What is “Cheating” Anyway?

  • October 23, 2011

“Why did you break up with her?” I asked my friend over a beer. “I found out she was cheating on me,” he said in total disgust.

It’s a common story. Ashton’s affair and subsequent divorce has been all over the tabloids lately. But what is cheating anyway? And why do we care?

For most people, cheating has a standard

narrative form: there is sex going on outside of the boundaries and agreements of a “relationship”, this kind of sex is a very bad thing, the people who do it are very bad people who lack integrity self control and they must be broken-up with and/or divorced when the cheating is discovered.

Cheating. Divorce. In our puritanical culture, the two walk hand in hand in matrimonial bliss. According to this storyline, cheating does – or at least should do – irreparable damage to a relationship.

The problem is the “damage done” depends entirely on our deepest held beliefs about sex and monogamy. For example, in more fundamental circles, simply having thoughts about another person is cheating – and therefore irreparably damaging to the relationship.

My friend asked me what I thought he did wrong in the relationship. I told him that it’s possible it’s about what he did right. “If your woman is feeling fed, juicy, nurtured and loved, she can show up ot the world as being even more desirable, attractive, delectable,” I said,“or maybe you just suck in bed.”

“So you think what she did was alright?” he asked angrily.
“Yes,” I said, “I do. She’s an adult. Treat her like one.”

The biggest problem that I see with the idea of “cheating” is that it’s based on the underlying idea that our partners are children, or worse yet – personal property. Cheating is a completely made up idea that represents yet another way of controlling the genitals of our partners.

We act shocked and enraged every time we hear about “cheating.” We scowl at the tabloids in disgust and horror. But our shock and awe hides the fact that we are behaving like high school kids around sex – and we just don’t want to grow up.

What every shred of evidence shows is that people “cheat” – a lot. Maybe cheating is not the problem at all. Maybe our cultural fairy tales about sex and cheating are the problem because they don’t match reality.

The fact remains, sex is happening in all forms, including cheating, all over the world – population now 7 billion.