Serial cheaters cheat on their partners no matter what. It doesn’t matter how serious or healthy the relationship is, nor does it matter how attractive, attentive, or sexually ambitious their partner is.
A serial cheater will cheat on whoever is unlucky enough to be in an intimate relationship with them. They’ll cheat on their spouse of many years; they’ll cheat in the very beginning stages of dating; it doesn’t matter. Serial cheaters are prisoners to their impulses – impulses that un dealt with trauma and feelings of worthlessness breed.
And while some do feel guilty for their actions, it’s usually not felt until they are found out and faced with the damage they’ve caused. But once the dust has settled, and that relational reset button hit, another chance is given, and they go right back to cheating on their committed partner.
No matter how guilty they may feel, serial cheaters have no impulse control.
Most recently, in the news, it was reported that the husband of a very famous supermodel (whom he had just had a baby with) cheated on her, repeatedly. “Yes, he cheated on her,” said an anonymous source. “He is a serial cheater.”
This is nothing new. There have been highly-publicized cheating scandals throughout history in politics, business, and the entertainment industry. What these scandals have proven is that cheating has absolutely nothing to do with looks, power, or success. Serial cheaters don’t cheat because their partner isn’t successful or attractive enough. They continually cheat for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with their partner and everything to do with them.
What Is Serial Cheating?
I could not locate a clear-cut psychological definition. In my non-professional opinion, serial cheating is an established pattern of engaging in sexual relationships unbeknownst to your partner, that your partner would not be okay with it they knew. It puts your partner’s health (both physical and mental) at risk.
Signs And Characteristics of a Serial Cheater
None of the bullet points below guarantee you’re being cheated on or that you’re with a serial cheater. But I feel like these types operate in very predictable ways. And many of the denominators are common in regard to signs that you’re with a serial cheater and the characteristics of one.
- They’ve admitted to cheating in past relationships. A recent study at the University of Denver’s Psychology Department found that someone who cheated on a partner was three times more likely to cheat in their next relationship.
- When they go through their relational history, they say that every single ex has cheated on or wronged them.
- They are perpetually the victim. And because of that, they have trust issues and/or a fear of commitment.
- When it comes to attachment styles, they are avoidant.
- They are very possessive, OR they encourage you to go “do your thing” and have a life separate from them to the point that something feels disconnected and off.
- They deflect and accuse you of cheating on them, lying to them, and betraying them.
- They love bomb at the beginning (and also when they’re up to no good and want to divert your attention from their unavailability – whether that be physical or emotional).
- You’ve caught them in lies and are beginning to think they could be a compulsive or pathological liar.
- They are obsessed with their looks, image and attaining external validation.
- They ask for a break or an open relationship out of the blue.
- Sex feels more performative than intimate and connected.
- Your friends and family don’t trust them or have a good feeling about them.
- You constantly feel on edge, glitchy, not enough, too much, and anxious around them.
- They triangulate. With a serial cheater, it’s never just you and them. It’s always you, them, and another person or thing (it could be a hobby or a job) that you feel like you have to compete with to get even the most basic relational necessities met.
- They’re weirdly protective of their phone.
- They’re very active on social media even though they don’t post much.
- They are unable to take responsibility.
- They are narcissistic.
- They act on emotional and egoic impulses.
- They have no respect for your boundaries but expect you to respect theirs.
- They are empathetically bankrupt.
- They have sociopathic tendencies.
- They are master gaslighters and manipulators.
- You end up apologizing to them after bringing up something they did that hurt you. They make you feel bad for humanely responding to inhumane circumstances.
Why Do Serial Cheaters Cheat? Is It Really Because Their Partner Isn’t Enough?
I think the best way to answer this question is to share my own personal experience. When we get cheated on, it’s nearly impossible not to take it personally. But before you decide to subscribe to a very destructive, limiting, and false story, hear me out.
I have been cheated on. And, although not a serial cheater, I have been a cheater.
I cheated on the most incredible, kind, attractive-in-every-way partners. I am ashamed of it. But I did it, and I learned.
And it NEVER ONCE had anything to do with my partner not being enough.
It had to do with my own feelings of inadequacy, self-hatred, insecurities, un dealt-with trauma from my childhood, avoidance, denial, straight-up delusion, and trying to fill a void within me that only having the courage to look in the proverbial mirror could fill.
I’m not any better or worse than anyone. I just finally, looked in that mirror.
Serial cheaters don’t believe in mirrors because introspection would require them to feel the pain of what cheating temporarily numbs.
When I shared this on social media, a reader wrote to me: “Thank you so much for your transparency. I cheated on my ex, and he was very much, as you mentioned in your situation, a kind, loving, honest, attractive-in-every-way human being. Biggest mistake of my life. I cannot get over how deeply I know I hurt this individual. And yes, it was about me, and an unhappiness I didn’t know how to ask my partner to support me in working through. Thank you so much for your honesty and humbleness.”
Whether you’re in a relationship with a serial cheater or someone who has cheated but is not a serial cheater, I have found that cheating has everything to do with the cheater.
Serial cheaters need validation like we all need oxygen.
And they get it by feeling sexually desired, attractive, and basically, in high demand. As young children, they were given conditional love based on the superficial – their appearance, accomplishments, charm, ability to be what they needed to be (versus figuring out who they authentically were), etc. Love, encouragement, and support were not given to them unconditionally when they needed it the most (as a developing child). They may also have been betrayed by an adult they trusted.
Serial cheaters are on an endless search for the world to see in them what they cannot see in themselves. And because they can’t tap into their own inherent worth, they operate exclusively from their ego.
Can a Serial Cheater Change?
I am a firm believer that anyone can change. But to make a profound and ever-lasting change, you need to be able to self-reflect instead of deflect. You need to actually WANT to change – independent of being at risk of losing anyone or anything.
You can’t save them from themselves, nor can you make them empathize with you. They have to want it for themselves, first and foremost.
Written by: Natasha Adamo