Being cheated on: Many of us wonder and worry about it — and some of us have to work very hard to recover from this devastating experience. To help address your questions on all facets of this topic, we hosted a live chat with Dr. Gilda Carle, a relationship expert and best-selling author of Don’t Bet on the Prince! How To Have The Man You Want by Betting on Yourself. Here, we share her wise advice on how lies and infidelity can threaten a relationship — and what to do if you find yourself navigating this rocky romantic territory.
Q: What is the main reason for cheating in relationships?
Dr. Gilda: There are many reasons why people cheat. Sometimes it’s what they saw in the house they grew up in. Sometimes all their buddies are doing the same thing. Sometimes it’s because cheaters don’t feel good about themselves and look for people who will make them feel better. Sometimes a cheater’s relationship is crashing and he or she doesn’t want to deal with that reality, so cheating gets used as a bandage. And sometimes a person is so self-centered and egocentric that all he (or she) can think of is me, me, me. So there are many different reasons why people cheat. Your objective (and all singles should do this) is to make sure that you size somebody up before you become deeply, emotionally involved. And when you do, if you see a pattern that existed in that person’s behavior in the past you’ll pretty much be able to predict the behavior that this person is going to demonstrate in the future.
Q: How do people deal with the guilt of cheating?
Dr. Gilda: Somebody who cheats is looking for justification and rationalization more than anything else. So, he or she usually finds a way out in his or her own mind so that there isn’t any guilt. It’s often the person who’s cheated on who feels that he or she must have done something wrong to have caused it. My advice is to look more carefully at what’s going on before deciding to take the burden of blame onto yourself.
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Q: What exactly is the definition of cheating, anyway?
Dr. Gilda: Cheating can be flirting or it can be kissing. Many people spend lots of time on the telephone flirting with somebody when they should instead be investing that very valuable time in their relationship at home. So, the question is: would you want your loved one to be doing what you’re doing with another person? That’s the question you should ask when defining what cheating means to you.
Q: Do you agree with the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater” or not?
Dr. Gilda: I think that people can change, but they have to want to in order for it to stick. You can’t make somebody change!
Q: Is it true that, at some point, all men cheat?
Dr. Gilda: That’s definitely not the case. Plenty of women are cheaters, too. Men are not cheating alone; they are cheating with women. Every time I answer a question about cheating, I get tons of emails from men (and plenty of women, too) saying they are in the same situation — cheating on their mates.
Q: I just ended a relationship that was full of lies. How do I trust again?
Dr. Gilda: Trust is the most difficult thing to build in any relationship. You must start to trust yourself and your own instincts about people. Trust begins with trusting yourself and your ability to assess the different people who come into your life. It’s going to take some time, so don’t try to rush it. But I also don’t want you to go out on dates and go through this whole speech about how you were cheated on and that you find it very hard to trust again. Because then your dates will feel as though they have to jump through hoops to prove otherwise to you. As you begin to trust your own judgment, you will find a new partner who is more trustworthy.
Q: I believe that my partner of two years is cheating. What are the main signs to look for?
Dr. Gilda: Has your partner started to care more about what he or she looks like? Has this person stopped listening closely to what you say? Does your mate make excuses for not showing up on time, or not showing up at all? In general, you feel in your gut that something has changed. I believe everyone knows, subconsciously, that his or her partner is cheating when that’s what is going on.
Q: How do you tell if a man is just saying what he thinks you want to hear?
Dr. Gilda: Well, spend more time with him and find out if there are inconsistencies in what he’s saying. On first dates, lots of men (and women!) say what he or she thinks that other person wants to hear. That’s why first dates only come around once! You have to see if what your date said early on in the evening makes sense after you know each other a little bit better — and makes sense the following week, and the week after that.
Q: How is it that one day you are the love of someone’s life and almost overnight you’re forgotten?
Dr. Gilda: The question should be: How well did you know this person from the start? If somebody is telling you that you’re the love of his or her life, how long have you known this person for that statement to be justified? I have found that relationships that begin very quickly usually end just as quickly. But relationships that have maintained themselves over time usually are an investment made by both people, and one or both of them will be less likely to just wake up in the morning and decide they want to pack it in.
Q: Can a man have a “friendship” with a woman outside his marriage or dating relationship?
Dr. Gilda: Absolutely. Actually, I encourage that because this is where they get information about how other women think, other women feel. Just because he has a friendship with a woman doesn’t mean he’s interested in her romantically.
Q: What are the success rates for relationships after cheating?
Dr. Gilda: It depends on how hard two people want to work on their relationship. Usually after cheating there’s tremendous distrust, so it’s going to take a while for both parties to prove to the other that it was a mistake. It really depends. Give it time — consider seeking out a therapist to help you take the relationship one step at a time, rather than trying to make it alright the next day. Working through it can show where difficulties have been in a relationship, and the two partners are more committed than they’ve ever been once they see the errors of their ways.
Q: I separated from my husband due to his affair with a woman much older than me. I’m younger, in better shape and fairly intelligent, so why did this affect my self-esteem so badly?
Dr. Gilda: What you have just learned is that being attracted to somebody has very little to do with age, looks and all these other things. Being attracted to someone comes from the way that other person makes you feel. So don’t take it personally, but try to find out for your next relationship what was lacking in your marriage and what kinds of things you need to work on so you grow from the experience.
Q: Should a woman believe a man to be loyal even if he likes to flirt?
Dr. Gilda: Flirtation is one thing, cheating is another. Some guys need their egos boosted so they go out of their way to seem like big shots with other people (women). But it’s usually quite harmless. However, if it bothers you, you owe it to yourself to level with this guy.
Q: If you don’t bet on the prince, who should you bet on?
Dr. Gilda: Yourself! My book Don’t Bet on the Prince is subtitled “How to Have the Man You Want By Betting On Yourself.” This goes for how to have the job you want, how to have the income you want, how to have the life you want. Everything in your life is dependent upon your willingness to put your faith in you.
Q: Is being with someone just to avoid loneliness ever justified?
Dr. Gilda: No, no, no. That reminds me of the line in the movie Jerry Maguire: “You complete me.” In reality, nobody can complete anybody else — the key to successful dating is to be complete before you enter into a relationship.