I sat down with a few men, whose names have been changed to protect their privacy, to find out. Each of these guys have a history of cheating, and are currently in relationships where they have remained monogamous and claim they will continue to do so.
Take Charles, for example. Charles had a serious girlfriend in college but she went to another school, so they tried to maintain a long-distance relationship. She knew he might get tempted to hook up with other women so she did something a bit unusual: she gave him the green light. "I had the hall pass," Charles said, "but I was committed to not using it." Until he got drunk one night and ended up in bed with someone down the hall. He told his girlfriend the next day and she forgave him.
"It actually wasn't a big deal at the time in our relationship, but the fact that it wasn't a big deal made me feel like I could keep doing it," he said. Sometimes Charles would tell his lady about his indiscretions, other times he wouldn't. "I know it sounds stupid now but I didn't want to hurt her. I was being young and foolish."
Eventually Charles met someone he genuinely fell for and left his long-distance girl for one closer to home. He didn't cheat on her, but the relationship ran its course, the two stayed in touch, and Charles ended up cheating on his next girlfriend with that same woman. "This time, I knew my relationship was coming to an end and I just hooked up with my ex blindly, not realizing I was using that experience as a means to break up."
Where is he now? Charles "got smart" as he puts it when he was 25. "At a certain point I realized I was causing pain." It's been eight years since he cheated on another woman. I asked him if he had ever been cheated on. "Not that I know of," he said. How would he have felt if he had? "Horrible. That's the thing. When I was young I didn't take my girlfriends' situations under consideration. I figured out one day that if I had done what I did to my girlfriends I would have freaked the f*** out. That's when I vowed never to do it again."
I poked and prodded at Charles, who is now in a long-term relationship. "I got it out of my system," he said. "I made mistakes. I fully admit that. But I learned from them."
Not unlike Charles, Damon also cheated while in college, post-college, even on his ex-wife. "I was a jerk growing up. I cheated because I wanted to get laid, plain and simple. I also knew I wasn't going to be with any of them forever," Damon explained. But his divorce changed everything.
"I cheated on my ex-wife while we were engaged, but never once cheated once we were married. Marriage to me is the one place that cheating should just never exist," he continued. "The reason my ex-wife and I broke up was two-fold: I cheated on her when we dated and she gave me an ultimatum to either marry her or break up forever. We had been together for seven years on-and-off and I just thought this was it. It was what was supposed to happen next."
His ex-wife could never get over the fact he cheated, so ultimately the marriage was doomed. "She ended up cheating on me and that's how our marriage ended," Damon continued. "I went through such a shitty divorce that I am still certain it was karma for cheating when I was younger," he concluded.
Five years later, Damon is married with a kid. He says he has never been tempted to repeat the mistakes he made. He said, "My wife now is the person I'm supposed to be with forever. It feels different than what I had before. I could never imagine hurting her."
So can the leopard ever change his spots? I certainly think so. There are some men who may make a mistake, as we all do, and learn from it. Cheating is no more ingrained a behavior than drinking to excess or getting into fights. He might do it, not see it as a big deal, and do it again. Or he might man up and regret it fully, and vow not to repeat that action.