Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cheating

There's a book I've been meaning to get, and when I get the money, I'll have it. It's called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. In an article from CNN about the book,the author Ryan puts it best, "Our bodies, minds and sexual habits all reflect a highly sexual primate. Research from primatology, anthropology, anatomy and psychology points to the same conclusion: A nonpossessive, gregarious sexuality was the human norm until the rise of agriculture and private property just 10,000 years ago, about 5 percent of anatomically modern humans' existence on Earth." He says that 95% of our evolution involved women and men sharing partners and children.

Ryan talks about how back in the day, when people were hunter/gatherers that they didn't carry many possessions. People lived in little villages and helped one another. The men got food, the women cooked it and watched the children while the men were out hunting. Things were shared, and the women were part of that. Ryan says that people never really cared about biological paternity until agriculture became a priority. It was then that people had their own private property, including women. All of a sudden, a woman was 'owned' and they were expected to stay that way. Believe it or not, there was a time when divorce rates weren't that high, and it was sort of taboo. People grew up being taught that they would find that one person they would fall in love with and marry and be expected to stay with forever. Of course, adultery is a sin, and we are taught from a young age that it is wrong to be with anyone except the one you are already with. Even the Bible says in Matthew 5:28: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." It's difficult to be raised with these morals and not feel guilty for lusting after someone who is not the one you love. But believe me--it's completely normal.

Magazines like Cosmopolitan seem to always have an article or two about cheating. How to know when your man is cheating, how to keep your man from cheating, what to do after you've cheated, etc. Some pieces of advice will tell you that if he wants less sex, he's cheating because he's getting it somewhere else. Some say the opposite; if he wants more sex, he's cheating and trying to make up for it. It's almost enough to make anyone paranoid. If you partner is texting a lot or busy a lot, it says, be wary that they might be sexting someone or meeting up with someone else. Of course, you won't know someone is cheating unless you have proof. In this month's (November's) Cosmopolitan, there is a little poll about how people have found out their boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife was cheating. Thirty percent said that they were told from a friend, which surprised me. I thought the biggest one would be by looking through email or Facebook (only 16%) or looking through their phone (18%).  The second most common, at 20%, is the person confesses! Luckily only 5% say they've walked in on their partner cheating.


It's absurd to think that once you find someone that you have legitimate feelings for, you no longer feel any kind of physical attraction to anyone else. And the fact that you do (and you will) is not something to feel guilty about. But the key is having the common sense to not act on those feelings. Of course there are alternatives, such as having an open relationship. But that is something you both need to be okay with and have a very open line of communication between the two of you, as well as strict rules. The majority of people won't agree to open relationships, and lots of people become jealous when it comes to their own relationships. Most people also say, "I would never cheat." Why then, do they?

That's not an easy question to answer, because there is no one answer. Now, we're just considering physical cheating here. There are other forms of cheating, like emotional cheating, but that's another story. Most people think that women have the tendency to emotionally cheat more often than sexually. But Cosmo says that women who are sexually unsatisfied are three times more likely to cheat than those who aren't, but those who are emotionally unsatisfied are only 2.6 times more likely to cheat. And something even more interesting is that women are more likely to cheat at certain times of the month. Naturally, this goes along with women's hormones. During ovulation, your body enters reproduction mode. This is the time you should be having baby-making sex because your body will be releasing an egg.  Hormones released during ovulation make you want sex, and because you are so horny, you want anything that looks good. You might feel attracted to any cute guy or one that makes you laugh. Some women just might be weak during this time, and give in to that temptation. Or maybe it's that they feel unappreciated or sexually unsatisfied and take any attention they can get. Not saying that ovulation is a reason why people cheat. The reason is their satisfaction in a relationship, but the hormones can assist. Every women knows that sometimes hormones can cause you to act a little irrationally, and sometimes, that could come in the form of cheating.


