Can a cheating spouse ever reform?

by Alisa Bowman on July 1, 2009

Q: My husband has cheated on me many, many times. I don’t think he’ll ever stop. I know I should leave him, but I can’t. I still love him! There is no one else I’d rather be with! So I’m wondering: will he ever stop cheating? Am I just wasting my time? How can I mend my broken marriage?—Please Make Him Stop

Dear Please Make Him Stop,

There’s one thing I can say about my husband with great certainty. He’s not a cheater. I’ve never once caught him checking out another woman. He doesn’t have female friends. He doesn’t flirt. It’s just not in his DNA.

Because of this, I found your question very tough to answer. Will your husband ever stop cheating? Perhaps, but probably only if you Bobbit him. (Please know that I am not suggesting this as a remedy to your problem.)

But what do I know? Really. This is out of my area of experience.

For a credible opinion on the matter, I turned to a friend who was once in your exact situation. Her first husband cheated on her repeatedly. She was a stay at home mom who raised three kids. He was a dad who wanted to do it with any woman but his wife.

I sent her your question. Here’s her advice:

You’ve already answered some of your own questions. You say, “He’s cheated on me numerous times.” You say, “I don’t think he’ll ever stop.” Go with your gut. You already know that staying with your husband any longer is just a waste of precious time. You deserve better treatment, a better relationship, and a better life. Your children will respect you more and have a better self esteem if they see that you will not allow yourself to be made unhappy and abused. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.

He is choosing to cheat on you. You might think this is about the other woman, that they hold some power over him. It’s not about the women, though. It’s about him. He’s choosing not to exert self control.

You say you love him. Can you love him with the cheating part of his personality? Because that’s who he is. My first husband had the same personality issues. At first, I was like you. I thought I could mend my marriage, I thought I could change myself so that he wouldn’t think these other women were so great. I have 3 kids, grown now, and I didn’t want my family to break up. I didn’t want to lose my dreams about the future that I had envisioned. But, after too long of a time I finally became so disgusted that I realized that anything would be better than living with a cheating, lying husband. I wanted my peace of mind back. I wanted my children to live in a peaceful atmosphere. I have never regretted filing for divorce. I do regret taking so long to do it.

See? She’s great. I think her advice is right on the money. The only thing I would add is this. I think your main problem is a lack of self esteem and self worth. You don’t realize that you deserve better. The day you realize that? You will become a powerful woman.

Do you have any advice for Please Make Him Stop? Leave a comment.

A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

deb March 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I have been with my boyfriend for 8 months. About 3weeks ago I got a funny feeling and started to snoop. I found he was on 26 different dating web sites. I confronted him and he said he just did not delete them . Then I looked at his phone and found text messages. He said the dates are wrong on them. I do not trust him now. He said he would never cheat on me and even wants to marry me soon. Should I cut my losses and move out?


que August 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Boyfriend? I hope you’ve left him by now. He is not your husband and he knows it. As women we’ve got to learn not to fall in these traps. You should be excited knowing your not married to him. Why don’t you get a life without him. The only reason they keep certain women longer is for permanent pu**y. Yes ladies that’s all the majority of them think of us. How long they have to wait to get it and how much do it cost. Your heart and mind means nothing. Well, maybe the heart it’s against the law to have sex with a corpse.


JO April 2, 2013 at 11:29 pm

OKAY…. so i must be out of my mind, for the past few years i have been on and off with what i believed to be the apple of my eye, the love of my life whatever you get my drift. However he cheated 2 years ago, rang me balling his eyes out, he slipped up, ‘fucked everything’- he kissed another girl.
from then on everything went down hill, the up then DOWN ! Things didnt sound or feel right, i brushed them off thinking i was paranoid and insecure as he always had an excuse for not answering his phone or why he never left his phone unattanded. i had a few ppl mostly females tell me that they thought he was single and we broke up again.
i got told that the kiss wasnt just a kiss and that the affair went long on after i took him back, i thought they were conflicting girls causing trouble.
it wasnt till recently. when i i was briefly talking to one of his friends about my hurt and confusion and he mentioned a girls name, one i never heard of i asked him to repeat and spill what the EFF he knew, he thought i knew then all the other secrets, bragging and lies and other girls- they all fell into place. it all made sense. i ended it. we got back together after a few months, it ended again for a month. i thought i was okay alone. we are now what i think is back together. what the fuk am i doing/thinking/ feeling and how does it stop will it all stop?


que August 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm

No, it will never stop! Not unless your praying to God that he will change. Sounds like when he’s not getting sex by his other women , he wants you back. He’s not going to say it to you but he’s horny and wants to bust a nut and he knows what to say to you to get the pu**y. It’s mean, cruel, and harsh but its Truth!


