What if My Spouse Is a Serial Cheater?

It’s one of the hardest things to handle when you find out your spouse has been cheating on you. It’s an even harder thing to find out that they’ve had a habit of it for a long time. In fact, in all my experience as a marriage counselor in Westminster, Colorado one of the things that devastates a marriage the most is when one spouse is or has been a serial cheater. But there is hope. Below are five steps that will help you begin the process of healing after you discover your spouse has been a serial cheater.

Steps To Help You Recover After a Serial Affair

1) Give yourself Time to Get Over The Shock. Many people think that as soon as they find out about an affair they have to make a decision right away about whether to stay or go. This is actually one of the worst things you can do. Quick decisions are usually bad ones, especially after such an emotionally charged discovery like an affair because you make decisions based off of pure emotions and incomplete information. Don’t force yourself to make a decision yet. Give yourself some time to work through the initial shock first. This can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a month or more.

2) Decide Whether You Want to Try to Work on Your Marriage. After the initial shock has worn off think about whether you want to try to work on your relationship They key word is try. This doesn’t mean you should make a definitive decision to stay or to go. You only need decide if you want to try to make it work. There are still a lot of things that you’ll both need to work on to determine whether your relationship is salvageable or not. You only need to decide if you want to begin trying.

3) Begin A Transparency Contract. Whenever there is an affair the spouse who has been cheated on (called the injured partner) always questions how they will ever trust their cheating spouse again. The cheating spouse (called the participating partner) usually told a web of very believable lies and hid things out of the injured partners’ view. This leaves the injured partner questioning what they can or can’t believe about their spouse anymore. And they certainly don’t want to be caught with the wool over their eyes again. So for their own protection they err on the safe side and decide not to believe most of what the cheating partner says – after all, believing their spouse is what go them in trouble in the first place.

The best way that I have found for a couple to overcome this obstacle is through a transparency
contract. What this means is that the participating partner opens up all their private information to the injured partner. This includes cell phone bills, credit card & bank statements, internet passwords, text messages, etc. This will help the injured partner to really believe what the cheating spouse tells them and also gives cold hard proof that the cheating behavior has really stopped and isn’t just being hid.

4) Call a Marriage Counselor. While affairs aren’t necessarily uncommon, serial affairs are…and it’s a big sign of bigger issues. While some couples are able to work through an affair on their own (which I don’t recommend) I have very rarely heard of a couple who has been able to work through the discovery of serial cheating on their own. In fact, I haven’t heard of it at all. When you call the counselor, ask them if they have experience helping couples with serial affairs. See my article on how to find a good marriage counselor for more info on what to look for in a good marriage counselor.

5) Call an Individual Counselor. I often recommend that the participating partner also begin their own individual counseling to help them identify their reasons for serial cheating. One affair is a slip up…maybe even two. More than that is a big sign of bigger issues that they need to sort out on their own with the help of a counselor. Ultimately, it’s not the transparency contract that’s going to save the marriage. It’s the fundamental change in the participating partner that’s going to. This will happen best with individual counseling.

Healing After Serial Cheating is a Process, Allow Yourselves Time

These five steps are just the beginning of a long road. But it can be done. There is much, much more that a couple needs to do in order to overcome such a big relationship violation as serial cheating. For example there needs to be accountability, making acts of repair, addressing any relationship vulnerabilities, recreating intimacy, and eventually forgiveness – just to name a few.

For any couple who is challenged with overcoming an affair there is I recommend a really great book called Getting Past The Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal and Move on – Together or Apart.  It’s Really, really, good. It is a great supplement to to my other recommendation to any couple stressed by serial cheating: Go see a marriage counselor.

Nothing Can Replace a Good Marriage Counselor

Ultimately, nothing can replace a good marriage counselor. A good marriage counselor can help you and your spouse overcome the many challenges you encounter on your road to healing. The best ones don’t just help you heal but they also help you and your spouse to recreate a new relationship that’s trusting, strong, passionate and vibrant.

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31 Responses to What if My Spouse Is a Serial Cheater?

  1. interesting read. i am in a worse situation, we are talking the fourth affair after always promising she wont do it again. we've even tried counseling. i hate to say i give up, even with 3 kids involved.

