A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

11 Cheating Myths You Need to Stop Believing, According to Dating Experts

Think you can spot a cheater? You may be surprised to find you know way less than you think.

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The cheater knows what they’re doing is wrong

It’s easier to point the finger at the cheater and blame them for betraying your trust. But, believe it or not, you may have set yourself up for heartbreak by not clearly communicating your expectations with your partner from the beginning. “One of the main predictors of cheating has to do with not having the uncomfortable monogamy conversation early on,” says Sadie Leder Elder, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at High Point University in North Carolina. “People are too scared to say, ‘I like you and don’t want you to be with anyone else.’” It’s important to be upfront with your partner about what you want, need, and expect from them. If they can’t give you the type of relationship you’re looking for, then your best bet is to move on before you get hurt. Watch out for these 12 signs your partner is cheating on you.

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Cheaters are narcissistic and manipulative

Cheaters come in all shape, sizes, and personalities, which means they’re not always the relationship villains we portray them to be. “Some cheaters have a more deeply ingrained unconscious, self-sabotaging style,” says Anthony Tasso, PhD, ABPP, clinical psychologist in Whippany, New Jersey. “At the core, they don’t feel worthy of a healthy relationship so the affair becomes an avenue to undermine and possibly destroy their partnership.” (Here are 17 signs you’re the toxic one in the relationship.)

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Affairs only occur in unhappy relationships

Perfectly healthy, happy relationships are just as susceptible to infidelity as troubled ones. There are many motives for cheating, but affairs aren’t always a symptom of a relationship gone awry. Sometimes, people use affairs as a subconscious device to find their true identity or live a life they’ve never known. “A relationship can become familiar and mundane so someone may need challenges in life,” says Foojan Zeine, PsyD, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Tarzana, California. “They need some kind of impulsivity to create aliveness.”

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It only counts as cheating if you have sex with someone else

The definition of cheating isn’t as black and white as you may think. In fact, Dr. Tasso says that there can be a breach of the relationship bond even if the affair didn’t result in any physical contact. Cheating comes in many forms besides just sex, like sexting or emotional intimacy, which may include sharing your deepest thoughts or feelings with someone else. “Cheating in and of itself is violating expectations, but it’s different for everyone,” says Dr. Leder Elder. “You must define with your partner what is considered as cheating in your relationship.” Setting boundaries using these 12 tricks early on in the relationship will prevent hurt and hostility between you and your partner in the future.

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Once a cheater, always a cheater

Philandering with other lovers outside of a relationship is just one of the many mistakes people can make. But not all hope is lost if your betrothed betrays you. Many cheaters do see the error of their ways. Experts say it is possible for cheaters to recommit themselves and never stray from the relationship again. “The presence of genuine remorse becomes a good indicator of whether or not a person is truly committed to addressing the reasons for having an affair and ultimately changing this behavior,” says Dr. Tasso. All it takes is open, honest communication, a show of genuine remorse, and an active desire to change for the better.

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People who cheat are actively seeking it

The act of cheating can be quite a surprise to both the cheater and the person being cheated on. “Inadvertent cheating is when you innocently start chatting with someone like a friend or old acquaintance, perhaps via social media, for example,” says Dr. Tasso. “From there it can turn into something more than just casual, whether emotional or physical.” He describes the Internet as “fertile ground for infidelity.” In fact, 81 percent of divorce attorneys saw an increase in the number of cases citing Facebook as evidence for divorce, according to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In 2011, one-third of divorce cases in the United Kingdom mentioned the word “Facebook,” according to a survey designed by Divorce-Online, a UK-based legal services form. An inappropriate message to the opposite sex was the most common reason for why couples called it quits. (Have you been caught cheating? Here’s are the best ways to own up to your infidelity.)

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Cheaters are highly sexual in nature

People with high sex drives are often stereotyped as having uncontrollable sexual urges and an incessant desire to sleep with as many different partners as possible. “Being sexual doesn’t mean that someone needs multiple partners,” says Dr. Zeine. “A sexual person’s mentality is that they need to connect with someone who is as sexual as them or who loves sexuality.” A person’s overt sexuality does not equate to infidelity and it’s totally OK if you two have different sexual appetites.

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Affairs always lead to break-ups

An affair isn’t always the end all, be all in a relationship. On the contrary, infidelity may make a couple’s bond stronger than ever before. (Never ever do these ten things after a partner cheats on you.) “The crisis of the awareness of infidelity can bring a lot of issues to the surface,” says Dr. Tasso. “This can force the range of relationship problems to be examined by each partner.” With a little dedication, honesty, and devotion from both partners, the couple can re-create a positive space for a healthier, happier relationship.

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 Men cheat in relationships more often than women

For years, more men were cheating than women. But research from the past two decades shows that that gender gap may be closing. Researchers from the University of Washington found that infidelity rates between 1991 and 2006 jumped from 5 percent to 15 percent amongst older women compared to older men whose rates increased from 20 percent to 28 percent. A 2011 study bridged that gap even further when 19 percent of women and 23 percent of men confessed to cheating on their significant other. This significant rise in female adulterers may be because the stigma of being portrayed as a sexualized or scandalous woman isn’t as prevalent in today’s era as it once was. This is the actual day when your partner will most likely cheat.

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Men only cheat sexually and women only cheat emotionally

To say that one gender cheats more sexually than the other is yet another antiquated gender stereotype. In fact, the two types of affairs can go for either/or gender. “There are times or phases in men and women’s lives where they could have sexual or emotional needs,” says Dr. Zeine. “The phases can happen for both of them.” Get to know about these myths about men and their emotions.

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You will never be able to trust your partner after an affair

A breach of trust is inevitable after an infidelity, but it doesn’t mean that the couple can’t mend what’s broken. “What leads to the marital problems was collaborative, but the decision to cheat was unilateral,” says Dr. Tasso. “Once the couple understands each other’s relationship concerns and the one who cheated is remorseful, trust is again possible.” Sometimes the recovery process can result in a relationship that is stronger than ever before. You’ll know you can trust your partner again if you spot these 11 signs.

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.