Does Cheating Run in the Family?

does cheating run in the familyOne thing that we’ve witnessed over the last few years which was quite surprising to us at first, is the number of incidences where the person who was unfaithful in the relationship also had a parent who cheated.

It seems that indeed the apple does not fall too far from the tree.

Infidelity tends to run in families. Children of unfaithful parents are often programmed to follow in their parent’s footsteps, and therefore consider infidelity to be the norm.

What the research says…

Now this is by no means an exhaustive research based post, however there was a study carried out a few years ago by Czech scientists who were looking into reasons why people cheat in long-term relationships.  They found that while both men and women had affairs, men were more likely to stray if their fathers had been unfaithful when they were growing up.

This would appear to explain the behavior of a couple of famous womanizing fathers and sons, such as golfer Tiger Woods and British soccer player Ryan Giggs.  I can’t help but think a Kennedy might be included here as well.  You may have some additional examples.  

The researcher behind the study, Jan Havlicek concluded that as boys grew up, they learned from their social world what behavior was appropriate and what they could get away with.  Their father was the obvious role model.

Curiously though, Havlicek and his colleagues found that daughters were not affected in the same way by their mothers’ infidelity.

However, another less formal study by the “have an affair” website, Illicit Encounters revealed that women are more likely to cheat on their husbands if their mothers had been unfaithful. The thought process being that many women feel their mother’s infidelity gives them “permission” to cheat.

Curiously as well, the Illicit Encounters study found that men are also more likely to stray if their fathers were philanderers – but not to the same extent as women.

The results suggest there may well be a “cheating gene” which runs in families – making the children of unfaithful people more likely to betray their partners.

The results were from a poll of 2,000 people who have had affairs.  Here are more of the findings:

  • The poll found that 73 per cent of women who cheated on their partners had mothers who had done the same.
  • And 62% of those female cheats said their mother’s infidelity had made it more likely that they would stray, too.
  • Just 22 per cent of female cheats said their mother’s disapproval would make them give up an affair – compared to 42 per cent for those whose mothers were faithful.
  • A further 32 per cent of female cheats felt their mother’s infidelity had given them “permission” to stray because the behavior runs in the family and would not be a surprise.
  • Just over half of male cheats (54 per cent) said their father’s affairs made it more likely that they would have them, too.
  • And 25 per cent of unfaithful men said they would give up the affair if their cheating father told them to.

This article by Dr. Bob Huizenga seems to reinforces these studies:

Dr. Bob HuizengaCheating: Family history repeats

By Dr. Bob Huizenga 

I ran into it again today, in one of my coaching calls.

This phenomenon may seem odd to most. Most never imagine it to be a possibility. But, for someone who has logged more than 30,000 hours of direct counseling, I’ve encountered it over and over again. It does happen and happens often.

The “it” is a person repeating the same actions of his/her parent.

The scenario today was of responsible loving mother/wife doing an about face.

Within a short period of time she developed an intense attraction, almost obsession, with her boss.

It grew into a full blown extramarital affair with her moving out, going on weekend trips with him, dressing provocatively, paying minimal attention to her 5 year old daughter and in essence, orienting her life around this new man.

She raged at her husband, blamed him for the affair and would wait impatiently for her next encounter with the other person.

Her history revealed that her mother exhibited almost exactly the same behavior to her father when she was as little girl – 5 years old!

Coincidence?

I don’t think so. I’ve encountered this behavior far too often to dismiss it.

I believe the pain, guilt, hurt, fear and confusion we experience when traumatized as a child is somehow locked inside a person. We vow (at some level) that it will never happen to us.

However, when the biological child becomes the age of the little girl who suffered the abandonment, all hell can break loose.

It is a crisis. There is an attempt to “resolve” this pain, but the avenue chosen is often similar to the destructive path taken by one’s parent. There may be good psychological reasons for this, but I don’t want to go there now.

Suffice it to say that the husband suffers in disbelief and confusion. He no longer knows his wife. He receives well intended advice to “move on.” But he can’t.

A part of him knows her pain. This intuitive knowledge holds him to her. He waits, patiently, for her to face her demons, for her to gain the clarity of awareness and internal healing that will free her from the history of her mother.

 

So, we’d be curious as to whether this whole “Does cheating run in the family?” question also apply to our audience.  Please let us know if “parental influence” was involved in your own infidelity experiences – whether you are the unfaithful or the betrayed.   Leave your replies in the comment section below.  Thanks!

And in case you’re wondering…Cheating does NOT run in my family at all.