    • I know exactly how your feeling my soon to be ex husband destroyed both our marriage and family after 24 years together! He knew I was in menopause and low libido but refused to be a loving husband and help by getting counseling! He degraded me by bringing his affairs right through our family home! My 9 year old son caught him and was man enough to tell me! Unfortunately it’s too late and we are in divorce proceedings I’m very sad!

  2. Wow….sorry to here that….I am going through a rough time. …I am set up to leave but have not dont so….I. am unhappy and sad….pray for me..I will pray for you

  3. I am so confused. I'm gorgeous, I'm faithful, I dode on my husband, I have sex with him whenever he wants. He doesn't really have "affairs" with dating and intimacy but he travels for work mon-fri and in our 10 year marriage I have caught him in 8 one night stand type situations with random women or even escorts! I'll even pack up and leave and he's begging me to come back, with tears , promising it was just because he was lonely and he won't do it again….then he does! What do u do? I feel like a total idiot. We have children and they adore him. We seem to have a great marriage on the outside. I feel like it's a farse

    • It makes no difference my dear people who cheat often don’t cheat because another woman is prettier or another man is more handsome it’s nothing to do with that! I have gone to professional counseling alone and have learned it’s something inside the cheater themselves often LOW SELF ESTEEM

  4. Have you considered that your spouse might be a sex addict? I found Out my husband had numerous affairs. After trying To figure Out what was wrong with me I came across a good counselor that asked him To take a test. He was a sex addict ( a lot of people nowadays are I found Out). He went to a conference called Every Man's Battle. Now he is in recovery.

  5. I just found out my husband has been cheating through our entire 5 year marriage. It started with emotional cheating and escalated to a full out affair. This has happened 3 times that I know of. I also found out that every time we go on holidays he wonders off and pays for sex wherever he can find it. My heart is broken and I'm not sure I can ever truly trust again or forgive him. It has only been a week since I found out about all of this and the worst part is that he is mad at me for finding out. I feel like he hates me and our relationship is past the point of fixing but I have been trying to make it work for the sake of our kids, the youngest is only 5 weeks old.

    • I’m not certain but my ex husband had a terrible unhappy childhood, his mother was cruel and my counselor said his cheating was an attack on me for saying NO to him! He thought he could have his cake and eat it too!

  6. My wife has been my best friend and soul mate for 17 years. She is my first true love and I am hers. The last affair, #8, has destroyed our marriage, home, her career, caused intense stress and trauma to our lovely 10 year old son, and completely broken my heart. It has been devastating. I kept giving her my love, trust, kindness and love thinking that would influence our future. My beautiful lovely wife was molested as a child by her father and has a mother who is on her 10the marriage. my parents are still married and were highschool sweethearts. I have stood by her side for years encouraging counseling for her past and our marriage. Our beautiful family and our deep love are now extinct. I am suffering greatly from a broken heart and soul. everything we have invested in has been destroyed. every single one of these men have been the same. They have all treated her exactly as what she is. I have no point here. I just wanted to share. thank you for listening

  7. My husband has been cheating on me on and off for 8 of our 12 year marriage. I catch him every time and he always promises it will never happen again, but there comes a time when you have to step back and realize that you deserve better and you've done all you can do to save your marriage.

  8. My girl left her fiance for me. When this occurred she led me to believe the relationship was already over. Everyone said she would do it to me, and I didn't believe them because what we had was real. She did, with a guy I introduced her to. I think I feel mostly disappointed that she would throw away our future, and embarrassment that she would go out in public, and involve my friends in her "dates". She says she still loves me, and wants to continue, but I have no trust in her, and she still hasn't blocked all communication. I fear that it is over. At this point I think I need her to show me she loves me..and not just say it. Words are meaningless. I need proof. Until then I am going to live my life on my own. I wish there were more resources for men who have cheating women..as their reasons for cheating are different.

