The Lusty Vegan: Does Cheating Make You A Bad Person?

I recently read an article from Clutch, reviewing the book “Good Men Cheat.” The writer of the review, Demetria Lucas, writess that just the title of the book automatically made her defensive, as the stereotypical traits of a cheater—dishonesty, disloyalty, overall creeptitude—don’t usually fall under the characteristic of a “good” person.

My main issue with the title of this book, unlike Lucas’, is not the word “good.” It’s the word “men.” What about good women? Do they cheat? Are moral offenses gender based? So I am not going to focus on good men and cheating, but on people in general.

I used to believe that there are cheaters, and there are good people. There is no overlap. My previous experience with cheaters, both in and out of my own relationships, has portrayed the cheater as a total creep with skewed morals. I am not talking the occasional f*ck up. I am referring to the sneaky, manipulative behavior that encompasses having full blown affairs. However, sometime last year my opinion changed a bit.

Tess*, a friend I have known since we were prepubescent, confided in me that she had been cheating on her fiance. For eight years. I was totally baffled. Tess is someone that I would, hands down, consider a good person. And while I have known her for ages, she has also been with her fiance since the 8th grade. (That’s nearly 15 years now!) But she has been seeing other people on and off for the past ten years. At one point, she even had a year long relationship with someone else. While I don’t support her infidelities, I love her as a person and try not to judge her. I do, however, have an intense fascination as to why and how she can be unfaithful to someone she says she loves very deeply. This lack of judgement is why she confided in me in the first place—the majority of her friends don’t know. And her fiance certainly has no idea.

Tess isn’t alone. While men are stereotyped as being the cheaters, a 2011 Kinsey study found 23 percent of men and 19 percent women cheat. While men still cheat more, the numbers for women are rising—especially for those who are in long-term relationships and marriages. So what is causing this shift? Is it because women are more independent than they used to be? And is this independence creating a breed of bitches? Because they have broader social networks and careers—both places to meet potential side dishes? (Note: There is no official male word for mistress. What does THAT tell you?) And technology and social media certainly make it easier for anyone to carry on an affair.

As women gain more rights, (F yeah women who rocked the Obama vote! My vagina salutes you!), and are less expected to play the role of Susie Homemaker, we may be treating relationships in the same fashion men have been for years. It’s no longer a question of do good men cheat, but do good people cheat. And why?

Below is a short Q and A Tess:

Think back to the first time you cheated. What was the drive?

I cheated for the first time when my boyfriend went away to school out of state. We tried the long distance relationship and kept it “open.” I didn’t use that as an excuse to go out and cheat, but it happened when I started liking one of my coworkers. We started hooking up, no sex, and eventually started dating while my boyfriend was in college out of state. He knew we were talking to each other, and didn’t seem to mind all that much just because he didn’t know the full extent of me and workboy’s relationship. When the boyfriend came home from school, I had to make a decision, and that was to break it off with workboy. But I got a taste for having more than one guy and liked it. I think it was mainly because I was young and discovering myself, and my sexuality.

Would you say you cheat to fulfill something that is missing from your primary relationship?

I think at first cheating was just for the thrill. There were a lot of attractive guys I hung around with and I didn’t want to turn down a good time with them because I had a boyfriend, a boyfriend I was having regular sex with. As time went by and the years rolled on, my boyfriend and I had less sex. So cheating as of recently has fulfilled that aspect of our relationship. I need to have sex regularly, and good sex. Not to say my boyfriend and I don’t have good sex- we do, but my sexual attraction to him has faded. While he has a nice size penis and is very attractive, I think losing sex drive with your partner is inevitable over time, for any couple.

So then, with that in mind, do you think cheating actually makes you happier in your relationship? Like, you’re happy because you’re sexually satisfied, even if that satisfaction comes from elsewhere?

 It makes me happier in that I, myself, am sexually satisfied. I have never felt guilt about cheating, which I know is really bad, but I can’t seem to come to terms with hating myself over it. I went to therapy for this very reason for a long time. It didn’t help at all. I love my boyfriend because he is an absolutely wonderful person, he is my best friend. I do want to stop cheating. I need to work on it myself, in my head. I need to come to terms with monogamy and find guilt in what I do, then I need to direct all that sexual energy solely to him. How, I just don’t know yet.

What, if any, are your justifications for cheating?

There are no justifications, other than the lack of arousal I get from my boyfriend, which is entirely mental because I know he’s good at what he does. I just cheat because I love men. I enjoy having sex (protected) and I enjoy more not having the responsibility of talking to them ever again if I don’t want it. I’m switching the double standard around in a sense. The people I’ve cheated on my boyfriend with are never strange bar people, they are always someone I know from somewhere- or have met more than once on certain occasions.

