Cheating

Today, as I blog on the subject of relational cheating, I must say upfront what I am NOT saying: I do not encourage cheating, I do not condone cheating and I would strongly encourage you NOT to cheat on your partner. I blog today as one who is objectively looking at what I perceive to be a problem in society (and please argue with me on these perceptions!) and make some, perhaps, unpopular observations concerning the nature of relational cheating. I am trying to understand cheating and its role in society.  I am one who likes to look at what is happening without moral judgment -which tends to cloud productive and objective thinking.

Let’s get this party started, ya cheatin’ bastards.images

There is a fundamental rule I have learned in my lifetime: People are going to do whatever the hell they want to do and very little can be done to stop them.  As a society, we set up certain punishments and incentives to discourage or encourage certain behaviors with some degree of success, yet, I would argue, these punishments and incentives are not as effective as we might want to think or want them to be a great deal of the time.

Our prisons are filled with people who murder, rob banks, molest children, etc…in spite of the fact we have set up strong punishments for such people. Conversely, our government has set up certain financial incentives to save additional money in certain programs, Roth IRAs for example, yet millions do not take advantage of such programs while our savings rate as a nation is one of the lowest in the world, around 4.5% in 2013, 16th out of the 28 countries in this study.

Thus, we can conclude that for some, neither punishments nor incentives are necessarily indicators that behavior will be changed or altered. In terms of infidelity, obviously the threat of divorce or being the family pariah is not a strong enough punishment to dissuade many from cheating. In the end, the human being will act like a human being regardless of consequences. Why? We are getting there…

I blog today on an issue I once blogged about a couple of years ago–the fact that many people always have and always will cheat in their relationships. I do not want to sound like a broken record and simply rewrite what I wrote in my blog of nearly two years ago. In that blog I focused much more on people’s self-righteous indignation towards cheaters (and you will get a strong dose of that in this blog as well…at least I’m consistent), mainly directed at a website whose sole purpose is to make cheating “safe and easy.” Today I want to address the human condition of why people, of both genders, cheat, and offer my observations of the cheating world.

Today I begin with 3 fundamental questions: Why do people cheat, how many people cheat (an impossible number to figure out with great precision) and what, in fact, constitutes cheating -at least for the sake of this blog. I will work off a few basic assumptions that you may or may not agree with:

  • First off, though there are many reasons people may cheat, the primary reasons are sexual fulfillment, new emotional connections and newfound excitement in an otherwise mundane and dull relational existence. It simply spices up the main course meal of life. Many who cheat are still very much in love with their partner.
  • Secondly, the assumption is that A LOT of people cheat, much more than what we may currently think. Of course this is not a stretch as a contemporary “cheating” website was recently hacked and threatened to expose the name of all 37 MILLION, yes million, users. When one considers this is only 1 website of many, is it farfetched to conclude A LOT of people cheat, perhaps MOST people? I do not think it is. When you consider that most people who do cheat do not get caught and sure as hell are not going to tell anybody, the number of  cheaters -again, a number we can never be entirely sure of- is astronomically high. I am sure there are many more people cheating on their taxes than have ever been caught cheating on their taxes. Most of us might hate to admit it though cheating, can be argued, is a fairly normative human behavior.
  • The final assumption, for the sake of this blog, is that any physical intimacy -be it a one time make out session or ongoing affair- though certainly different in scope and potential fall out, are all considered cheating at some level in a traditional arrangement.

My first observation is this: When most people engage in a particular somewhat normative behavior, why do we demonize it and not simply accept it as part of the human condition? Maybe “cheating” is just a human being being a human being. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “human exploring,” as in, “She is one of the most notorious human explorers I know.” Homosexuality was once considered a disease, transgendered people were mentally sick and women were considered inferior to men. We evolve as a people when we let go of our biases and see reality for what it is -and it first comes with accepting the behavior of those (seemingly) different from us without judgment. Many evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists contend it is monogamy that goes against the grain of human nature, not cheating.

“But, wait Jimmy, I am human and I do not cheat.” Thank you, oh omniscient one. I’ll take your word for it…though read on. To this I respond that I am human and am not gay…though a lot of humans are. I am human and I am not asexual…though a lot of humans are. I am not into S&M…at least not tonight…but a lot of humans are. The human experience is vast and diverse -simply because someone does not share my personal proclivities does not make them any less human and certainly not any more or less moral.

My second observation concerns the indignant responses society has toward cheaters, errr, explorers (I promised you I would get there!). My thought is “thou protesteth too much.” Human beings tend to get the most riled up over issues they personally struggle with the most. Since most people have explored -or at the very least have had thoughts of exploring outside of traditional set-up- it is no wonder we project our own personal frustration onto others who have been caught. Our reactions may be generated by inward jealousy for those who have not cheated yet would love to, or, for those who have cheated it is just creating self-righteous theater to make you look like a monogamous hero. Just like the angry senator who consistently votes against gay rights only to be caught with a young male intern in a compromising position…same type of hypocrisy.

