Why Do I Date Men Who Are Cheating On Their Girlfriends?

Why Do I Date Men Who Are Cheating On Their Girlfriends?

I have trust issues with men, and it can be very difficult to decipher when my concerns are legitimate or due to my own paranoia. I’m attractive enough to draw a considerable amount of male attention and have enough personality to keep them to develop what I believe to be serious relationships. But months later, I discover I’ve been wrong.

In my last relationship, I spent 3-4 nights a week at his house for months. I had a key to his apartment. I even met members of his family. And yet I STILL found out that he was engaged to another woman! And only because he’d forgotten to tuck away his anniversary card.

Being cheated on is bad enough but worse is consistently feeling you weren’t good enough to be the only girlfriend, nor good enough to be the #1 girlfriend. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt. I don’t spy on phone calls or snoop through drawers, but I’m starting to feel it’s necessary.

And before you say you’re not making yourself available to the right guys, I dated against type. I’ve been wined and dined by alpha jock types, I’ve done the light studio sessions will fellow artists. Hey, I’ve even done the really effeminate straight hair dresser (He had the nerve to ask me to reassure his lady that we had been using protection when we hadn’t.)   And yet I am still the back up girlfriend. HELP!   —Sharon

Oh, Sharon.

Your problem is the simplest one I’ve ever encountered in 4 years of writing this blog.

Of COURSE you have trust issues.

You choose  un-trustworthy men!

You have AWFUL taste in men.

You have seemingly NO sense of how a good man acts.

You probably wouldn’t recognize a man of character if he opened your car door.

Of COURSE you have trust issues. You choose un-trustworthy men!

So to properly address how to avoid this unseemly predicament in the future, it doesn’t start with spying on phone calls or snooping through drawers.

It comes with looking for patterns in your past, since you’re the only common denominator in your life and you’ve CHOSEN these men.

I’m no psychologist, but the obvious questions I have for you are these:

  • Are your parents still together? Did your father leave you? Do you have any role models or paradigms of successful relationships in your life?
  • Have you always gone for emotionally unavailable men or did you start after a specific event in your life?
  • How old are you and how long has this been going on? Everyone does stupid things in their 20’s. By your mid-30’s, your decision making should probably have improved.
  • What is the common denominator between the “different” men you’ve chosen? Is it possible that you go for hot, charismatic, and unpredictable men in all forms? Because if you chase exciting, interesting men, it’s little surprise that those same men will a) have that same effect on other women and b) have the ego to keep pursuing all those other women because he values excitement more than stability.

Which, I’m guessing, is not all that different than you, Sharon.

If I had your life experience and sample size, I, too, would come to the conclusion that men are liars and players and not to be trusted.

Instead of thinking you’re breaking your patterns by choosing men with different careers, why don’t you actually start choosing men based on ONE quality alone: integrity.

But if I were me (which, for the sake of today’s post, I am), I’d point out to you that there are over 50 million married men in the United States, and, logically, most of them are not cheating on their wives.

So that just means that you need to work on your picker.

Instead of thinking you’re breaking your patterns by choosing men with different careers, why don’t you actually start choosing men based on ONE quality alone: integrity.

If you make integrity as important as you make attraction, you will quickly discover that you have no impulse whatsoever to break into your boyfriend’s email.

Good luck.

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  1. 1

    How did he introduce you to these members of his family that you met?   As his friend or as his girlfriend?   If the latter, they didn’t clue you in that he was engaged?

  2. 2


  3. 3

    “You have bad taste in men” LOVE IT! That is absolutely true.
    We tend to subliminally attract the people we feel we deserve. She somehow “feels” she deserves this type of man and for whatever reason, settles for it every time one like him comes along.
    Some women have a thing for “bad boys” and they “love” getting treated like crap. They think they’re going to somehow change the bad boy into Prince Charming. Doesn’t work that way. Sorry.

  4. 4

    @ Joe # 1.   I was wondering the same thing myself.   As for Evan, you may not be a psychologist, but you certainly have a gift for what you do.   I have to wonder about Sharon’s self-esteem.   FeistyWoman (#3) has a valid point about attracting the people we think we deserve.   Stop and think honestly about Evan’s questions and I mean really think.  