JO August 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

we have been going well for the past few months, he go a new job moved town, quit smoking (weed) and doesnt talk to girls (that im aware of) i practically live with him so he doesnt have a chance or time to play up even if he wanted to. his phone is now left un attented and is never on silent. he isnt paranoid and insecure like he used to be and feels more secure. helps cook dinner, leaves cute notes for me around the house occasionally, cleans up and mentions me in the majority of phone calls made (im no longer that secret that he is single) asks every day how my day is and we actually can have decent conversations now. he does little thoughtful things that he never used to and is trying every day to make a consistant effort. he tells me who he talks to that day without me asking and doesnt question everything i do anymore. im hoping this is going in the right direction for a better life, relationship and future. he wants to settle, he admits his wrong doing and doesnt want thay shit anymore. is this all something that will wear off??

que August 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

He could be a changed man. What type of phone does he have? My soon to be ex husband has taught me a lot about secret apps that hide, phone calls, photos, text message, and pictures. Don’t be ignorant of how far they will go to deceive you. They will go to counseling. Do house work, look after the kids. Whatever they have to do to get you back under their authority, they will do it.

Jo August 11, 2013 at 5:46 pm

He just has like a tradie nokia phone, nothing flash just something that wont break if dropped.I guess time will tell. im only investing (emotionally) what i can afford to lose at this time and making a point of my happiness being priority.

mel May 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

me and my husband have been together for ten years and he has cheated on me many times and has apologized every time and now he claims that he is only texting and chatting with women but how do I get him to stop and understand that that is a form of cheating too? can a cheater really ever reform?


Que August 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

Y-O-U will NEVER be able to get him to stop! As women we chase dreams and fantasies of how things could be. Live in the present! Face reality! Do you feel safe and secure with him? Do you trust him? Does he bring out the good in you, or the bad? Are you emotionally stable? Ask yourself, like I had to ask myself, ” What is it about me that makes him disrespect me so? I’ll tell you, I stayed with him! They don’t care how miserable you are, as long as they get what they want from you! It could be sex, do thier laundry, preparing them meals, etc. Get a back bone like I did. I stopped doing everything, I told him, ” Let your whores do it”. I have male friends now. I go out and will stay out and there is no guilt. Your husband defiled the marriage bed along time ago, so move forward. Don’t be afraid to tell others about the abuse you are going through. Talk helps you to heal, You would be suprised at how many people would be willing to help you, if you left him.People are not going to bless you with him around.
Stop being foolish! You know damn well he is still sexing around. Feeding you some BS cause he know you will fall for it. “I won’t do it again”, is key words that he will. This is all a fun game for him and you better beleive that his male friends already know what he is up to.
Truth sets us free. once you discover that he hates you, then you will feel nothing for him. NEVER get confused by if they are paying bills and spending money on you. they always buy gifts for their whores.


frances June 16, 2013 at 9:23 pm

honestly to everyone i know how u feel like you get cheated on and it stops after a while but im gonna say this im still married to the guy barely after 8 months a frustration and abuse i almost left him he completely changed his attitude hes been gone 10 months now is military at one point was bad dissapearing not calling or answering his phone on off time now here is the thing were not realising idk what to do i feel like leaving is teh best thing yes we are wasting our time but im saythis after reading this these men have the power they have us but do they love us no we are ther doormats what the touch part is letting go we need to get strong and find ways to move on because im gonna say this they dont love us when they go touch or go inside another woman its degrading to us if were not good enough to be with and they feel they need wat we give them from someoen else there not worth it there trash and they will get the trash they deserve were better then that the way we feel we can find something worth our while i say screw em leave like i said its not easy to leave but that trust that feel that they will ever love us is completely gone someone who has sex with somoene else repeadedly isnt in love with u they dont care about you and what if tehy get aids what if us the neive ones stay and they give watever they catch to us when we didnt doo nothing wrong key we need to reak away i need to find a way to leave and not come back idk how im do it where i can leave but i suggest you stop being blind to and realise you can do better please itl only ake ur life better and one day youl look back and realise he as never worth your youth ty thats all i haveto say


