Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

It’s a common cliche. An old adage.

Is it really true?

One couple came to see me for marital therapy. It’s a case of the husband serially cheating on his wife.

The husband admitted having affairs several times in the few years of their marriage. He claimed he had the affairs just for sex and that he loved his wife and had a great sex life with her.

For a time during therapy, the relationship somewhat improved. The husband observed abstinence from his affairs. They learned better skills communicating and loving.

Then, the husband was caught contacting and seeing his affair partner again. Evidently the wife noticed no prior signs of the repeated cheating for he remained privately loving to her.

The wife felt something was wrong which she called an “invisible barrier” between them. But she couldn’t put her finger on it.

According to findings presented at an American Psychological Association annual convention, they found that people who cheat on their partners once are approximately 3 1/2 times more likely to cheat again.

I find it interesting that this finding did not apply only on those doing the cheating. They saw that those who were cheated on in one relationship were also more likely to be cheated on again.

Judging from the number of cases I’ve seen, cheaters do tend to cheat again. But I’d say not everyone. Some do change completely.

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

That gets to be true I must agree … unless the root psychological wounds or unmet needs of the cheater are sufficiently dealt with.

Here are some possible underlying themes within cheaters I suspect exists:

• a never-ending quest of the cheater to make up for what he or she did not get as a child

• the more shame and guilt the cheater experiences, the more it tends to be projected onto the partner

• the cheating may be used to punish himself/herself or humiliate the partner

• a “bad me” core belief that leads to addictions for temporary relief

Bad habits are known to be hard to break. That includes the habit of cheating.

In reality, cheaters need clinical intervention to prevent repeated disasters.

Courage Heals

Courage was a big thing for Mother Teresa. She said, “To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.”

It’s essential to the meaningful attainments she made in her life –serving as a missionary against “injustice among the poor” in India.

Wounded souls. That’s how we may describe the inner state of individuals after suffering injustices in their personal lives and relationships.

Standing up to these personal injustices and wounds requires courage. Overcoming fear in order to heal. In order to be able to do what gives life.

For years, Maria, a 16-year-old high school girl, received abusive, name-calling text messages. She was pushed around at school. She avoided places in her school in fear for her safety.

Finally, she broke down. She could no longer bring herself to continue attending classes. Her grades dropped. She suffered from panic anxiety attacks, lack of sleep, and stress headaches.

Her mother brought her to me. She lamented, “My daughter has become emotionally crippled. It takes all my energy to get her out of the car and ‘go over there.’ ”

To get well, Maria needs a healthy dose of courage. Against injustices and its perpetrators.

It’s not for her own good that she allows her self to be humiliated and shamed in school. To do so only harms her psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“Be men of courage; be strong,” the Bible says (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Courage matters.

It helps us correct injustices and wrongs. It gives us power over risk and its associated fears. It leads us to be better persons, spouses, parents, children, friends and citizens.

The Leisure Delusion

Fun, fun, fun. Travels, cruises, tours. Surfing, beaches. Shopping, sumptuous dinners.

The quest for a “good time” lies at the bottom of lots of people’s pursuit of pleasure. To escape work or the rat race. Even as a motivation for retirement.

After 40 years working in a bank, Mario and Marsha shared how much they craved retirement now. Now that their kids are all grownup, they felt free.

They looked forward to the leisure and “inheritance” of retirement pay. They said they’d spend their money and time in their hands traveling, and simply “doing nothing.” That brief future together was what they’d like to be, especially in the present moment.

Then it hit them! In our session, Marsha was telling her husband, “I could not understand what’s happening. We hurried to retire and relax, do what we planned. Why am I bored? Is something wrong with me?”

I’m reminded of the mother of a young son as he impatiently waited for Christmas to come. He cried, “I wish it were Christmas!” His mother, with her gentle wisdom, told his son, “With such wish, you will wish your life away!”

The whole problem with leisure or “good time” delusion is that it is deceptive. It puts your days in separate boxes. It presumes that a day is going to be more enjoyable and far different. It chops off segments of life as worthless because they’re not your “wished day.”

As a result of that, you find yourself kept from seeing or treasuring your present moment. You get bored. Weary of the pattern of your days. The leisure blinds you to the importance of the work you gave to earn it and the need to create new meanings in life as a whole.

Of course, we can enjoy the “good time.” Have our days off. We can treasure it. But it’s not meant to be the “goal of life.” Creativity is key. We find excitement and energy when we know we’re creating. Creating meaning in our days – not leisure – makes life!

When Your Adult Child Disappoints You (Part 2)

An important way for us parents to understand how our adult children turned out is to examine first the part we played. Ours, before theirs. One we can control. Then, learn and improve thereon.

Some parents do too much for their adult children. And some do too little or don’t do enough. Two extremes. A case of “sparing help” vs. “spoiling the child.”

The call is always for balance.

Antonio, now a senior citizen, never held a job all his life. He’s always given allowances by his prosperous mother. Even while married and raising four children, Antonio asked for everything from his Mom, from basic expenses to kids’ tuitions or car gasoline.