  9. What do you do when your husband brings home STD'S? We've been married a little over a year and he brought home a STD. We have been together for 4 yrs. During those years he has brought home STDs twice. I have caught him buying escorts from backpages. He always acts like he is sorry and promises not to do it again. I feel that not wearing a condom while cheating is the worst thing you can do to your partner. I wish I could charge him with attempted murder. My problem is I have become accustomed to our lifestyle financially. I don't want to go back to being a single mother and struggling. My plan is to try to stick it out for three years until my oldest finishes high school. Then I will be in a better place financially. What do you suggest?

  10. My husband and I are each on our 2nd marriage. We both cheated on our former spouses. I learned a lesson and will never do THAT again. So when we got married we had many talks about how bad that was, and to never do it again. I hurt so many people including myself. My husband on the other hand did not quit. We were married 6 years when I got a STD. He convinced me it was a freak thing and he was not having sex with anyone else, "swear to God". I so believed him I was blind to the facts. I kept getting the same STD through the years, I couldn't believe it he would cheat on me and be so stupid not to wear a condom after the first STD incident. My dr told me over and over that my husband was cheating. Fast forward to 2012 I got a call from a young woman 20 years old that she was having an affair with my husband for 9 months. He is 58 years old.! After being caught he still could not quit. (I used gps on his phone to track him) It is such a difficult thing to deal with. We have not had any counseling. It did not work in my first marriage. I don't want another divorce and I truly love this guy. Why is it people that have everything,risk it all for an ego trip?

  11. I am 8months pregnant and the father is a serial cheater. I decided to leave him after finding out he's initiating sex from different girls. I wonder if this guy
    Doesn't have some problem cz he is one of those guys that would never commit to one person and that scares me as I don't want my baby to be exposed to such a character

  12. My husband is a serial cheater. He's had 5 affairs over the course of our 13yr marriage. The most recent one being only a few months ago. I just don't know what to do. We have 3 Who would be completely devastated if we divorced, but I just don't know how I could ever trust him again. He always said he's so sorry and he feels shame, but then he does it again! In hurt, confused, and I feelfeel so stupid!! How do I st past this? Is there a way? Is there hope?

  13. Well, I am angry, hurt, confused and feel betrayed. There is no trust. My husband had 1 affair and 1 one night stand both of which heavy alcohol was invoved. Not an excuse. How ever he has a child from both of these. We've been married 20 years the first occurred a year and a half after we were married. He took care of his kid. He was transparent about communication and contact. It took a while but there was forgiveness but he wasn't the same he was ashamed our marriage suffered I can say I didn't hate him after 10 years but he didn't want to go to counseling. I did . I started to develop me. I know it's his problem I am smart, Iam patient and have a peaceful soul that has nothing to do with his in ablity to be commited to our relationship. The second happen at a time we were financially in a hole. I verbalized my disappointment in him and his choices and that I was thinking of my options because it's becoming to hard to live.with him. This was a one night stand with a now pill addicted woman who had his baby that's 2 years old. He stared to work a lot of hours and physically declined and was sick and angry he avoided me. He made it so difficult.ultimately he hid this from me and lied and made his family lie about every thing for 2 years. I let my guard down and regained my trust and here comes a knife. I found out by picking up the wrong phone. Well he is in a a. He is tak in ng care of the baby which he has to custody of because of the addiction issues of the other woman. I am so disgusted at his selfishness. I know he would be distroyed if I left and then he wouldn't be able to.take care of the real victims the kids. I have decided to leave or what he now wants to go to marriage counseling. I feel like Iam invested for 20 years to walk away? I just don't know where to start.

  14. From reading all these comments a similar theme seems to run through. You all sound like incredibly compassionate, kind, loving people. Forgiveness is so hard and to keep trying truly shows what amazing people you are. Serial cheating/affairs is soul destroying.. It eats you alive till it's like living a nightmare.
    I've just discovered the full effect of what my boyfriend did to me and I personally think he has a personality disorder along with childhood attachment issues. Perhaps some of your partners are similar with the issues they bring to the table? There is no quick fix for these issues but it still feels heartbreaking to walk away.

    I never know if he truly loves me or just keeps me around because I love him so much and always listened to him and believed in him.

    We had a long distance relationship and when I wasn't there he would take girls to his house and introduce them to his family and friends. As soon as I arrived he would drop them and then move on to someone new whenever I had to leave again. He never told any of these girls about me directly until they found out through other means. Keeping his facebook secret etc.

