You’ve finally met the person of your dreams, and you can’t believe how well things are going. But then you discover some disheartening news. Your partner cheated on you. As you let the information sink in, you go over some of your past relationships. You begin to see a troubling pattern: Most of your relationships ended with your partner cheating on you.
Don’t feel bad if you keep falling head over heels for a cheater. Partners who tend to cheat are often charming and quite attractive. They know the right things to say so that others will like them and want to be around them. It’s easy to be lured in by the charms of a cheater, but when you continue to find yourself in the same situation, it says something not only about the way you approach relationships, but also how you think and feel about yourself.
The bigger question might not be “are you attracted to cheaters?” but “why are you attracted to cheaters?” Maybe you tend to fall into the rescuer/savior role in your relationships. You feel the need to make someone your “project” so you can feel good about saving them from their bad ways. If this is you, know you can’t change anyone; if you’re in a relationship with a habitual cheater, that person has to have a strong desire to change. The cheating will continue until he or she is convinced the behavior is destroying the relationship. Or perhaps you think you can’t do better than the cheaters you’ve been dating. That thought pattern will require some deep inner work so you can get to the bottom of your self-esteem issues and move toward feeling good about yourself and what you have to offer.
If you suspect you have a tendency to be attracted to cheaters, take time to engage in a bit of self-reflection. Start by taking the quiz below.
1. You’re beginning to notice that twice a week it’s very difficult to contact your partner. Your calls go to voicemail and text messages go unanswered for hours or days. What do you think?
A. I didn’t even notice he hasn’t called.
B. I’m so lucky to have him, I don’t want to bother him and mess this up. And he’s probably busy, so I’ll leave him alone.
C. I’m starting to notice a pattern. Why is he unreachable every Friday and Saturday night? Something’s up. It’s time for a chat.
Best answer: C
If you answered B, you’re definitely out of touch with reality. When you make excuses for someone and give them too much of the benefit of the doubt, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. And, you’re setting yourself up for abusive behavior. Stop making excuses and stand up for yourself. Both people in a relationship deserve love and respect. In this situation, your best plan of action would be answer C. Sit down and talk about the disappearing acts. Instead of making excuses, find out what’s going on and then decide on the future of the relationship.
2. Your partner wants to break up with you. How do you react?
A. I can’t live without you; don’t leave me. I’ll let you have flings on the side if you stay.
B. OK, no problem. It’s about time we started seeing other people, anyway.
C. Wait, we’re exclusive? Oops.
Best answer: B
If you answered A, you are clearly desperate to be in a relationship. You need to address this before you start dating again. Surprisingly, some people feel such a strong need to hold on to a particular individual or to be in a relationship that they will give their partner permission to cheat. It’s very sad, and if you are doing this, you need to stop. Honor yourself and don’t choose your fear of being alone over respect.
3. You just found out your partner cheated. What do you say?
A. Pack up your stuff and leave; I deserve better.
B. I cheated too, so we’re even.
C. Please don’t leave; it’s my fault you cheated. Forgive me.
Best answer: A
If you answered C, you are unknowingly giving your partner license to cheat through your self-blame. Don’t blame yourself for your partner’s bad behavior. It’s not your fault. Allow yourself to see your partner for who he or she really is — a cheater. You deserve to be treated well.
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