As a result, Antonio never found reason to be self-supportive and responsible even for his own family. He’s always in a state of limbo. Even at old age, still a “baby being fed. Antonio’s days as a perpetual freeloader have not been corrected.

Does his Mom’s giving him so much help destroy his motivation to help himself?

Parenting psychologist, Dr. Jane Adams, writes:

“Parents who give too much do so out of their own needs, not their children’s. They give out of unmet desires for love, attention, or self esteem; they give to compensate for early deprivation (in either generation); they give to change their adult children’s behavior or fill up the emptiness inside.”

At times, we parents must rescue ourselves first! While we cannot rescue our adult children from the dysfunctions and troubles of their own making, we do need to save ourselves from the habit of trying to rescue them all the time.

Otherwise, our “adultolescent” children will never be able to manage appropriate to their age and life stage without us. Time for growing up … and not to wait too long before it becomes too late.

Knowledge is Never Enough

In my practice of therapy and counseling, I’ve always found one thing: knowledge is never enough.

At best, I helped my counselees see and know the psychodynamics of their emotional or mental disturbances.

But, I’ve always realized that their knowing is not the same as their capacity to change their thinking, their emoting, and their behaving.

Their knowing has always been inadequate to stop them from self-sabotaging.

One counselee I had recently gained insight. Her rage or uncontrollable anger is traceable to her unconscious hatred of her mother.

In her work and social relationships, she realized how she has been “transferring” that feeling into other females who have similar traits to her mother.

Surely, she understands how she got the ways they are — but not what to do. Not the ability to apply what she already knows.

Insight and expression of repressed feelings alone don’t work in my sessions. Something needs to be incorporated in order for a broken person to heal.

That sets me to do some tall thinking about psychotherapy. I went back to tools of therapy and started giving application assignments, among others.

Data alone is not enough for deep and lasting personal change. The truth is, most of us are very good at identifying what’s wrong with us and our experiences.

Yet that knowledge in and of itself rarely produces deep level personal healing and recovery.

In fact, without the appropriate steps and frames, insight may result in “re-traumatizing” a hurting person.

So, make sure you have insights plus the experiential aspects in your recovery journey.

When you’re stuck …

I’m thinking about thinking today. Rumination.

In many situations where there is psychological wounding, a person may tend not just to ruminate but to “over-ruminate.”

Such usually produces stuckness, inability to take healthy actions.

How do you navigate your over-ruminating to unclog your stuckness?

Here are some pieces of thought I have about it that could be helpful to you.

* Observe and analyze your self when over-ruminating:

* Be sensitive and conscious of your fictional or magnified memory bias;

* Reduce your self-criticism;

* Spot over-ruminating triggered by sms, emails, or notes;

* Try mindfulness meditation and prayer;

* Define your options or alternative courses of action;

* Replace thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make your over-rumination and worrying worse;

* Use imagery or visualization to bounce flashbacks and images that get you stuck;

* Reduce over-ruminating, your over-thinking, capturing ideas via taking notes as you have them and then sleep on them;

* Practice thought-stopping and deep breathing;

* Seek help when symptoms persist. There could be heavy, overwhelming root causes underneath fueling the over-ruminating.

Sad After Sex

I surmise that countless people experience sadness after sex. Psychologists call this psychological phenomenon “postcoital tristresse.”

It’s a feeling of unfulfillment in the sexual act, especially when something deeper or permanent is desired or hungered for in the physical expression of love.

Such is a familiar scene.

A woman in her 40s, Georgina tries to experience love by giving herself away sexually to men. She goes to one sexual relationship after another, yet never feeling satisfied.

Lito is a gay law student. He lives in with a boyfriend, with whom he has frequent sex. Most of the time, he admits feelings of emptiness in his life despite the relationship. One day, his boyfriend abandoned him, leaving him suicidally depressed.

A married family man, Pedro, goes to the condo of his girlfriend with lots of passionate kissing. Compared to his bad mouthed wife, his girlfriend takes care of him, cooks for him, and laughs with him. Still, something constantly disturbs him within.

Tito goes from one massage parlor and spa to another, paying women for extra service. These women, with fake names to declog him of stress, seem to give him a temporary feeling of being loved or embraced as he is. He keeps coming back for he’s never full.

Here is one horny senior citizen, Cesar, at age 68. He looks for girls who are 18 to feed his lust. The more he gets what he wants, the more he feels lonely and unconnected. He eventually sees a psychotherapist who helps him sort out his long time unresolved pains.

Such is the loneliness and emptiness of a sexual seeker who continues to search for satisfaction in a series of static encounters. Here is what’s common: in the addicted, fixed sexual pattern of behavior, what always comes out is the feeling of “futility of going nowhere.” At times, it’s conscience that bothers.

What’s wrong with the picture?

Ultimately, it’s intimacy that we long for in our relationships. Deeper waters, getting close emotionally to someone other than sex. To be able to experience genuine connection – a feeling of being unconditionally loved as you are, as a whole being.

As psychotherapist and writer Dr. Rollo May put it, “In remembering our sexual experiences, it’s the intimacy that is remembered, not the orgasm.”

But, even as best as it can be, human connection remains limited. No human intimacy can give you 100% satisfaction. We’re all created to need more than what is human in our lives.