    He was married with a pregnant wife when I first met him and never told me until down the track. By then I already loved him and he left her.. Now I know he will do it to every woman he is with. It's like he has no emotions but fakes this sweet caring disposition and women love it until it crumbles with his web of lies.

  15. I've been in a 25 year marriage I have found out about it least 14 woman and that's the ones I know about. He always Cruz and days it won't happen again until I catch him again.I would have left him long ago if I was financially dependant on him.your kids will know your depressed and unhappy. It's better for them to see you apart and happy than together and miserable. My kids are 18 and 25 now and we have talked many times about how my pain snubs depression has effected them.if you have the means to leave please do you deserve so much more in life

  16. So I have had serial affairs. 6 years into our marriage, a “2 night” stand. Disclosed to my spouse 1 year later- devastating but through counseling we were able to work through it. 15 years into our marriage a longer more involved affair with a co-worker and my spouse suspected and confronted me. A lot of pain and hard work but we were able to get past it. Now, 25 years into our marriage I just ended another affair with a co-worker that was a 6 month affair and disclosed to my spouse. We are separated and she doesn’t believe I will ever change- and can’t believe that I could do this after the previous affair. I truly feel repentant and committed to trying to restore, but she is talking divorce. Is there any hope? I am doing individual counseling as well as 2 mens groups. Is there hope?

  17. My wife and partner of 21 years carried on cheating with over a dozen men and 1 woman over a 5 year period..Just wish I could have known sooner..3 kids..so much time…completely devastated.

    • sorry to hear it R. Don’t give up hope. People have overcome these things. It takes some work but you can do it!

  18. My heart breaks for you all. Most people in this world have empathy and compassion and we wouldn’t survive very well as a human race or living communally if we did not. I have learnt from utterly devasting experience in a 24 year marriage that you can be some people can feign empathy but actually never really have empathy.
    These are the serial cheaters. Those who grew up emotionally stunted never having had the opportunity to learn empathy as a child. Multiple reasons from narcissism to bullying to abuse, to a delusional parent where lies were the norm at home can lead to this. I tried to accept this 11 years ago. When I first found out about serial betrayals.
    I fell apart tried to put my life back together for three children but alcohol was a problem too. Trust was never really rebuilt. One lives in hope for how else do you go on?

    Things never improved. How could they. If you have been “gaslighted” ( google it) and have a very good liar you can be naive as I was. I am tertiary educated, attractive, loyal kind not without my own foibles but was a perfect target.
    I initially had the transparency plans but u can’t do that forever. I recently found out he has had a six year affair with a single mother( who left her cheating husband).
    I obsess now about wasting all my life and damaging myself and kids by staying. He meantime as never had to be accountable & has benefited from the positive reputation his family provided.we have had the life sucked out of us at his expense.
    People without true empathy are incapable of loving in an adult way. They have bottomless pit of needs, they missed out on as kids/adolescents. You can never put that self love in that was never formed. The affairs are how they deal with life and you will never ever change that in a serial cheater. No matter how much you love them.

    This is extraordinarily painful for me and I have not coped well with it.
    All I can say is if you are debating to stay, especially where kids are involved, don’t.
    Most people will not tell you that to your face, counsellors, friends, family will let you choose based on your emotions. I can tell you most definitively your pain now will be nothing compared with that if you stay. The damage to yourself and your children’s mental health will be enormous.

    The cheater will feel loss but can never really understand the affect of what they have done because it is the norm for them. They will never be accountable if you stay. It is a parasitic relationship and you are the host. Your children become host to the parasite too & they had no say.

    Leave as soon as you can (take weeks not years to plan your escape). Don’t make my mistake of leaving but staying engaged in fights or conversations. You havent really left if you do that. Money doe not make happiness.

    You only get one go at life, it is not a dress rehearsal.

    You deserve peace and your self respect. I pray you all will know you are not alone and there is life to be had beyond this relationship.

  19. I have been with my husband for 11 years. Known each other for 20. He was actually my “first” lol. So I am married to the man that took my virginity. I have always loved him with my entire heart and soul. We have 3 beautiful children. We have always had a deep bond. Always accepted each other for who we are…..faults and all. But he is a serial cheater. I have caught him cheating with 5 women over the years. But it gets worse….