 

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We’re here to show you the right way to survive infidelity so that your marriage doesn’t become some sort of statistic.

We’ve been in your shoes and are in a unique position to put all of our experiences – both good and bad, successes and failures – and use them to help lead you out of the pain and into a better place.

 

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25 Responses to Does Cheating Run in the Family?

  1. paula m May 29, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    Well…my husband cheated on me. Started as an emotional affair..progressed to her now living with him and me filing for divorce. After a year of so much…he would not break free. This man who only three years ago was sending me romantic cards..has lost his mind. And yes..both his parents had affairs and his sister. We are still married and and he has taken the ow to meet his parents out of towm. So because I turned into some evil and uncaring women in the span of 3 years..I guess his parents excepted her into their home. His mother even called me and told me I had to just let him go. He is happy. So you see…I think I am the lucky one…but still so in live and hurting. Oh, we would have been married 33 years in july.

  2. Lisa May 29, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    Unfortunately I do believe that what was done by their parents was learned by my husband, his brother and sister. Both parents cheated, and while I was concerned about learned behavior, we live across the country so I thought we’d be safe. Sadly though, between Facebook and reconnecting with a high school friend, and then a visit to his hometown, my husband began an affair with the full knowledge and support of his parents. The parents did it, so that seemed to make this okay, and I’ve always felt that for the parents they felt it excused what they did. No excuses people!

  3. chely May 29, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    I am the betrayed. Grew up with parents divorced. Found out as adult reason was my mother cheated and became preg with my youngest sister. My father accepted her as his own. Mother got pregnant again-gave that child away and they divorced. Husbands parents still married live in nice home in mountains and seemed very nice. But while I have nothing to substantiate it, would not surprise me at all if learned he did. My husband very much like father. We married 20 years now -discoverd affair 1-1/2yrs ago. Very long story. My husband is a successful, covert narcissist who everyone in the outside world thinks is wonderful. If you asked my sons or myself that it would be quite a different story. I know lots who would claim their spouse is nar. (being thrown around so much today as reason for everyones problems) but when you live with someone for over 20 years and the subtle emotional abuse that destroys you, you recognize that look, on your mother-in-laws face after being chastised by her husband that this is handed generation to generation. Most wouldnt even notice this look (as the husband can put you down so nicely that others cannot see it, the tone of voice, choice of words or the glare in their eyes- we are conditioned) only someone who also lives it. That day I realized that the man that looks so perfect to everyone (grooming them I suppose) is in actuality the true wolf in sheeps clothing. Sometimes you get the sheep others its all wolf. I now suspect that my spouse is sex addict and this (affairs/hook ups) has been going on our entire marriage. So wouldnt surprise me his dad did it too! Am I nuts? Maybe I really am? I stay despite knowing all I know. But so difficult because there have been many good things and times throughout the years. I always say just like marriage vows “for better or worse” – I got both! Yeah I know, I know. Major co-dependent who has cognitive dissonance big time. Whew what a life.

  4. SoManyTears May 29, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Both of my cheating husband’s parents cheated…many times. They, however, claimed to be each other’s true love in spite of divorcing. My husband claims to only having a 15 month emotional affair (I know it was physical as well, but his shame keeps him lying). He says, the way he was brought up, having intercourse with someone is what constitutes an affair, not daily text that beg for sex, sweet phone calls and sending pictures of his penis (that’s just “playing”) he says the worst thing he could have done is stick his d#ck in her, which he says he did not.

    • betrayedchump May 29, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      SMT,
      Yeah, most all of us here that have been through the nightmare of betrayal, EA or PA, have heard that same justification regarding “NO SEX=NO AFFAIR”???? WTF????
      Tell your cheating/lying/selfish husband that NOW the worse thing he could try to do is to stick his dick in you & see what his reaction is to that????
      He needs a WAKE-UP CALL before it is to late! I hope for your sanity, your relationship/marriage & your children if you have them, that he finally gets it!!!!
      “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation………Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness……”
      ― Wm. Paul Young, The Shack
      Peace to All

      • somanytears June 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

        Let me mention that the “other woman” died 2 months ago from anal cancer caused by HPV. Eight months after discovery…I developed symptoms and now have been diagnosed with anal HPV. He still swears they never touched each other. His shame is so great (the woman weighed 300+ lbs and had a colostomy bag, used Meth and was on disability cleaning houses “under the table”) that he’ll never admit it. Someday, he’ll end up in the same place, I’m sure. she did. We had NO problems before I discovered his secret life. She was the SAME woman he cheated on his first wife with 43 years ago! His cheating parents knew about that and used to say she would be their daughter in law someday. SICK!

