So, there I was, sitting on the sofa, thinking, What am I going to write about today? Maybe “cheating.” That’s always a popular topic. Just as I finished my thought, a character on whatever random TV show that happened to be on said, “Come on, everybody cheats. It’s no big deal,” or something like that. I wasn’t really watching the show, so I may have mixed up his quote a bit, but I think I’m pretty close. Though the TV guy was actually talking about cheating on a test, I felt it was a sign. He was trying to tell me something. Behind his words was a secret message: “You’ve got to address this, Nad. It’s out of control! Someone has to say something, and I think it should be you.” Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence, TV guy. I never knew you believed in me *tear*.
Okay, so maybe the TV guy wasn’t really sending me a secret message. Most likely, all he was doing was delivering his lines, but I still want to address this topic. I was at a viewing of the black marriage documentary You Saved Me and we began to discuss why so many relationships are falling apart. “Because everyone is cheating. Everyone I know in a relationship is either cheating or being cheated on. It’s crazy!” a woman in the audience said. Sounds like she’s been talking to TV guy, or maybe she’s just aware of the reality. Stats on the issue can only give us a partial view of the problem, because it’s hard to get people to be honest about their “extracurricular activities.” Accepted percentages range anywhere from 30 to 60%, with various factors affecting those numbers (Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Whichever number you choose to believe, go ahead and add another 10% to that to account for all the people that lied and said they didn’t when they did.
Despite the elusiveness of concrete, reportable numbers, one thing is clear: Cheating is must more accepted these days. Many people, married and dating, have come to accept cheating a normal part of life. Some cite the human being’s–particularly the male’s–propensity toward multiple partners over a lifetime. Others view love and relationships as temporary and not all that serious. They see cheating as a minor infraction, something they probably shouldn’t do, but “oh well” if they do, just like littering. Everyone knows littering is wrong, but many people do it anyway and don’t feel bad in the least.
Reasons for Cheating
- Because of the Ego Boost-For some, usually those that have boyfriends or girlfriends and not spouses, cheating is actually cool. It shows how desirable they are. They like the fact that they can attract not only one mate, but several. It’s like a 5-Hour Energy shot to the ego. That’s why it’s so exciting when a person who is already in a relationship meets someone new. It reminds them that, “Hey, you’re one sexy mutha… (Shut yo’ mouth!)” Among most married people, who have more to lose, cheating isn’t quite as cool, but it still delivers the same ego boost. Sometimes, married people feel like they’ve gotten stale, like they’ve lost touch with their inner “go getter.” Cheating offers a comforting reminder that they’ve still got it.
- Because you can– This one is pretty simple. As more opportunities for cheating present themselves and fewer consequences threaten to punish the behavior, more people are willing to do it. Let’s take women, for example. Back before women joined the workforce and started generating their own income, women were a lot less likely to cheat. They couldn’t. They had too much too lose. If they got caught and their husbands left them, where would they go? Who would provide for them and their children? Now, women are making their own money and don’t necessarily need their husbands for financial stability. That makes it easier for them to take the risk of cheating. (Note of clarification: I am not saying that the remedy to cheating is for women to stop working. So, please, no angry comments suggesting I’m anti-women.) Let’s look at young, unmarried men (16-25). For a lot of them, there is almost no reason not to cheat. There are many young, naive, needy women willing to put up with the behavior and many young, troubled home-wreckers-in-training willing to engage in the behavior. That’s a recipe for disaster.
- Because the more sex you have, the cooler you are to your friends– There is a double standard here when it comes to sexual promiscuity in men and women. Women are expected not to jump in the bed with every guy they meet, but men, on the other hand, are praised for the exact same behavior. Men like Bishop Don “Magic” Juan (an actual pimp) and Hue Hefner (a de facto pimp) are considered cool, and many young men rush out to imitate their behavior.
- Because hedonism is our way of life– In our society, there is rarely a need to deny yourself anything. If you want it, you should have it (especially when you’re young.) That’s why so many Americans are overwrought with debt, and that’s why cheating is so accepted. If you find yourself interested in another person, dog-gonit, you should go for it! Never mind the relationship you’re already in. What matters now is that you see something pretty and shiny, and you deserve to have it.
- Because we don’t know how to properly deal with relationship/emotional problems– Cheating isn’t always about how sexually irresistible the other person is. Sometimes, it’s about what’s going on inside the relationship and inside the individual. When things get tricky and we find ourselves in unhappy relationships, the easiest remedy is to escape (ie cheat). Cheating can also feed emotional issues that cause us to self-sabotage and avoid true intimacy.
There are probably many other reasons I could have included on this list, but I think I’ve created a strong enough case for the sexiness of cheating. In my opinion, cheating is not sexy or cool or normal. It is a choice. It is not something that just happens (as if our hands are tied), and it is not inevitable. It is a relationship destroyer that is bound to complicate your life and hurt the person you love. Being in a committed relationship is hard enough. There are issues of finances, lifestyle, parenting, sex, etc. that are bound to come up, even in the best of relationships. These four things are enough to keep you on your toes for a lifetime. There is no need to add in something else. If you’d like to have many sexual partners, you have the right to do that as a single person, but once you get married or get in a committed relationship, you forfeit that right in exchange for something beautiful and secure.
Buss, D. M., & Shackelford, T. K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity in the first year of marriage. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193-221.