Que August 9, 2013 at 10:09 am

Not only do they not love us, but they hate us! Women always say, ” but I love him. ” The real question is does he love you?


frances June 16, 2013 at 9:26 pm

oh and i been married to this guy 4 years now he lies about even small stuff and doesnt take responsibility for nothing he does a man someoen who cheats once it can be a mistake if they regret it and apologise some people make mistakes but repeadadly and ignoring ur calls and stuff isnt a mistake thats abusive and down right cruel they dont deserve love from a decent person


Que August 9, 2013 at 10:21 am

When they cheat the first time, its not a mistake! They wanted to do it! They keep woman after woman lined up just in case they come across a woman with back bone. Then there is no lost., they got plenty of more where that came from. Get you some male friends and spend time with them. Don’t tell him your whereabouts! Talk in riddles, give him one and two word answers. Of course they will get mad, even shed tears when the time comes (if thats what it takes to convince you to stay). Your goal should be to ignore him in such a way that the tables will turn. He praboly will still cheat, but now you have his attention. Act mad and upset or even devestated. Tell him you got tested and was told that you have full blown aids. That will mess up his mind big time. The same game he is using on you, turn around and use it on him. You’ve got to become a great actress afterall he is a great actor. Don’t be afraid, Don’t be afraid. If there are threats made , use the law.Throw him in jail if he takes it too far. This is not a game! Your heart even your very soul is at stake! Learn how to fight back!


Aanelta June 19, 2013 at 3:54 am

My husband cheated on my with my nanny when I was 8 months pregnant, my nanny got pregnant my child is 7 months old i found out that he again cheated on me while he’s at work. I’m on the process of healing, but now I’m totally insane on how can I suppose to trust him again if he actually did cheat on me twice.


Que August 9, 2013 at 10:28 am

You shouldn’t trust him! He has cheated on you more than twice and he still is. Do you! no matter what he has said, he defiled the marriage bed. F**k what he is talking about! Let it go in one ear and out the other. You might be a married to a man, but he is no husband.


Tiffany July 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm

My husband and I both cheated on each other during our 6th year of marriage. We reconciled, and spent the next 8 years being faithful, and rebuilding our life, or so I thought. While I had changed, and made my life an open book for him to examine at any time, forgiven him and never mentioned his affair again, the same was not true for him. He spent those 8 years calling me names and bringing up MY affair anytime he was upset about anything, while I never mentioned his, but because I was truly sorry, I never defended myself or my grotesque past actions. Now here we are.. 12 years of marriage, he has taken at least 3 lovers, one night stands etc in the last 6 months, hidden them and their correspondence, started being very angry all the time, calling me names more often and becoming down right verbally abusive, telling me he never loved me, threatened to stop paying the bills (I’m a homemaker and homeschool our children). He is military and deployed to strange countries all the time, and he would disappear for days and sometimes weeks, not call or write or respond, and then when he did resurface, he was angry and frustrated etc. He blames MY affair almost 8 years ago for what he is doing today. So that is what ONE guilty adulterer looks like, but I am sure they take other forms.

As for change, I think a tell tale sign if they are going to straighten up is as follows:
1. NO EXCUSES for what they did,
2. NEVER blaming anyone for making them do something
3. NEVER DEFENDING their actions,
4. an attitude of MEEKNESS and HUMBLENESS when asked questions or when their partner seeks reassurance.
5. Respecting reasonable boundaries the partner sets for the road to reconciliation, NO PUSHING LIMItS or TESTING those boundaries

I am in the midst of separation, and I gave him 1 year to prove he has changed, the proof is adherence to those 5 points above, with the obvious checks of phones, bank account, emails, computer files etc.

He pushed very hard for a divorce, and wouldn’t meet me in person except at the lawyer office in the middle of a year long deployment, so we have a neat little settlement agreement which includes alimony and child support and exclusive use of the marital home. Now that he wants to reconcile, again ( he changes his mind every two or three days) I laid a few other things out for how this will work until I”m convinced he has changed: No sex, no depending on the other for normal marital things like picking up from airports or cooking meals, no getting angry when I’m ready for him to leave the house in the evening, counseling once a week for deep underlying issues, full faithfulness sexually and emotionally.