  5. TrustingGod May 29, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    Wow, what can you do when the parents were cheaters and condone the behavior? My parents weren’t cheaters, and I don’t think my husband’s parents were. But this makes me really want to keep my children in the dark about this, so that there isn’t a repeat. It’s funny, though, when I think of it, because my husband told me while we were dating that he used to date more than one girl at a time, and that he had been with a woman who was cheating on her husband with him. That should have told me to run away, since he didn’t seem to think it was anything but funny or exciting. But I chalked it up to youthful mistakes, since I had my share and couldn’t judge. But the attitude about it is the telling thing. I’d be interested in learning how many of the cheating parents were truly remorseful, and worked on their marriages, and whether that had any effect on the tendency to cheat or on their behavior afterwards.

  6. betrayedchump May 29, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    WOW this is a very interesting reason for betrayal????
    My x CS had a father who cheated, then abandoned his 3 kids for OW & her kids. My x CS was around 12 years old @ the time.
    Her mother had an affair with her boss @ work, the man had 3 young children, his wife suddenly died, all the kids were told she committed suicide (fell down the stairs)???? They moved his kids into their house shortly thereafter.
    My Father was a full blown alcoholic for the first 16 years of my life, I always thought he was cheating on my Mom, don’t know for sure if he did or not, will never know as he has passed on.
    My Mother was a God fearing woman, Loyal to my Father to a fault, NEVER gave up on who he could become, even when everyone else who knew him including me had given up on him!!!!
    Peace to All.

  7. chely5150 May 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Oops forgot the last part of my user name, in case anyone wants more details-they can go to my blog at
    http://www.chely5150.wordpress.com Thanks

  8. Lisa May 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Trusting … In my case our kids were there for the evolution of events(ages 18-30 at the time), so they saw the impact this had on me. At first when he said he was unhappy and wanted a divorce) after 31 years of marriage, they were sad but accepting, but after a few weeks he wanted to work on us and came home. The whore didn’t like that he was telling her to go away, so she announced herself. It was then that he lost all respect from our children. I told him goodbye, but several weeks later we began the now 5 year long journey to heal. I trigger constantly, but am now moree in control of my reaction to them. Our kids all use me a a guage on how things are, and will support me 100 percent. I raised them (hubs was gone with military then truck driving so I was their influence) to know that cheating was seriously wrong under any circumstances. I’m Not concerned that his affair will effect them, and am beyond happy that I chose to live across the country from them, so the kids arent influenced by them

  9. TryingHard May 29, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    No cheating does not run in my family that I know of. I am not a cheater. Not sure if it runs in my husband’s family, don’t want to know, don’t care. Not going to accept FOO as excuses to cheat.

    I think this is an irrelevant article at best. The statistics come from a source, Illicit Encounters???? Seriously, WTF? Talk about a skewed audience!!

    You could say this about anyone. Father an alcoholic? I’m one too, mother a drug addict?, I’m one too, father a political despot? I’m one too, Father in the mafia, I’m one too. Thank God Hitler didn’t have children!! Following this logic, my mother was a saint therefore, I’M ONE TOO!!

    If my h had given me the excuse he cheated because it runs in his family, I’d have headed for the hills immediately.

    Sorry Dr. Bob Huezinga, irrelevant information.

  10. TrustingGod May 29, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    I’m more concerned for my children because I have already experienced personally how something seems less wrong, more acceptable, or at least understandable, when a close family member does it. I already have had issues with my sons regarding honesty and integrity and stealing, I think in part to my husband’s influence, so I don’t want them to have that example, too, that it’s fine to cheat, your spouse will probably forgive you, or you will be freed from someone you don’t want anymore, anyway. If even those who suffered from their parents’ affairs still end up having affairs, I think it’s best to keep it a secret, if you possibly can.

    • betrayedchump May 29, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

      TG,
      “Nothing in this world is hidden forever. The gold which has lain for centuries unsuspected in the ground, reveals itself one day on the surface. Sand turns traitor, and betrays the footstep that has passed over it; water gives back to the tell-tale surface the body that has been drowned. Fire itself leaves the confession, in ashes, of the substance consumed in it. Hate breaks its prison-secrecy in the thoughts, through the doorway of the eyes; and Love finds the Judas who betrays it by a kiss. Look where we will, the inevitable law of revelation is one of the laws of nature: the lasting preservation of a secret is a miracle which the world has never yet seen.”
      ― Wilkie Collins, N
      Peace to All

  11. Lisa May 29, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    There are NO excuses for cheating, ever, but like it or not, there are many things that parents inadvertently teach their children. And of course, that the child has the option to not do what they’ve seen, but they know that atleast someone who has been there/done that may support them. Many people in the field agree that this trait isn’t uncommon, but if course that’s just their experience over the years they’ve worked with people.