  5. 5

    Being cheated on is bad enough but worse is consistently feeling you weren’t good enough to be the only girlfriend, nor good enough to be the #1 girlfriend.  
    It sounds like Sharon is settling for second best without even realizing it. Why would she want to be the #1 girlfriend to a man like this, a cheater and a liar?
    I have trust issues with men, and it can be very difficult to decipher when my concerns are legitimate or due to my own paranoia.
    Personally, I’ve sometimes had a difficult time trusting my gut feeling about a man and I suspect the same is true here. Maybe she doesn’t feel she deserves better, maybe she wants a relationship so badly that she ignores the signs and her own intuition. EMK has also talked about ignoring the positives and believing the negatives, and  I know that whenever I’ve ignored a negative gut feeling, I’ve regretted it. Don’t dismiss a negative feeling as mere “paranoia”.  

  6. 6

    oh so many questions….
    1. My parents have been happily married for 30 years. I have 6 happily married uncles.
    2. I’m 28
    3. Joe- no his family all choose to hold their tongues. He told me his   father had cheated on his mother so I suppose it was family tradition.
    3. I wouldn’t describe myself as someone with low self esteem. I guess what’s confusing is that all these guys seems to treat me well. The guy the brings you soup when your sick. Opens every door, hangs out with your friends, introduces you to his. These don’t have the overt tones of crappy relationship. I suppose they’ve all used the work excuse or family emergency one time too many but well within the gray area. All them have been very skilled at good through the motions of the good boyfriend. I have been cheated on or cheated with since my my first boyfriend at 14.
    4. It’s not like I stick around to put up with this crap. I recently changed my number and moved so the last one would stop showing up on my door.
    5. I’ve felt I compromised on physical attraction for charisma. I can see why that might be a problem. But I feel like if I can’t have the guy that I’m attracted to can I least have the guy that makes me laugh and is challenging and interesting. So maybe I have to go with less interesting men. But what’s the criteria for a date when you’ve already stripped away physical attraction and chemistry?

  7. 7

    Well, well, well.   Perhaps some people *did   jump to a few conclusions with Sharon’s situation.   Yes, she must have a picker problem of some kind, but there also might be something else going on, in my opinion.

    Is it possible that there are a lot of f’d up  men in this world and that the more f’d up they are, the more likely it is that they think they deserve a beautiful woman like Sharon?   If that is not the case, could it be that sites like match.com, etc. are feeding the egos of men who are Shari’s natural matches at 7+ on the looks scale, prompting them to seek out multiple partners like men are supposedly genetically prone to do?   Could it also be that shallow men love the idea that they can keep more than one woman “biting?”   Even if the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, it still doesn’t take away from Shari’s responsibility to herself to start choosing better partners, but they also might provide *some* validation for a woman who feels worn down by dishonest dating partners.   (Been there, done that, Sharon.   Sorry that you are having to go through it in your youth, too, but you teach me not to feel sorry for myself as a middle aged woman who has been repeatedly cheated on as well.)   Might it be time to pursue  some men who are about a “6” on the looks scale?!?

      My solution for Sharon is similar to what another poster said.   Without getting paranoid, look for clues to your partner’s integrity or the lack thereof.   Does he protect his computer with his life?   Will he let you use his phone on the spur of the moment?   Does it seem like he is protecting his “privacy” in any way?   In my own experience, these are all warning signs.   If you’ve talked and you both want an honest, open, committed relationship — and he’s still trying to keep a lot of things private, THAT, my dear, is a big ‘ol RED FLAG.   If I may generalize, men are less fastidious than women; therefore, there is no real reason for him to have to do a bunch of keypunching on his computer, phone, etc. in order for you to use it, UNLESS he has something to hide.   Keep this in the back of your mind when interacting with future boyfriends.  

    I also strongly encourage you to get to know your own computer and learn how to find out the websites he visits, even if he deletes his browsing history.   If he’s supposedly in a committed relationship, he shouldn’t be visiting dating sites or using porn extensively.   This might seem obvious, but I think it is worth mentioning as well.

    Good luck, Sharon!

    One last thing: I

    1. 7.1

      The really attractive women tend to attract these types.   I thought it was me too.   This type of stuff happened to me all the time.   I was a liar and cheater magnet and man did they put in effort to keep up the game.   People assumed it was me just like Evan did here but I was just like this writer.   I read a lot about it.   See the type of men that tend to pursue very attractive women are jerks and players.   Why because they are the ones confident enough to approach, maintain and pursue relationships with them.   Nice guys won’t.   Want I’ve learned is that your best bet is to go after nice average guys yourself.   But see that’s not how we are socialized and even reading some of Evans stuff he says to let men pursue you.    Plus as an attractive woman in your 20s as you say a lot of men are likely pursuing you so why would you pursue men of your own?   As she says they are good looking.

