True or False? Is it possible the answer could be both? I think so. I do believe some people out there will always take the opportunity to cheat and not think twice. They can’t commit or tell the truth to save their life. However, I do think some people out there make a huge mistake that may be out of character for them. Afterward, the shame and guilt is enough to keep them from ever making that same mistake again.
So, how do you tell the difference? I think looking at the overall character of a person and their past track record is important. As some of you may know, I’m an avid reader. Right now I’m reading a book by Anita Shreve called “Testimony”. The basic plot of the book is that three teenage boys, who are eighteen years or older, have sex with a fourteen year old girl at their boarding school. Someone else videotapes the incident, and the book is about the fall out of being caught.
Two of the three boys are very different in character. One boy, James, is known for getting into trouble in the past. He was already expelled from one school and is trying to finish up one more year in order to get into college. He likes attention and expects things to come easy for him. The other boy, Silas, appears to be reliable overall. He has been awarded a scholarship and works hard at school. He is also a great athlete. He has never gotten into trouble and has a long term girlfriend.
After they get caught the story goes on to narrate from each person’s perspective. Silas is very distraught and ashamed. He feels horrible about ruining his future and hurting his girlfriend. He realizes now that one night can erase all the hard work and energy you’ve put in for years. He is very remorseful and is determined to learn from his mistake. James blames the victim and doesn’t take any responsibility. He minimizes the incident and believes everyone is making too big of a deal out of it. He doesn’t admit he is part of the problem, so he is less likely to change.
If this book wasn’t fiction I would bet money in Vegas that Silas would never cheat again and James would. As a reader it is easier to feel sorry for and forgive Silas than James, even though both boys did something horrible. This isn’t always true in real life. Sometimes it is hard to tell who really feels sorry and won’t do it again, and who is still lying even after getting caught. I do think that actions speak louder than words. This is usually the only way you can know if someone is being honest. Anyone can apologize and swear they will never do it again. Only a few can actually follow up those words with actions that show you they really are sorry and want to prove to you it will never happen again.
If you’ve been cheated on, I suggest looking at all the other things in your relationship to tell you whether you think they will do it again. Has this person treated you well for the most part in your relationship? Are they respectful of you and give you their time and attention when you need it? How are they with other people in general? Can you count on them for other things in your relationship? Do they follow through with what they say they are going to do? If the answer is no, it could mean the cheating is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have a lot of other issues in your relationship, the cheating could be only one symptom of many things wrong in your relationship. If the answer is yes, it may be worth it to give them another chance. If this act was completely out of character for them and your relationship seems to be pretty stable otherwise, then there may be hope.
Sometimes people aren’t aware of what they are capable of. I’ve heard some people say they would never cheat. However, the right situation mixed with certain emotions can put anyone in danger. None of us is perfect. Once it’s happened to someone it makes them more aware. They may choose to not put themselves in certain situations with a false sense of security. Pain and loss are the toughest teachers. Some of those lessons are never forgotten. Seeing how their actions can really hurt and effect others can be enough to make some people a lot more careful in the future. This makes it possible to build trust back.
Then there are the people that don’t take responsibility in the first place. They blame someone else or they minimize everything. They say to themselves and everyone else, “It was only one time. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It didn’t mean anything. I was drunk. He or she came on to me.” All those are excuses. I love when people say, “It didn’t mean anything”. Like that is helpful. Something that doesn’t mean anything isn’t hurtful! The act of cheating does mean something, and it can help build trust back in the relationship if the person who cheated can figure out what led up to it. Even if it is just to discover how vulnerable they are in certain situations or when they feel certain emotions. If someone doesn’t know why it happened in the first place or blames someone else, how can they promise it will never happen again? They can’t!! The person who can’t own up to it has a greater chance of lying to you again in the future.
Anyone who chooses to stay with someone after they have cheated is taking a risk. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. You aren’t stupid for giving someone another chance. Only time will tell, and if they hurt you again, you have the choice to leave at that point. No one else can tell you when it’s the right time to leave a relationship. Everyone is different, and most circumstances are different. Trust your instincts. I do believe in my heart that once a cheater, always a cheater isn’t always true. So, try to look at the relationship as a whole to help you decide if you want to stay or go.