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He Promised not to Cheat, then He Cheated Anyway

Dr. Matt,
My name is Angelina. I live in Brisbane, Australia. I'm 23 and married with no children.
I need advice! After I confronted my husband about an emotional affair he was having with a female friend, and he promised to stop contacting her. Why then has he started calling her again, and yet denies it with a straight face, even though I know the truth?

Thanks so much for your help!

Related Article: My Husband Cheated Twice, What Should I Do?

Dear Angelina:

There are two important questions to answer concerning your frustrating situation:

1) Why did he return to his cheating ways? and
2) Why did he lie about it? 

Here's the reason your husband lied about it: You caught him with his pants down! It's embarrassing for him to not only admit that he broke his word, but also own that fact that he violated your sacred marriage vows . . . again.

In this life, whenever we make mistakes, we have two fundamental choices:

Rationalize or Repent

Because your husband is a man capable of cheating, it is consistent with his lack of character, that he would also lie about it, once caught in the act. Lying IS Rationalizing . . . and Rationalizing IS Lying. Another word for Rationalizing is Justifying.

Now, let's look at the more foundational questions: Why did he cheat in the first place, and why did he return to cheating after giving his word that he wouldn't?

Your husband gave a superficial promise to stop contacting this other woman with his Lips only, and not with his Heart. Your husband has shown by his actions, that he is currently incapable of keeping a promise with his Whole Heart — because that level of integrity is simply NOT in him. Here's a truth taught by legendary trumpet player Louis Armstrong:

"If you ain't got it in ya, . . . ya can't blow it out."

Fact is, . . . your husband does NOT have the strength of character within him, to make this kind of promise and then keep it. Sadly, the desire to cheat remains in his heart, as the following story illustrates:

The Frog and the Scorpion

One day, a scorpion looked around his habitat and decided that he needed a change. He could see a great place to relocate, but it was on the other side of a river, and of course, scorpions cannot swim.

What luck! He noticed a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream, and decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

"Hello Frog!" called the scorpion, "would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"

"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I let you hop on my back and give you a ride across the river, you won't sting me and kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.

The scorpion replied, "Because if I kill you, I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog, but he inquired further, "what about when I get close to the river bank? You could still try to kill me!"

"This is possible," agreed the scorpion, "but then if I kill you, we both would drown in the river, for you see, I cannot swim!"

"All right," said the frog, "but how do I know you won't just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?"

"Ahh..." crooned the scorpion, "once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would be unfair to reward you with death, . . . right?!"

So as the scorpion made a promise not to kill him, the friendly frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. The scorpion proceeded to crawl upon the frog’s back, pricking sharp claws into his soft hide to get a good grip, and then the frog slid into the river.

The frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. Swimming steadily against the river's swift current, he kicked vigorously to reach the halfway point in the stream.

The frog and the scorpion were in the middle of the river moving steadily to towards the opposite bank, when suddenly the frog felt a sharp pain, the scorpion had plunged his stinger into the frog's soft skin.

"You stung me!" croaked the frog, “Why'd you do this? Now we'll both die!

The scorpion replied, "I could not help myself. I'm a scorpion — it's my nature." Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the river.

So the scorpion gave a promise to the frog that he would not kill him; in a similar way, your husband gave a shallow promise with his lips that he would not cheat again. But here's the problem: The desire to cheat remained in his heart. Because of your husband's current character, the act of cheating is consistent with his "nature" — he's a scorpion!

Before your husband can give a promise that he can keep, he will need a New Heart — which requires a Change of Heart that only comes through Christ.

Your husband would greatly benefit from reading my book "Changing Your Stripes." But it's unlikely that he will be motivated to read it, as long as he has no genuine desire to change. You see, his problem is self-perpetuating: Scorpions cannot do anything but think and act like scorpions.

I call this self-perpetuating problem "Einstein's Mind Bind." An excerpt from my book describes this self-annihilating bind:

Here’s the problem: You can’t choose the best things in life if the driving energy to be the best is not in you! You can only choose, and you will only choose, those options you presently feel to choose according to the current condition of your disposition; hence, you will choose something less-than-best because of the animal you are. Just like a tiger will always be a tiger, and act like a tiger; until that tiger becomes a new kind of creature, you will also be who you are until you . . . Change Your Stripes.
(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, pages 43-44)

The key to Changing Your Stripes is in experiencing a genuine Change from your core — a Change that only happens with Heaven's Healing Help.

Angelina, here's the challenge you face: The primary problem of cheating belongs to your husband, so he must make the primary change. This means you are not in direct control of the eventual outcome — your marriage may or may not survive. This is because:

It takes the commitment of two to make a marriage,
but only the decision of one to break it.

So the best you can do is focus upon the Goal within Your Control: Becoming Loving and True. This is the best way you can influence and inspire your husband to choose the path of lasting Change. If he chooses that path with a humble heart, then the your marriage and your love can be renewed. Heaven's Healing must change you too, so you will be able to fully forgive him.

Most of the counseling that I do with couples occurs under the threat of an ultimatum. If your husband knows that you will stay with him, whether he changes or not, then your ability to influence him to make changes is drastically reduced.

But when he realizes that you will actually leave the marriage if he doesn't change, he may become motivated to change — I've seen it a hundred times.

Beware of this broken-record-routine: he will simply give "lip service" and promise to change, but will NOT give his whole Heart and Soul to that promise. And one reason he will NOT, is because he can NOT — he's a scorpion and will think and behavior like a scorpion until he humbly yields to the Truth, and Christ makes his a new creature (see 2 Cor. 2: 17).

The Change of Heart that your husband needs (and that all of us need at various levels of learning) is not realized through the exercise of mental will; in fact, it happens exactly opposite from exerting a determined will — it happens only through a release of mental will.

The process of experiencing a Change of Heart is thoroughly detailed in my book.


Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

* * * * * * *

The Greatest Prize
for Life's labors isn't
in material possessions
or impressive accomplishments,
but in the progress of personal character.
You labor for your own becoming, this is your richest reward.
Who You Become is your greatest possession,
make it your Masterpiece!

(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 274)

The book, "Changing Your Stripes" presents principles for getting out of
the ditch in which you've been dumped (the difficulties of which you are a victim), and
the ditch in which you've jumped (the difficulties for which you volunteer).

"Mastering a challenging situation
is ultimately a matter of
mastering yourself!"

- Matt Moody 

"Changing Your Stripes," teaches you the principles that lead to lasting change,
making you a new kind of creature capable of communicating
with calm, even as storms of contention swirl.

If these principles resonate and ring true,
then . . . this book is for you!

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Changing Your Stripes is a
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Here are more reasons to buy

Changing Your Stripes

Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

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