    2. 7.2

      Thank you for this.

  8. 8

    How could you spend 3-4 nights a week at his place for months while he was engaged to another woman? Were these all late night booty calls and you were gone by early morning? Where was the fiance’ all this time? Did he have a long distance relationship with her or something?

    Clearly the common denominator is you but you seem to not want to see/admit any red-flags, i.e. they all treat you great, bring you soup, open doors, meet your friends, your self-esteem is high –  and then out of the blue wham, he’s a cheating scum.

    Look deeper. The red flags are there. It’s something about you that chooses these men and ignores the red-flags and you have to realize what that is or you’ll keep doing it.

    1. 8.1

      Nah.   If she’s really hot you would be astonished the lengths some guys will go to to keep this up and they are pros at this.   A few months in she prob is not seeing it yet.   Key to his place met his family?

  9. 9

    #6 Sharon

    I totally understand what you’re saying.     We would all feel the same way if we were in positions where we ended up dating men where they were imposters.   There is something that is happening to cause you to choose these types of men.   It sounds to me like you are looking for the right things in regard to how he’s treating you superficially, but the reality has been that the same flawed men are being invited into your life.

    There’s no easy answer here. And this is not going to be solved with one post.   Maybe investing in coaching with Evan might be helpful?   Please be very open to what Evan and the others are saying.   What is is about you that is causing this to happen?   What’s really going on here?   Start asking yourself some questions–is it where you are meeting them?   Is it signals you’re giving them?   Are you too accommodating?   What about your boundaries, they could probably use some attention since these men are consistently invading your boundary?

    What you describe is NOT a common occurance.   Perhaps once, but not multiple times with a similar story.   Having said that, be aware we ALL have things to experience in our lives, the key is what you learn, how you can change and adapt to stop it from happening in the future.

    Lots of kudos to you Sharon for having the courage to write to Evan to ask about this and to take the feedback here in the spirit in which it’s intended.   I wish I would have done the same thing at your age, but I’m not sure I would have been open.   Really, be OPEN to what others are saying, then make the right decisions for you.

  10. 10

    #7 – Obviously there are f’ed up men AND women in this world.   I choose to believe there are MORE men and women of good character out there that wouldn’t do this to another human being.

    There’s nothing we can do to control or change f’ed up men or Match.com, etc.   The only thing we can do is make better choices for ourselves, work on self growth and do things differently in the future.   Suffering over the past or things we can’t control is fruitless.   Keep in mind that there is a psychological phenomena where we attract those who are of like maturity.   Sure, we can all get burned for many reasons once, but when similar things continuously happen, that’s a big red flag.

    I would also say that a man who is a 10 in the looks department does NOT mean he is automatically of low character and automatically a cheater.   Targeting ‘6’s’ is not the answer.   The answer is to ATTRACT men of good character.  

    P.S. your comments about looking for red flags is good.   On the other hand though we don’t want to be paranoid with our men and must trust them from the onset,   unless they prove otherwise.   Attracting men of good character takes care of all this.

    1. 10.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Denise: Would love to know your strategy for “attracting men of good character”. Because I’m not aware that one exists. You don’t attract the wrong men, you accept the wrong men.

  11. 11
    Edinburgh guy

    “Of course you have trust issues, you choose untrustworhy men”  

    Couldn’t agree more  

  12. 12

    Sarahrahrah, you have made some excellent points. I also thought some of the posters have been a bit hard on Sharon. Come-on we have all been there. Sometimes it is hard to spot the signs. Like other posters have said, if Sharon keeps dating the same types of men over and over she needs to take a deeper look at her contribution to this cycle.
    Insantiy is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to see a diffirent result.

  13. 13
    Karl R

    Sharon said: (original post)
    “I don’t spy on phone calls or snoop through drawers, but I’m starting to feel it’s necessary.”

    That’s counterproductive. You want a man who has integrity, and those men won’t tolerate that kind of treatment. They’re accustomed to being trusted (justifiably so), and they know that they don’t have to put up with suspicious partners.

    Sharon said: (original post)
    “Being cheated on is bad enough but worse is consistently feeling you weren’t good enough to be the only girlfriend, nor good enough to be the #1 girlfriend.”

