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.