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Your Call: Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

Mon, Feb 3, 2014

Advice, Dear Em & Lo, Your Call

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section.

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Dear Em and Lo,

I’ve been in a loving 18-month relationship, about half of which is long distance. My boyfriend was unfaithful a prior girlfriend, a few years before me. His infidelity resulted in the birth of a child, who lives in another country with the child’s mother. I found this out about about his son five months into our long distance relationship.

When I confronted him, he immediately confessed and explained that he was scared to tell me when we first met –and the omission spiraled out of control. This revelation was very distressing, but he throughly explained the reasons for his lie and infidelity to his past girlfriend. I made the choice to forgive him. I also confessed to him that my prior serious relationship ended in a rampage of cheating, leaving me feeling foolish and deeply hurt. I don’t think I have fully recovered. I know that I have trouble trusting and opening up.

Since then, our relationship has been much stronger and I feel he is someone I want to continue loving… possibly for a long time. He makes me feel like I can have a healthy relationship again. We challenge and compliment each other well.

Unfortunately, during my last visit I came across some old flirtatious text messages (yeah I was snooping, old habits die hard) on his phone. From what I gather nothing physical happened, but his flirting really hurt me. We throughly discussed it and I forgave him. I thought we moved past it, and we started to heal again.

I went to live with him for four months, met his parents, friends and relatives. But every couple of months I bring it up and I rage at him; he has not betrayed my trust since the texts. My gut is screaming at me that history is about to repeat itself. But I know my past issues make my gut rather faulty.

– Gutless or gullible?

What should Gutless-or-Gullible do? Leave your advice in the comments section below.

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9 Responses to “Your Call: Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?”

  1. j Says:

    yes, once a cheater always a cheater – you can’t change innate character.

  2. Johnny Says:

    Everyone is a potential cheater. I don’t care how much integrity you have, how much you love your spouse, etc. Whoever you are, there is SOME temptation out there in the world that would cause you to cheat. For some people that temptation bar is very low; for others it’s very high; But everyone has one.

    … so rather than judge him for past infidelity, and rather than judge you for for being a shrieking snoop, I’m gonna go for what I see as the real sin here.

    This guy has a kid he doesn’t see. He is an absent father. Cheating? Pff. Small-time bullshit. This guy is a deadbeat dad, which to me takes third place in the Degenerate Olympics, right behind rape and murder. I believe there’s a place in hell for people who neglect their kids. And I don’t even believe in hell.

  3. Johnny Says:

    If my girl cheated on me, I might or might not dump her. It would depend on a lot of things.

    If I found out she had a child somewhere who she never saw, I would immediately tell her to get out of my life and go take care of her child.

  4. Janine @ How You Can Find Love Says:

    Always trust your gut!! It is almost never wrong. The best predictor of future actions is past actions. I’d say if someone cheated in an old relationship and hopefully they’ve learned some things and matured, then I’d trust they wouldn’t. For me it is too much of a wild card though. Trust is so important, and once an ounce is gone it ruins the relationship, to me. No matter what you choose, best of luck and what’s meant to happen will happen!

