A few years ago, I was on a first phone call with a guy, and we got on the topic of cheating. I had been telling him a little about why I got divorced, specifically about how my husband had been unfaithful. I have never been one for small talk, so I asked him if he had ever cheated on his wife. He said that he did — a lot. I was shocked. However, my shock did not come from the fact that he cheated. Instead, I was shocked that he told me.
I let the situation marinate in my mind, and my shock eventually subsided. Why should this guy’s honesty be surprising? Sometimes when you ask a direct question, you will receive a direct answer. That was one of the times, and why I have no problem asking. Now ask me: Why do I ask? Because, according to research, it can be relevant.
Infidelity speaks to your values.
We all have urges. Even when married, we may find ourselves attracted to someone who isn’t our spouse, which I suppose is forgivable because we cannot help who we are attracted to. The key, however, is not to act on those urges. You may not be able to control your thoughts, but you certainly can control your actions. Actions speak louder than words. Committing adultery serves as a declaration that you do not respect or value the sanctity of marriage, despite anything you think or say.
Many argue people can and do change. Maybe you cheated in the past but have learned the error of your ways and are a loyal and trustworthy partner, you swear. A 2017 study, however, indicates such promises may be hard to keep. The study found that those who engaged in sexual relations outside the marriage were three times more likely to do the same in their next relationship compared to those who didn’t. The result was the same for males and females, suggesting infidelity in a prior relationship presents a significant risk factor in subsequent relationships regardless of gender.
Cheating on a spouse, even if it’s your former one, is like losing your virginity — you can never get it back.
You can feel sorry, promise you will never do it again, but the propensity to cheat again exists. At the time, I decided to meet the guy anyway. I wanted to keep an open mind. But after a couple of dates and conversations, I discovered keeping my mind open to a former adulterer was easier said than done. The study respondents found the same: those who suspected their partner of cheating were four times as likely to think the same of their future partners.
For me, the word “infidelity” echoed through my head like that annoying high-pitched noise you sometimes hear if you’re in a quiet room for too long. Ringing like that doesn’t go away until you address it. Eventually, the sound became debilitating, and I had to choose to stay or go.
Accept or reject a history of cheating.
I chose to go, and this guy’s adulterous past ushered the end of our short interaction and potential for a future relationship. So be it. I made a choice I could live with.
Today, if I’m single and dating, I ask the question, “Have you ever cheated?” and hope that I receive an honest answer. If I find out a guy has, I move on. It’s a sore spot for me, and I have to be comfortable to fall in love and embrace a possible future. I know I cannot divorce-proof a marriage, but I can increase my odds. And if I were a betting girl, I’d say a former cheater is not a hand I want to get dealt.
Stacey Freeman is a writer, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder of Write On Track, LLC. Her writing has been published or syndicated in The Washington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, MarketWatch, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, Yahoo!, HuffPost, Popsugar, SheKnows and other well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights and has been quoted in The New York Times, HuffPost, and SheKnows, to name a few. Oh, and she’s a single mom of three amazing kids. For more information about Stacey, visit www.writeontrackllc.com.