I don’t support Tess’ cheating, and I tell her frequently that I believe marrying her fiance would be a mistake if she is already looking outside the relationship for satisfaction. But that’s my own opinion, and she will do what she believes is best for her. And while I don’t support cheating, I think in Tess’ case, it’s at least better that she doesn’t justify her behavior. I think the worst part of cheating (aside from the disloyalty and emotional wreckage you can bestow on your partner) is justifying it. Saying it’s alright because of X or Y. You’re so inept at honesty, you can lie to yourself and believe it. Tess knows what she is doing is shitty. It doesn’t make it right, but at least she is aware. Does doing a shitty thing make you a shitty person? I am not so convinced…

Someone who cheats is not always definitively a bad person. They are, however, a bad partner. Lucas makes mention of this too when she writes “The cheater is what I would call a very bad man at worst, and partner, at best. Maybe he can be better, do good (like a superhero) for someone else. But for you, he’s probably a wrap.” I am extending that opinion to both genders. If you’re cheating on your partner, then you are not being a good partner. Period.

So, have you ever cheated? How did it make you feel? Why do you think women are cheating more frequently? And do you think good people cheat?

The Lusty Vegan is a lifestyle and sex column focusing on living and loving as a twenty-something year old vegan. More rants from Zoe Eisenberg can be found at www.sexytofu.com. Follow her on Twitter @Sexytofublog.

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8 Responses to The Lusty Vegan: Does Cheating Make You A Bad Person?

  1. Pingback: Vegan News @ KitaVeg.com » The Lusty Vegan: Does Cheating Make You A Bad Person? | I Eat …

  2. marielelundi says:

    Hi Zoe,
    I have commented before on some of your articles about fidelity in relationships. I feel very much like Tess: I feel no guilt in “cheating” (I don’t like calling it cheating because I discussed the possibility of having “side dishes” with my boyfriend before, even though we’re not OPEN-open), and it makes me happier in my relationship. But the world is sending me a lot of negative messages about what I do (ex: your article), and I wondered if my moral compass was off or something. On the other hand, I’m a vegan, I’m a feminist, I have strong work ethics and try to live as ethically as possible in general… so it is possible that I’m that wrong in this aspect of my life?
    Also, I don’t agree that it makes me a bad partner. I always put my boyfriend first, and being able to have some fun on the side makes it easier to deal with down moments (we’ve been together for 4 years – the butterflies DO wear off). Basically I do it so I can spend my life with him, and never leave because I’m bored, and never resent him for no longer being the stranger I was so hot for. “Cheating” is only wrong if you decide that it is, and we don’t HAVE to be hurt by it, it’s only because our heads have been stuffed with ideas about what a “proper” relationship has to be like. Shouldn’t we be a little more open than that about what being a good partner really means? There are things in a relationship that matter more than whether my genitals have been somewhere else.

    • Thanks so much for writing in! I always love a different viewpoint on fidelity. I am all for openness in relationships, and if couples are fine with seeing others outside their primary relationship, then that can be wonderful, and I would not call that cheating. “Cheating” happens when there is dishonesty.

      You are completely right that there are more important things in a relationship than where your genitals have been. I 100% believe that. I also know all about the need to f*ck just for f*ck’s sake, not feelings. But I also believe you can only respect your partner and your bond by being open and honest, and avoiding actions that you know would hurt them. And I don’t mean to be rude, but when I hear people say things like “we don’t have to be hurt by it,” or “it’s not what I did that hurt you, it’s your reaction to it” I have to call it a cop-out. If what someone is doing would hurt their partner, and they know it would hurt their partner (I am speaking general, not to you specifically as I don’t know your relationship and could never judge), and act anyway, then it is selfish, it is not in the best interest of the relationship, and while it doesn’t make them a bad person, I do believe it is bad for the relationship.

      So–again, generally speaking–maybe cheating would make you feel more satisfied, less bored, etc. But how would your partner feel if they knew? If they would be devastated, then there is no way you can claim you’re doing it for the overall good of the relationship. You’re doing it for your overall well-being, and while that is fine–it’s your choice–you just can’t claim you’re doing it for the benefit of the relationship.

  3. marielelundi says:

    Thanks for responding to my comment! I see what you mean about “cop-outs”. It makes me think of two things: ugly thoughts and tattoos. Sometimes I have negative thoughts and feelings about my boyfriend (or parents, friends, etc.), feelings I’d rather not have but are there all the same (despise, resentment, anger, envy, etc.). I don’t tell them about them because I know they would be hurt, and mostly I know the feelings don’t matter that much, they will pass and they are part of human relationships (so my shrink says). Should I be sharing those feelings for the good of a relationship, even though I know I can’t help it, they are not important for the core of our relationship, and they will cause pain? My other point is tattoos and all body modifications. My boyfriend is into them, wants to get plenty of them in the near future, and I’d rather he stayed the way he is, because I like him that way. I cried when I saw his last tattoo on a part of his body I especially liked. So, should he abstain out of respect for my feelings? I think you’ll say “no”, and I think I agree. I don’t really see why the fact that it includes (safe) sex makes a difference between his freedom to do anything he likes with his body, and my own freedom to do so too. I’m not sure there’s right and wrong here, unfortunately… and it reminds me a lot of debates surrounding veganism, for some reason.

