There are numerous reasons why people cheat on their partners, making it difficult to pinpoint precisely what is going through their heads when they begin an affair. There are, however, a few thoughts and beliefs that many serial cheaters with personality disorders share, which may help explain why it becomes a habit.
For some, it can be attributed to how they perceive the world and everyone in it. “Some serial cheaters meet the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder or have many of the characteristics of a narcissist,” Collaborative Counseling Group therapist Virginia Williamson, LMFT, explains. “These serial cheaters believe it is their right to cheat and believe they are superior to their partners.” These people rarely think twice about cheating — and even less about feeling bad about it.
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However, some people cheat because of low self-esteem or unhealthy attachment styles, according to Williamson. Even if their relationship is going well, they may try to sabotage it because they believe it will end anyway. Alternatively, they may seek quick confidence boosts from others.
Whatever the case may be, serial cheaters can change their ways if they want to, usually by going to therapy. “The bottom line is that anyone can change their behavior if [they’re] truly invested in doing so,” Williamson says.
Serial Cheaters Personality Disorder
According to experts, many serial cheaters with personality disorders share the following thoughts and beliefs.
#1. They Have the Ability to Justify Cheating
Many serial cheaters blame their partner when things go wrong to justify cheating behind their partner’s back. “A serial cheater with a personality disorder will blame their partner for lack of sex, growth, attention, support, and so on, and thus feel entitled to look outside the relationship to have their needs and wants to be met,” Williamson says.
This habit can destroy relationship after relationship until the cheater learns to communicate better. Cheating may become unnecessary once they reach out to their partner and share their feelings.
#2. They believe that their partner is to blame for their happiness.
“Serial cheaters with personality disorders frequently do not accept responsibility for their unhappiness, nor do they allow their partners to make a meaningful change if there are legitimate difficulties in the relationship,” Williamson says.
They may believe it is their partner’s responsibility to make things work, so when things go wrong, they frequently have no option but to cheat. They also don’t know how to make themselves happy, so they often seek happiness from others.
#3. They Believe They Are Completely Misunderstood
“Serial cheaters frequently believe that their partners simply cannot understand them at the required level,” says Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show. “As a result, they seek understanding elsewhere.”
The problem is that they frequently fail to express dissatisfaction with aspects of their relationship. They also do not give their partner a chance. Because it is easier, they tend to cheat right away.
#4. They Believe They Are Unlovable
It’s easy to dismiss serial cheaters as cold, heartless individuals. However, for many of these people, cheating is a way of dealing with their inner demons.
“Some people cheat repeatedly because they are insecure and have a deep-seated fear that they are unlovable,” Williamson says. “This means they never push themselves to be vulnerable enough to connect with another person truly. While wreaking havoc on other people’s lives, they remain dissatisfied and refuse to allow themselves to be loved.” When this is the case, therapy can be highly beneficial. When they figure out why their self-esteem is so low, they may feel more at ease in a relationship and be less likely to cheat.
#5. They Are Terrified of Being Alone
Similarly, people who cheat regularly may be doing so to cope with a fear of abandonment, which can also stem from low self-esteem.
“Cheaters irrationally believe that by [being] with multiple people, they will not be abandoned,” says therapist Katie Ziskind, LMFT. “However, they have many surface relationships while still feeling lonely and insecure deep inside.”
They turn to others to feel better, but this frequently backfires. “Abandonment, along with insecurity, rejection, and shame, is the source of cheating,” Ziskind says. “Cheaters can be helped through therapy and counseling to understand the emotions that drive their behavior.”
#6. They Do Not Want To Hurt Their Partner
Some serial cheaters with personality disorders believe that going behind their partner’s back is the most excellent thing they could do. “Even though cheating is a huge betrayal, the idea is that the cheater can’t face hurting their partner by confronting them with difficult topics, relationship problems, and so on,” Dr. Klapow explains. “Rather than addressing the conflict, they divert attention away from it by committing an even more heinous act.”
#7. They are always hoping that someone else will make them happy.
Many cheaters fall into the trap of believing that another person will eventually make them happy. As a result, they are always on the lookout for someone who can thrill, excite, and “complete” them. “Rather than discovering that with their current partner, they take a grass is greener approach, focusing on their partner’s flaws while assuming a stranger will provide them with more excitement and fulfillment,” Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, explains.
#8. They believe they are powerless to stop it.
