Advice: Cheating Partners

Advice on the patterns of infidelity and how to overcome jealousy.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on January 1, 2004 - last reviewed on March 26, 2009

I have been engaged twice before. Both men cheated on me;
this made me angry because I was honest with them and I want to start a
family ASAP. However, a married colleague at work made me feel sexy
again. We started a relationship a year ago. (My second fiance and
I split since I realized that I could not trust him and felt guilty as
well.) My lover's wife threw him out; he moved in with me, and
his wife filed for divorce. (His three young children like me.)
I've discovered that he is flirting with others. He wants to
marry me but I can't control my jealousy. He declares that he has
changed and I believe him. I deeply want us to make things work. Did I
make the right decision?

Whoa, girl. Are you looking for a sperm donor or a husband? Your
haste to start a family is already leaving a body count. Raising kids is
hard work (very much worth it, but it takes a couple of decades to enjoy
any return on investment). You need to choose a partner who's going
to stick around and share the work.

Do you really think it's an accident that you have such a
perfect record for choosing cheaters? And being one? What ideas do you
have about men, women, marriage and/or sexuality that make you gravitate
toward this behavior?

Hooking up with a proven cheater is also guaranteed to give a
vigorous workout to your already out-of-control jealousy. But dahlink,
it's not about him. Your letter contains some pretty clear clues
("he made me feel sexy," "he wants to marry me,"
"his children like me") to the source of your
jealousy—insecurity about your own lovability. This insecurity
could be prompting you to declare eternal love to whomever pays attention
to you. That seems to be your maximum criterion for a mate, when it
should be the minimum. Is a potential partner nice? Loyal? Reliable? Can
he hold a job? Can he keep his fly zipped? You must look within yourself
and take steps to believe you are worthy of being loved and worthy of a
partner who has such attributes, maybe even more.