Since the beginnings of human civilization people have struggled to determine and establish rules of morality, principles of conduct, and values of ethical thought. Whether you believe that one’s value and best “goodness” can be achieved through religions or some ethical philosophies, there are just some behaviors that are perceived as “bad form.” One such ethical conundrum involves the concept and act of “cheating.” When people hear the word “cheat,” they, generally, assume it is referencing one of two things, adultery in a marriage or relationship or dishonesty in the classroom. In the modern society, both, are considered to be self-serving choices, which many see diminishes their integrity. However, it is infidelity in a partnership that truly causes serious consequences, emotionally and mentally, for all involved. Some people would never cheat on a partner, while there are others who would cheat on anyone as surely as easily as they breathe. That said experts, scholars, researchers, and professionals of multiple disciplines seek the ultimate answer to why people cheat in their romantic relationships, as well as, why others do not, which is a worthwhile phenomenon to understand.
There is no singular universal explanation about what motivates people to cheat. The reasoning and statistics differ for differing demographics, from gender, age, and economical status, which all can play a part in why someone may cheat on a partner. Cheating on a partner, especially by individuals in the public eye, is commonplace today. As a society we are more desensitized to adulterers than we once were, for example when cheaters were stoned, publically whipped, jailed or exiled for such behaviors. Many of these researchers fear that we are losing our sense of ethics in a world where “anything goes” (Grohol 1). Today we, also, categorize “types” of cheating in romantic relationships, emotional, mental, and physical. This has often led to issues among the genders, because women are often more bothered by emotional adultery, where men focus on the physical aspects (Saw 1). No one really knows all of the full physical, psychological, and emotional reasoning behind why people cheat. It is far more than just issues with commitment, honesty, or lack of hormonal control. Regardless of the perpetrators reasoning, cheating represents a negative element of the human paradigm and is a phenomenon worthy of further research and discussion.
Cheating, in the form of adultery, is not as simple as the media depicted versions. It is never just a matter of a “hormonal man” who is driven to cheat with a much more attractive woman than the wife they have waiting at home. It is not as simple as a woman feeling “unloved” by her husband so seeks the attention from another man. We have been told that the 50% of all marriages end in divorce. That is a modern myth. In fact, cheating is only one of the many factors that are attributed to the dissolving of marriages. The statistics show something a bit different. It shows that more often than not, cheating is more common among non-married couples than among those who are married (Anderdon 1). More so, over the course of a monogamous relationship there is only a 6% chance of infidelity being the causal event that ends the relationship. That is quite different from the 50% that has so often been relayed (Grohol 1). However, even if the statistics are lower than previously offered, this does not lessen the desire or need to understand why that 6%, which still accounts for hundreds of thousands of people, do as they do. There are a number of contributors, the two most relevant involved with personal emptiness and the economical component that is often overlooked.
Much like someone who becomes dependent on substances to give them the happiness their life is lacking, so people cheat for that reason as well. The emptiness that is felt leads some people to believe that what is offered in the moment is more valuable as what one has at home. Some researchers blame modern society and marketing techniques for encouraging this kind of emptiness. We are persuaded by media that having a certain car, career, clothing, or type of relationship will make us happy. However, even when many acquire all of these things some realize that they are not as happy as was promised. This emptiness sets them on a path where cheating is a real possibility (Paul 1). There are relevant lessons to be seen in the statistics of these adulterers. Men commit adultery more often than women. Unmarried men are more likely to have multiple partners, than married men. Women, however, are not excluded from those statistics. Somewhere between 70% of unmarried women surveyed admitted to having at least one affair outside their relationship, however the statistics of married women is considerably lower, less than 25% (Anderson 1).
The second element to the cheating equation is an economic one. Men who are financially dependent or make less than their female spouse are more likely to cheat due to feelings of inadequacy. Women, on the other hand, when dependent upon a male partner for their livelihood, are less likely to cheat. This has more to do with the traditional mentality that men are “supposed” to make more than women, so it is easier for them to accept. Men may seek an outside relationship that allows him to feel like a superior or an equal (Fowler and Herring 1). These psychological and sociological factors lead those in a relationship to, again, seek what they think they are missing. However, in fairness, there are also, some men and women, in the world, whose cheating is intentional and represent selfish and disrespectful attitude with no intention of ever being faithful to anyone. Their motivations, however, grim, do not represent the majority, however.
