Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Can a Leopard Change His/Her Spots?

You all know how much I like hearing from you.  I love getting your messages (it’s easy to reach me via the OnSugar system, Twitter DM, facebook).  Not so much the angry/nonsensical tirades in the comments section, but they’re easy enough to delete.

Well, a couple days ago I got a message that kind of stopped me in my tracks.  Here is the message, verbatim, “I have never been faithful in my entire life. And when I got married I thought I would but I’m still cheating”.

I didn’t recognize the username and didn’t know, at first, if it was a man or woman who’d sent the message.  I have to admit that my first assumption was that it was a guy.  I was wrong.  The person who’d sent it has a complete OnSugar profile page and she is a woman.  I should’ve known better than to assume.

I thought about the message for a while, and the person who’d sent it.  Usually when people who send me messages (if it’s someone I haven’t heard from before) they are either writing to share a personal story, seek advice, or lend me their support when they think I might need it (I always need it).

This seemed different.  And intriguing.  I wrote her back and asked her if I could share her message on the blog and she said yes.  Which leads me to this weeks poll question.

Do you think it’s possible for a person to just start being faithful, assuming this person wanted to be in a traditional monogamous relationship (which is a choice, there are options to this – yay options) even if s/he had never successfully stayed faithful to his/her partner in the past? 

Can a cheating leopard change his/her spots?

  • Yes. This is ridiculous. If a person wants to be faithful then they should just NOT . (21 votes)
  • No. If a person had a lifelong habit of infidelity I think it’s unlikely that they’d be able to unlearn that behavior. (36 votes)
  • It depends on how hard they try. A person can accomplish anything with the right effort and support (and maybe therapy). (77 votes)
  • Other. Please explain in the comments. (2 votes)

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8 to “Can a Leopard Change His/Her Spots?”


  1. dazediva says:

    oooh I’m the 3rd Voter on ‘it depends on how hard they try’ and also the first comment today woohooo

    sorry excitement got to me here ….

    A person who has known to cheat in the past CAN change … it would definitely take time (weeks, months, a year) …. It could also be that they have been in relationships which were ‘not so significant’ for them which caused them to cheat … there are so many reasons a person cheats … low self confidence / self esteem; previous failed relationships; they have been cheated on before; they may not have set boundaries on the relationship with their partner (person A might think they are ‘dating’ whilst person B might think they are ‘seeing each other’ .. apparently there is a difference in how people perceive each phrase to be !)

    One of my ex boyfriends from years ago was a notorious player – he was known to hook up with various women etc and somehow I ended up dating him … for a whole year … the time we were together – I know and am aware that he never cheated on me (I lived in a small city word would have spread) … but when I went away to university within 2 months – I had heard from someone over MSN of all things that he was cheating on me … He had changed for a while but since I wasn’t around .. he started again … This was 10 years ago … and I have known him to cheat on numerous women since then … including his NOW WIFE … he got married a few months ago – and has changed his way altogether …

    Sometimes a person just has to meet someone who they know they just couldn’t even think of hurting in the slightest way … I know that it’s not justifiable … but some people are like that … Everyone else they meet are just ‘not the one’ so in their mind since they already don’t see it as a LTR – its a way of allowing themselves to cheat …

    I don’t applaud cheating – nor would I encourage it – I have been cheated on and couldn’t think of doing that to someone I care about at all … I feel that it’s wrong and disrespectful so I wouldn’t do it … saying that – I have friends who have cheated – and they honestly believe they haven’t really done anything wrong especially since those relationships haven’t had clear cut boundaries …

    Brilliant topic .. I could go on … but I’ll just stop now !

  2. pansophy says:

    I voted no (I think twice somehow). We’re basically talking about someone who has said they want to be in a committed relationship and then acted differently across multiple partners. The fact that they thought this behavior would stop ‘after they got married’ tells me that they actually have no idea why they cheat to begin with.

