Cheating is a terrible, terrible thing. And yet and many of us have had a penchant for doing it. Some people believe it’s because we’re not meant to be monogamous. Others believe that our imperfect humanity is bound to make us weak from time to time.
And indeed there are many excuses given: Not giving the other person what they need will drive them to cheat. It was just in the “heat of the moment.” People cheat because they can. We’ve heard all of these and more repeatedly.
Recently, I realized that I knew very few people who haven’t either cheated, or had been cheated on. (And that’s pretty sad because I think I have a relatively sizeable network.) I asked other people too and it seems that cheating or being cheated on was not uncommon in their circles either.
Now, while men are generally known for being the perpetrators of cheating in relationships, I’ve read enough studies that show that women cheat just as much as men do. I’ve even read that women are more likely to cheat! So let’s break this down according to gender socialization and expectations.
Men can spread their seed in multiple women. (Basic biology here, but I’ll try not to get too graphic). While women, on the other hand, can only carry one seed at a time. Moreover, when this “seed” is being carried, women physically endure the experience. It’s for this reason that a lot of evolutionary biologists believe women have traditionally been more conservative about sex.
Prior to the last half of the twentieth century, another reason that women may have been more conservative about straying is that they were, for the most part, not in a position of financial independence. One might imagine that women were also less likely to cheat because, without their independence, they were risking losing more than their relationship — but their livelihood as well. Furthermore, with most women depending on their husbands as the provider, knowing that a man was cheating was probably not the deal-breaker it is for many of us today.
Fast forward to the second half of the twentieth century, where women had more independence in general, and certainly more means to avoid pregnancy. The playing field was leveled for extracurricular activities outside of the relationship. And thus the rise of cheating (and the decline of marriage rates) seemingly began.
Surprisingly, however, men and women’s socializations in the context of what to expect in relationships had not, and have not, necessarily changed. Men still look for attraction, fertility and nurturing qualities and women still look for someone with the ability to provide and support. Like it or not, this is science and social science. Take it up with the experts.
Men are said to cheat more not because they are not in love with their partners, but because of the opportunity presenting itself, combined with a lack of satisfaction they may feel in a relationship. Or sometimes it’s as simple as needing attention. While women are said to cheat for emotional reasons and the hypothesis is that women are likely to be more careful and less sloppy about cheating, unlike men. And because of that reason, women are far less likely to get caught than men. Apparently wanting to protect their emotional fulfillment is a meticulous art for women. While men, cheating for more physical and superficial reasons, tend to become more careless.
In theory, given the different socialization of men and women, I can see how and why this is possible. But it also sounds to me that we have to make several (potentially inaccurate) assumptions about all relationships in general, in order to make an argument for the reasons one gender may cheat on the other. (And do it better!)
I personally think all cheating is bogus, regardless of the reasoning.
Ultimately it breaks a trust that will either cost you love, trust, integrity, or all three. And I am yet to hear a situation where it has been worth it. But for the sake of conversation, who do you think cheats more between men and women? And who do you think is better at it?