Why We Cheat
Infidelity is a hot topic of conversation, but being faithful does have its merits.
Infedility by the Numbers continued...
What are not taken into account in these surveys are other kinds of
infidelity besides having sex. Does a stolen kiss count? What about erotic
chats with strangers online? A lap dance?
"Infidelity occurs when one member of a couple secretly violates the
commitment to monogamy. That's a very inclusive definition," Lusterman
says. If your partner considers it cheating, then it probably is. But what
would mortify your partner might be a-OK, or at least tolerated, by mine.
"I think there probably is a bigger range of fidelity than we
imagine," Kramer says. Some couples enjoy bringing third parties into their
bedroom, yet they would insist that they have never cheated.
Rewards for Fidelity
Another problem with infidelity statistics is whether to read that the glass
is 22% empty or 78% full. Certainly, many, many people cheat. But most
people apparently do not, at least by the conventional definition.
Besides the great pressure from religious and cultural mores to stay
faithful, and the threat of retribution, there are prizes for fidelity.
"There are more complex types of happiness to be found in behaving in an
open and moral way, negotiating whatever problems there are," Kramer
Monogamy is "essentially an arms treaty," Lipton says. "Given
the ubiquity of sexual jealousy, I will agree not to make my partner crazy with
sexual jealousy by foreclosing some of my sexual options, if my partner agrees
not to make me crazy by foreclosing his options."
From an evolutionary standpoint, it also has advantages for men. First of
all, it ensures that the child you're working so hard to rear is biologically
related to you, and secondly, to ensure that you get a mate, if you're an
average guy. In social groups that form harems, males at the top of the heap
get all the women. "Monogamy equally distributes males and females in the
culture, instead of Wilt Chamberlain getting 20,000 women, and somebody else
getting zero," Lipton says.
And there are warm, fuzzy reasons. "As I'm growing older and my
husband's growing older, and we're monogamous, it's so pleasant to have one
other person that you trust completely," Lipton says. "It's a
Published April 25, 2005.
Medically Updated April 24, 2006.