Dear Dr. Frankie,
Why do I keep getting in relationships with women who cheat on me?
Dear Cheater Magnet,
It could be a few reasons. Sometimes when we have a distorted belief about our self, it influences how we act towards others (ie. attract others) that then confirms the original distorted belief. For example, if I think I’m unlovable, then I may attract those that will act flaky, cancel dates, and not act caring towards me; further confirming my distorted view of self. It’s like hitting the replay button and the same behaviors keep happening and the same type of people keep being attracted to you and vice versa.
Another reason: Are you scared of commitment?
This might sound odd, but sometimes we keep meeting dishonest people (cheaters) because we’re scared that if we met someone who was trustworthy then we’d have to be in a “real” relationship. Being a commitment-phobe is actually quite common and there are many people who struggle with it.
The solution: Try dating other people that have different characteristics than you normally choose.
Again, that might sound odd, but you can’t change something without doing something new.
Try dating someone that you don’t initially have chemistry with. This can help “rewire” your brain in regards to intimate relationships and allow you to not dive in so quickly, potentially missing red flags that you might have missed due to be high on chemistry.
Review Red Flags from previous relationships
While there’s no excuse for cheating, undoubtedly there were warning signs or “red flags” that your girlfriend was cheating on you. When we hold a distorted view of our self, we can miss these flags. Looking back at your past relationships, what indicators did you overlook that would have told you she was cheating? Or what behaviors did she exhibit that alerted you something was wrong? Identifying these red flags is important for you future success. If we don’t trust and believe in ourselves, we might understand that these behaviors are normal or not worth mentioning. In the future, make a pact with yourself to always address any red flats, even if it means you might call it quits.
Did you have a formal conversation with your partner that your relationship was monogamous?
This is important: Unless you and your partner have a direct and honest conversation about being exclusive only with each other, then technically, it’s not cheating. At the present, many people enjoy a polyamorous life or have several non-monogamous relatoinships. It’s not uncommon and many people feel loved and satisfied with those arrangements.
If you “just assumed” you and your partner were exclusive because you were together for a certain amount of time or you spend all your time together, then I encourage you to examine why you never had that conversation.
Focus on healing from the cheating before dating again
While it wasn’t your fault that you girlfriend cheated, the experience was still traumatic. You need to heal from this. Spend time with a therapist, with friends and with people who really, really love you. A therapist can help you find strategies for loving yourself, as well as how to create healthy boundaries and what it looks like to date someone who doesn’t cheat.
Spend time alone and really refocus on what you want from a lover
It’s an old piece of advice, but make a list and stick to it. Decide that when you start dating, you are upfront that you want a monogamous relationship and that cheating is your deal breaker. This focusing process may take awhile, but don’t overlook it.
Once you’ve spent some time, defined what is important, and healed, you will be stronger for when you dip your toe back in the dating pool.