  12. TrustingGod May 29, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    Betrayedchump,

    It seems like most people want to stay in the dark about the seriousness of emotional affairs. I thought it was bad enough that my husband thinks that he didn’t do anything that wrong, because he didn’t sleep with anyone else (something I’m not sure I believe). But I finally took a step to try and get some help, because I feel hopeless and want to make sure I really have done everything that I can before I throw in the towel. And my husband didn’t want to go with me, so I saw my church’s marriage counselor alone, and he told me that it didn’t sound like I had any proof that my husband had a physical affair, which is what is considered adultery. And I didn’t think of it until I left, but then I just wanted to ask, what was Jesus talking about then, when He said that if you look on a woman in lust, you commit adultery in your heart? So I don’t know how much it would help me to go back to meeting with someone who might help my husband minimize what he’s done, even if my husband did agree to go. He even said my situation did sound pretty hopeless. Yay for honesty? He didn’t really have much advice beyond prayer and some things I’ve already tried but couldn’t keep up because I felt like it wasn’t working and was so hard when I was so frustrated and angry and hurt. It would be nice if we could give our spouse a wake-up call, but some people are the kind that either sleep through the alarm, or just keep pressing snooze until they are just too late.

    • betrayedchump May 29, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

      TG,
      Doesn’t make a damn bit of differance whether or not a CS had sex with another person, doesn’t justify what they did or didn’t do with the other person! Anything that was secretly withheld from their spouse/partner is betrayal/cheating/adultery!!!
      I am sorry that you are a member of this betrayed group that none of us wanted, was asked to join or gave permission to join.
      Good for you to go seek help for yourself, NOT good that your cheating/lying/selfish CS won’t go also. I would suggest you find yourself a Professionally Trained Christian Marriage Counselor, your church marriage counselor may not have the latest training regarding EA’s, (Fakebook (Facebook), Twitter, texting, sexting, emailing,phone calls),
      “Never loose hope. Stay strong, you never know what tomorrow brings.”
      ― Magith Noohukhan
      Peace to All

  13. d-day 2012 May 29, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    My husband’s father left his mother with 6 children when he was 4. He was a serial cheater who had children out of wedlock. After that, his mother had affairs with his married uncle and other married men.
    I know my husband’s affair and his other addictive behaviors all stem from this poor example, low self-esteem from abandonment and pain. This is not an excuse, merely a factor. Of course he could have avoided it. The only difference is he 1. Admitted it was his fault and not mine and 2. chose to stay and fight to kept me from leaving him.
    After 3 years of work, therapy, retreats, it still hurts but not as much.

    The pain of childhood must be dealt with or it will continue to haunt you. It is a cautionary tale – when you marry you truly are getting the whole family of origin whether you realize it or not. Eventually it will rear it’s ugly head and bite you.

    • somanytears June 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

      I too believe that addiction had a lot to do with how my cheating husband conducted himself during his affair. He was a horrible drunk/drug user when he was young. Spent 10 years in jail and went to the state hospital twice for court ordered recovery. He has been sober for 27 years. HE DID THIS SOBER! The “other woman” was from his ugly past and it all played out just the same. Rationalize…lie…hide…lie…addiction transfer? I think so. Not an excuse…just an observation…just like him having cheating parents.

  14. TheFirstWife May 30, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Trusting God, your marriage counselor is an idiot. Ditch him/her. Litmus test is if the behavior was ok or there was nothing going on, why don’t the CHs admit it? If lunch with the OW was just lunch, why not tell the BS?

    Emotional affairs are cheating. My therapist said so. No questions asked. Black & white. WRONG!