I am currently reading a book, Modern Romance, by Comedian Aziz Ansari…who wrote this book along with a number of respected academics and relational researchers. In the portion of the book dedicated to cheating, in particular the very high prevalence of it contrasted with the reaction of disgust towards it, he opines, “…when it comes to sex and relationships, what we believe in theory does not line up with what we do in practice…When you compare this level of disapproval with the data on the actual prevalence of cheating, it paints a strange picture. Do we really believe that all these masses of people who engage in affairs are moral monsters? That makes quite a lot of monsters. It seems that we reluctantly accept the act of cheating in our own lives while still condemning the practice at large.”

Preach it Aziz. Perhaps the only thing worse than a cheater is a hypocritical cheater.

When faced with a wall of insurmountable facts and data, humans tend to poo poo such evidence if it makes them feel discomfort or flies in the face of what they so desperately want to believe. Most prefer a shallow and unrealistic romance with illusions over and above a deep relationship with truth -and the truth is cheating is well within the realm of normal human behavior.

My third observation concerns a troubling traditional marriage contract between two people that forbids either of them to “explore” EVER and under no conditions. Why? Do we now own the other person upon commitment? I hate to go all 1970’s on your asses though we had a saying back then that suggested, “If you love something set it free.” Yes, technically it is “cheating” because most of society has drafted an unreasonable and unrealistic contract for the majority of people. Therefore the primary problem lies in the untenable contract much more than in the human beings who are just acting like, well, uh, human beings.

Or does it?

I am not convinced that hoping and aspiring to a very difficult goal, some might say a nearly impossible goal, is necessarily a bad thing. Yet, I am not saying it is a good thing either. To aspire to an objective that separates us from other animals, keeping our baser instincts controlled and intact may be a very positive venture for society in general, particularly the family structure. Yet, the downside is pretty strong as well…by aspiring to something that is very difficult to achieve and then being devastated when it is not realized comes with a very painful emotional price tag -not to mention lawyers fees and court costs. Ahhh…the tension. Still, in the end, I would say the costs of such aspiration outweigh the potential rewards of it.

I understand that many people have been hurt by the behavior known as “cheating.” I contend that it was not the “cheating” that was devastating, rather the above-mentioned social constructs we have created that placed certain expectations on certain types of relationships. Perhaps if we rid society of this expectation, cheating would become exploring (I know I am using that word a lot and do not care for it all that much…but the English language does not have word for a “cheater” that is not laced with hate and vitriol…let’s think of one kids) and we could all calm down and accept the human animal for what it is. In other words, we could become much more European -53% of the French believe exploring to be morally acceptable. Or Chilean, 33%. America? 16%. Americans are notorious for preferring devastating divorces over empathy and understanding…lawyers are thrilled.

In most of my courses the examinations are taken online with open books and open notes. I instruct my students that it is impossible to cheat…you can use anything you wish and you can even take the test together as a group. The confused students, who are conditioned like Pavlovian mutts to finding creative and inventive ways to cheat on exams, are often disarmed and bewildered. As the professor, I am relieved of my burden of detecting, finding and calling out cheaters. It’s nice. As a result, my classes often get together as a group in our library, collect their books and notes, open their exams together and then discuss and argue communication concepts for about an hour…it is a beautiful thing to see students working together in this way. I believe that they are learning FAR MORE than if I stuck with a traditional method of examinations.

I think you get the analogy.

The goal in my courses is student learning –nothing more, nothing less. I never want convention to get in the way of student learning. For most of us, I believe our goal in life is to be happy and fulfilled yet often our convention may get in the way of those simple goals. I am not talking about a relational free-for-all, rather a basic understanding and acceptance of how human beings operate- and it’s high time we stopped the self-righteous moral outrage.

So people are going to do whatever they hell they want to do. Can we all just accept that fact and move forward and act accordingly?

Relationship advice author Dan Savage, in his book American Savage, sums up my sentiments quite nicely: “I’m not saying that being cheated on by your spouse is not a big deal, or a violation, or a betrayal. It is all of those things. But if more people understood how difficult monogamy is over the long term, and how common cheating is, and if people were encouraged to assess the actual particulars of a particular adulterous incident rather than seeing all cheating as essentially equal…maybe more marriages would survive the nearly inevitable infidelity.”

Smart guy, that Savage.

I realize arguing that “cheating” /slash/ exploring as a fairly normative behavior and should be accepted as such is a very unromantic, nontraditional, and an uncomfortable position to take. Ironically I am in no way promoting cheating…I just want to look at reality, as uncomfortable as it may be, and help save relationships. The choice seems rather simple, we can either keep aspiring to a lofty goal and continue to be devastated or we can identify the true human condition, stop aspiring and accept the human being for what it is.

There you have it. My longest blog ever. I try to keep my blogs to a thousand words…I guess I cheated, errr, explored.

 

jimmysintension

30 Comments

  1. “Exploring”. Yes! As an explorer the condemnation of self and others is a heavy burden to carry. Jimmy, you know I agree and believe marriage should be defined as a couple not the community .Current systems of traditional marriage are out dated and out of touch with human instinct. Is this defiance of our natural instinct to explore an example of our dedication to our spouse/partner? It seems to me that over time these puritanical ideas of what a marriage should look like will continue to fade away.Unique partnerships defined by the people involved will cultivate a new freedom in relationships. At least we can hope …..

