In the 13 years that I have worked as a private investigator, I have worked more infidelity cases than I can count; it seems like Cat’s Eye Private Investigations finds another cheater nearly every day, even just here in the RDU/triangle area. With the highly personal nature of these domestic cases, having conversations with my clients on such difficult life issues, a trust often develops that can become a friendship carrying on for years after the case is over.
But sometimes that “case closed” – the moment when our subject is caught in the act and their adulterous relationship unveiled – turns out not to be the end at all. Many couples come through the initial pain of discovering infidelity, and the challenge of confronting a loved one about his or her actions, to reconcile or seek counseling. It may take years for the wounds to heal, to overcome the distrust and insecurity sown by a partner’s cheating. Yet with proper counseling, and a dedicated team effort, couples can recover. They may never forget that awful low, but there may be hope still for a happy marriage to be salvaged. The relationship doesn’t have to end.
For others, though, “not the end” turns out to be bad news – because what continues is not simply the marriage, but the cheating. Too many times we have seen it where one of our clients has reconciled, forgiven his or her spouse for what was done, only to call us back some time later because they’ve noticed those same problems cropping back up, the same old signs of cheating. It may be with the same person, or it may be someone new, but either way the pain of that broken trust, that abused forgiveness, is no small matter. What I see in these clients who come back is almost always someone who is emotionally stronger, clearer in his or her decisions even despite the unspeakable anger at that betrayal. Many are embarrassed at the thought of having to tell their families again, and if there are children involved those children’s lives are likely to be changed forever.
So what could motivate a married person to go back to cheating, even after he or she has been caught? In my experience, these people – dubbed “serial cheaters” – live lives of impulse and addiction. They can’t seem to overcome the desire to impress someone else, to maintain multiple relationships (however dead-end they may be), to manipulate their spouses. They may even carry out more than one extramarital relationship at the same time. Many of these serial cheaters are professionals with positions of high status; they seem drawn to anything that makes them feel powerful and in control. The victims, in turn, are often vulnerable or easily impressed upon, with no idea of the complex web they are being drawn into.
That decision to cheat can shatter the trust a couple once shared, and all the more so for these repeat offenders. The spouse who has been betrayed may feel that now he or she has no choice but to file for divorce, both for their own sake and for the children’s. They may feel it will be better for the children to no longer endure that tension of watching their parents try to struggle through these issues, but settling custody and visitation schedules can perhaps be just as hard on them in its own way.
It is really tragic watching how these actions can tear apart a person’s marriage and their life. After watching these situations first hand for so many North Carolina couples, it’s hard for me to imagine some of these people ever making the choice to turn away from that lifestyle, to recover from the dishonesty and unfaithfulness that they have allowed to become a part of them. Can they ever turn around and become a faithful, committed partner? Or will the cycle continue forever?