  15. TrustingGod May 30, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Haha, the marriage counselor didn’t say my husband’s behavior wasn’t wrong. He thinks, though, that it is a sin problem, more like a pornography addiction, or at least that’s why he recommended a book to me dealing with women whose husbands had problems with pornography. I think he sees it as something my husband did because he has a problem, and that it has nothing to do with me, other than how I allow myself to feel about it. And if he had been watching porn and accessing porn sites only, then I might agree. But he was on social media sites, talking to real people. He didn’t even access one porn site after he realized that it was fake, that the women on there weren’t actually looking for strangers to hook up with casually (women to whom the man’s looks weren’t very important, lol). He was looking for real women to cheat with. I was only able to see some of the conversations he had on Facebook when I found out, before he deleted them all. I still found some evidence in places he’d missed. There is no doubt in my mind that he was cheating on me emotionally. He showed just about all the signs of a cheater, and could have been cheating on me physically at any number of times he was supposedly working or helping someone out or visiting relatives. And it actually did make me feel a little offended that the counselor seemed to categorize it all as suspected, but not proven, adultery, but my husband didn’t actually confess to anything, only said that there was no point in saying anything since I already knew everything anyway. So I guess I’m supposed to look at it the same as if my husband was an alcoholic or had a gambling problem, something that hurts me and affects my life, but not an actual betrayal of our marriage covenant? That seems to me to be what he was trying to convey, but I just don’t follow that line of reasoning. I actually have been more concerned about one woman he works with, because he says she is like a sister to him and that he’s not really attracted to her, but I know he talks to her a lot, more than he talks to me (since he rarely does), and has mentioned what she says or what she does or did, a lot. I had actually thought he was cheating with her in the past–physically–but decided I was wrong because she had a boyfriend that she had a child with and definitely seemed to see my husband as an older brother, a great friend to count on. But this was more because I perceived that SHE was not interested in him that way, not that he wasn’t. He always maintains that she’s not his type, but I realize now that “type” is irrelevant. So I have had a lot of concerns.

    But I am not concerned about the marriage counselor, except for other people’s sake. I have no intention of going back, even if it is the only free resource I have. He was only willing/able to help if he could talk to us both, anyway, and that’s no longer an option, as far as I’m aware. The last thing I need is him saying that my husband is sinning, but that it isn’t adultery, because I’m pretty sure that my husband would look at me and say, “you see? You’re all hurt over nothing! I did something wrong, but I wasn’t cheating on you.”

    So I might see if our health insurance covers personal therapy that I can afford, to help me get my groove back. I am at least freed from the anger and frustration of my husband not helping me to heal. I no longer expect anything like that from him, because he has pretty much told me not to. I am just focusing on being the best version of me, the strongest, calmest, most positive version, and not this weepy, bitter woman that all of this has been pushing me to become. I don’t like that woman. She sucks. I need to be what I was meant to be, and I am fine if it takes a while before I can separate from the husband who doesn’t, despite what he tells other women, know how to treat a woman.

    Recovery is coming, I can feel it. Because of me and my God, not because of my husband.

    • chely May 31, 2015 at 8:01 am #

      If you research the signs of sex addiction -sounds to me like your husband fits the bill. I am unable to find CONCRETE evidence in my husbands case -he is verry good at this- but he has enough of the various symptoms that i’d bet money on it. Sorry to have to say it in black & white, and how painful this all is. But knowledge is power – somedays that’s all i’ve got. Best wishes to you.-chely5150

  16. TrustingGod May 31, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    That’s funny, because I was pretty sure that he is NOT a sex addict, because he was able to stop that behavior when I found out. Can an addict go cold turkey for over a year? I think every cheater is engaging in behavior that can be construed as sex addiction at some point by someone. My husband has not been very good at hiding things, because he didn’t have to. I didn’t go through his things or his phone. But after finding out about everything, I checked his things constantly. As much as my husband works, and as little time as he has, it would be very difficult for him to maintain a secret porn stash, and he is just not all that tech-savvy. He didn’t even know that I could check the browser history on his phone. So I don’t have a lot of concern for that. That’s what made me irritated with the marriage counselor. When I found out what my husband was doing, I considered all possibilities for his reasons for doing it, and sex addiction was one of the first that I discarded. My current problems with my husband have to do with lack of remorse and a true apology, as well as not wanting to change other issues that have made me feel rejected or that have put my family in danger. If I started to think that he was a sex addict, I’d get thrown back into that suspicious haze of looking for evidence and obsessing about what he might be doing at every moment. But I’m done with that. When you have no hope that your husband will change, you stop caring about that. His problems are his problems again, and only concern you when they affect you or your children personally. That’s why I’m doing what I should’ve done in the first place, which is to focus on learning to love myself, not on trying to make my husband be what I needed him to be.

  17. TrustingGod June 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    Somanytears,

    I pray you be healed completely of what you have been diagnosed with, and that you are freed emotionally from all the pain of this.

    May we all be healed from the pain of betrayal.

    • betrayedchump June 2, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

      AMEN!!!!
      Peace to All

  18. SoManyTears June 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    Amen!

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