    • Preaching to the choir sister Shanagolden! I really think this blog is inspiring me to write a book specifically on this subject (it will be the tenth one I have started though never finished cause I disagree with myself by the fourth chapter).

  2. Continuing from our facebook conversation: can we discuss the role of intent?

    You touched on that cheating, regardless of the relationship, is a breach of trust, which I can agree with. However, does that mean each act of cheating is as severe as another? I think we can agree that it is within our nature to make mistakes, but what if cheating occurred with purely malicious intent? For example, Immanuel Kant may argue that cheating with or without intent is equally severe in each case, but Kant’s deontological perspective is also extreme in some regards. I can agree that a betrayal of trust is a betrayal of trust, but when I was a kid and I told my mom I wouldn’t steal from the cookie jar and then proceeded to steal from the cookie jar, I committed a betrayal of trust. Is a betrayal measurable and if so under what parameters?

  3. Cheating (exploring) breaks up families, I don’t want to see anymore fatherless children, I can imagine from a child’s perspective I wouldn’t want my Dad cheating on my mom. I think it comes down to what’s in our hearts and if our hearts out filled with lust we will have the desire to cheat. I think our culture needs more families together and should say the positive things in marriage, there are ways for a marriage to spice up there sex life’s and satisfy each other without exploring.

    • I am in total agreement with you. I hate divorce and families breaking up. Though the situation is far more complex than what you suggest. I know some women (and a few men) who, after a number of years, are now done with sex. Is that fair to a partner? I wish history/biology were on your side buy they simply are not. A great number of people have, do, and will continue to seek extra marital experiences at some level for a wide variety of reasons…and when it happens, it does not need to break up families.

      • I think that is interesting to hear that women and a few men are “done with sex”. If a women is done with sex with her husband then I think it is a marriage issue. If her husband can “explore” and please another women, then when his wife leaves him maybe he will realize what he lost and will please his wife again in bed like when they first met and his wife will want to have sex with him again, just thinking outloud.

        • It’s also a possibility that the person being cheated on is seeing a whole lot of red flags concerning their partner and may be “done” with having sex with their partner. Not necessarily “done with sex”.

        • Nope…not done with sex with her husband…done with sex period. It is more common than you might think…the partner has nothing to do with it.

          • I’m aware women can be done with sex in general. It’s most common in women of a certain age. That’s not what I was referring to.
            Monogamous women don’t like a dipstick in their tank that’s been dipped in various other tanks (especially AFTER it’s been dipped in their tank.) They may choose to stay in the relationship for whatever reason – money, security, save-face, the kids, etc…but they’re ‘done’ with that dipshit, I mean dipstick. 😉 And that’s sad.
            Now if a woman is done with sex period, and wants to stay in the relationship for any of the above reasons…..AND she’s ok with her husband ….ummm,,,,exploring…. that’s what I’d call a win-win!!
            It just gets complicated if the husband/bf/SO is monogamous….

            I have SOOOO much more to say, but I think my fingers would get tired typing it, and you’d all be bored reading it. This is just a hot topic that I feel very passionately about.