“Serial cheaters sometimes consider their situation to be a problem,” Dr. Klapow says. “That they have no control over their cheating and that they require more from a relationship and cannot be fulfilled with just one person.” However, this may not be the case. They can be in a committed relationship if they want to. It may simply require some effort to reframe their thinking while also working on themselves.
#9. They believe that their partner “forced” them to do it.
“Serial cheaters frequently take their partner’s frustration, anger, embarrassment, or feelings of inadequacy out on them by cheating on them with the mindset that it is their partner’s fault,” Dr. Klapow says. “While their partner may contribute to the problems, the serial cheater views cheating as a result of what their partner has done to them.”
Serial cheaters may become stuck in a cycle of reacting negatively in relationships — and then justifying their cheating. However, it is an unhealthy cycle that they can break if they so desire.
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How To Recognize a Serial Cheater Personality Disorder
If you notice the signs of a serial cheater, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with someone who can’t be trusted to be loyal. To summarize, you can identify a serial cheater by observing some of the serial cheater signs listed below:
- They speak negatively about all of their previous partners and may even admit to cheating on them, but they always blame the partner.
- At the start of the relationship, they come across as incredibly charming. Even if you catch them in a lie, they will blame you, act as if it’s not a big deal, or even engage in manipulative behavior such as crying or making excuses.
- You catch them on dating apps, or they hide their phone from you, so you don’t catch them in disloyal behavior.
- They are extremely self-centered, flirtatious, and concerned with their appearance.
- They discuss cheating in previous relationships, or they discuss numerous previous partners, none of whom ever worked out for them.
- Also, they show fear of commitment by refusing to acknowledge you as their partner in public or by continuing to communicate with others through social media or dating apps.
Characteristics of Serial Cheaters Personality Disorder
There are several characteristics that define the typical serial cheater. A high degree of narcissism, which is characterized by the following traits, is one of the key serial cheater traits.
- Excessive self-importance
- Obsession with success, power, and beauty
- Feeling superior to others
- Needing constant adoration
- Needing constant adoration
- Manipulative behavior
- Ignorance of others’ feelings
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Aside from the traits listed above, keep in mind that serial cheaters will often come across as very charismatic because they need to be able to entice new love interests.
Due to their lack of remorse, they are also likely to come across as uncaring and, at times, cruel. The serial killer may appear outgoing and adventurous at times, but this is typically due to their desire to attract other people, even if they are in a committed relationship.
Can a serial cheater learn to be loyal?
Given the patterns and personality traits involved in serial cheating, a serial cheater rarely becomes faithful. Serial cheaters cheat repeatedly and feel no remorse, so they lack internal motivation to change. Furthermore, their cunning and charming personality allows them to get away with serial cheating. Change may be possible if serial cheater accepts responsibility for their destructive behavior and expresses a desire to learn to be faithful. Still, it won’t be easy and will necessitate professional assistance.
Relationships with serial cheaters with personality disorders frequently end in heartbreak, but you can learn to recognize the signs of a serial cheater and leave the relationship to find someone who will meet your needs and be loyal to you. Waiting for a serial cheater to change is unlikely to end well, so if you notice the signs listed above, you should cut your losses and walk away.
Frequently Asked Questions
What mental illness causes cheating?
Infidelity and Bipolar Disorder
Problems in relationships and impulsive behavior are two key features of borderline personality. Because of these symptoms, potential cheating can become an even more emotional experience with serious consequences. People with BPD frequently have a strong desire to be loved and accepted.
What do compulsive cheaters have in common?
They have a tendency to rationalize their actions, whether they are correct or incorrect. Have you ever heard the expression, “it’s not you, it’s me?” Cheaters are more likely to believe the opposite. Cheaters frequently say things like, ‘My partner doesn’t like doing what I like to do in bed.’
Is a serial cheater a narcissist?
You may have come across someone with a narcissistic or sociopathic personality. Narcissists and sociopaths are well-known for their emotional and physical infidelity. Narcissists are not only pick-up artists and players in the dating world, but they are also serial cheaters in relationships.
Can cheating cause PTSD?
While it is possible to develop PISD as a result of being cheated on, it is uncommon to develop PTSD as a result of being cheated on.
Does cheating affect mental health?
Infidelity can have long-term consequences for the couple’s partners and any children they may have. Grief, brain changes, future behaviors, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, chronic stress, and depression can all occur as a result. With time and therapy, some families have been able to overcome infidelity.