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July 2, 2008

Why We Cheat

Filed under: Psychology — posted by Amanda @ 2:13 pm

Adultery lurks everywhere, among celeb couples and political leaders, our neighbors and even, on a bad day, our own relationships. New York Magazine, following up on the Spitzer scandal in its own back yard, recently weighed in on the matter, with a lot to say about American culture and the perhaps untenable emphasis we put on monogamy.

According to writer Susan Squire, marriage wasn’t made to handle all this pressure in the first place. The average life span is far greater now than it was 100 years ago, and back in those days, marriage was a more formal institution for breeding and family purposes only. It’s becoming more and more difficult for partners in a marriage to get the variety and sexual attention that they need. The American burden is the ideal that marriage should provide romantic love forever. “Marriage involves routine, and routine kills passion,” Squire says. Sometimes partners see an affair as the only way out of that rut.

That’s why Mira Kirshenbaum, clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute in Boston, suggests that not all cheaters are evil trolls. In her book When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships, she presents 17 basic reasons why someone may cheat for reasons that aren’t necessarily immoral, and may at some level at least be understandable (if not actually advised or effective) — from “finding oneself” to “sexual panic” to “accidental” (Like what? “I tripped”?) to trying to “kill” a relationship to see if it comes back to life, having an affair to heat up a marriage, and coping (or, well, not) with a mid-marriage crisis. Kirshenbaum also suggests that those having affairs should not necessarily confess their actions to their partners: not so they can “get away with it,” but in order to to avoid perhaps unnecessary pain and mistrust. (This, we gather, is assuming they actually stop.)

But you can ‘fess up to us: are you a “good person” who cheated? Or were you cheated on by someone you forgave? After all, BG does believe in, you know, not cheating, but she also believes in compassion and, where possible/appropriate, rehabilitation. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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