  4. Ironically this is a topic that came up this very week among friends……
    I’ve never thought of myself as being a prude….in fact, I’m not —- except when it concerns cheaters. (I’m a woman, I can do that!!! lol). I suppose my feelings about it could be considered prudish and outdated by some. Cheating, exploring, whatever you want to call it — I’ll call it cheating for the sake of this rant. I do believe there are those who have a genetic pre-destined need to be with more than one person. I also believe there are lifelong loyal monogamists among us. The problem I have with cheating, isn’t so much the cheating itself, it’s the lies that go with it. Cheaters don’t only lie about their cheating, they lie in many other areas of their lives. How does someone recognize, acknowledge, forgive and move on when there’s more betrayal than just the infidelity? Cheaters lie about where they are, who they are with, what they are doing, the list goes on and on. Once the lies are established, cheaters have to juggle those lies and remember the lies to keep them straight — oh, what a tangled web we weave……… How do you trust someone again after learning the extent and depth of the lies they’ve told you to cover up their cheating and deceit?
    Of course not all cheaters fall into that category….there are the drunken one night stands at bachelor/bacchelorette parties…..shit happens….but I’m talking about the serial cheaters.
    If you’re pre-destined to cheat, then why even get yourself locked into a relationship with someone who thinks you’ll be faithful to them? Why not seek out a partner that is ok with an open relationship? Think of all the divorce lawyers who would become unemployed!!! lol. Maybe some people like the danger and excitement of not getting caught. Would it be less exciting if their partner knew? Less exciting if their partner also had someone on the side? Hmmmmmmm
    The other part of this equation is that cheaters often recruit others to help cover up their lies. Like “guy-code” and “girl-code” — there’s a “cheater-code”. Three times in recent years, I’ve been asked to “cover” or “go along with” stories to keep the innocent party in the dark. That infuriates me. Why does the cheater deserve to get away with cheating? Why do they think I need to go along with their agenda? And why do they think I’m the kind of person to go along with their lie??? Why do they feel so entitled? Why does their partner deserve to be in the dark? I don’t know about you, but I hate being the only one that’s not in on the joke. I’ve told 3 people 3 times, “No, I’m not going to be part of your lies, find someone else because I won’t lie for you. I won’t throw you under the bus (and I sometimes struggle with that too) but, if push comes to shove, and your partner asks me a direct question, I will not lie for you”. One person was completely taken aback, and said “Wow, you’re a really stand up kind of person”….to which I replied something like “Thank you, but sorry you thought I’d be an accomplice to your deceit”. The other 2 got pissed off at me and ranted about how I act like I think I’m perfect, but wasn’t, and who did I think I was, and I act “all self-righteous”. You know what? I’m OK with that. I’m loyal, faithful, have integrity and morals — and if my morals don’t gel with someone else’s? That’s fine, we can be friends, we just won’t be getting the friction on. Bwahahaha
    Just like gays, transgendered, fetish folks etc. seek each other out — so should cheaters. Full disclosure.
    You talked a bit about ‘levels’ of cheating…..what about social media cheating? Is it cheating to send porn-type material, or naked pics to someone privately and your partner has no idea? I say it is, the intent is to deceive and ‘intentionally’ leave out your partner. Now, if your partner is included in the ‘send to’ list…..it’s all above board and can be kind of erotic/kinky for some folks.
    My motto is, if you have to hide it, lie about, or keep it from your partner — then you shouldn’t be doing it. But — if you still want to do it, then you should have the integrity to end the relationship with your partner. Give your partner the respect and dignity they deserve. Nobody deserves to be in the dark. I hate hearing people talk behind someone’s back about how they know or have heard that so and so is cheating on so and so and everybody knows. That’s a whole lotta betrayal right there. It makes me sad for the person that’s in the dark. Why do they deserve to be kept in the dark? I’d hate it if it were me. Maybe it has been me? Who knows…even if I never knew about it, does that make it ok? Nope.
    Annnnnnd, the flip side is….maybe the partner would be OK with an open relationship. Perhaps they’ve become accustomed to a lifestyle, or circle of friends, a home, etc. that they don’t want to give up. Maybe it was a sexless relationship anyway? Maybe some people start out wanting to be faithful, but shit happens…..that’s ok, just man up (or woman up) and respect the other person enough find out if they’re ok with it or the chance to move on and find what makes them happy too.
    Relationships have so many layers……. I could go on and on……
    Bottom line is, honesty really is the best policy.
    Rant over.

    • Baabaa!!! Very nice! I have so much to say but am on my way out the door to chea….errrr, I mean go to the Concerts in the Park. I want to take the necessary time to address your points because they are awesome. Check back!

    • Barbara…I agree with just about everything you say. I detest lying and deceitfulness. I was trying to think of a good analogy to get my point across. Ok, not sure if this is good one or not but here goes: You have an agreement that neither partner in the relationship can do drugs, say marijuana or alcohol. You come to find out years later that your partner abused these drugs for years and checked himself in and out of rehab to help him rid the habit…all along you never had any idea what was going on (ok, I did not say it was a good analogy without holes!). My point is this: The spouse who finds out that her husband lied to her in this way is going to LIKELY treat the partner with more empathy and less harshness because addiction is a disease and common with a lot of people. Perhaps the partner really, really tried to keep honest in this regard though the power of the drug was too strong. Was the other partner lied and deceived to? Yes. Does the lied to partner have a right to be totally upset? Yes. Yet, LIKELY the lied to partner would not leave the lying partner because they can empathize with the power of the problem and nature of the problem. We would likely think the drug user as much more of a weak person than a deceitful person…though certainly deception is involved. Why can we not treat the cheater in this same type of light and offer a similar type of empathy? One could argue that the power of sex with another is much stronger for some than the power of drug. It all comes down to being able to better understand the human condition. Is it lying? Yes it is. Should you do it? No you should absolutely not. Does it happen because some people are very weak? Yes it does. Should we be at least willing to allow it not to be a deal breaker and break up families? Yes you should.

      I recently heard an analogy using a Christian context. So Christian, are you in a relationship with God? Yes. Does sinning hurt God? Yes it does. Do you sin? Yes, I do. So you are then cheating on God? uh, well, you see…(insert theological ramblings here). So think of the lied to partner as God…be able to forgive and move on. The great difference is that very likely someday the lying partner will be God because you will have fucked up in some way and will need forgiveness. It is called a relationship where you stick together through rich and poor, sickness and health, in times of being lied to and in times of complete honesty.

      I really do not want to get into the nuances of lying…different blog for a different day. I do not believe in 100% honesty !00% of the time (Do I look fat in this dress? What do you think of this new outfit I just bought? Did you notice my new haircut? Do you like it?). Generally speaking, if the truth is going to truly hurt someone and there is no good reason to tell them…I would rethink whether I would tell the truth. In one of my favorite podcasts, Freakonomics, they talk about the idea of lying and how many of us do it on daily basis and completely rationalize it…in fact, often we preferred to be lied to. Pretty interesting. I know there are times when I really do not want to know the truth. Thank you so much for your contributions Barbara…I always love your refreshingly honest and Bostonian POV.

