Common beliefs about affairs don’t always match up to reality
People have strong opinions about affair issues, opinions evident among the many writings and resources that address infidelity and affair recovery. But some opinions are not true; some resources are misleading.
During the past 20 years, my focus on affair healing has led me into encounters with various false beliefs about this issue.
Consider the following 11 myths about recovering from an affair. While some of them create only minor hindrances to the recovery process, others can cause significant damage:
Myth 1: Once a cheater, always a cheater
This myth reflects the belief that a single act of infidelity either:
- Finally reveals the true, unchangeable nature of a cheater.
- So severely breaks the character of a good person that they cannot be trusted to return to faithfulness.
The evidence, however, does not support the claim.
Reliable statistics on the subject (or about any “affair” issue, for that matter) are hard to come by due to the wide variances in how terms like “infidelity” and “affair” are defined.
While some studies include behaviours such as looking at porn or visiting a strip club, others focus on inappropriate friendships and romances, and still, others limit the definition to illicit sexual contact. Even those who believe a relationship does not become an affair until sex is involved will often distinguish between one-time encounters and ongoing relationships.
So, the conversation can get a bit muddied if you don’t adequately define the terms, but even within this wide variety of infidelity experiences, the “once a cheater” claim simply does not hold up.
The reality: Once a person has crossed the line from fidelity to infidelity, their chances (statistically) of repeating that behaviour increases. It’s also true that “serial cheaters” (those with a history of multiple infidelities) are not likely to break the cycle without experiencing profound personal shifts.
But this is also true: there are many former cheaters who are now faithful and will never cheat again.