Some men who cheat during relationships leave. Others stay. The difference between the two is that the first leaves to pursue the same behavior with a new woman, and the second group leaves to pursue new women but comes back “home” periodically to enjoy the benefits of a committed relationship. Usually, this can only be changed with the man recognizing the destructiveness of the behavior and/or the woman seeking counseling to seek other options for herself.
I often have callers who ask if their man will return after leaving a relationship. Sometimes, I have to say that I see them “gone.” Their significant other has left the scene in order to play out his idea of a relationship with a fresh person. It will be the same idea of the way he feels a relationship should go, just with a different person. This includes cheating on the new individual the way he did with the former. Men don’t cheat because the other person drives them to it – they cheat because they want (or even need) to in order to fulfill their model of what a relationship should be. (Games People Play, a popular book from the 1970s which breaks down the “mind games” that people play with each other, would have described it as living out their “script.”)
When some individuals ask if the man will return, I must tell them that he will – over and over again, unfortunately. Serial cheaters enjoy being in so-called committed relationships, but have no idea (and possibly no desire) as to how to go about nurturing one. He is interested in immediate emotional gratification and not long-term fulfillment. If a woman accepts his behavior – and, heart-breakingly, many will – he has absolutely no incentive to change. Many women question if it will be different “this time,” and I have to tell them that most likely the behavior will continue to be repeated. What is the incentive for the man to change? He has the best of both worlds – a stable relationship when he wants one, and a newer, more exciting one right on call when he wants that instead.
Women are best served by realizing that the way to deal with these types of relationships – both with men who cheat and leave, and with men who cheat and return (and return and return and return . . . ) – is by realizing that they deserve, and can receive, better, and that counseling can do wonders not only in helping to make the break but also to develop new expectations in relationships. There is always room for taking a break from destructive relationship patterns, in order to stop and gain more understanding of them. In many cases, understanding ourselves better is all we need to end old habits and cycles. And everyone deserves better than to be cheated on.