Adulterous cheating is not so easy to deter. However, a recent study determined that the numbers of adultery among the engaged and newlywed has risen. There are many young couples, where new brides tolerate cheating at the beginning of the marriage, in hopes that it gets out of their system early in the marriage. This is an unfortunately pattern to start off a marriage with. From the start the issues with loyalty, honesty, and fidelity are already being tested. Tolerating such cheating, at any time, must end, if we hope to eliminate such behaviors from the future of society. There are young men feeling the pressure of impending marriage and start cheating to make sure that they are not making a mistake by getting married. It does not have to make sense, but that does not make either phenomenon any less true. However, modern scholars are suggesting that counseling and open communication among couples, throughout all of the stages of their relationship is paramount to preventing the likelihood of cheating in their relationship less likely to occur (Benjamin 2-3).
Guilt plays a huge role in cases of infidelity. Most everyone ho cheats feels guilt, afterwards. Men are more likely to feel guilt for engaging in sex outside the marriage, but a woman would more bothered by “emotional cheating.” There are many consequences for infidelity. It can have terrible effects on the victim’s self-esteem; it can impact any children in the marriage, and can lead to total dissolving of a relationship. That said the cheating is an affront to the whole family unit and I hardly beneficial for any children involved. However, it is not entirely lost (Saw 1). Cheating, infidelity in general, can be stopped by people who decide to keep the vows they make and not betray those around them. Cheaters are not suffering from a medical problem that prevents them from monitoring their own actions. They are knowingly doing something in the moment that will have emotional, mental, and physical consequences if discovered. It required dishonesty and deceit and usually results with the devastation of one of the people involved. However, this does not necessarily stop the behavior. There is no degree or legal policy to directly outlaw or criminalize cheating. However, it can be limited by not allowing cheating, of any kind, to be tolerated and forgiven. In many cases it is the cheater that makes out in the end and the victim the one who is left holding the bag alone. However by not tolerating and forcing the perpetrators of cheating to experience greater consequences and losses would curb and alter this undesirable behavior.
Cheating, of one kind or another, has existed in society, most likely, since society first began. Today, we still struggle and still seek the answers to understanding how and why human beings, men and women, and the young or old, behave as they do? Human beings are so individual, and so diverse that it can be so difficult to determine why some people are painfully honest and others innately deceitful? In the same vein, why do some people cheat and others never would? We may never know all of the individual reasons, but we have learned that cheating in relationships stems from feelings of inadequacy. Whether it is men who make less money than their female spouses, or women who commit adultery against their husbands, cheating is a serious problem with serious consequences. Infidelity extends to an emotional level. This makes the issues of cheating not only a matter of morals and ethics, but one of psychological and sociological influences, as well. That said future research and endeavors into this subject is valuable and worthwhile.
Anderson, Eric. "Five myths about cheating." Washington Post 16 February 2012, 1. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-cheating/2012/02/08/gIQANGdaBR_story.html >.
Benjamin, Jennifer. "How to Prevent Cheating in your marriage." Women' Health Magazine. 2014: 1-5. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-relationships/cheating-in-a-marriage-0?cat=13795>.
Fowler, Daniel, and Lee Herring. "Men More Likely to Cheat If They Are Economically Dependent on Their Female Partners." American Sociological Association. (2014): 1. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.asanet.org/press/infidelity_and_income.cfm>.
Grohol, John M. "How Common is Cheating & Infidelity Really?." Psyche Central. 2014: 1. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/03/22/how-common-is-cheating-infidelity-really/>.
Law, Sally. “Effects of Infidelity on Men vs. Women Surprise Researchers.” LiveScience Magazine. (2009). 1. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. < http://www.livescience.com/7755-effects-infidelity-men-women-surprise-researchers.html>.
Paul, Margaret. "Why Do People Cheat on Their Partners?." The Huffington Post. 28 August 2013: 1. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-paul-phd/why-people-cheat_b_3828976.html>.