Cheating in a committed, monogamous relationship is unacceptable. No matter who’s to blame and who wanted to “take a break”, cheating is a sure shot way to end a relationship. Serial cheaters are even worse. They go from relationship to relationship and cheat endlessly.
Who would want to waste their time and feelings on someone who is sure to cheat? If you want to avoid dating someone who would eventually cheat, you need to know the traits of a serial cheater. Just move out of the relationship when you spot these.
A serial cheater is a mastermind. Unlike Don Draper, who was ruggedly handsome, it is not fair to assume only good-looking successful fellows can be serial cheaters. The good looks certainly help but there are many traits of a serial cheater that have nothing to do with the face.
Getting caught in the rut of being cheated on repeatedly by someone you love so dearly is only going to take a toll on your mental health and sense of self. To help you protect yourself from such lasting damage, we’re here to shed light on the male and female serial cheaters personality traits, with insights from forensic clinical psychologist Shincy Nair Amin (M.Phil., Forensic Psychology), who specializes in working with sexual assault victims and sexual offenders, counseling for depression and anxiety, and is a certified life coach
Who Can Be Called A Serial Cheater?
Cheating says a lot about a person, and anyone who has crossed the line of fidelity has a lot to answer for. However, when it comes to a serial cheater, the pursuit of the forbidden fruit becomes a different ball game altogether.
A serial cheater is a person in a committed, monogamous relationship who purposefully and deliberately seeks extramarital romantic relationships. Unlike most cases of infidelity where people’s circumstances lead them down the path of unfaithfulness, women or men who are serial cheaters actively seek out opportunities to stray.
When normal people cheat, despite it being a conscious decision to cross a line, they’re aware of their mistake and grapple with an imposing sense of cheating guilt. However, serial cheaters in marriage or long-term relationships suffer from no such feelings of remorse or guilt.
That’s because one of the most defining characteristics of serial cheaters is that they don’t view cheating as a mistake. If you’re looking for serial cheater personality traits, keep an eye out for these:
- Cheating is valid: Serial cheaters in marriage or committed relationships don’t view their transgressions as wrong or hurtful. To them, cheating is valid
- I cheat but I love you: Cheating while in a relationship and then going back to tell their partner, “I love you so much”, is one of the telling personality characteristics of cheaters
- Guilt-free: A serial cheater doesn’t experience any cheating guilt. Not for long anyway because in their mind their actions are legitimate
- Infidelity on a loop: She or he keeps on cheating again and again. Another one of the serial cheater personality traits is that infidelity is not a one-off incident. They will cheat with many people while in a relationship and keep doing it in every relationship they get into
- No room to change: A serial cheater may tell you that this was the last time. It won’t happen again. They’re turning over a new leaf. You’re the only one who matters. They and you both know that’s not going to happen. Serial cheaters in marriage or relationships are people who don’t want to change, even if they do everything to make you believe otherwise
- Cheating is second nature: A serial cheater, as the name suggests, cheats. A lot. Over the years. Over partners. Over drinks and over business meetings. They might not want exclusivity on the sexual front just because they are already in a relationship
Related Reading: What To Do When You’re In A Relationship With A Womanizer
Serial Cheating Psychology
Now that you understand the key characteristics of serial cheaters, let’s take a look at why they do what they do. After all, understanding the cheating man personality or spotting the serial cheater traits in the woman you love isn’t going to be enough to blunt the hurt such a partner may cause. But understanding serial cheating psychology can help you make sense of the turmoil their actions bring in your life and give you clarity on how you want to deal with such a relationship.
Shedding light on serial cheating psychology, Shincy says “Serial cheating can be defined as a “repeated pattern of looking out for people for sexual relationships other than their own partner, without knowledge or consent of the present partner.” This behavior can be seen in both males and females.”
As a result, you can find some similarities in the male and female serial cheaters’ personality traits as well as the underlying triggers for their behavior patterns. “A scientific study conducted on the Spanish population to understand reasons for serial cheating especially among adolescents and young adults showed that committing an act of infidelity for either sexual or emotional reasons was related to an increased level of psychological well-being as it raises their levels of self-esteem.
“It can be said that this ‘Cheater’s high’, which means emotional and psychological satisfaction from unethical behavior, is derived from perceived gains (social, financial or other), increased sense of autonomy, a feel-good factor, a sense of thrill from taking risks or getting away with something,” she elaborates.
If it’s the thrill and gratification that keeps them going, why do serial cheaters get married, you may wonder. Or for that matter, why do serial cheaters want to stay married when they derive their gratification from a series of extramarital liaisons?