      • You’re right,….not the best analogy, but I understand it. I think we’re seeing two different kinds of cheaters. You’re talking more about one affair, I’m talking about serial cheaters.
        I do agree with your honesty thought. I don’t believe in 100% honesty either. No one could live up to that standard. I do believe that we all have levels of bullshit we’re willing to accept, and some things that are just not negotiable — isn’t that part of our character and integrity? One affair could likely be forgiven by a lot of people. But, for many others ANY cheating is a deal breaker. I do like the saying “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”…..no, I LOVE that saying.
        If a person is predestined to need more than one partner, and had been a cheater in previous relationships….why get into an exclusive relationship? Why get married? Why stand before your family and friends, your partners family and friends and flat out lie by vowing to be faithful? That’s just making the entire relationship a farce. Not to mention setting yourself up to fail. Because you’ve known since day one of that relationship that you’re not going to be faithful. That’s selfish to me, and it’s disrespectful to your partner. It’s also not love — to me anyway.
        On the other hand, once an affair surfaces, the person being lied to may choose to forgive and move on. That would be great – much better than destroying the family. As I said before, shit happens and I may be able to forgive once if it’s a long term relationship or kids are involved. But you are talking about genetically predestined people that need to screw around with more than one person. So, wouldn’t it be fair to say that another affair will happen? And another? How many times does the person being lied to have to keep forgiving and moving on? Why does the cheater keep getting forgiven for ‘bad behavior?’ That seems ass-backwards to me. If I’m the one that’s not cheating (I’m certainly not implying the ‘victim’ is perfect and doesn’t lie) why the hell should I make excuses for the cheater? Why should I continually be let down/disappointed/lied to/etc — do I deserve to be treated or live like that? If I knew I was getting involved with a cheater, would I possibly have made a different decision before getting involved/married/having kids — very possibly yes. Especially when you consider that after cheating surfaces and forgiveness is given — the trust has been broken. If you take that leap and accept the cheaters apology and move on…..what happens when the trust is broken over and over? I just see repeatedly forgiving and moving on as settling for less than what you deserve — especially if you’re monogamous.
        Like I said in my other post — let me find someone that is also monogamous, and let cheaters find other cheaters……then no one gets hurt.

        • “If a person is predestined to need more than one partner, and had been a cheater in previous relationships….why get into an exclusive relationship? Why get married? Why stand before your family and friends, your partners family and friends and flat out lie by vowing to be faithful? That’s just making the entire relationship a farce. Not to mention setting yourself up to fail. Because you’ve known since day one of that relationship that you’re not going to be faithful. That’s selfish to me, and it’s disrespectful to your partner. It’s also not love — to me anyway.”

          I would agree with this if all people were married in their 40’s after having some serious life in their rear view….perhaps then a good conscious and realistic choice can be made. The fact of the matter is most people get married far younger, certainly intend and mean well with no intention of ever straying…but life is long time and, as you well know, takes us on twists and turns NEVER expected, in so many radically different ways. I really believe that if people REALLY KNEW what they were getting into, very few would ever get married. I do not believe most people go into marriage with the intention of cheating (I’m sure some do) thus I cannot buy the premise of your position. In addition, I do draw a distinction between “cheating” and “serial cheating” as you describe. In the same way I can understand addiction, I still would not want to be married to a junkie. The kind of grace and compassion I am referring to is not exhaustive and endless…but it is a beginning point for those with a “no tolerance” rule for straying cause, in one way, shape, for form, we all fuck up.

          I disagree with your cheater/monogamous dichotomy in your last sentence. Every person on the planet is a potential “cheater” just as every person can be potentially monogamous. If you cheated on your partner 20 years and have not since, are you considered a cheater? Or monogamous? We are not cheaters or monogamists…we are all people and all people who can potentially make mistakes. I think more to your point, if you absolutely KNOW the exclusive thang is absolutely not for you, then yes, I agree that this a great breech of trust. However I do not believe most people who eventually cheat knew they could could not handle an exclusive relationship at the time of commitment.

          In regards to integrity, I would contend that true integrity is doing the wrong thing while everyone is looking…at least we are honest about it and not a hypocrite ;). Thanks again for all your wise words!

