Love dilemmas: Once a cheater, always a cheater?
Dr Victoria Lukats is a psychiatrist and an expert on relationships and dating. Today, she advises a man who is concerned about his girlfriend's past history of leapfrogging from relationship to relationship.
Dear Dr Victoria,
I’ve been with my girlfriend for four months now and we get on really well, this definitely isn’t a casual relationship and I had been hoping it might go the distance and possibly lead to a lasting commitment, until recently.
I’m really jealous of her and I’m not even a particularly jealous person. Being in my later 30’s and my girlfriend’s of a similar age, we have both had previous relationships. The other night we went out for dinner and during the course of the evening we got onto the subject of exes. We didn’t really discuss the specifics of our past relationships, but what did come out of the conversation was the fact my girlfriend had met each new boyfriend while she was still in a relationship with the last one. So, in effect she had cheated on every man she’s ever been out with.
This got me thinking; if she’d leapfrogged from one relationship to the next, what’s to stop her from doing the same to me?
My last girlfriend left me for another man and I really don’t want to go through this again. It took me ages to get over the betrayal.
Perhaps I should just end it now as I can’t seem to be able to get a handle on how I currently feel.
What can I do to resolve this?
First of all, your girlfriend hasn’t just casually slept around whenever she fancied it. Having a brief overlap between one long-term relationship and the next is quite different from persistent cheating.
Now clearly, I’m not advocating overlapping relationships. It leads to a lot of turmoil and heartache, but being pragmatic, I know how common this is. Some people just can’t bear to end a relationship until they have something else in place.
Their relationship has started to fray at the edges and rather than end things they bury their heads in the sand, hoping things might get better but also becoming too paralysed by fear to make the break for freedom – too afraid they’ll never meet anyone else. And then they do meet someone else.
So, you don’t have a problem with your girlfriend having had previous relationships, but what you do have a problem with is a fear that she will do the same to you as she did to her exes. You don’t want the relationship to come to an end and you certainly don’t want to be hurt or cheated on.
The problem is that if you start whingeing and acting clingy and insecure, she will soon get fed up with you. A little bit of jealousy never hurt anyone – so long as you keep a lid on it and don’t give your girlfriend a hard time. Better to have a vague awareness that your girlfriend could find other men attractive than to become complacent and to stop making an effort in the relationship.
I think the specific question you’re getting at is whether she’s going to cheat on you if she’s cheated in the past. I’m afraid I don’t have any scientific way of answering your question.
No one can predict the future, but what I can say is that people who have cheated in the past may never cheat again and people who have always been faithful can go on to cheat. I might be more wary if she’d had frequent affairs throughout her relationships in addition to the overlaps at the end and if she seems to be quite attention-seeking and impulsive.
But balance your fear of her cheating against the fact that it can be pretty hard to meet someone when you’re in your late 30’s. It’s not impossible, and the internet has made things easier, but you’re not going to meet someone like your girlfriend every day – or even every year.
I have genuinely met people who have had similar relationship experiences to your girlfriend –they weren’t persistent cheaters but their previous long-term relationships overlapped, until they met “the one” – then they settled down, got married and never cheated on their spouses.
So if your girlfriend is as great as you say she is, may I suggest you get over your jealousy pretty quickly before your push her away and then get on with enjoying the rest of your lives together.
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