People usually like to start new relationships with a clean slate, but if you’re holding onto a cheating past, should you tell your new partner about it?
Matchmaker and dating coach Terran Shea of Mutual Match says being honest with your new partner is the best policy.
“It is better to be up front and honest from the beginning if you’ve cheated in the past,” she tells Global News. “At some point, it will come up.”
“If it’s something that bothers you or is important to you, go ahead and tell them all about it. However, you’re not required to reveal everything about your past,” she tells Global News.
“Talking about previous relationships can help you and your partner to plan for your current relationship. It offers insight into your strengths and vulnerabilities, and if cheating is part of your history, it might be helpful to talk about it.”
Talking about past relationships
It’s a common rule never to bring up exes on the first date, but Shea says at some point in your relationship, you’re going to have to talk about past lovers.
And for the most part, the new partner in your life will want to know how it ended. If cheating is a factor, it’s probably in your best interest to come clean.
“If this person is somebody who is going to be in your life long term, keeping secrets from them is probably not a good thing,” she says.
She adds you don’t have to tell the person every little dirty secret, but if cheating was the main reason your last relationship ended, it’s time to fess up.
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According to author The Between Boyfriends Book Cindy Chupack, it is also important for people to know they shouldn’t be afraid to talk about their past, she said in Oprah magazine.
“If your [partner] can listen to your sad stories and accept you for who you are (and who you were), maybe [he or she is] your happily ever after.”
How common is cheating?
A 2015 report from Mainstreet Research found 10 per cent of Canadians (more men than women) have cheated on their spouse, and 22 per cent have seriously considered it, according to the National Post.
Shea adds the word “cheating” is also attached to so many negative connotations and it can mean everything from flirting to sex.
“It is something done behind someone else’s back and if two people have a commitment to each other, one person is breaking it.”
But O’Reilly says it is much more common.
“More than half of us will cheat at some point in our lives, but doing something once doesn’t mean that we’ll do it again,” she says, which discredits the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater.”
When mutual friends are involved
But what if you had a one-night stand with a friend who is still in your life? Shea says if this friend is going to be present at gatherings, your new partner is going to eventually pick up on it.
“It is better to be up front about it,” she says. “Tell them, ‘Years ago we slept together and nothing came of it.'”
She says this is better than your partner finding out on their own at a later date, which can be destructive to your relationship and your friendship with the other person.
Dealing with a cheater
For anyone on the other end of this situation, taking in someone’s cheating past can be hard. But Shea says it’s not black and white — the reasons for cheating are diverse and complicated.
Psychology Today notes some of the most common reasons people cheat include a lack of emotional satisfaction, a desire for sexual encounters and the fact that the person has probably fallen out of love.
Shea says it’s important to have open communication and figure out the reasons why the person cheated in the first place.
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“It’s about finding out if the person learned from it and decided they never want to do it again,” she says. “It comes down to the relationship and how much you care about the person.”
She explains if you’re married or have children, it may be best to forgive the former cheater and move on. Counselling or couples therapy can also be useful if trust becomes an issue.
And allow the former cheater to take responsibility, O’Reilly says.
“If they take responsibility for their cheating [and] don’t blame others for their actions, they’re ready to move on and cultivate a healthy, happy relationship.”