    Why is this worse? If a guy decides to cheat, that’s a reflection upon him. When my first serious girlfriend cheated on me, it didn’t affect the way I viewed myself. It affected the way I viewed her.

    Sharon asked: (#6)
    “But what’s the criteria for a date when you’ve already stripped away physical attraction and chemistry?”

    Integrity. It’s possible that you’re missing the clues when your boyfriend lacks integrity. It’s also possible that you’re driving away men who have integrity.

    For example, I doubt that every person who cheats on their taxes also cheats on their significant other. But if  people cheat on their taxes, it shows that they don’t believe the normal  rules apply to them. It also shows they’re willing to take a risk of suffering huge consequences in return for a relatively small benefit.

    If someone lacks integrity in one area, they’re probably not a safe bet in other aspects of their lives.

    Most people who have integrity will feel uncomfortable around people who lack integrity. If you’re giving men the impression that you lack integrity, the ones who have integrity are more likely to break things off.

    Sharon said: (original post)
    “He had the nerve to ask me to reassure his lady that we had been using protection when we hadn’t.”

    Why hadn’t you been using protection? My girlfriend and I used condoms for the first several months for the first several months of our relationship even though she can’t get pregnant. As a matter of integrity, we weren’t going to take the risk of transmitting something (either direction) until enough time had passed and whe had both been tested.

    1. 13.1

      Hey Karl –

      Integrity is very important to me, but I think it’s an area where I could use pointers. For example, one of my ex’s that cheated on me also never showed up for jury duty, and stole some items (worth about $500 each) from his employer. But since he didn’t do these things until the second year I was dating him, I didn’t take them as seriously as I should have. Prior to that I had not seen him lie, cheat or steal.

      Could you give us some more examples clues showing where men lack integrity? And also clues that would indicate to men that we women lack integrity?

      I would guess that being a woman who ‘has no backbone’ or is over accepting of negatives would do that, but I’m a woman, so perhaps there are clues I’m missing. I know for myself that I had a very critical parent, and this ex was quite similar in some ways.

      Thank you for your assistance to womankind!


  14. 14

    #13 EMK

    I disagree with your premise.   It’s a well known phsychological phenomena that we attract those who are like us.   If we’re insecure, we attract insecure people, etc.

    This is not only in romantic relationships, but friendships as well.

    If we adopt the strategy to  work on ourselves to grow and mature, we will naturally attract men of better character and maturity.   (Same thing goes the other way)

    There is something about Sharon that is attracting these types of men to begin with.  

    What you are referring to is having good boundaries to not accept this type of behavior or other types of behavior that are not acceptable to us.   Boundaries are super important.

    1. 14.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Disagree all you want, Denise. All you have to do is prove to me that “It’s a well known phsychological phenomena that we attract those who are like us”. Put up the link and I’ll concede that you’re right.

      The real truth is that you may be attracted to people who are like you. You may fall in love with people or be friends with people who are like you. But that doesn’t mean that “we attract those who are like us” the way a magnet attracts another magnet.

      You CHOOSE your friends, you CHOOSE your lovers. They don’t just materialize out of thin air. As such, you don’t attract ANYONE.

      If 100 women write to me on Match and I don’t like 90% of them, did I “attract” the wrong women because of my profile and photos? No.

      I attracted WOMEN. All sorts of them. 90% weren’t for me.

      I only CHOOSE to write back to 10 of them and go out with 3 of them. If I date the one that is a psychopath, that’s my fault. I didn’t “attract” her helplessly.

      1. 14.1.1

        You know, it occurs to me that women want integrity in their men, but either don’t know what to look for, ask, or attract those men.

        After all, won’t most people tell you they have integrity if you ask them directly? (After all, people with a double chin and a beer gut will look you dead in the eye and tell you how hot they are. I’m not sure if they are lying or deluded). Do people who do lie, cheat or steal  admit that they lie, cheat and steal? If a guy sees that integrity is important to you, and you will break up with him if he shows that behavior, won’t he just hide that behavior (just like men do with seeing ex’s, porn, etc?).

        Of course, a man with integrity would NOT do those things. But when you are just getting to know a man, it’s really, really hard to see the difference between the man who   genuinely has integrity and one who is hiding behaviors so you won’t see that he doesn’t have integrity.

        Evan, I’d love to see a whole post on how to spot integrity (and the lack of it) for those of us with bad pickers.

