This article refers to the term "cheater" to depict someone who engages in infidelity within their primary relationship. However, it is not the author's intention to attach this label to anyone. It's important for readers to recognize that the writer's perspective represents that of the individual who committed the act of infidelity and not that of the person who was harmed.
That being said, let’s get started. In order to write this article, I did several interviews and research surrounding this topic. I even examine the infidelity that took place in my own relationship (on both parts). Although I do not consider myself an expert on the topic at hand, my education and experience in this field of Psychosociology made me a credible source of data and knowledge on this said topic.
Infidelity is defined by experts as “the breaking of a promise to remain faithful in a romantic relationship whether it is by way of marriage vows, an agreement between lovers, or merely an unspoken assumption that is fair to adapt between two people who share a relationship” (Psychology Today, 2023).
For clarity, I would also like to define, redemption. According to Merriam-Webster, redemption is the action of saving or regaining possession of something; in this case, the relationship. When you look up the word “redemption”, you see words like recovery, reclaiming, save, return, etc. (2023). Therefore, in a nutshell, the road to redemption after infidelity really talks about the journey one takes to salvage their relationship after s/he cheats.
I grew up in a monogamous society and was thought at a young age that it was one man to a woman and one woman to a man. The thing is, in this same society, I cannot recall that this was ever the reality in any relationship that I was close to. I recalled thinking that this concept must be directed to or for women because they are almost certainly the ones I have seen living by this rule.
A close investigation of my own culture led me to the conclusion that it is the nature of men to have multiple affairs. While I can assure you that I am not man-bashing, men are naturally known for spreading their seed where ever they go with little or no attachment (Cox. 2022). Females, on the other hand, carry the load of being nurturing to everything and everyone including the marriage/ relationship (Cox, 2022).
Theories surrounding Darwinism can better help you understand this seemly unfair concept better. In fact, these naturalistic theories held that “since the 19th century, women were thought to possess a greater sense of morality and religion.”. Men, on the other hand, were by nature, “violent, sexually predatory, and irresponsible” (Gilder, 1973). In the book Sexual Suicide, Gilder stated that “Men were also described as aimlessly and unconsciously lustful”; This same literature also claimed that “men wander, and lose track of their goals; they fight and compete, but they forget the prize; they spread seed, but spurn the seasons of growth; they chase power and glory, but miss the meaning of life” (Gilder, 1973).
As time goes by, I saw more and more women taking part in infidelity, and violating
social norms on relationship standards and Darwin’s theories. Except, it was never acceptable. Daniel Cox called it “the moral double standard on marital infidelity” (Survey Center on American Life, 2022). This same researcher concluded that “women who have multiple sexual partners are judged more critically than men who engage in the same behavior” (Survey Center on American Life, 2022). Nevertheless, this epidemical issue leaves many people and relationships in an unsettling state. I then posed the question in research: Is once a cheater, always a cheater, or can relationships be saved after infidelity?
After the third cheating occurrence with my now husband, we revisited the question:
“Why did you cheat?” every single time his answers varied, but one common takeaway was that it most certainly had more to do with him and not me. Whether his mental or emotional needs weren’t being met, or that he wasn’t getting enough sex, it was clear that he was definitely unable to control his own negative desires.
Believe it or not, I even got an “I don’t know why I would do something like that”. On the flip side, the times when I was unfaithful, certainly had to do more with retaliation and frustration. Now, although by nature we as humans always have enough blame to pass around to every person other than ourselves when it comes to infidelity, the road to redemption requires that we own our own actions, communicate our mishaps, apologies for wronging our partner, ask them for forgiveness, and do better!
This recovery begins with some self-awareness and continues with greater self-awareness. So, yes, a relationship can be saved after infidelity, and people can change their cheating ways.
I did a survey of 106 people, and 92% of this sample answered yes, to cheating of some kind at least once.
Another 75% of this sample blame the other partner for their unfaithfulness, disloyalty, or infidelity.
This helped me to understand the prevalence of cheating, as well as the motivation and mindset surrounding cheating and the blaming game. Before my own self-awareness, I blamed my husband for my cheating. I would always say “I cheated because you cheated” or “I didn’t know that my actions were considered cheating”. The fact of the matter was/ still is, that I cheated because I wanted to, I allowed it, and it made me feel justice; I did it because it made me feel wanted when I didn’t feel it from my husband, and it made me feel strong and not a victim.
The road to redemption is mapped out 70% by you and 30% by your partner, granted that s/he wants to stay with you after what you have done. You will have to come to terms with what you did to him/her and the relationship, decided that you have to change, and is willing to never do this action again.
You have to communicate and apologize sincerely. You have to be honest about your wants, needs, and capabilities to be faithful, create a new relationship agreement, and allow time to heal. This is not an easy or quick fix. Your partner also has to be willing to accept your apology and mistake and be willing to move on with you. There is still hope! Let’s take deeper into this road to redemption.
Coming to Terms & Creating Change
Let me first lend empathy to you, if you are viewing this document because you are in
this situation. I have first-hand experience of the hurt and pain that this sense of betrayal and
unforeseen deception can cause. This experience will plant a seed that will forever lay dormant in your thoughts and emotion.
Moving forward, this experience will trigger deep emotions for both you and your partner beyond your wildest imagination. However, you, the cheater must come to terms with what you did and change! It is a good idea to talk to a mental health professional to help you build or strengthen self-awareness because sometimes it is hard to take the blame or see how you are wrong by yourself. An unbiased perception can help you to understand another worldview other than your own that factors into unfaithfulness.
Have the conversation and be honest the phrase “honesty is the best policy” is completely necessary here. Come clean about what you did and why you did it, is a very essential conversation to have. Phrases like “I don’t know why I would do something like that” are unacceptable. If you don’t have a reason for your behavior, this is even more of a reason to seek professional mental health services. Sit down with your partner and talk about your values, your desires, and how you feel honestly. Honestly give your partner as much detail of the infidelity as required, and allow him/her time and space to process. Talk about expectations, finance, and fears. This will open the door for discussion shrouding whether or not you are right for each other.
Make the decision to stay and do better. It is always a good idea to put this on paper;
relationship contracts have been proven useful in holding partners accountable for doing the right thing, and remembering where they once went wrong. No one is perfect, so perfection is not the goal, but you MUST strive to communicate better, be more honest and open, and respect your partner enough to give the kind of love s/he deserves.
“Time heals” is a tested and proven theory in the realm of healing, and this goes true for relationship healing as well. So, try your best not to force things. Exercise patience and gratitude for this new opportunity to love your partner better.