Shincy explains that much like any other aspect of human behavior, serial cheating psychology cannot be painted with a single brush. “Interestingly, not all cheaters cheat for the same reasons. Psychologically, serial cheaters and habitual liars can be said to have personality traits of psychopathy, addictive behavior, antisocial personality, narcissism and others. These can stem from any mood disorders, sexual addiction, underlying childhood traumas like a broken home, abuse, low self-esteem or feelings of unworthiness, and insecure attachment styles stemming from them.
“However, cheating is a violation of trust and most victims of cheating go through emotional turmoil questioning their worth or their fault for the failure of that relationship. One needs to understand that it has nothing to do with the person being cheated; all boils down to the offender/cheater and their self-destructive tendencies.
“That being said, being cheated on still remains a scarring experience. Fortunately, there are certain warning signs to identify male or female serial cheaters’ personality traits and know if a person you’re in a relationship with or interested in is on this spectrum,” she adds.
Related Reading: 5 Excuses Your Partner Gives For Cheating On You
15 Warning Traits Of A Serial Cheater You Should Never Ignore
For starters, you should always know that serial cheaters have been cheating for a really long time. They have excuses. Lots of them. As Shincy pointed out, serial cheating woman or cheating man personality can be a manifestation of narcissism or psychopathy. However, if you’ve ever dealt with one, you’d know how hard exposing a narcissist can be since they are incapable of seeing their own mistakes. Likewise, sociopaths can be master manipulators who can keep you caught in the web of lies they spin around you.
All in all, Serial cheaters got their bag full of Santa excuses; well because both Santa and their excuses are not real. They have a perfect answer for every little question you may have and know just what to say to allay your doubts: “Why weren’t you answering your phone for the last three hours?” “Oh! sorry babe, I left it in my office.”
The smoothness with which they can lie to cover up their transgressions and the justifications they come up with when caught make identifying serial cheater personality traits a lot harder. “Most common traits of serial cheaters are being less empathetic, disinterested and self-obsessed. Such individuals possess certain attributes that can help you identify a serial cheater in them,” says Shincy. If you can’t shake off the feeling that you’re in a relationship with a serial cheater, pay attention to these tell-tale signs:
1. They have indulged in infidelity before
Infidelity is not new for them. They might admit to the fact that one drunken night was the ruin of their most important relationship. The promises of “but I am a different person now” might convince you that they’ve left their cheating ways behind. But the fundamental characteristics of serial cheaters just make it impossible for this wishful thought to come to fruition.
One such characteristic is a complete absence of lingering guilt. Even if they feel guilty, the feeling is fleeting at best. The phrase “once a cheater, always a repeater” stands true in their case. Explaining why it is so, Shincy says, “Serial cheaters are known to exhibit an antisocial or sociopathic attitude, marked by a constant disregard for rules and loyalty toward everyone in their lives.”
2. Blame their exes way too much
People with serial cheater personality traits will always put the blame on their exes for the doom of the relationships. They do not want responsibility for their actions and their exes will mostly be discussed in a bad light. All of their exes before you were simply not good enough
In a way, it is to show that they themselves are harmless and that their past relationships ended because of no fault of their own. Among the many traits of a serial cheater, this one comes out in the open easily. When they are caught cheating, they don’t shy away from pinning the blame on their partners either. “Look what you made me do” is the serial cheaters’ motto.
“Serial cheaters in marriage or committed relationships exhibit blaming behavior. If you’re looking to identify a serial cheater, the most common and reliable trait is their tendency to always blame others for their bad behavior or fault. They can make the most impressive mental acrobats to prove that others are responsible for their terrible or miserable actions,” says Shincy.
3. They groom a lot
You need to look good for your prey to notice you, right? Men usually do not care about their looks too much. But if yours goes the extra mile to look good, especially when stepping out, it can be a sign you’re in a relationship with a serial cheater.
He might be indulging in a side affair without your knowledge. Men who are serial cheaters are unusually conscious of their looks. Likewise, if your woman is curling her hair more than often or changing her favorite shade of lipstick, there’s a possibility her side beau likes that particular shade.
We may feel it is normal, but it is a warning sign of cheating we all ignore. An unusual focus on looks and grooming habits can indicate you are about to have a heartbreak.
4. What’s with the sudden secrecy, babe?
Lying has to come naturally to a serial cheater. It is indeed one of the strongest traits of a serial cheater. And because smartphones are the holy grail of a person’s interests, purchases, Google searches, the evidence of the lying will be in his gadget which he will be very secretive about.
Does he not use his phone much when he is with you? Do calls go unattended? Or he simply does not keep the phone with him? Have his passcodes changed? All the secrecy about his gadgets is among the big clues about him being a serial cheater.
