.
Some partners end up with cheaters because of unresolved family-of-origin issues. If they grew up with a family member who was an addict, they probably learned to walk on eggshells and keep secrets. Because the family system was steeped in denial, partners never learned to trust their feelings or reality. And because the house likely revolved around the addict, the partner learned to put her needs on the back burner and to settle for crumbs in her adult romantic relationships.
There are a variety of options for support including individual therapy, 12-step programs, and bibliotherapy to address partner relational trauma.
You’ll never know if he’ll cheat again, so it’s best to focus on what you can control: the kind of relationship you want, both with a partner and with yourself.
By Virginia Gilbert, MFT
Follow Virginia on Twitter at @VGilbertMFT