    • Great points! I especially love the tattoo debate. I have been on the other end. An ex was really against my tattoos, and sort of controlling, telling gem not to get one. Of course the stubborn bitch in me made me want one even MORE. After I got it, HE cried and told me he thought my body was beautiful the way it was…had he put it that way in the first place, maybe (MAYBE) I would have reconsidered…probably not but still, it’s nicer than “DON’T DO THAT.” However, the difference between body modification and sexual relationships with others is the bond. Maybe by getting a tat, I did something he would rather I didn’t…but unless tattooing each other was our own private shared ritual, then I didn’t break a bond. One of the main differences between my relationship with my partner and my relationship with my other close close friends, is the sexual aspect. It’s something we share that no one else is a part of. If I go and make someone else a part of it without his consent/behind his back, then I am disrespecting not just his wishes (like I would be with a tattoo) but our own sacred bond and space. However, for someone who doesn’t view sex in that matter, then I could see how they wouldn’t feel that way.

      And I totally hear you about the negative thoughts. If I went around telling my partner “YOU’RE BEING NEEDY” or “STOP WHINING” every time I felt like it, I would just be a bitch. But I find my negative thoughts about others are often really just reflections on me and my fluctuating moods… however what you said above is “I know I can’t help it.” You’re right, we can’t help negative thoughts. And we can’t stop the feelings of desire that may creep in for people outside our relationship. However, just as we CAN stop speaking our nasty feelings because we know they are hurtful, we can also stop acting on our feelings of desire when they would be hurtful.

      Basically the number 1 thing that keeps me faithful is imagining how my partner would feel if I broke our trust. If anyone else made him feel that much pain, I would want them dead (Okay that is sort of extreme, but you feel me). So I would never want to make him feel that way myself.

      …Whew. That was long, haha. Thanks so much for the insights.

  4. Andrew says:

    I love this back-and-forth! So many good points and ideas. If I may chime in…

    I think you both have a solid stance for your opinions on the matter. On the one hand, M doesn’t want her relationship to sour due to boredom, desires for another partner, lack of sex, etc. I don’t know anyone who is in a relationship that wouldn’t admit to having that sentiment. Z agrees as well, but thinks that the method by which M describes preventing the souring isn’t morally sound.

    And that’s where the fun starts: who defines morality? In a world where there is no clear indication of what is wrong and what is right, one must decide for themselves which actions are becoming and which are reprehensible. Pursuing pleasure from a third party, in order to keep your connection strong with your partner, could be a positive thing depending on your outlook. It’s not for anyone but you to decide that.

    That being said, I would agree with Z in that if your actions are known by your partner, go ahead and enjoy them to their fullest. If both sides agree on a method by which to keep their relationship fresh, fun, and freaky, what could be better? But in my opinion, if you are keeping secrets from them (especially secrets you know could hurt them), you are doing each other and the relationship a huge disservice. Z and M are both right in that certain feelings happen whether we wish them to or not; however, these feelings begin at the physical level. Whether or not we form mental thoughts and desires/aversions towards them is completely in our control. If you get a tingling up your thighs when a certain someone passes by you on the street, there is nothing in your physiology that says you HAVE to think about ravaging them in the nearest alleyway. If you are conscious of the physical reaction, you can accept it and understand that it will pass (as M said earlier). You can also use this observatory method to further your appreciation for your partner. Pay attention to all those physical reactions you get when you’re around them. If those aren’t enough to turn you on and keep you hooked, perhaps you’re not meant to be together in an intimate way; you might make great friends who don’t f*ck.

    TL;DNR: M and Z are both right in their own respect. Morality is in the eye of the beholder. Follow what you believe is the right path, but if you’re knowingly partaking in actions that would hurt your partner, you’re not doing it right. Listen to your body, discover if the person you are hurting is right for you. Then move forward with that decision.

    • Ah, so insightful! Agreed, morality is in the eye of the beholder. And also agreed that it’s incredibly hard to keep relationships fresh. But it’s not impossible. I often tell Tess, the friend I interviewed, to try and focus the attention she gives the men she has flings with on her partner instead. If he absolutely cannot excite her, then they shouldn’t be together.

  5. marielelundi says:

    Zoe, thanks for replying at such lengths. It’s true that the notion of a “sacred bond” is quite alien to me. I view long-term relationships more as really good and fun and loving partnerships, where each person retains a lot of their freedom. For example, I’m not sure I’d be able to live with my current boyfriend (we toyed with the idea for a long time but dropped it). I don’t know, that’s just the stuff I’m made of… About sex being the only thing that we do together (and I know I’m really being annoying here, but…), there are a lot of other things that I only do with him, but no one would accuse me of cheating if I started doing them with other people.
    I agree with Andrew, but on the other hand it kind of contradicts what I think about veganism (that it’s not a relative issue, that personal morals don’t apply, like with murder, etc.). To be honest, I know deep down that I am arguing my case because I really want to keep doing what I’m doing, and because I’d like to explain to myself why it doesn’t feel wrong at all (I’m French, so should that make a difference? we are supposed to be smarmy and rude after all ;) ).
    Thanks for both your inputs, very interesting discussion indeed.

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