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True or false: Once a cheat always a cheat?


By Katie Paul

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"I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected." These are the words of 22 year old actress Kristen Stewart after being caught kissing her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders.

One single kiss and now she’s branded a cheat, her reputation tarnished forever. I know how she feels. It all started with a kiss for me as well …

In the first minutes of 2010, under the light of a full moon and amidst the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks Sydney Harbour is famous for, I found myself in the arms of a man who wasn’t my husband. By body didn’t hesitate to respond as he kissed me on the lips while my mind kept telling me to stop. I was married to someone else. This was cheating. The kind of cheating I’ve been taught is unforgivable.

I would love to tell you that we only went as far as that kiss on New Year’s Eve – a momentary lapse of judgement blamed on too much wine and the magic of the fireworks. But the kiss was just the beginning. Within weeks I was spending stolen hours in hotel rooms exploring the nakedness of a man who was the husband of someone else. I wanted to feel guilty, ashamed and disgusted with myself, but instead I revelled in the delight of being desired.

‘Once a cheat, always a cheat’ my mother used to tell me in those dating years before I got married. ‘If he’s done it once, he’ll do it again,’ is the advice of all the relationship experts. And here I am in my forties, officially a cheater. Does that mean I’m going to do it again? Am I untrustworthy?

The secret to why I had an affair with another man lies in the relationship I had with my husband. After sixteen years of marriage we had become more flatmates than partners. I used to joke that we only had sex on Valentine’s Day and Christmas. The truth was pretty close to that. For more years than I care to remember we had sex only three or four times a year.

The lack of sex wasn’t the problem in itself; the problem was why we weren’t having sex. From the outside we looked like every other married couple. We worked hard, had our own interests and rarely fought. But underneath the apparent harmony lay a fetid pit of emotional abuse. Nothing I did was ever good enough; I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough. He never told me he loved me or that I looked beautiful. I lived in an emotional desert. And when another man offered me a drink of cool, fresh water, I was unable to resist.

A lot of women have marriages that have long since lost their passion. There is a deep ache in their hearts for appreciation, affection and to feel desired. Most women accept this yearning as something they just have to bear. They have children to care for; bills to pay and feel keenly that straying from their partner means they will be outcasts in a society that expects women to be monogamous. They shut down their libido and supress any attraction to a man that gives them the attention they don’t get at home.

Perhaps it was because I didn’t have any children, I was financially independent and I didn’t worry too much for the opinions of others, that I had the courage to walk down a path that would end my marriage and transform my life. Two and a half years after that New Year’s Eve, I am now in a relationship with another man who is my soul mate. He tells me he loves me, he lets me know I’m beautiful and we can’t keep our hands off each other. Sex is frequent, intimate and mind-blowing. Should he worry that I’ve cheated in a relationship so I’m bound to do it again?

When a women cheats it’s not for fun or variety – it’s because they feel stifled, unfulfilled, frustrated, and helpless in their marriages or long term relationships. We need all three sides of the love triangle – intimacy (feeling close, connected and bonded), passion (romance, physical attraction and sexual consummation) and commitment (a choice to maintain love over the long term). When all of these elements are present there is no need to stray. My partner doesn’t need to worry about my fidelity while our relationship remains intimate, passionate and committed.

And this time if it all falls apart, we’ll say our goodbyes with love and respect long before the fetid swamp of emotional pain drives me into the arms of another man.

So what do you think? Once a cheat always a cheat?

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Katie Paul - to view all of Katie's blog post click here

Katie is a writer, filmmaker and photographer. After undergoing the biggest mid-life crisis ever, she now believes authenticity is the secret to happiness. She is working on her first book, a memoir about eating disorder recovery, the suicide of her ex-husband and meeting her soul mate.


  • This is such a touchy subject isn’t it. I don’t believe ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’, but I do believe people cheat because of something lacking in their own marriage.

    The desire to be loved and attractive to someone is a very strong instinct and if there is attention from someone else when there is none at home, this can be a recipe for disaster.

    People make mistakes, the heart makes them, the body makes them and sometimes even the brain – who should know better.

    I am so glad to hear that you are happy and have moved on and are now in a wonderful relationship.


    • Thank you for your insightful comment Jodi. Mistakes teach us so much and I’m grateful for them.

      • Katie, I just want to mirror Jodi and say it’s wonderful you are now in a happy and fulfilling relationship. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

        • Thank you for inviting me to write for you Jane. It’s been a wonderful experience. I am also beyond glad I found “true love”. 🙂

  • Melanie

    This is fantastic and exactly what i needed to understand. Thank you for this post 🙂

    • You’re welcome Melanie ♥

  • I think it’s extremely important to clearly differentiate “cheating” from “having sex with / kissing someone who isn’t your spouse”. I also think it’s absolutely possible to cheat on someone non-sexually.