I hope this helps someone.


Que August 8, 2013 at 10:16 am

You do know that he is still going to cheat on you. A man that cheats all the time and you cut off sex? Stop wasting your time because he’s not going to stop! I would beleive him if I were you when he says he doesn’t love you. Of course he wants to be at the house, it benefits him. As long as men get what they want, they don’t give a damn about your feelings!


Tiffany August 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I, sadly, agree with you. It’s all about finding a way to still have those comforts of home without any of the responsibility. Everything he’s ever accused me of has turned out to define him. It’s sickening.

que August 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Personally I am disgusted! I know the truth now and it set my mind free from my marriage.

Terri August 8, 2013 at 5:22 am

I been with my husband for 18 years and married for 13 years. Our relationship as been upand down for years now choose to stay because I love him very much..but everything I do just doesn’t work..I realize thru the years he has been cheating on me since we been together…I want to leave but don’t have any where to go so I stay…I get really crazy trying to find out info..I go thru his cellphone..I look at the phone bill, emails everything even his car..I have found so much stuff in his thru the years receipts underwear, and of course numbers…now everything is in his phone I even pre tented to be him so the girl will give me info and there all stupid they spill the beans…I just don’t know what to do….I tried to change myself and give in on what he was doing he wanted threesomes I did it..having a girlfriend I did got so bad we had a live in girlfriend and he was still cheating on both of us…he had best of both worlds and it still wasn’t we moved to a different city we were fine until he started getting on this website talking to females and now in just found out the slept together…my heart is so broken I just don’t know what to do…I don’t why he keeps disrespecting me…


Que August 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

It doesn’t matter if you have money to go. I don’t and still don’t! What I am is moving forward with my life. I know the feeling of seeming trapped because it’s all in your head. You need to get a life of your own! Truth sets your mind free. Get you some male friends.


Que August 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

Satan is the author of confusion! If any womans husband is a cheater then you need to face reality and stop hoping, wishing, and dreaming that things will be the way they were, I must say that the way they were was all a show and still is. How else could they have gotten us if they would have revealed their true identity. Cheating spouses Do Not, I repeat DO NOT love there wives or husbands. They play on your emotions and how you feel about them. Love does not hurt! Trying to love someone who refuses to give it back in return does. I prayed to God and asked him to reveal to me how my husband felt about me. I told the Lord that I needed to hear it from his lips. Lord I thank you for answering my prayer. God made him speak the truth to me from his own lips. My husband said, ” He enjoys using women.” Say what you will, but I beleive this to be true of all cheating men and women. what these hateful people do is push, push, and push to see how long you will tolerate their BS. Ladies your husbands hate you! They want to keep you down, that way they can control you. If you leave them , they would not be messed up about it at all. They have more women to conquer and control.
What has happened is that they have led you in captivity. If your thinking, searching, can’t sleep at night, crying all the time, etc. Your mind is in a strong hold. Lord Jesus, I thank you for coming to set the captive free. This is a spiritual war! Married or not, Remember they always buy gifts for their whores cause thats how they see you.


Susan August 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Amen to your Comment:
I was married to The Devil for 11 years who cheated on me constantly throughout the marriage.
Told Me I was the one with problems.
He only cheated because I didn’nt get on with his hateful daughter WTH?
I forgave and tried to forget his cheating and constant lies but it didn’nt work.
Phoned the Police on me several times to report me for drugs, lol, assaulting him and his new woman lol. Sent horrid messages to my children, the list could go on and on.
Once you have “Taken the Mask” off the Devil. Beware.
He will hate You forever.
I am in the midst of a know- to- be horrid divorce with the narc. now.
He drove me insane, checking up on his phone bills, where he was (screwing other women)
Love, They don’nt know the meaning of the word.
He left me on My Birthday – little did he know it was the best Birthday present that I have ever had.
Good luck to the new prey – because that’s ALL YOU ARE.
Run Like the Wind. The will cheat on the next one, the next one, goes on forever.
They will use, abuse and cheat and lie to get whatever they need from You.
Good Karma to All


que August 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm

The Bible says that our enemies will be them of your own household.

