Is It True That a Cheater Never Changes Its Spots?

Dr. Susan Edelman
5 min readSep 22, 2023

We’ve all heard the old phrase, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Is it true?

And how can you tell if the man you’re dating could be a serial cheater?

The subject of infidelity makes a lot of us twitchy. If you’ve even been betrayed, you know how it feels to have your trust shattered like a broken mirror. You want to be able to spot a cheater and avoid him like the plague. You deserve happiness in your romantic relationships, not the kind of disappointment and heartbreak that comes when your partner destroys your relationship.

Although some cheaters don’t change their spots, some do. A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior surveyed single people and found those who cheated in one relationship were three and a half times more likely to cheat again. Notably, most people said they had cheated once but never cheated again. Since the results were self-reports, their accuracy might be questionable, since people aren’t always comfortable admitting they cheated.

People who cheat tend to have issues with relationships, maturity, and empathy. Sometimes, cheating is a symptom of a more significant problem, like drug abuse, mental health disorders, or something even more sinister. In extreme cases, frequent offenders may have a serious form of sexual compulsiveness. The symptoms of this disorder are engaging in risky sexual practices, having multiple sex partners, or having sex while high or drunk. You don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who engages in these practices. They can give you an STI, for one thing. And they’ll break your heart.

Although there are effective treatments and therapies for the core reasons for cheating, they require that the cheater wants to change and is willing to work hard to make it happen. So, just because you want a cheating partner to get help and change, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be willing to do the difficult work needed to make that happen. If he does get treatment, it can take a long time to see significant results and improvement.

So, you have good reason to be concerned if you’re involved with someone who’s cheating on you or has cheated on their partners in the past. Only you can decide if the relationship is worth it. But if you want to continue, be prepared…



Dr. Susan Edelman

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