Ashlyn, who was married to a man who just couldn’t uphold the vows of fidelity, says that his being sneaky in a relationship made her smell a rat and dig deeper. “The cheating man personality traits started becoming apparent when my husband began hiding things from me and then lying to cover his tracks.
Over time my suspicions got the better of me, and one night, I started looking through his phone after he had fallen asleep. Lo and behold, there were not one but three women he was sleeping with on the sly. Why do serial cheaters get married, I’ll never understand,” she says.
Related Reading:15 Shocking Things Cheaters Say When Confronted
5. Too charming to your friends
Another one of the defining serial cheater personality traits is their inherent charm. They have a way of channelizing it no matter where they are. They can charm your socks off and are socially smooth as butter. And because they like the thrill of the chase, their charm meter is always on.
Sometimes even strangers are taken over by how pleasing they can really be. A serial cheater will not stop at charming just you and strangers. While meeting your friends too, they will talk their ears off, and in all possibility, your friends will love them.
6. No feeling of remorse
Remorse is something that does not figure among the serial cheater personality traits. Guilt is simply not their thing, and if you wonder why a cheater would cheat again, it is practically this no feeling of remorse. I mean serial cheaters possibly cannot feel remorse otherwise they can’t continue cheating.
They have done it once and they will do it again. Any bit of remorse that’s there can be compensated by adoring their partner with gifts very frequently. It is just as easy for them to go on a business trip, bed another person and come back with a souvenir they picked up from the airport for their partner. Serial cheaters believe there is nothing wrong with them ever. They can never be at fault.
This lack of remorse stems from the adrenaline rush and feelings of satisfaction that cheating brings to them. When something makes you feel so good about yourself, it’s hard to look down upon it. “A cheating man personality can be identified by their proclivity for risk and sensation seeking. The same is also true of female serial cheaters’ personality traits. Though this is an exciting trait to fall for and is seen as the foundation of attraction among many young couples, this adrenaline-seeking behavior can seep into the love life and tend to make them cheaters,” says Shincy.
7. Cannot commit
Do they still have Tinder or Grindr on their phone after you have made things official? This means they are not ready to commit fully or at all. They are not really commitment-phobes, but they know that they do not want to commit.
Being cautious when you’ve just started dating and taking things slow is a different matter. A serial cheater, on the other hand, just doesn’t have it in them to commit to a partner 100%. Sure, there might be commitment issues at play. They may not have realized the characteristics of serial cheaters fueling their behavior are, in fact, the result of underlying issues.
This becomes an even bigger threat to a relationship in these tech-driven times when all the avenues to cheat are just a click away. So, when Paul says he still hasn’t uninstalled Tinder because “it’s a good time pass” and Karen believes him, what she doesn’t realize is that Paul has been sexting two women while in bed with her.
If caught, he may even totally negate your argument that sexting qualifies as cheating in a relationship. Not being fully committed could also mean they have relationship PTSD from the past. But all the signs mixed together can mean trouble.
8. Can manipulate what people think about them
You will have to give it to them, they are smart as hell and can change the way people see them. A little crying, a little laughter, with some emotional manipulation thrown in the mix, and they get away with their actions.
Not just that, women or men who are serial cheaters also have a way of making people empathize with them despite everything. If someone is getting close to catching them for their infidelity, they might start the pity parade or just about how stressed up they are of late.
And let’s face it – saying “I feel like killing myself” will make everyone worried about you and the distraction from the truth is granted.
9. A bit of a narcissist
They cannot pass a mirror without fixing their hair. They like the world revolving around them and are a bit of an attention whore. Another sure-shot trait of a serial cheater – they believe themselves to be the best. And when they do not get the appreciation they think they deserve for doing the least possible thing, they step outside with their charm to seek it from someone else.
Narcissism and serial cheating are highly correlated. They like being told they are great and who better to tell them that than strangers they meet at the bar? Shincy agrees, “Narcissism is a telling personality trait to identify a serial cheater. Such people have a tendency to always look for others to feed their egos. Behind the flamboyance, a narcissist is insecure and needs others to make them feel worth by constant reassurance. Hence, it becomes difficult for them to understand others’ wishes or feel remorse or guilt for their actions.”
10. A social butterfly
One of the defining characteristics of serial cheaters is their outgoing nature. They like to party, socialize and be the center of attention wherever they go. Partying is second nature to them, and they will indulge in it, with or without you. They mostly have friends to go to parties with. And it’s not just alcohol.