Gem September 3, 2013 at 1:46 am

I cant believe my situation at the moment, 6 months pregnant with my husbands baby.been together for 10years,married for 2 of them. he keeps getting caught out cheating on me, its driving me insane!!! yesterday,found out that he was going to meet up with someone next tues.a lady that he was mucking about with before we got married.i feel so sick at the moment.i packed my bag and was on my way out.he said that hes got problems and feels the need to just get female attention to comfort his ego all the time. i wouldn’t mind but he does get plenty attention from me but clearly my voice doesnt matter.i have been brought up with a happy family background,he hasnt.i dont want to be treaten like a mug,silly nieve wifey at home always forgiving him. I know that he is worried about us splitting because there is a baby involved now and thats all he has ever wanted.he wants to scrap everything that has happened and start again.i feel so scared. i dont know what to do? Im a strong person but my hormones are all over the place.i dont need this stage of my pregnancy.i do love him pregnancy


lala October 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

Let me tell you, i have been in this relationshit for 10 years, with 4 wonderful kids together. This man has broken me in every possible way. I didnt leave before because i was afraid of what would happen. I am a sahm, tried getting a job with no luck (college degrees dont mean a thing with no experience) He’s lied and cheated so many times to count. Just recently i found out about him sleeping with prostitutes. Woooooosssaaahhhh, i ended it all. He refused to leave saying its his house and his things so hes at work today and guess what im doing. Taking everything and disappearing. Hes texting and calling apologizing, nut ive heard it all before. Its so true once a cheater always a cheater. Ladies i will be praying for us all and all women in these situations.


Sarah October 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I’ve been with my boyfriend for two and a half years. I kissed an ex and he kissed a girl when drunk and we got over it very early in our relationship. However I’ve just found out he also had a drunken fumble for a couple of minutes then stopped it at the start. This was about 5/6 weeks into our relationship. I love and trust him now, even after hearing this, but am worried I’m making a mistake staying with someone who could do that to me. Looking back he was a completely different person then who has matured and grown with me. Would appreciate advice please


kaniz fatima November 21, 2013 at 1:28 am

16 years of marriage and now i know my husband has cheated on me. He pretended to be very God fearing, he used to pray five times a day. And i tursted him blindly.The woman with whom he had AFFAIR called me and told every thing about him. How he used to meet her.


kaniz fatima November 21, 2013 at 1:34 am

Not only he used to visit her, she said he used to gossip and slander about me. I could not take this there are so many things i cannot mention it. When i came to know about this i hit and bit him very badly.


kaniz fatima November 21, 2013 at 1:36 am

He deserved it. Now i wait for GOD TO PUNISH HIM FOR HIS DEEDS.


Cher March 19, 2014 at 4:23 am

12 year relationship here. He cheated w my best friend 4 yrs ago. Tried my best to get over that. He desires more than what I do. I tried to have an open mind to let him do what he had to to with me being the rule maker. The blame of his mistakes seem to always end up at me. Found out few days later that there were more lies (earlier he confessed about some). Once a cheater always a cheater. This person I feel has an addiction to it. Ultimatum was served to get phys help. Dont even know if making him aware of his addiction can save this


Casey April 16, 2014 at 9:53 am

Together 13 years, married 12. I worked, he worked some and went to school. He is now an RN. We are both in our 50′s. He has affairs with other women from his current job. He wants young (skinny) women. He tells me I am NOT a feather in his cap, because of my weight. He hates that I am fat (240). I am going to WW and working out. It is hard to drop the lbs. due to my age. He won’t leave, but he won’t stop either. He said I have no self respect because I won’t file for divorce. I told him (and the other women) I would not roll over and die. I am fighting for my husband and marriage. Most walked away. One did not and he continues to try and get her back. He drinks everyday. (vodka) and is mean to me when he does. He tells me he has to be drunk to have sex with me. However, when he is sober he is sorry.
I want to heal our marriage. We have both had caner and have been there for one another. To the best of my knowledge he just started cheating a year ago. We have no children together or separately. Is there is HOPE for us?


Catherine April 16, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Sorry Casey but he is an alcoholic, and a cheat, plus he emotionally abuses you and has no respect for you. Do you really need to ask if there is any hope for your relationship? Don’t stay in this situation any longer. Throw him out and divorce him. And keep up the WW and working out – build your self esteem.


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