Dear Molly, Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

My boyfriend cheated on me and I don’t know what to do. That’s really all I have. I don’t even really have a question, I just don’t know what to do. Do you think once a cheater always a cheater? I don’t know if I can trust him anymore.


Most people think that someone who cheats is immediately untrustworthy and should be cut out of your life, I disagree. To me, assuming “once a cheater, always a cheater” is a very narrow view of someone’s sexuality, capacity for a healthy relationship, personality, and their ability for growth. A person who cheats is always able to have a healthy relationship in the future, whether that be with the person they cheated on or a new person.

I think people are fallible, we make mistakes. I think people are defined not by the mistakes they make, but by how they rise. How they move forward. It comes down to this: Did you find out on your own or did he come to you?

If he came to you there’s a good chance he feels guilty about it. If you want to continue the relationship you need to understand that there is trust to be rebuilt, that it will take time, that it will take patience and sacrifice from you. If he came you to and genuinely feels bad and wants to move forward then, to me, the question isn’t only about your capacity for forgiveness.

Can you move forward? Can you feel secure in the future? What do you need to achieve those pieces? Don’t get bogged down in details of was it one time or on-going, those things don’t matter if you want to move forward. If you can’t separate that type of detail than I suggest you leave, because the odds of you being able to have a solid relationship in the future are slim. We’re taught to “forgive and forget”, but with cheating, it’s not so simple. Maybe you can forgive, but you’ll never forget. The potential future of a relationship rests on your desire to move forward and rebuild trust.

If you found out on your own then, in my opinion, the gloves are off. Especially if it was romantic. You don’t need to stage your own Carrie Underwood Before He Cheats music video. You don’t need to weigh yourself down with acts of revenge. But you do need to leave. Pretending you don’t know isn’t an option. Pretending it’s not a big deal isn’t an option. You’re worth more.


So why do people cheat? Everyone’s reason is different. People cheat for the thrill, for an escape, because it really was a mistake, the list goes on. Cheating is not the thing that ruins a relationship, it’s a fork in the road. It’s a symptom of something that is already wrong. It doesn’t need to be immediate, but if you move forward with this guy, you may need to have a conversation about the “why?” which can be incredibly tough.


I can’t tell you what to do. I’ve been cheated on and left immediately, I’ve been cheated on and stayed. It’s subjective to each relationship and situation. What I can tell you is that staying in a relationship and moving forward is going to be difficult. It’s going to require work and blind trust in someone who just shattered the trust you had for them. It’s going to take strength and vulnerability. It’s going to be the process of establishing a new normal, a new foundation for your relationship. It’s going to be hard.




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