  5. I’ve had a number of opportunities to cheat on both of my husbands. I made the choice not to cheat. I easily could have gotten away with it, 2 people were turn ons……so why not? Because I wouldn’t want it done to me. Do unto others I suppose (types the non-religious one). And I wouldn’t want to take that chance of losing everything I had, uproot my kids and turn my world upside down just for one hot guy. (fyi, 1st marriage did not end due to cheating). Yes we all fuck up…..yes I agree many go into relationships with no intention to cheat, as I said….shit happens. People marry young and don’t know what lies ahead — true. But, I think most have already established whether they will cheat or not while in high school or college.
    A person that cheated once 20 yrs ago? …..I don’t know, maybe a recovering cheater? Alcoholics are never really ‘cured’ either….they’re always ‘recovering’. In a case like that, I would have a lot of respect for a couple that could weather the storm of cheating and come out intact and stay together. That’s pretty amazing. And depending on the situation and circumstances –I MAY be able to deal with that. But if it were with someone I knew? Nah, ain’t NO apology big enough to fix that wound. That’d be a double betrayal. That’d just mess my head up too much….I’d need to move on.
    Totally disagree with your integrity spin. That seems more like a – in your face ‘fuck you’-I don’t give a rat’s ass about your feelings…I’m doing whatever I please and could care less about the fallout.
    I could deal with a partner that had a drug issue…..for many others, it would be a deal breaker. Maybe because I have a medical background, and I could be more clinical about it? I don’t know, but I would certainly stick it out and be forgiving a lot more than I would be if I knew I was being cheated on.
    Maybe we should agree to disagree a little? 🙂

    • First off, let me just offer you some kudos for this conversation. When I wrote this blog I realized that it was one that would be very difficult to give feedback/comments on. Why? If you tend to agree with me it may more or less implicate yourself…I noticed some people who regularly comment on my blogs are avoiding this one like the plague. I realize I am taking the (VERY) minority and difficult position as I argue against the status quo. Regarding the integrity saying, that was really just a play on words. I was having some fun…guess humor is not always translatable, huh? Even in my jest, I suppose there was a point about the importance of being real…though I would not read too much into it.

      I do not think we disagree as much as you might think: We both do not condone cheating, think cheating is a bad idea and encourage others not to do it when given a chance. We agree. Perhaps the only area of disagreement is that I say when it does happen, it is consistent with the human condition and empathy, grace and compassion should be a viable option in some cases (not all…as in serial cheaters). Perhaps it may come down to a fundamental interpretation of the relevance and importance of the sexual act…ie does the touching of skin with another destroy a lifetime of love with your partner? We may disagree on this though we both are against cheating….so there is some common ground. I again truly thank you for the great conversation. I am ready to post my next blog on a related subject…alcohol. Hope to hear back from you.

      • I think you’re right…..we do agree on a lot.
        I probably would have gotten the integrity saying if we were talking in person — though I didn’t really believe you felt that way. I thought you were playing devil’s advocate to keep the conversation going.
        Ironically, my first marriage ended due to alcohol…..so I’ll probably have a lot to say on that one too. ; )

  6. First off Jimmy, i would like to say that I found this blog very interesting. It made me think outside the box, which you did so well in our speech class. I think that cheating is wrong in any way you put it. We enter into these relationships and marriages to find the right person. But how can you find the right person if your don’t stick out what you started? How can you justify bending the morals of a relationship just to have sex with someone else? These questions baffle me. Simply put a relationship is about love, finding someone who you are compatible with and can stay with a long time, maybe even a lifetime. At least that is the end goal, is it not? So why do you want to break this sacred bond just to have sex with someone else… maybe your over a relationship, and do not want to continue it anymore. This is fine, and happens to normal people. It is the process of just finding that one person you love, but the act of cheating itself is not fine. If your are going to “explore”… why not end the relationship with the person you are with? There clearly is a mix match of chemistry there and while you may still believe you are in love with the person, you clearly are not. If your partner is not fine with you having sex with anyone else and you go behind their back but still say you are in love with them is preposterous. You did not acknowledge their feelings or consideration. You went behind their back just to have sex with someone else, I know there is the argument of “human nature”…blah blah blah… As a human race we make choices, right ones and wrong ones, we learn what is right and what is wrong, from a very young age. If it is clear that your partner does not want you to cheat… then don’t, it is wrong. Go ahead and ask them and see if its okay before hand, and if your too afraid… its probably likely that they will say no. All in all i feel that cheating is wrong, immoral, and dreadful. There is no excuse, if you want to have sex with other people so bad, just do the right thing and break off the relationship…

  7. Jimmy, I believe that cheating is ultimately wrong. To commit to one person that you care for them and them only and then put your hands..communication etc. with someone who is not them I do not see to be right. Maybe I believe this because I am a “do to unto others as you would have done to yourself ” type of person. I would never cheat personally, but I see where your points are all coming from … yes we are all human.. can it be possible for everyone to be committed to one person the rest of their life?? I truly believe some people no matter how much love, affection, care and support they receive from one person may never be enough for them. There are people out there like that but if this is the case I feel they not be committed to a person who doesn’t have this same mindset. Now on the other hand…. I always said to myself “once a cheater always a cheater” and that If cheated on I would never go back because that person truly didn’t care for me. I found this to not be the case. Cheating is a messy process ..the cheater lies.. the friends lie the lies get deeper and deeper until the truth actually comes out making these lies almost unbearable to forgive. Although in my case the truth never came out until the relationship had been ended over a “lie” because the real truth is my partner had cheated… but this is beside the fact I agree with forgiveness, understanding .. people do make mistakes. I am not condoning cheating but it happens it is life and there are much bigger issues with the world or things that could go wrong than a one night stand or hook up. I was not willing to lose the person I loved and had a strong relationship with over one mistake. Put yourself in their shoes if you made a mistake and truly wanted forgiveness ….you would hope the person could forgive. It honestly comes down to the extent of the situation but we are all human and everyone makes mistakes. I wish it were so easy that if we simply didn’t call it cheating and had these morals rather everyone just saw it as exploring but it will never be that easy. cheating is and always will be messy. You married/ committed to one person …so what happens when this “exploring” leads to something else ?? or meeting children, family members of who you have been exploring with. There is the possibility of pregnancy with whom you explore this al just seems so messy to me. I at first agreed and saw your point of view with this because simply if we didn’t able it cheating it wouldn’t be cheating rather than “exploring” but that is just too messy.