    I’ve never met someone who has cheated on the person they ultimately get married to and then stop once they get married (male or female) – maybe its less frequent but it doesn’t disappear. I have met people who have cheated on other partners, but then meet someone they don’t cheat on and get married to that person (and continue to stay faithful).

    When you are completely out of alignment with yourself (i.e., you say you want to be faithful and then cheat), you really aren’t in a place to have conscious choice about it. In principle all this could get figured out (in therapy or otherwise) and the behavior could change. But usually the partner one got married to was selected based on the old patterns and I think its unlikely that new faithful patterns would take hold in a marriage (or relationship) that cheating has been taking place in.

    I would love to be wrong here, but my take is that if faithfulness is truly important to this person then the pathway:
    1. Figure out why unfaithful and deal with those issues
    2. That fundamentally changes who the person is and therefore changes dynamics of current marriage
    3. Current marriage not able to change with new understanding and changes – choice is made to either dissolve the marriage or continue as is (which likely includes infidelity).
    4. If marriage ends, try to find a partner that fits new paradigm.

    Personally I put a higher stake in personal transformation than staying married to stay married, but not everyone does. In any case, I think its highly unlikely that she is ever faithful to her current husband whether she cheats once every few days or once every few years.

  3. Honey Smith says:

    I put “other” because I think that it does depend – it’s a hard habit to break, but CAN be broken with the right partner. But then you have to be open to finding the right partner and stop settling for things that don’t make you happy and lead you to cheat.

  4. Veka says:

    I voted, “It depends on how hard they try.” One of my best friends is 7 months pregnant and married, and her husband recently cheated on her. To my knowledge, he never cheated on her before they were married. He would always threaten her with cheating, but never followed through until now (which, by the way, is a total dick thing to do in the first place, to threaten to cheat on someone). The only reason she is staying with him is because of the baby (which ties into Pansophy’s comment of staying married to stay married) since she can’t raise a child on her own. She doesn’t think he’ll do it again, but this guy is such a piece of work I unfortunately don’t have high hopes (I don’t think this leopard will change his spots).

    On the other hand, she is also someone who has cheated before (not sure in how many of her relationships), but she felt terrible afterward and swore she’d never do it again. I can honestly say that she’s never cheated on her husband and no matter how badly he mistreats her, I don’t think she will cheat on him. I think she falls into the category of “It depends on how hard they try.”

  5. aGirlNamedMe says:

    I’ve cheated in a relationship (or two), that doesn’t mean I’m a cheater. I’ve been cheated on in a relationship. People make mistakes and do inappropriate things to resolve the unhappy feelings they are having (drink/eat too much, kick the dog, cheat, whatever). That doesn’t mean they will always make those same decisions. Yeah, I’ve been to therapy.

  6. Quirkily says:

    Lifelong is quite subjective. If the lady was in her 20s I’d say there’s still time for her to evaluate herself. If the lady is middle aged and hasn’t taken the time to understand why she is a chronic cheater, I’d say she won’t change because she still doesn’t understand what her own underlying motivation is. Yes people can always change but I consider it the exception rather then the norm.

    From the limited info that you were given it sounds like she was expecting marriage to be a magic switch.

  7. Simone Grant says:

    -First, Honey Smith, welcome to the blog. Interesting that you mentioned that she’d have to stop settling. I’m quite sure that’s at the heart of it. So many people are in relationships and get married because they are “supposed to.

    I love how balanced and thoughtful everyones the responses here are. The truth is never black and white. Quirkily said something that really spoke to me, “she was expecting marriage to be a magic switch”. That’s what it seemed like to me. That once she was officially committed she would “do right”. And I think that the woman in question is probably not alone in this.

  8. angelbaby2 says:

    i think that if they cheat all of their lives, that there is a good chance that they will continue to do that. It could be a multiple of reasons. However, I also think that people can change if they want to. So who knows? I myself would never get involved knowingly with someone who has been a cheat their whole life.