This is always one of the touchiest subjects to get into. There can be so much suspicion, raw emotion and anger involved, especially when some people aren’t exactly to admit to it.
I first blogged about it back in January, with a hint of sarcasm inserted to lighten it up.
I suppose it is one of those topics that anyone who has been in a serious relationship has addressed at one point. Even if it hasn’t been in the heat of the moment, it’s still something that comes up in conversation eventually.
I’m no different; especially since there seems to be some raised eyebrows in my personal life. So when the conversation turned to the idea of whether or not “men are hard-wired to cheat,” I kind of put my mind to work to come up with what has been a pretty challenging blog to write for you.
Infidelity in a relationship isn’t as black and white as some people want to believe, and for each couple, the degree of “freedom” can vary. What may generate jealousy in some relationships might be the fuel for fantasy in others. And based on statistics that show a vast majority of married adults admit to having fantasies that involve someone other than a spouse, the real key is understanding what is accepted and what crosses the line.
The other complicated part of figuring out infidelity is whether the “affair” is physical, emotional or a bit of both.
Personally, I have learned a lot of new things over the past several months about infidelity and had a few of my own preconceived notions shattered.
It used to be somewhat accepted that men cheated based on a very stereotypical testosterone-fuelled need for conquest. Men slept with many women because that is what was expected of a “man.” Women, on the other hand, were mostly expected to be “good girls.” A guy was viewed as a stud based on the number of his sexual conquests, whereas a woman was viewed as a slut if she dabbled beyond second base.
Pretty much the accepted standards, right? Then it was explained to me that, believe or not, men also cheat to fulfill an emotional need. It just wasn’t socially acceptable to say they needed to feel desired and attractive. To do so almost violated the locker room code of what it means to be a "man."
And more women are cheating to fulfill a physical need; hence the birth of the “cougar.” Women began to reject society's position that they had to settle for a less-than-satisfying love life and embraced their own ability to achieve a "conquest." Modern thinking erased some of the old standards as to why people are stepping outside of marriage.
One perspective I read on this described the situation in such a way: “Many people prefer not to define what counts as cheating because by keeping the rules vague and ambiguous, it makes it easier to cheat. If you don’t know what the rules are, you really can’t break them – or so people like to think."
What does still stand, according to some of the studies I read when putting my mind to work on this one, is that there is a difference in how men and women cheat. Men still remain the leaders in physical, one-night stands, while we are more likely to embrace emotional affairs.
And as such, because women are more likely to have an emotional affair, “cheating wives tend to cheat with someone who is part of their social group – a friend or co-worker. Women are also more likely to draw positive inferences about their physical appearance when they are cheating: I'm still attractive, I'm still desirable, etc.”
“Human behaviour is not always governed by the fact that wedding vows were taken and that promises were made. The initial decision to be unfaithful is rarely ever a rational choice; instead most infidelity occurs, not because it is planned, but because people find themselves in situations where their emotions overwhelm them. When placed in the right situation (or wrong situation, in this case), our emotions can prompt us to act in ways which are counter to our beliefs.”
The question becomes: Does it evolve to the point where it becomes the focus and highlight of the day when you see that person; or perhaps you change your routine to ensure you cross paths?
Perhaps the innuendo picks up in the daily banter to the point where you once shared information about this friendship with your spouse, you now begin to avoid mentioning that friend’s name at home or changing the subject if your spouse asks about them.
Maybe you begin to confide more personal things to this new, exciting, interesting friend, or begin to accept their perspective on things as being more agreeable or insightful than your spouse. It may get to the point where you find their stories more refreshing than those which have defined your own marriage; they hit on those points of "I wish ..." and take the imagination away from the doldrums of returning home to find a perpetual reminder of stale relationship reality.
Then there is Tiger’s downfall – the cell phone. Does it reach the point where you find yourself sending your friend private e-mails or suggestive text messages, then mass delete all history? Tiger apparently forgot that part …
To many, that is pretty much an affair. The physical sex just hasn’t happened yet. Most studies on the subject suggest it will – to the tune of 73% of emotional affairs evolving to include some sort of physical sexual interaction, from kissing through to clandestine rendezvous.
One need only look to the divorce rate today to see that many people find someone more appealing and more interesting – even someone they love more than their spouse – after they are already married.
So, are men hard-wired to cheat?
I don’t think it’s as simple as that anymore. I think women are just as capable of being the aggressors and initiators when it comes to extra-marital activities. Women have shed the “good girl” requirement in favour of personal fulfillment and pursuit of renewed romantic excitement when a marriage has become routine. Whether that bodes well for the future, I can’t say. But as we can see in the younger generations, there seems to be a lot more flexibility in commitment than ever before.