Why do those that love their partner, and are supposedly happy, still cheat? Should we just accept the fact that our partner may truly love us, but still want to have an affair? Or should we demand better, and kick a cheater to the curb?
There are two main schools of thought on infidelity:
(1) We are not meant to be monogamous, and cheating should be expected, as one would naturally cheat on the Atkins diet. (This argument is usually specific to men not being naturally monogamous, which brings to surface the obvious argument: if men are not supposed to be monogamous, neither are women, unless the world is devoid of heterosexuals.)
(2) Monogamy is not only natural, but it is the moral standard, and those who are unfaithful are absolute moral deviants.
In the media, it is commonplace to make light of ‘transgressions’ in relationships, even glamorizing infidelity. Chris Rock famously stated, “a man is only as faithful as his options“, implying those that are unfaithful are simply more desirable. Who wouldn’t want to be desirable? Shall the bigger cheater win the pageant…?
So, either we quote Chris Rock, or we make a bastardization of biological and evolutionary theories to squirm our way out of the blame.
Few would dispute that cheating destroys the very fabric of a relationship. Once persistent thoughts of infidelity sink in, the relationship begins to lean like the Tower of Pisa. Once unfaithful thoughts have been acted upon, well, life becomes a game of Jenga: the pivotal piece has been removed, and the entire relationship will be on the verge of collapse. And – if you can stomach another metaphor – once news of infidelity spills, it stains the rug, and it will forever be an eyesore in the middle of your living room.
Esther Perel says it best:
“It is the ultimate betrayal. Infidelity shatters the grand ambition of love.”
But what does Esther Perel – a Belgian psychotherapist, sexuality expert, author and speaker – have to say on the matter?
Enter: Esther Perel
What is “monogamy”? What is “cheating”?
Esther questions the very assumption of modern monogamy, explaining,
“Before, monogamy used to mean one person for life. Today, monogamy means one person at a time.”
“The definition of infidelity keeps expanding: sexting, watching porn, staying secretly active on dating aps… Is it a hook-up, a love story, paid sex, a chatroom, a massage with happy endings?”
Confounding moral conundrums
“We are walking contradictions; 95% of us will say it is terribly wrong for us to lie about having an affair, but the same say we would lie if we were having one.”
“When it comes to sex, the pressure for men is to boast and exaggerate, but the pressure for women is to hide, minimize and deny.”
“Why do we think men cheat out of boredom and fear of intimacy, but women cheat out of loneliness and hunger for intimacy?”
“There is this idea that if you have everything you need at home, you won’t go looking somewhere else. As if there is such a thing as a perfect marriage that will inoculate us against wanderlust.”
Cheating in happy relationships, and cheating in decaying relationships