If your spouse has cheated on you, then you’ve likely heard the phrase, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” But is that sentiment always true?
You may be surrounded by people who have your best interests at heart, feel hurt by what your spouse has done, and want to help protect you from future repetition of the same harm. And while there may be merit to the statement — and in some situations, there is — it’s important to look at your individual circumstances objectively first.
Affairs are incredibly painful situations that cause deep pain and damage to marriages. The ability to recover from an affair, and prevent that same behaviour in the future, takes a lot of transparency and effort on the part of the offending spouse.
If you’re wondering whether your spouse is at risk of cheating again, there are several factors to consider.
Past Behaviour Often Predicts Future Behaviour
While it’s possible that the phrase, “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” does not apply to your relationship, you also have to consider the fact that past behaviour often predicts future behaviour, particularly if that behaviour is a pattern. If your spouse has cheated repeatedly, for example, it’s possible that they may cheat again based on a pattern of past behaviour.
If this is their first indiscretion, then you may not have an obvious pattern you can reference. However, if your spouse has a long history of being deceptive in other ways, then you can look at that to determine whether deceptive behaviour, which can include cheating, is likely to continue. The past pattern you reference doesn’t necessarily have to be a pattern of affairs. It could be a pattern of lying about money, being secretive about who they’re talking to or spending time with, or any kind of evasive behaviour. There are so many different factors that can be predictive of future issues.
If your spouse doesn’t have a history of deceptive behaviour, this may have been an event that you can overcome. An affair may not be something that they repeat. It’s crucial to look holistically at the full picture of the situation before you come to a conclusion.
Remember that it’s okay to take the time to consider past behaviour. In fact, we encourage you not to jump to positive or negative conclusions right away. Simply take your time to consider the past. Ask yourself if there’s anything you may have missed, overlooked, or dismissed, such as red flags or poor behaviours. All this information will give you a solid, big-picture perspective.
A Renewed Sense of Transparency Can Help Restore Trust
If your spouse has had an affair, it’s likely that somewhere along the way, the transparency and honesty in your relationship broke down. You’re going to want to restore that transparency. If you want to bring your marriage back to a healthier place, and if your spouse is serious about not cheating again, then they will be willing to be more transparent with you about details such as where they go and who they spend their time with.
A truly penitent spouse will be willing to answer your questions, even if the questions are painful or make them feel uncomfortable. They will be willing to open up to you to help restore your trust in them. If they’re committed to preventing another affair, then they also will not shame you for asking.
A major deciding factor in the restoration of a relationship is whether or not trust can be rebuilt. There’s no way to do that without honesty and transparency. So if your spouse is not willing to share information freely, then that could be a sign that they are in danger of cheating again in the future.
Professional Counselling Can Help Heal Inner Wounds
A couple who has been through an affair needs help from a licensed professional counsellor. Both you and your spouse will need support as you navigate this incredibly difficult situation. You will need guidance to help you heal, set healthy boundaries, and move forward in the way that’s going to be best for you.
Your spouse will need help exploring the thought patterns, behaviours, beliefs, and even possible wounds that may have led them to commit adultery. Sometimes, people who are hurting will seek a way to escape the pain. For some people, this can translate into pursuing extramarital affairs. With the right help and combination of therapy, your spouse may be able to find healing for those wounds, and potentially avoid repeating this behaviour in the future. If your spouse refuses any kind of counselling or therapy, it is possible that you could face the same situation again.
In addition to seeking professional therapy, it’s important to build better self-care at home. To support your journey toward a healthier relationship, you’ll both need to get healthier, yourselves. Our book, Healthy Me, Healthy Us offers insights into boosting your relationship health as individuals so you can bring those newfound skills into your marriage, too. There is hope for a healthier relationship, and that starts with a healthier YOU.