    Great blog though I really enjoyed reading !

    • Thank you Drew! I appreciate you bringing up the concept of “messy.” I would contend that all relationships are “messy” (or perhaps better said, “it’s complicated”). Theoretically I agree with you…why engage in any behaviors that potentially make for a larger messier mess? Practically, I just do not see how we can avoid messy. Divorce is VERY messy. Forgiving someone can be messy. Traditional monogamy can be very messy for an individual who may begin to feel resentment or stifled in life…it can be messy in your own head. So, though I do appreciate the notion of making choices that may result in less mess, life is a mess and regardless of our choices, we are guaranteed our own unique mess. I think it comes down to engaging in responsible behaviors. If a couple allows “exploring” there is both a responsible and irresponsible way to do this that will result in the size of our own guaranteed mess. Thanks for the compliment!

  8. This post intrigued me due to how I’m a firm believer that monogamous relationships are (how do I put this) the purest in which one being has the strongest connection with one other being and no third party is involved. Yes I believe that one person can have strong connections with multiple people, but I think if the excess partners weren’t in the picture, the connection with that one person would be stronger.
    I agree with you to an extent when you stated, “Many evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists contend it is monogamy that goes against the grain of human nature, not cheating.” The point where I disagree/ question you is when you say, ““But, wait Jimmy, I am human and I do not cheat.” Thank you, oh omniscient one. I’ll take your word for it…though read on. To this I respond that I am human and am not gay…though a lot of humans are. I am human and I am not asexual…though a lot of humans are.”
    (Warning: This is about to go zero to hundred real quick)
    I’d like to make the argument, “I am human and I do not kill, yet many humans do.” I understand the vast difference between cheating and killing, but it’s true that to some, killing is what comes natural to them, or they have an urge to kill. (Like Dexter, that shit really happens)
    My point is, even though something is a nature to someone whether it be cheating (exploring) or killing, it can still be wrong and deserve the harsh criticism it gets from society or the other partner who got cheated on.

    (Side note: I enjoyed reading your blog, it was very insightful)

    • Wait Jackie (I loved your 1738 snap btw!!) killing is not a mutually satisfying undertaking…no one is forcing someone to cheat against their will….it is consensual. If I kill someone I can pretty much guarantee they would be against it. Any natural propensity that harms others, particularly physically, is a propensity that needs to be reigned in. However, in the end, people are still cheating AND killing (particularly cops) thus we have to accept both as part of the human condition.

      • When you say “we have to accept both as part of the human condition”…..the word “accept” got me…..what are we really accepting? You also say ” no one is forcing anyone to cheat against their will”…..but I wonder what the percentage of consensual cheating is versus consensual sex where one person has no clue the other is married/committed/etc……are we accepting that a large percentage of people are assholes (where both cheat knowingly)…..and/or a lesser percentage of people are REALLY assholes? (where one person cheats AND lies to their affair)
        Showtime has(d) a show called Polyamory……it appears that even in open relationships, it’s still messy. I think it would be fairer to say it’s the human condition to be butt hurt over relationships in general……..and not that humans have a propensity towards being with more than one partner. Because even in honest and open situations……it’s still messy.

        • Damn Barbara, you really love this topic…or really hate it (I believe it is the latter). You can call “cheaters” whatever you like though it is here to stay, it happens in droves and we must accept that fact if we have any desire to live in reality. I guess that is what I mean by accepting.

  9. I would agree that monogamous relationships aren’t for everyone, and I would also agree that it is 100% possible to have healthy relationship based around the idea of allowing each other to sleep with other people if both parties agree that that is something that they are comfortable with and want in their relationship, but I don’t think that this is really “cheating”. Cheating happens when at least one person in a relationship doesn’t agree with this polygamous ideology, and BOTH people commit to be in a purely monogamous relationship with one another, and then one person in the relationship betrays their partner’s wishes and the ideology that their relationship was founded on. I used to believe that perhaps there was a way you could love someone and still cheat. However, the more I ruminated over the idea, the more I came to believe that this isn’t true. I’m sure we all lust from time to time over people other than our partner. Maybe we admire the figure of another person, or we fantasize about someone else’s touch, but when someone acts on these thoughts, they put their own selfish desires above the person that they say they love and care about so much. If you love someone, you should strive to be their ideal partner, you should respect the boundaries you have agreed to set in the relationship, and you care first and foremost about your partner’s well-being. Maybe we can’t control our thoughts, but people hardly cheat on “accident”. Cheating is disregarding your partner’s wants and needs and acting on selfish lust. If monogamy isn’t for you, that’s fine. Just make that clear when you enter a relationship, or even if you’re in an old relationship and decide you want to “explore”, discuss it first with your partner and see how they feel. If it’s something that is important to you, find someone who is okay with it. DON’T go behind someone else’s back.