    If monogamy isn’t an agreed part of the relationship, and all parties involved communicate openly and honestly with each other, I don’t see extra-marital sex as cheating. Blowing off a spouse you’d agreed to spend time with, to instead spend that time with someone else (or just doing something else, e.g. work), *does* seem like cheating to me, even though most people wouldn’t define it that way.

    To me, cheating is about breaking agreements, rather than necessarily about sexual behaviour. But I know I’m in something of a minority there…

    • You make a very interesting point Tanja. In my case, the unspoken agreement was a monogamous marriage, a conditioned belief from the way I was brought up. But all prevailing thinking should be questioned and there are other kinds of relationships.

      You have nailed the core of it though — cheating IS breaking an agreement and isn’t always about sexual behaviour. Thank you for your unique perspective.

      K x

      • *soft smile* – To be scrupulously fair, most marriage vows do have some form explicit agreement about monogamy in them: the whole “forsaking all others” wording or a variant on it. So someone who’s had any kind of traditional wedding generally *has* actively agreed to a monogamous relationship unless they’ve later negotiated something different.

        (perhaps unsurprisingly, our more observant friends learned as much about our relationship from what my husband and I didn’t include in our wedding vows as from what we did 😉

        • So true, it is possible to cheat on someone non-sexually. I would think that this is just as bad as “the real thing”.

  • Jade

    I cheated on my fiance when I was 18 after getting drunk at a co-workers birthday, ending up in a night club and going home with a co-worker. The next day I went home and confessed. I felt terrible.
    My fiance took me back… but then cheated on me a year later with an ex girlfriend after getting drunk at a party. I was upset of course but I understood – alcohol weakens your resolve.
    However, two years later he and I were having some problems. By accident I stumbled upon sexy and romantic text messages from my fiance to my housemate. I confronted him and he denied an affair. So I found evidence – I hacked into his email account. I found emails going back months between the two talking about how in love they were, how they would break it to me, where they would live, about the moments they had together, their future, about me….

    I thought I was devastated the first time but there is NOTHING like being emotionally cheated on. I would take someone shagging around behind my back any day. But when someone has feelings for someone else, I dont care what actions they take, its damaging. It could be working late to be with a co-worker youre attracted to, regularly having lunch with a friend you flirt with, talking about your intimate feelings with someone other than your significant other or close friends/family – taking an attraction to the next level is dangerous territory and can be just as hurtful as the traditional definition of cheating.

    • To be in love with someone means to connect emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually. When you lose any one of those connections and your partner transfers that intimacy to another person then I believe the relationship is in trouble. You’re right Jade, emotional betrayal is just as damaging as “shagging around”.

  • The lovers circle can be a difficult road to navigate. Some people have different sex drives and require affection more than others and it leads to seeking a physical and emotional outlet.

    I’m not going to judge anyone who cheats in a relationship. I do readings for women and men who require more in their relationships and try to share this with their partners to find it falls on deaf ears.

    Although I haven’t cheated in a relationship I can appreciate there are many reasons people need to feel connected.

    I’m grateful you shared your story with us all.

    Love and Light


    • Thanks for your comment Vine.

      I wonder if it’s true that some people require more affection than others? I believe a deep sacred sexual experience is one of the most important things in life. There are many reasons why some people don’t want/need or feel like they deserve sex (what we call low sex drive) but I suspect it is more to do with social conditioning, trauma or being with the wrong person. That’s a whole different topic for another day perhaps 🙂

      I applaud you for working with people and helping them to speak their truth. Your gift is important.


  • I do not believe the theory of once a cheat, always a cheat. Otherwise my marriage is all but over and we might as well quit now.

    I was also married to a man who had no real interest in me. Our wedding day was the last time we slept together, then we managed to eek out another 3 years of trying to make it work. I wasn’t pretty enough for him, tall enough, thin enough, long haired enough, anything enough really.

    So when I started having feelings for a co-worker, I knew I was in trouble. The feelings that were stirred with his looks, his comments about me, his touches and his desire to spend time with me were powerful and from that first flutter, the writing was on the wall.

    It was 2 years before we actually slept together but I remember feeling no guilt. I did know that I would tell my husband straight away though. His reaction? “Why did it have to be someone who isn’t white?” That told me all I needed to know.

    It wasn’t long after our marriage was over when I met the most amazing man. A man who made me completely forget any who had gone before. A man who, in 7 years, has never once stopped telling me and showing me how much he loves and desires me. I feel like the sexiest, most beautiful women in the world with him. There is no doubt about our commitment to each other and every aspect of our marriage is intimate, deep and so rich with love.

    With a marriage this good, I have absolutely NO reason to ever need the attention of another. I totally agree with you, women don’t stray for variety, we stray to find love and appreciation. As long as it’s right there for us to enjoy, there’s no need to look elsewhere.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Rachael which echoes my own.

      I agree, once you discover the joy of deep intimate love then, as you say, it makes you forget everything that’s gone before.

      I am so happy you’re loved and desired now — every woman deserves this kind of joy in her life ♥

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