Why women love a cheater...
Charming personalities and the challenge of changing a man are too much to resist for some
Published 04/07/2013 | 05:00
Even as Kim Kardashian was lying, legs akimbo, in the delivery room, people were warning her not to trust Kanye West.
"He will never be faithful to one girl and has women falling at his feet," was the ominous message from Canadian model, Leyla Ghobadi, who claims to have slept with the rapper. "Kanye is a Romeo – he can never be trusted," she told The Sun.
West's former girlfriend, model Amber Rose, has already accused her ex of two-timing her with Kardashian so whilst Kim has laughed off the rumours, there'll be many wondering if she is secretly worried she might get left holding the baby.
There's not a woman alive who hasn't heard the phrase 'Once a cheater always a cheater', so why do so many choose to ignore it and start a relationship with a man who's a flight risk?
For many there's another platitude behind the decision. "The old phrase 'love is blind' comes to mind," says Bernadette Ryan, psychotherapist and relationships counsellor from Relationships Ireland (relationshipsireland.com).
"In the beginning during the romantic phase of a relationship we tend to want to overlook any perceived flaws in the object of our affection.
"There's a strong desire not to see the reality of the situation but to hold fast to the fantasy as we want it to be."
She adds: "The man will of course usually have a 'good' reason for his behaviour, for example 'my wife didn't understand me' which can help explain away his actions and lay down the irresistible challenge to be the woman who does understand him and tames him."
Serial love rat Jesse James accused his ex-wife Sandra Bullock of "never having his back 100pc" thus prompting him to cheat on her with tattoo model Michelle McGee. Presumably the 'she didn't understand me' line also worked on all subsequent girlfriends.
Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn has been gushing about the mutual happiness between her and new beau Tiger Woods since confirming their relationship last October.
But according to US relationship expert Wendy Walsh, recently interviewed on ABC News, it could well be the desire to tame the scandal-hit golfer that's fuelling the attraction.
"The thing she wants to be more than anything in the world, mark my words, is to be the woman who changed and tamed the Tiger, the one who cured the bad boy," said Walsh.
Dating expert Avril Mulcahy (avrilmulcahy.com) agrees that this is a scenario she's seen time and again on Ireland's dating scene.
"A lot of woman, especially Irish women, have this Messiah complex and feel that they will be the person who can 'rescue' the cheater," she said.
"The sad thing is that often the cheater doesn't want to be rescued and these girls will be sitting on the single fence before long."
She adds: "I know women in high-powered jobs who date cheaters who are 'alpha males' because it makes them feel more feminine. It's crazy, have some self-respect, don't be with a guy who's going to treat you like dirt."
It's easy to look at the new girlfriend of a man with a well-documented history of infidelity and scoff at her naivety, but often cheaters display compelling characteristics to convince women this time it'll be different.
Jerry Hall knew Mick Jagger's penchant for infidelity but his charm and promises to change persuaded her to trust him. She writes in her autobiography: "I knew he had a reputation as a womaniser and he was still married . . . but I was hopeful. I had got him to quit heroin, I could get him to give up girls as well."
Cork-based counselling psychologist Sally O'Reilly (sallyoreilly.com) says charm can be a powerful weapon for the serial cheater.
"Serial cheaters tend to appear to be narcissistic, thrive on attention and are often described as charming," she explains.
"Interestingly they often present as feminists, when in reality their behaviour screams misogyny. They can be highly skilled manipulators, appearing to be high in empathy and associated traits, and so can mould themselves to be attractive to a wide variety of women."
Ryan agrees: "Serial cheaters often display an outward narcissistic personality. They can have a belief that no woman is good enough for them or fulfil their unique needs.
"Of course, deep down the narcissist feels unlovable and worthless but hopping from relationship to relationship means they do not have to face their insecurities in the long term, projecting them instead on to their partner before moving on to the next 'perfect' relationship."
Interestingly women can often identify a love rat even without knowing their relationship history.
A study carried out by the University of Western Australia showed women and men photos of the opposite sex. Asked to choose who were cheaters, women got it wrong just 38 percent of the time (men were wrong 77 percent of the time).
The study showed that women correctly associated 'masculine' characteristics with infidelity, like strong jaws and pronounced brows – traits that paradoxically are also attractive to women on an evolutionary biological level.
It's also often the case that women attracted to cheaters will have their own set of issues making them susceptible to love rats.
Halle Berry, who has talked about a history of low self-esteem, was abandoned by her father as a child and went on to have several disastrous relationships with men.
"In my experience, the lower our concept of self-worth, the more vulnerable we are to cheaters," says O'Reilly. "Cheaters will often have left a trail of clues as to their future behaviour and less experienced women, or women who don't trust themselves, will ignore these signs."
But, of course, the big question is can the leopard changes its spots?
Ryan is loath to completely condemn all cheaters. "If two people genuinely fall for each other while one or both are in a relationship, it may well be meant to be. I wouldn't like to judge all such relationships as false or doomed," she says.
"But generally an affair is conducted in secrecy and intrigue and this might be all the serial cheater is seeking – an escape from the drudgery of everyday life."
Ultimately whether the serial cheater is going to mend his (or her – women cheat too) straying ways has more to do with them than the object of their desire.
"I don't believe it's possible for anyone to change anybody else," says Ryan. "We can only change ourselves and our responses to situations."
O'Reilly agrees: "The real question is will a cheater choose to change. To ask 'can' they change enables the cheater to dispense with personal responsibility.
"If a serial cheater is truly aware of their behaviour and the issues that trigger it then yes, change is possible. But frankly, where there is pathology, in my experience, change is unlikely."
Infidelity - is it in the genes?
DNA may prove to be the get-out- of-jail-free card to serial cheaters like Jesse James and co.
Researchers at the State University of New York found if someone who carried 'the love-rat gene' had an affair, they got a similar 'rush' to a gambler having a winning bet or an alcoholic savouring a drink. Researcher Justin Craig said: "What we found was that individuals with a certain variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex and cases of infidelity."
However, professors in Japan may have found the cure after discovering that men who took the drug minocycline were less likely to be seduced and led astray by attractive women.