Infidelity looks different today than it did in the mid-1990s.
Back in the Carter administration, when Murphy Brown and the X-Files were still hanging on, an affair was considered an actual physical sexual encounter between people.
Today however, infidelity is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes, literally.
The Internet has opened up a world of opportunity to the man who is looking to look around. The surge in social media usage has upped the ante even more.
Now, not only is pornography readily available, but you can have the woman of your dreams hook up via webcam for something a little closer and more personal. With Facebook encounters, chat-room roundabouts, and ubiquitous pornography, men can take a respite from their primary romantic relationship for an hour or so in the comfort of their living room.
Such behavior hasn’t stayed under the spousal radar: A recent poll from HuffPost/YouGov said 85 percent of women and 74 percent of men consider such online activity cheating.
Stephanie Nolasco in “Does Sexting Count as Cheating? Experts Weigh In” commented on a recent political scandal:
“The married (political candidate) has admitted to “sexting” a number of women, but has denied doing anything physical with them. Some say such behavior, while alarming, doesn’t amount to cheating.”
The “some” indicated was probably this politician’s publicist.
“I did not have sex with that woman” said another elected official at the peak of allegations of impropriety while he was in office. His wording was selected for him by well-paid practitioners of the law.
Setting aside the specifics of sexual acts for another conversation, what is cheating? Is sexting considered infidelity? How about trolling for a bite; is that cheating? Try listening to the Pina-colada song. The man answers an ad in the paper and then meets a lady in a restaurant later? How cute. Cheating?
Social worker Robert Weiss likes to give a little reminder to men who step out of their relationship without physically stepping out.
“When a man makes a vow of monogamy to a spouse or significant other and then breaks that vow, he is in violation of a relationship contract. I further discuss with them the idea that infidelity is not defined by any specific act (sexual or otherwise), but rather by the keeping of secrets in an intimate relationship.”
Bottom line — other than a handful of politicians, people generally characterize sexting and pornography as cheating.
So, why do committed men in a relationship cheat?
1) The married man never intended to be faithful in the first place. The words involved in the commitment ceremony were just words to him. Whether deliberately or not, he misled his partner. Maybe his father was a philanderer. Or maybe he just lied.
2) “Cheaters Cognitive Dissonance” has reared its subjective head. The man has successfully separated himself from what he does. He considers himself to be good, and he does something bad (cheat) for a good reason (whatever).
3) The married man is arrogant. He may feel he is above other men, or that rules and standards are for normal guys who aren’t as together as he is. If his mate isn’t available for his every sexual want or need, he feels justified in finding what he needs somewhere else. Besides, he is so smart and clever that there is no way anyone will ever catch him cheating, so who cares?
4) The man is insecure or immature. He may feel the need for continued attention from partner in order to be ”enough” or to “be all that he can be.” Monogamy is secondary to his need for constant affirmation.
5) This man isn’t able to, or simply hasn’t, made a commitment. There are many reasons — some of them quite legitimate. An abusive background can leave scars that are not easily healed. He may be looking for a way to fill needs that he doesn’t understand, much like some men do with substance abuse. Be aware that hypersexuality and poor sexual impulse control are symptoms of bipolar disorder.
6) The guy is through with the relationship and is looking for a plan B.
7) He is addicted to the rush. Maybe he is looking for the excitement that his relationship was while it was fresh and new. Maybe he has not had inspiring examples of long-term monogamy, and doesn’t understand the intimacy that comes with time and experience.
8) For this man, monogamy or loyalty have never been important in his grand scheme.
Psychologist Seth Meyers says in “How to Define Emotional Infidelity: Different Types Cheating”:
“The best indicator (of a healthy relationship) is to consider the character of your partner and to ask yourself how much you truly trust his or her integrity. How loyal is your partner to his or her friends? To his or her job? To his or her family?”
Perhaps an equally telling question you may want to ask is, why does this man think cheating is acceptable?