By far, one of the most common concerns that I hear from wives who are trying to determine if they want to save their marriage with a husband who has cheated is whether or not that same husband will cheat again. Many wives feel that they might be willing or able to try to make things work if only they knew that it wouldn’t all be a waste once he repeated the same behavior and hurt her all over again.
And yet, all you have to do is turn on your television or pick up a newspaper or magazine to see proof that many men do cheat over and over again even when they are claiming that they are still faithful and even after proclaiming their love and their commitment to their wives.
An example of a comment that I’ll hear is something to the tune of: “my husband cheated on me with an old girlfriend who was in town when her mother became ill. There was about an eight week period when I noticed that my husband was just acting weird and I felt like something was going on with him. He swears that this is the first time he has cheated. However, after thinking about it, I can remember other times in our marriage when he was acting odd like this and it wouldn’t shock me if he had cheated before. His father is a serial cheater. And women always approach my husband. He is begging me not to leave him and break up our family. He says he will go to counseling and do whatever he needs to do in order to rehabilitate himself. I want to believe that. I really do. But I know so many serial cheaters in my life. And I have no patience for them. My mother has been married numerous times and so many of these low life men have cheated on her. I am starting to believe that some men are just born cheaters and they can not stop. I do not want to be married to one of these men. Do you think that men who cheat can really be rehabilitated?”
I Think That There Are Different Categories Of Cheaters: Well, if I thought that rehabilitation after cheating was impossible, then I wouldn’t be married today. However, to be fair, I do believe that some cheaters fall into different categories. There are some spouses who cheat only once, just briefly, and who never cheat again.
And then there are the men who cheat multiple times and who seem to need infidelity almost as if it is a drug. These are the spouses who will also lie without batting an eye and who will try not to take personal responsibility for their actions and will balk about going to counseling.
As is probably always obvious, I don’t put all cheating spouses into one category. That isn’t to say that I think that repeat cheaters are a lost cause who can never be rehabilitated. I think that they can be. But it takes constant work and treatment (like any other kind of addictive and destructive behavior which repeat cheating most certainly is.) And men who don’t take responsibility aren’t often willing to put in that kind of effort, which decreases the chances of them being rehabilitated.
Asking Yourself Which Category Your Husband Is In: In this case, this husband sounded more than willing to go to counseling and to work with his wife. And, while the wife had her suspicions about previous cheating, she didn’t know this for sure. It was probable that she was at least in part reacting to the behaviors of the people around her like her mother’s husband’s and her father in law’s – neither of whom were her husband. My thinking if he says he is willing to do whatever is necessary to be rehabilitated, then make him do exactly that and see what happens. You don’t have to commit any outcome right now. You can tell him that you are willing to wait and see.
I’d like to make one final point. It is not just the husband who needs to be rehabilitated. It is the entire family. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that any one but the husband is at fault. But infidelity affects and damages the whole family unit. It is beneficial for every one to focus on healing. And the faithful spouse can often benefit from some help in restoring the trust and rebuilding self esteem. All of these things will make rehabilitation easier and more likely to last.
My answer to the original question would be that yes, it is absolutely possible for cheating spouses to be rehabilitated. It happens all of the time. It is not uncommon for someone to cheat only once and then to never cheat again. And these marriages can last and be very happy. But, the more times that infidelity has happened, and the less responsibility the cheating spouse is willing to take, the harder it will be for true rehabilitation to occur. This doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.
All rehabilitation takes a huge amount of commitment and work. But serial cheaters have more work to do, more triggers to uncover, and more damage to erase. It isn’t impossible, but the entire family needs to be onboard and it is an ongoing process.