Mira Kirshenbaum, couple's counselor and author of the book When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts and Minds of People in Two Relationships,  believes there are 17 reasons why people cheat. She says that lots of times, people don't go out with the intention of finding someone to cheat with. Someone just happens to enter their lives at the right time, or maybe they were already there, and they start to spend a little more time together, connecting at a different level. Sometimes, cheating happens when two people are drunk and innocent flirtation escalates. Kirshenbaum says that sometimes people cheat to try and get caught, so they can get out of their relationships. Or that they cheat to get what they think they're missing in their relationships, or to get what they want from someone else so that they can stay in their primary relationship and people will think nothing is wrong. Some other reasons she talks about are the 'I just need to indulge myself'  affair, which means that over-worked stressed people cheat to get pleasure for themselves. The 'Let's kill this relationship and see if it comes back to life' affair, which is finding out about an affair and seeing if the relationship will ultimately become stronger from it. The one I like is the 'Having experiences I've missed out on' affair, which is people who enter long-term relationships without having had previous relationships, and they cheat to be with someone else and see what they're missing. A lot of people cheat just because they find someone they like and want the best of both worlds, or they feel that something is missing in their relationship.

A new-ish website, AshleyMadison.com, caters to people in relationships who want something on the side.It's essentially a Match.com for married/dating couples. Seventy percent of the members are men, and the website's projected 2011 revenue is $39 million. This shows us that cheating is really not all that rare, and it happens a lot more than we'd like to think. So what should we do, to avoid cheating and avoid being cheated on? First off, recognize your attraction. Telling yourself that you would never do something isn't a good enough excuse to keep you from doing it. Don't put yourself in positions that would allow for something to happen. If you are with a person you think you have a mutual attraction with and you are in a relationship, try to not be alone with that person. If you are alone with that person, be strong in your commitments and avoid alcohol. Even the person most against cheating can end up doing so once they have a few drinks in them. Try to stay away from flirting. Some innocent flirting is natural, but make sure you don't take it too far. Keep things fun and exciting with your partner and stay in constant communication. If you are lacking something in your relationship, tell your partner to avoid resentment building up to the point of cheating.

The Kinsey Institute ran a study showing that about 23% of men and 19% of women have cheated. This is surprising close, as most people tend to think there is a bigger gap between the percentages. An article by Anna Bahr on Huffington Post puts it this way, "Men who were easily aroused and men who suffered from "performance anxiety" were more likely to be unfaithful. Their sexual satisfaction within their "monogamous relationship" was irrelevant--they'd cheat whether the sex with their partner was good or not.
Conversely, for women, happiness with their long-term sexual partner was paramount--women who felt sexually unsatisfied were more likely to cheat."

So satisfaction is not always the reason, as many people cheat regardless of how happy they are. Robin Milhausen and Kristen Mark from the University of Guelph and Erick Janssen from the Kinsey Institute, say that the people that do cheat regardless of satisfaction are acting according to their 'sexual personalities,' which is how easily we are turned on by certain things. Basically, if a person is easily inhabited and easily turned on, they have a better chance of cheating. But if they are easily inhabited and not easily turned on, and vice versa, they likely won't cheat, explaining why not everyone cheats or doesn't.

It sucks to get cheated on, and it's a painful thing to deal with, but it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. Kirshenbaum is a big advocate of not telling your partner about an indiscretion. "[...] when you confess to having an affair, you are hurting someone more than you can ever imagine. So I tell people, if you care that much about honesty, figure out who you want to be with, commit to that relationship and devote the rest of your life to making it the most honest relationship you can. But confessing your affair is the kind of honesty that is unnecessarily destructive," Kirshenbaum says. There is an exception, she says. If you know you will get figured out, tell. And if you ever had unprotected sex and have any bit of chance of having contracted an STD or passing it on, you have to tell your partner.

Just remember, humans are not naturally monogamous, but that doesn't excuse cheating on your partner. Again, communication is key. Be open and honest about how you feel and you might be able to avoid future infidelities.

Why We Have Affairs-And Why Not to Tell-Time.
Infidelity Linked to 'Sexual Personality': University of Guelph Study-Huffington Post.
Monogamy Unnatural for Our Sexy Species-CNN.
Cosmopolitan November Issue.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I almost agree with that Kirshenbaum person. I think that if you do something like that, if the guilt is eating you up you have to remind yourself that you'd be putting the other person through much worse and you kind of deserve the guilt for what you did. I agree with the being figured out thing though, much better not to find out from someone else. Super interesting read!!

    Also, thanks for the perspective on cheating! I now understand why I did what I did when I was much younger to Jon. I don't feel better for what I did but I have a better understanding of it and that helps to not make the same mistakes again (although I would have absolutely no desire to now :P )

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