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Saturday, March 18, 2023

What Are the Telltale Signs of a Serial Cheater?

Serial cheaters are often hard to identify and even harder to avoid.  During the early stage of a monogamous relationship, they might be charming, caring, and attentive.  But as time goes on and the relationship moves beyond that early passionate stage, known as the limerence stage, serial cheaters often reveal their true colors (see my article: Telltale Signs You're in a Relationship With a Womanizer).

Telltale Signs of a Serial Cheater

What is a Serial Cheater?
Serial cheaters often have the following characteristics:
  • Numerous Infidelities in the Past: People who have cheated in past are more likely to cheat again in their current relationship. This isn't someone who makes a mistake while they're drunk during a business trip away from home.  This is someone who consistently cheats on their partner when there's an explicit agreement to be faithful. They might even talk about their previous infidelities and give many reasons why they felt justified in cheating. The more they justify their history of cheating, the more likely they'll cheat again (see my articles: Understanding the Emotional Dynamics of Men Who Are Players and Coping With Infidelity).
  • A Fear of Commitment: A fear of commitment might be rooted in prior traumatic experiences in relationships, especially experiences that occurred early on.  This doesn't mean that cheating is justified or should be condoned. Knowing the root of the problem is a way to understand how someone might have become a serial cheater.
  • A Pattern of Blaming Their Previous Partners: Another way that serial cheaters justify in their own minds and to others why they cheated is by blaming their former partners.  Often, you'll hear them say, "She drove me crazy" or "He was too difficult to get along with so I started cheating." Objectively, none of these reasons justifies cheating, but it might help to ease a serial cheater's guilt and shame (assuming they feel guilt and healthy shame), and they can use these justifications to convince you it was justified or, at least, understandable. But don't fall for it.

Telltale Signs of a Serial Cheater

  • A Tendency to Be Secretive With Their Phones: Whether this involves refusing to give their partner access to their phones (or computers) or other ways they try to keep their technology private, serial cheaters can go to great lengths to safeguard their privacy so you don't find out they're cheating.  They might cover their phones in front of you, leave the room to take phone calls, text someone else while they think you're not paying attention or try to hide incoming phone calls or texts.  If you ask them about this, they might become defensive and annoyed (see my article: Coping With Secrets and Lies in Your Relationship).
  • Promises to Change: People do change. But serial cheaters often don't. They often make grand gestures about how they're "different" now that they're in a relationship with you.  And while this might be the case, you would be wise to exercise healthy skepticism until you can be sure.
  • Projections and Distractions: Serial cheaters often accuse their faithful partner of cheating as a way to project their own behavior onto the partner and distract the partner from finding out about their own cheating. 
  • A Pattern of Avoidance and Procrastination: Serial cheaters often don't talk about a long term future with you.  They might make many excuses for why they don't want to talk about taking the next step in the relationship, but the real reason is usually they don't want a long term committed relationship--at the same time that they might be telling you that they do.
Telltale Signs of a Serial Cheater

  • Flirtatious Behavior With Others: Serial cheaters often flirt with many other people--sometimes even in front of you.  They might compliment other people, touch them or laugh with them.  If you confront them about this behavior, they'll often say, "I was just being friendly" and accuse you of being "too jealous."
  • A Pattern of Lying: Serial cheaters tend to lie a lot.  Lying helps them to try to fool and manipulate you (if you allow it).  If you've caught your partner in lies before, chances are they'll lie again, especially if they try to defend their behavior. Lies include lies of omission where they conveniently leave out certain details like where they were or who they were with to hide that they're cheating.
  • A Tendency to Hop From One Relationship to the Next: Serial cheaters tend to prefer superficial relationships, including no strings attached relationships or Friends With Benefits.  When they get tired of a relationship, they tend to leave that one and easily move on to the next one.
  • A Pattern of Inconsistency and Lack of Reliability: If you're with a serial cheater, they might be juggling multiple relationships that you don't know about.  As a result, you might get frequent cancellations at the last minute or they're chronically late because they've scheduled a few other romantic or sexual partners into their schedule.

It takes a while to get to know a romantic partner.  

The telltale signs of a serial cheater aren't always easily detected during the early stage of a relationship.  When the relationship is still new and exciting, they might not cheat.  But once the new relationship energy has worn off and they become bored, they often find it difficult not to give into the impulse to cheat.

While it's true that people do change, serial cheaters often don't change.  

If you try to focus your energy on changing them, you'll most likely be disappointed.  So, focus on taking care of yourself.

Also, if you're the one who has problems with cheating, see my article: How to Stop Cheating and Repair Your Relationship.

Getting Help in Therapy
Recovering from infidelity can be very challenging.  Not only is it emotionally painful, but it can also erode your self esteem and your health.

After you have ended a relationship with a serial cheater, the experience of that relationship can make it difficult for you to trust other potential partners in the future.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional to work through feelings of pain and betrayal so you can regain a healthy sense of self.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.