Cheating: The secrets we keep

When it comes to relationships, we can’t have it all, and most people have self control to only act upon what is morally right. However, what happens when the prospect of fantasy seems too exciting an opportunity to pass up?

Men are more likely to be unfaithful than women. Photo: Anneka James

Infidelity — we’re all fascinated by it, yet it’s happening everywhere: on soaps, chat shows, and probably not too far away from your own home. We hate it, we’re insecure about it, and yet we’re obsessed about it.

Monogamy does not come naturally to humans, research has shown. Judith Lipton, a psychiatrist and author, says that virtually all animals are far from being 100% monogamous. Despite this, we live in a culture whereby monogamy is the only morally right option.

Psychotherapist and psychologist, Leila Collins, backs up the scientific claims behind cheating: “ If someone is in a relationship that is less than desirable, and has fallen into a routine, then people may encounter the prospect of cheating. We all have the pre-disposition to be unfaithful, we’re only human, we want nice things and are attracted to beauty. However, the trust put in us by our partners should be reason enough not to lead us to temptation.”

However, there is some hope, Lipton says: “We human beings spend a large part of our lives learning to do unnatural things, like play the violin or type on a computer,” which basically tells us that monogamy is, in fact, an unnatural behaviour.

Sarah, a student at the University of Lincoln, says that not all stories of infidelity end in heartbreak. She describes herself as ‘the other woman’: “Not once but twice, I have found myself in a relationship with men who are already in relationships. Both men still loved their other halves, and often talked about them. These relationships lasted for quite some time, one of them for almost three years,” Sarah says.

She explains that the main reason she allowed herself to be the ‘bit on the side’ for these men is because she lacked self confidence. She says that eventually, these encounters fizzled out and the men went back to their relationships: “Their girlfriends have never found out, and still believe that they are in a secure and loving relationship — in some ways they are. They have men who love them, they just aren’t faithful. Cheating in a relationship doesn’t have to be about heart ache and ending in disaster, soap opera style. Sometimes it can end in a civilised fashion.”

Gina, also a student at the University, retells a slightly different story: “My boyfriend cheated on me by sleeping with my best friend, his ex girlfriend, and god knows how many other people. This drove me to kiss another man because my self esteem was shattered and I wanted to feel good about myself again.” Gina insists, however, that she only cheated once she was sure he’d cheated on her: “In the end, I ended up sleeping with one of his friends, and both felt really guilty at the time. But we’ve been together ever since, so I’m glad I cheated.”

However, sometimes, there isn’t an underlying issue behind infidelity. Helen, a student, says that she cheats because she wants to: “I never mean for it to happen, but when I’m young, why not? Obviously I’d be devastated if my boyfriend found out, but I don’t really think about the consequences at the time.”

As you may have noticed, all of the people in this article are women – whilst statistics show that men are more likely to be unfaithful, women are catching up. But beware, younger men and women are just as likely as each other to stray.

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