As the saying goes, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” But is it actually true? If your partner has cheated before, you might be wondering if anything’s stopping them doing the same thing to you.
Will they continue the pattern from their past relationships? Will they sneak around behind your back?
Well, the tough truth is this: there really is no way to know. “The reality is that a partner who cheated once can cheat again,” clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle. “That being said, a partner who never cheated can cheat for the first time at any time, too. So the risk we take in any relationship is infidelity.” Every relationship comes with some unpredictability, but for the most part, the benefits outweigh the risks. And those risks can be extremely hard to anticipate — there are so many factors that contribute to cheating, whose to say whether it will or won’t happen again?
So don’t brace yourself for the worst, or worry 24/7. “Our past shapes us but it doesn’t define us,” couples therapist Theresa Herring, LMFT tells Bustle. “So your partner cheating in a past relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that they will cheat on you.” If they’ve done some soul searching, and know why it happened, there’s definitely hope. Here are a few signs they’re willing to move forward from past mistakes (or already have) so you can have a healthier relationship.
1They’re Honest About What Happened In The Past
While you two don’t need to discuss everything that happened before your relationship began, it is a good sign if your partner is willing to talk about their past. “Owning their mistake is the first step to making different decisions,” Herring says. If your partner opens up about their mistakes, it shows an honesty and trust that may make cheating again less likely.
2They’ve Figured Out The Root Cause
Hardly anybody cheats just because they want to have a little sex on the side. Most people do it for a deeper, underlying reason. If your partner can figure out why they cheated, they may be less likely to do it again.
“Perhaps the affair happened because they were feeling more like roommates than partners,” says Herring. “And now they are making sure to keep the romance and connection alive in this relationship. Or maybe drinking was a trigger and they’ve decided to get help. Or perhaps they’ve noticed they have a pattern of cheating and now they’re in therapy to figure it out. No matter what the root cause, you want to see that they are addressing the issue so it doesn’t happen again.”
3They Can Talk About It In An Articulate Way
“In order to make different decisions in this relationship, they need to know where they went wrong in the last one,” Herring says. If your partner has gotten to the root cause of why they cheated, and understands why it was wrong, there’s hope that they’re trying to reform past habits.
4They’re Down To Go To Therapy
If they haven’t gotten to the root cause, are they down to go to therapy? If so, that’s a great sign. As marriage therapist Courtney Watson, LMFT tells Bustle, a willingness to go to therapy — either individually or as a couple —shows they’re ready to address the underlying issues that led to an affair. And that they’re committed to having a healthy relationship, and helping you to feel secure going forward.
5They Really Want To Be Better This Time Around
In order for your partner to change, they have to want to change. And not just because they got caught in the past. “People have to care,” says Dimitriu. “The cheaters who are truly hurt and impacted by their own actions want to get better, and will continuously work on this.” If your partner is consistently taking steps to make up for the past, then it’s a good sign they truly want this relationship to work.
6They Don’t Blame Anyone Else
One way to tell if they’ve learned from their past? They don’t blame anyone but themselves. “Listen to what this person’s narrative is around the cheating,” author and marriage therapist Dr. Caroline Madden tells Bustle. “Is it blaming the former partner because [they weren’t] meeting their needs: sex, attention, affection. appreciation? Or is it, ‘Looking back at the harm I caused my former partner, I could never cheat again’?”
Madden explains there’s a bigdifference between those two narratives. “One is someone who continues to blame others, so when you fail in the relationship — which we all do at some point — this person feels entitled to get it elsewhere,” Madden says. “The other is someone who made a poor decision that they didn’t fully understand the pain and devastation they would cause their partner, and also the toll it would take on their own personal character.” If your partner has the latter perspective, there’s a good chance they won’t cheat again.
7They’re Incredibly Open And Honest
While you’re both entitled to your own privacy, there’s hope if your partner is cool about sharing their life with you, and having open and honest communication. “A partner who has nothing to hide, hides nothing. You ask they tell,” says Klapow. “A partner who proactively communicates to you about their concerns with the relationship, what they like and don’t like, and what they want to work on is a partner who is telling you what they need and how the relationship can get better. Transparency about their life and a dedication to the relationship are good signs of fidelity.”
8They Aren’t Afraid To Have Tough Convos
Another sign of your relationship’shealth: if your partner is ready and willing to talk about the tough stuff. “One of the signs you can look for is openness and rigorous honesty,” clinical sexologist Dr. Stacy Friedman, DHS tells Bustle. “Not just being honest about little things but all things — even if it may be hurtful.” If your partner feels open enough to discuss relationship issues, they are less likely to solve their problems by depending on other people.
9They’re OK With Being Vulnerable
An affair is more likely to sound appealing to a partner who feels unheard or misunderstood. So if you two can foster a situation where it feels OK to share feelings, and you both trust each other with those feelings, Klapow says cheating is less likely to happen.
10They’re Actively Working On Your Relationship
Relationships take work, whether your partner cheated in the past or not. So it’s a great sign if they’re doing everything they can to keep things happy and healthy. “A partner with a cheating history who actively chooses to be transparent with you about their life, to dedicate their communication, time, and emotional energy to the relationship with you, and who trusts in themselves and you enough to share with you ‘vulnerability’ is far less of a risk,” Klapow says.
Infidelity can happen at any time and for any reason. But if you’re both making an effort to be open and trusting with one another, you really don’t
have to worry.