Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I have been married for almost two years, but in a relationship with the man for nearly six years. Together we're raising three teenage children. My problem is very complex. My husband cheated on me prior to our marriage with the mother of his youngest child (who is not one of the children we are raising together). Because this woman is the mother of his child, she is still a part of our lives to some degree. We agreed he would have no contact with this woman because his child is of an age in which contact with her is not a must any longer. Yet, I recently found that my husband has been calling this woman again in secret. His response was that he is not cheating, and I need to get over him talking to her.
I feel betrayed. I am insecure with them communicating, especially when there is no need for them to communicate. I mean, hourlong conversations according to the phone records. I spoke with her briefly, and she said they have not been intimate. But, is this a prelude of a rerun to come? I love him and want us to work out. However, I don't trust he will be faithful because he has shown he is a cheater. I don't want to feel "Once a cheater, always a cheater." Am I overreacting? Was he wrong? I am lost at what to do. I feel as if I should leave him and separate for a while. What advice do you have for me? Signed lost, loved or maybe not!
— Danielle T., Lakewood, California
Cheating is more than an action—it's an attitude. Changing the attitude requires the man (let's assume we are talking about cheating husbands for the moment) to change his attitude first, his behavior second. If only the behavior changes, the result will be superficial. His wife will always be nervous and insecure about a relapse, as you are right now.
I don't insist that "Once a cheater, always a cheater," because that saying was born out of bitter experience. Here are the ingredients that go into a cheater's psyche:
The more women I have, the sexier I feel.
Men aren't designed to be monogamous.
Sleeping with other women gives me breathing room in my marriage. It's like a vacation.
The other women don't mean anything. I don't see why my wife is so upset.
A real man can satisfy more than one woman.
I do whatever I can get away with.
I have a right to be myself, and this is who I am.
It's easier to run to another woman than to face problems with my wife.
It's my wife's fault, really. She doesn't satisfy me.
I am open-minded, and I can't help it if other people, including my wife, aren't.
I am not saying that your husband harbors all these attitudes—no cheater does—but your letter indicates quite a few. He has made them part of himself. It's his story, and he's sticking to it. Can you make him change his story out of love for you? No. If he loved you enough to change, he wouldn't cheat in the first place. It's a Catch-22.
I don't want to be gloomy. If your husband is telling the truth and no longer cheating, you need to take responsibility and deal with your own insecurity. It's inevitable that having a cheating spouse is devastating to one's own sense of being desirable, worthy, protected, nurtured and cherished. You must use your vulnerable state to acquire those things in yourself. But if you undertake such a journey to heal, the first step is your husband must agree to change his attitude. Otherwise, you are trying to empty the bathtub while he keeps dumping in more water.