    The weekend after last Christmas our teenage daughter discovered he was having an affair by reading his text messages. It had been going on for 2 months. I knew in my gut it was happening but to have my daughters be the ones to tell me devastated me. It came to light that he had also been using crystal meth for 6 months. After huge fights, crying and begging, promises to get help, I chose to stay. He began counseling. But things got MUCH worse over the next 6 months. His meth problem got MUCH worse. Our money disappeared. I would wake up in the middle of the night to find him gone. He began exposing our family to all kinds of disgusting people. He got to the point where he would go into meth rages and the last straw was getting physical with our oldest daughter. I told him to leave. He told me he needed to get help but couldn’t expose us to his comedown so he was going to stay with his mom and try to get clean. Instead, he went and picked up a nasty junky chic and took HER to his moms. Cleaned out our account. He spent $900 in 2 days. I lost it. his sister is the one that told me he had taken this other woman to his moms. I threw all his clothes into the lawn and he still begged me to keep trying. I made him leave. He went immediately back to our home town where he said he was getting away from the dope and going to get better. This was almost 3 months ago.

    Then a few nights ago he called me at 2 am. He was crying and told me he thought he was overdosing. He wouldn’t tell me where he was so I could send help so I stayed on the phone with him. He proceeded to confess that he had been living with an old girlfriend for the past month and that she is now pregnant. Every time I think there’s nothing left he can do to hurt me anymore? He does. In his messed up state of mind he also told me that he loves her. Always has. But that he doesn’t not love her the way he loves me. That he wishes she would have the baby and give it to us so that we can raise it together! WTF!?

    He now is a bit more sober and very much wants her to terminate. He tells me how sorry he is and that there is something wrong with him. Says he loves me and doesn’t want to be with anybody else but that he can’t promise he can stay faithful because he has such impulse control problems. He says that he HATES himself. That he wants to end it all because he keeps hurting the people he loves the most. He is begging me to not give up on him. That he is determined to get clean and prove his sobriety to me. That even if we don’t get back together, he wants us to still love each other and parent together. And if we do get back together he can’t promise he won’t stray but he can promise to be 100% honest and open about it.

    I couldn’t make this shit up even if I tried! This is some Lifetime TV drama. I cannot believe this is where my life is at! I have spiraled into a deep depression. I don’t even have words to explain how much I love this man. But he just keeps hurting me. I will admit that 90%!of his infidelity has been while he is in active addiction. We are both recovering addicts but he has struggled a lot More than me over the years. He would fall off the wagon briefly and then pull himself together. But this time it is BAD.

    My friends and family tell me to cut him out of my life completely and move on. But I feel so miserable. I am miserable without him. And miserable with him because of the cheating and drugs. We have had a lot of good years together. I always got over the cheating because it was always just sex. No feelings involved. Only I have held his heart and only I am the mother of his children. But not anymore. There is nothing left that is sacred to US. I am such a wreck. I am pushing him to get treatment. Committed to supporting him if he goes. But I don’t think our marriage can be saved. Where do I go from here!? How do I let go of somebody I have given my entire heart and soul to?

    • Donna
      You let go because it is the only way you can truly show true love to yourself and him. Like me you were/are enabling him & holding yourself back. No one is winning least of all not the kids. You both need to learn the lessons life is giving you. I have finally worked out we can’t protect each other from those lessons, our mistakes. We will keep replaying them until we learn what we need to grow & change. He may never do this, running to others to get soothed, you can’t stop that, no matter how much love you give.

      You can however, change your life and that of your kids. Pour everything you’ve got into that. You will be rewarded. It’s hard to let go of love. I know I’m there too. But letting go is the most loving thing to do for everyone you care about including him.

      Disengage, distance yourself, dont pick up that phone, don’t text him. Turn to you, your kids. Journal or draft an email/text to yourself get out your pain by more importantly say what u are small next loving step you will make to improve your life and that of your kids. Then do it.
      Then repeat. Each day you will grow in new love & self respect.
      There’s lots of us out there in same body. We can do it.

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