    • Nicely said Krista. Thank you for your contribution. This blog is not about polyamory (which is a huge and controversial issue all on its own). Rather that whatever one wants to pursue, be it monogamy or not, the “exploring” thing seems hardwired into the human genetic code as evidenced by the overwhelmingly high number of “cheaters” in the world. We can take the moral angle and call it wrong, unethical, etc… but I am asking the question that it is “wrong” why is it so prevalent and relatively normal human behavior? As Aziz Ansari said, if cheaters are monsters there are certainly a LOT of monsters in the world. If it is so wrong, why so widespread? This is blog more about human understanding, perhaps even forgiveness, over jealousy and insecurity. Perhaps this will save a lot of relationships.

  10. Due to the fact that my attention span is worse than a goldfish I had to reread your longest blog ever a couple of times. I think what I find difficult to swallow is looking at “cheating/exploring” as being anything close to okay, just as stealing isn’t really acceptable. Ayn Rand believed in a theory of ethical egoism, which basically meant that human beings ought to do whatever is in their own self interest. While this theory is interesting, it allows for someone to rationalize anything they do as being acceptable. An extreme example of how this can be a if someone truly believes they are meant to murder people, than they should do it. I’m not saying murdering someone is similar to cheating (I’ve never really murdered anyone so I can’t be 100% sure), but there are a lot of things that I think we as humans might have a desire to do but recognize as not really being okay.

    I typed up a whole second part and scrapped it because I don’t think it made much sense. But I think that it is completely acceptable to go all Dora the Explorer and sleep with whoever the hell you want (ideally as safely as possible) and have as many relationships as you like, just be freaking honest! I feel like cheating gets a bad wrap because of how much lying is involved in it. If you decide to be in a monogamous relationship and at some point you run into problems and decide to head out to sleep with the first person that’ll have you instead of talking to your partner, you as a person have some issues that need to be worked out. If you and your partner are in a relationship and you’re cool with keeping it open than there is literally nothing wrong with that, assuming you’re not hurting other people.

    For me it just comes down to being honest with yourself and your intentions (pun intended), and being honest with anyone else you’re involving in the exploring. And why are people so scared to just be single as fuck, if you’re single and casually dating, you never really deal with cheating.

    ps
    I don’t understand how commas work and I’m not sure any of that made sense. Thanks.

  11. Hi professor, This is Joseph from your communications class 174 that meets on Thursdays at 10 am. I am here to try and successfully argue my extra credit point and was not sure where to post my argument, but I will try here first. I agree with most of what you said to a certain extent. Allow me to elaborate, I believe cheating is very wrong. Although, it is entirely fair to say that cheating is a word that can be defined by a person’s perspective. For example cheating for me is not defined by one partner in a relationship “exploring.” I have nothing against the act of exploring. I find it fun and healthy for a relationship. To me, cheating is when two people at one point agree to a monogamous relationship and when one of those partners chose to step outside of the boundaries of the relationship WITHOUT the other partner knowing; whether the agreement was verbally or in a written contract like most marriages. By my definition of cheating, it is a ugly, terrible, treacherous, vile act. When a man or woman makes an agreement, by all means they should uphold their word. For what is a man or woman if they cannot keep their word. They lose all credibility or dignity. It shows more in a man’s or woman’s character if they muster up the balls or gall to approach their partner and confide in their partner that they would like another partner. That is the respectable way to explore. Not by sneaking around and going behind their partners back to mess around with another partner. However, if two partners were to communicate and consent to bringing an outside sexual partner into the equation is understandable and respectable. If one or let alone both of the partners can speak out and admit to their partner that they would like to explore an open relationship is commendable because honesty was involved. Therefore, no lying, manipulating, or scheming was involved to betray their spouse. The other reason why cheating is a repulsive act is because most of the time when people cheat they wish to go about it in a secretive manner which leads them to anonymous sex. In today’s day and age with all the hook-up apps, websites, or establishments it is all to easy for a partner to cheat without cheating in a public manner. The risk that they run though when cheating through hook-up apps, strip clubs, or prostitutes is catching an STD. Then the cheating partner will most go home, and have sexual relations with their unaware partner and pass the STD on to them. That is what makes cheating so shameful. Not so much for the act of sexually exploring partners, but rather how most people will go about the situation of exploring through cheating. There are many avenue or groups that practice safe “swinging” if you will that can be a culture a couple can explore if one partner wishes to explore. To condone cheating in any many is despicable because it coincides with lying, manipulating, and betraying; all of which are negative attributes.

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