Could My Husband’s Childhood Have Caused Him To Be A Cheater?

By: Katie Lersch: It’s common knowledge that, when people are caught cheating, they will sometimes offer up excuses that place the blame elsewhere. They might tell you that they didn’t think they were worthy of love or happiness or that they sabotaged themselves. They might tell you that something traumatic in their backgrounds contributed to their behaviors. One example might be their childhood. And while the faithful spouse might have some sympathy for the child that their spouse used to be, they often don’t know if this excuse is a valid one.

Someone might voice this concern. “I caught my husband cheating on me a couple of weeks ago. He is apparently sorry and is begging me not to divorce him. I still love my husband. And if I could understand what made him do this, then I might consider working things out. But I really just do not get it. We had a very good marriage. At least that is what I thought. Our sex life was good. We were connected. We talked and laughed. I keep asking him why he would jeopardize something that was so good. He says that it is just in his family culture to cheat. His dad and all of his uncles had multiple girlfriends in addition to wives. In fact, his dad would flaunt the other women in his house. This was painful for my husband and his siblings, but it was especially painful for his mother. This explanation does not make sense to me. If anything, I would think that this would be a reason NOT to cheat. If you grew up seeing the pain that the infidelity caused, why on earth would you bring it into your own marriage? For example, my mother was a heavy smoker and because of this, I have never tried smoking in my entire life and I never would. Can someone cheat because of their childhood?”

I’ve definitely heard this reasoning before. It’s not uncommon. And I think that when you have certain things in your childhood – you might either go one of two ways.  You might repeat those behaviors, because it’s all that you know. Or, like you have done, you might want to avoid those behaviors at all costs.

Your husband might be completely sincere in his belief that his childhood contributed to his infidelity. Perhaps the men in his family believe that you are not a “real man” unless you have more than one woman. It’s possible to see how growing up with this belief might contribute to your acting on it as an adult. However, there is so much more to cheating than just one contributing factor most of the time. Because even if the inclination and tendency is there, the level of commitment and a heightened impulse control can counter it.

So, if you do end up being open to saving your marriage, your husband would need to work on the childhood issues, and on preventing himself from being in that type of situation, or thought process, again.

With help, childhood issues can be overcome. Infidelity is no exception. And sometimes, knowing the pain that this caused you can be a motivator to do the work to heal and to proclaim that the trend ends with you and your family.

But you have to be careful that the childhood issue isn’t being used as a crutch or an excuse. As adults, we have choices. We are not children anymore. Sure, the inclination might be there from childhood issues, but we have to remember that we have made a choice. And being a responsible adult who is no longer a child means taking responsibility for that choice and for making things right again.

So, while I think that there may be some legitimacy in having risk factors that carry over from childhood, I also think that you have to acknowledge the choices that you’ve made and then take responsibility for having made them. With that done, you can then get down to the work of undoing the damage that the childhood has done.

People do heal from affairs, from bad childhoods, and from cultural standards if they are willing to do the work. And sometimes, seeing the pain that they caused those they love can be very motivating to break those habits forever. So yes, your husband’s childhood may have contributed to his affair. But that doesn’t excuse the choice he made. I’d suspect you’d want him to work on those issues with a progressional and learn to honor his commitment to his marriage – despite his childhood.

I firmly believe that my own childhood contributed to the way that I handled my own spouse’s affair.  My step-father cheated on my mother and she was extremely open about it in front of my siblings and myself.   She never healed and carried the anger with her like a badge.  So I vowed to handle this very differently in my own case and in my own family. You can read more about that on my blog at

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