Gambling, substance abuse plays a role in a serial cheater’s life. When the inhibitions get lower, things happen. When you get to know them up close, it’s not hard to identify a serial cheater. After all, they are the bearers of relationship red flags. The tricky thing though is that despite seeing the worrying behavior patterns, you may fall for their charming, smooth-talking ways.
Serial cheaters are master manipulators and would go to any extent to make your sense of reality warped to make sure you don’t walk out of them. So, is serial cheating abuse? Given the emotional damage it can cause to the person being cheated on, it most certainly is.
11. No control over flirting
There is no such thing as harmless flirting with serial cheaters. They flirt. A lot. And casually throwing the term around to extract the importance from it because just like they said – it was harmless.
Buying a drink for a stranger in a bar. Paying compliments to your friend for her perfectly sculpted body. Casually making physical contact with a coworker. Giving a once-over to a ‘hottie’ passing you by in a mall.
Women or men who are serial cheaters like to put themselves out there. And flirting is their best recourse for doing so successfully. Even if you disapprove, a serial cheater would not stop flirting. The most solid trait of a serial cheater is that they continue to cheat, even when they know they are hurting you.
Related Reading: My Boyfriend Is Flirting Online With Other Girls
12. Their friends drop hints
Even chronic cheaters can have a morally-high friend circle. If you have gotten hints from them about your partner being with too many people at the same time, don’t downplay it. Friends know more personal things from the past that you might be privy to in your relationship with a serial cheater.
They tend to be more subtle about it and might dismiss them as a light-hearted joke (because they don’t want you to break up), but the hints are always present. Pay attention to whether your partner is wary of introducing you to his friends. Or at least, tries to steer clear of the possibility of you socializing with them a lot.
Do their friends’ comments or know-it-all expressions make your partner squirm? Do they jump to change the topic and steer the conversation into safer waters? These could well all be attempts to hide from you the fact that she or he keeps on cheating again and again.
13. You get quizzical glances from the opposite sex
Has it happened that you walked in into a party with him and after being introduced as his partner someone kept looking at you quizzically? This is a classic tell-tale sign that the person, maybe someone they were going around with earlier, is trying to fathom what kind of a relationship you share with them now.
Or perhaps, your partner was hanging out with the same group of people with a different ‘partner’ by their side just days ago. Know that narcissists cannot maintain intimate relationships.
14. They are organized
With all the lies, the secrets, the sleeping around, they need to be organized. They are like serial killers who have their kill weapons pre-planned. For serial cheaters, the kill weapon is their mind and they want everything to be like they like them. There is no scope for any mistake.
Also, being organized will help you answer questions from your partner about your whereabouts last night. If you want to truly understand whether your partner displays the personality characteristics of cheaters, study their responses when you ask them questions regarding their whereabouts.
A serial cheater will always have an elaborate story, complete with hilarious incidents and detailed information about the surroundings and circumstances, ready for you. And they will have it rehearsed so well, that they’d repeat it word for word, no matter how many times you ask.
15. That unshakable gut feeling
I am not saying you throw your partner out because you have a gut feeling that they’re serial cheaters in marriage or relationships. But don’t ignore it either. Most of the time, our gut tells us things our mind hasn’t quite accepted.
Even if you trust your partner completely and your gut does a somersault about the way things are in your relationship, don’t let the feeling go.
Serial cheaters are not common to come by. But if you do end up in a relationship with one, it can wreck you for a long, long time. For their part, women or men who are serial cheaters won’t even wince once before betraying your trust and dishonoring the vows of commitment. “Fooled you once, will fool you again and again” – that’s what makes them tick.
“Look out for these traits when you enter a relationship, as researchers have concluded that men who stray cannot keep a poker face and can be predicted by a decent degree of accuracy but interestingly women who cheat are pretty much impossible to read,” advises Shincy. So, female serial cheaters’ personality traits can be a lot harder to decode than cheating man personality.
If you have a niggling doubt that something is amiss, keep a keen eye and don’t overlook the subtle warning signs staring you in the face. And once you see your partner displaying more than a handful of these serial cheater personality traits, sit back, take stock of the situation and decide your future course of action.
No, if there is one thing serial cheaters are incapable of feeling, it is remorse. That’s because, to their mind, all their actions are justified. It is this mindset that keeps them hooked on cheating over and over again.
No, serial cheater personality traits are almost always a result of underlying personality disorders such as narcissism. Unless a person recognizes that they have a problem and is willing to seek help for it, they cannot change.
Serial cheaters get and stay married because on some level they too want a companion to share their life with. Even so, he keeps on cheating again and again because of two reasons – they can’t live without it and they know they can get away with it.