Why serial cheaters will have difficulty changing, according to science
Can someone go from "once a cheater, always a cheater" to "never again'? Let's take a look at what an expert on the matter has to say...
We previously explored possible scientific explanations as to why cheating happens more than once. According to studies, the brain adapts to dishonesty, causing infidelity to become a habit for some. Over time, repeated acts of dishonesty or cheating weakens an unfaithful partner’s sense of guilt or remorse, or more specifically the part of their brain that is negatively affected each time someone lies, which is the amygdala.
Though this is interesting, another pressing concern needs attention.
Can cheaters really change?
According to Linda Hatch, a psychologist and sex therapist, in an article for PsychCentral, the root cause of repeated cheating is usually sexual addiction. She does clarify that not all cheaters suffer from this addiction. So what’s the distinction?
Sex addicts vs. serial cheaters
For sex addicts, the act of sex itself becomes like a drug to them, while serial cheaters view sex as just one of the many ways they can satisfy their self-indulgent, opportusnitic, and manipulative needs, explains Dr. Hatch.
When examined closely, she says, both sex addicts and serial cheaters have this need to pursue whatever gives them physical or emotional pleasure, with little to no regard for the feelings of others. Based on couples she’s worked with over the years, she’s found that cheaters have these characteristics in common: immaturity, impulsiveness, self-centeredness, or anti-social behavior.
Why would it be difficult for them to change?
The act of cheating is motivated by deep–often unacknowledged–insecurities. So some level of self-awareness, humility, as well as genuine willingness to change is needed.
Here are some examples of prevalent insecurities unfaithful men (and in some cases, women) have in common:
1. They are intimidated by their spouse
This feeling of inadequacy often emboldens them to search for gratification elsewhere. They may try to get rid of this inferiority complex by seeking out someone who feels they are “superior” to or who they feel is their equal.
2. They have this need for sexual validation
Dr. Hatch calls it sexual self-objectification, or having this constant need to be desired sexually. This type of cheater or sex addict is drawn to those who he thinks find him attractive. They will engage in flirty or inappropriate behavior. They thrive on that initial feeling of attraction and the pursuit. Once this phase ends, they will move on to the next one.
It would be difficult to change deeply embedded traits such as this, but it can be done. The important thing to remember is that cheating can just be a symptom of a deeper problem in your relationship. This is not to say that the person being cheated on is at fault, or even part of the problem. But both partners can be part of the solution. Above all, the cheater must be willing to do whatever it takes to break the cycle of cheating.