  5. Michael Says:

    I went through this most of high school and college and I completely understand how betrayal and deceit can make someone very bitter and intrusting.
    Having said that, I will cut to the chase. There is NOTHING you can do to ensure you don’t get hurt. NOTHING. Not if you intend on dating and being with someone. There are no guarantees, period. It doesn’t matter if you completely submit, or try and control every aspect of this situation, it has little to no effect on the situation. All you can control, is you, and your reactions. That’s all.
    You need to focus on how to deal with your fear, and mistrust of others, and try minimizing it’s grip on you, a little each day.
    If you don’t, not only will you fail at stopping someone from cheating on you, you will also inevitably drive away any other possible love of your life with your need to control the situation. Does that make this fair? Aren’t you the victim? No it’s not fair, and you are only the victim if you choose to be.
    The best you can do is give your best to someone. If they betray that or force a situation in which you must leave, you have nothing to look back on with regret, quite the contrary. I assure you the path you are on will be filled with regret at some point. Whether you never know if you drove him away, or if he was the right one, or if you let your fear get the best of you, none of that will matter if you miss out on being with someone you really want to be with.
    I’m not saying to be a doormat, not at all, Im simply saying that you must forget the idea that you can control this situation. You must come to terms with the idea that you are a great person, worthy of love and trust, and if you are with someone and they want that, they have to act accordingly.
    Hold on too tight, and you surely will not get where you want to be. How do you know if they are true, or simply succumbing to your demands to coddle your scarred psyche over what happened to you in the past?
    Enough of this right? I hear you. I will leave you with this. Every 1% of what you do matters. Maybe not right now, but somewhere down the line. Just keep that in mind. Be honest with him and yourself. If you can’t let go of your fear you will pay twice the sum in pain. One, you constantly are reacting instead of living with this person, and two they most likely will not be able to take it much longer.
    So how to start? Stare fear in the face and don’t flinch. Period. Tell him how you feel about him, and you’re sorry if you came off a bit strong. You realize that it’s his choice and choices that also dictate where you all will end up relationship wise. Who knows maybe you’ll lose interest…But more than that, I would say take that jump one step further. Engage him in talk about other women. Allow him to tell you if they are attractive to him, and you do the same, tell him if you think someone is good looking. Create an atmosphere of choice and not ownership. “Yeah, they’re hot…” but you are with the person you want to be with. The purpose of this is bigger than it seems. You not only draw in the other person with your ability to overcome fear, but you also show that it’s ok to be human with you, to think others are attractive, to have emotions and feelings and at the end of it all to be able to choose and make that person know you chose them, and you to feel chosen. Even if it doesn’t last forever with that person if you develop this ability you will find future relationships to be more open, understanding, and less scary. No, there are no guarantees, but you can slant the odds in your favor. Be the person he never thought he’d meet. Be the person you never thought you could be.
    Focus on you. It’ll work to your favor in the end. Take your lumps and keep on with your plight to avoid pettiness. Someday you’ll meet a person who has been looking for that forever.
    I admit this last bit of advice seems critically in error. Face your fear dead on. Own it. We only have this life, enjoy it. The happier you find you make yourself, the better your relationships will be. If something is not acceptable, then move forward. Not because of fear, because of your standards. But don’t take that fear with you from relationship to relationship…it’s a losing fight.

  6. Tony Says:

    “my prior serious relationship ended in a rampage of cheating, leaving me feeling foolish and deeply hurt. I don‚Äôt think I have fully recovered. I know that I have trouble trusting and opening up.”

    “My boyfriend was unfaithful a prior girlfriend, a few years before me. His infidelity resulted in the birth of a child, who lives in another country with the child‚Äôs mother. I found this out about about his son five months into our long distance relationship. ”

    “during my last visit I came across some old flirtatious text messages (yeah I was snooping, old habits die hard) on his phone.”

    “My gut is screaming at me that history is about to repeat itself.”

    I think you have your answer.

    Your boyfriend was unfaithful in a prior relationship. Your boyfriend didn’t tell you about this, or his child, for 5 months (to be honest, I don’t know when would have been an appropriate time to bring this up). Your boyfriend then engaged in flirtatious text messages in what I assume is a closed relationship with you.

    If I were the guy with a history of infidelity, I would make one heck of an effort to not do anything that would be considered “unfaithful” if I were in a new, committed relationship. If I were you, I would consider a single incident (especially with good reason) differently than a pattern of infidelity.

    “My gut is screaming at me that history is about to repeat itself.”

    He was unfaithful before. If his flirting was outside the bounds of your relationship, he’s being unfaithful again. That’s not an incident any more, that suggests a pattern. The fact that both times you had to find out on your own (as opposed to him being up front about it) is another warning sign.

    I don’t know enough to say if he’s a deadbeat dad or not – the fact that the mother lives outside the country poses incredible logistical challenges. The other parent can also choose to make things incredibly difficult for him. Some exes value revenge over their child’s well-being. Again, I don’t know enough to say here.

    As for your own mental health, I think that some compassionate and honest self-analysis (or a good therapist) would be helpful here. Using my own failed marriage as an example, I found both peace and self-empowerment by compassionately and honestly acknowledging my own mistakes in staying with this woman when there were warning signs, understanding why I did what I did, and deciding to choose differently next time by being self-aware and mindful.

  7. Tony Says:

    I will add – if he really is a deadbeat dad, find someone else.

  8. Nikki Says:

    Johnny is spot on. It really says something about how society has held monogamy up as the holy grail of relationship success when the big issue is past infidelity (and not even unfaithfulness to the current girlfriend) and flirtatious text messages, rather than the abandonment of a child.

  9. Johnny Says:

    I get that there may be circumstances beyond this guy’s control. I get that it’s easy for a woman to take kids away from their father, particularly if she’s a foreign national and she takes the kid home.

    I also get that every deadbeat dad on the planet has a litany of excuses, from accusing the mom to denying paternity. No one comes out and says, “what can I say, I just don’t give a shit about my kid!”

    Either way, caring for your kids is your primary directive, once you have them. If you have a kid out there that you don’t see, that’s where you spend your energy. Fixing that. There is no, “oh well, I tried!” You never give up on that.

    That would be my gigantic, bright-red flag snapping in the wind if this were my situation.


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