  15. 15

    I am curious, Sharon: do you explicitly ask a man about his relationship status at the start? It’s amazing how many men I weed out immediately by asking   What is your relationship status? Are you involved or married but are looking for something more? Divorced? Single? as a part of initial email conversations when it comes to online dating.

    1. 15.1

      I have learned over the last 12 years (since I was unxpectedly widowed at a young age( that even if you ask those tough questions there are a surprisingly large # of men who will lie about some things that most of us can check for free or nominal cost if we were so inclined.. Some are players, some think rules are for others etc. But I follow former Pres. Reagan’s advice: “Trust but verify”. I’m a paralegal and not long after I meet a guy and have his name I look to see if there is a finalized divorce docket on the books, jointly owned property with a spouse etc. I would rather find out a guy is lying early on before he wastes my time and plays roulette with my feelings. I’ve learned giving the benefit of the doubt when I can easily verify integrity often results in some guy trying to con me one way or another so I nix it and move on. I wish I had a dollar for every married or (allegedly) separated man who has tried to get somewhere with me and who was utterly shocked that I was onto them pretty quickly. It’s really discouraging.

    2. 15.2

      I once asked a guy if he was single and he said yes. I found out he was engaged and he said well I’m still technically single. I am a lawyer but I don’t particularly enjoy cross examining my date.

  16. 16

    I wouldn’t necessarily call it jumping to conclusion.   Sharon, as others have, gives Evan and thereby us only a certain amount of information to work with.   It’s not wrong, it just is.   If I were to write in, I would give Evan what I felt was pertinent to the situation I was writing about.    Others reading the post might wonder and want more information.    We and Evan are more removed from the situation and can come up with thoughts based on personal and/or professional experience.    I know full well that I may not have all of the information when I choose to comment.    Although Sharon responded that she does not believe she has a problem with self esteem I still have to wonder.    It may very well be that in all other aspects of your life your good there, but for whatever reason your self esteem is not so great when it comes to romantic relationships.    Evans questions were/are a good place to start.    Sharon stated, “… All them have been very skilled at good through the motions of the good boyfriend. I have been cheated on or cheated with since my first boyfriend at 14.”    Your 28 now so this has been going on for half your life.    I don’t know how many boyfriends you’ve had in that time and I’m not asking. It’s an obvious pattern and you’ve taken the first step in trying to break it by seeking advice/input/ whatever you want to call it.  Here are some more questions to ask yourself.        How long do you wait after a breakup before entering another serious relationship?    The longer you wait the better off you are.    You need to be emotionally divorced (for lack of a better word) from your ex before engaging in another serious relationship.    Other than the cheating, what other behaviors do these men have in common?    You don’t have to answer us.    Karl also makes some very valid points about integrity.    The reverse also holds true.  People with little integrity often feel uncomfortable around those with higher standards

  17. 17

    EMK, I think I see what Denise is saying. If I put in the work to live a healthy life and ‘do the right thing’ so to speak, and I go out with someone who (I find out on the date) does not, then chances are she won’t want to see me again after that one date, and vice versa.   She might think I’m this square goody-two-shoes or something.
    I stand a better shot of attracting someone emotionally healthy by being emotionally healthy myself. I think that is what Denise is getting at.

  18. 18

    That doesn’t doesn’t eliminate our need to FILTER though–someone who is a mess might be attracted to someone who has their life together. The filtering is I think what Denise meant by “boundaries”.

  19. 19

      @ Denise #15 & EMK #17.   It’s not “a well known  psychological  phenomena that we attract those who are like us.   If we’re insecure, we attract insecure people, etc.” That’s counseling theory. If I recall correctly it’s attributed to either Freidman or Bowen. It’s been a while so I could be wrong about that. There is certainly some truth to the statement, but it is in no way the sole explanation for the choices we make in our lives. So much goes into making us who we are. There’s no way I’m going to go into all of it as it doesn’t suit the purposes of this thread or blog. By and large it does boil down to choice and there are certain exceptions to every rule so I’m not referring here to serious pathology here .

  20. 20
    Karl R

    Denise said: (#15)
    “It’s a well known phsychological phenomena that we attract those who are like us.”

    It’s a well-known pop-culture belief. I’m unaware of any scientific basis to it. The common criticism by scientists is that you can’t prove or disprove this belief.

    If you can find some scientific support for this “well known psychological phenomena”, I’d like to read it too.

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