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How We Cheat Ourselves into Cheating on Each Other
Professor Malcolm Campbell
Honors English 1103
November 8, 2012
Gissel Rojas Malcolm Campbell English 1103 Hon 8 November, 2012 How We Cheat Ourselves into Cheating on Each Other It was just a regular Thursday for me before I clocked on for work at four o’clock. I was a cashier at the time just happily ringing out customers because I was a week away from starting my first day of college. “Next”, I called out after realizing that the next people in line were some friends from school. We caught up and simple small talking, until they asked about my relationship with my boyfriend. I told them how we were recently celebrated our two years anniversary and how we are now talking about moving in together. One of my friends, Andrew, asked to speak to me privately. My other friend, who accompanied Andrew, stood aside me hinting I will need a hug soon. “Your boyfriend has been cheating on you for several months…” was the first and only thing I heard even though he continued with more information, but I didn’t want to hear more. I gave them a good hug, whispered a thank you, and then walked away to the employee hub. I called my boyfriend and asked him the million dollar question, “have you been cheating on me?” There was a complete silence for about thirty seconds. I wanted answers, I wanted reasoning, but nothing was making sense to me. All he could tell me was how sorry he was and how he had no reason for cheating, how he didn’t think before doing it... Click. My mind was distressed and overwhelmed with emotions, thoughts, and mainly questions. That’s when it hit me. How often does this happen to everyday relationships? In this generation and age group, cheating happens pretty frequently. I felt something inside, a growing spring of curiosity beaming towards the question as to why people who commit themselves into relationships feel the need to cheat.
One of the biggest misinterpretations females always have is the image of a relationship. We imagine ourselves as damsels in distress waiting for our prince charming to sweep us off our feet and carry us away in a pumpkin shaped carriage. And after that? They lived happily ever after. I blame Disney for this. Reality tells us that in our generation, relationships nowadays are filled with much deceit, dishonesty, and infidelities. Statistics tell us that cheating has become so prevalent in relationships, that one out of four people will suffer a relationship that will experience episodes of cheating (Hickle and Williams). And we tell ourselves anything and everything to ease a heartbreak and to escape the feeling of stupidity. There is no need to lower any self-esteem here. Erik Erickson proposed a theory where he explained eight stages of development, one of which is identity vs. role confusion. According to Erickson: Adolescents undergo identity formation and the development of intimacy on their 6journey towards adulthood. Identity, intimacy, and fidelity are inherently linked; as an adolescent’s sense of personal identity strengthens their capacity for intimacy and fidelity grows. Despite the connection between these developmental goals, they are often at odds. Identity formation necessarily includes independence from relationships while intimacy formation relies on mutual dependence (Hickle and Williams). If adolescents commit before forming their identity, the distressed teen will be conflicted between his or her inner feelings and their seemingly exceptional relationship that they feel pressured to maintain. Why do mentally undeveloped individuals view relationships so appealing knowing they have temptations unwilling to deny? How do adolescents perceive cheating? Lela Williams and Kristine Hickle are researchers in Arizona State University and have conducted a recent experiment in which they gathered a random pool of people from many ethnicities, genders, and age groups to analyze how people portray cheating in relationships. Results showed
made it apparent that adolescents partially understand cheating through the lens of their own experiences as a victim or as a perpetrator of infidelity. They also understand cheating through the experiences of their peers; suspicion or mistrust of their partner and fears of being cheated on often begin over conversation with peers and are perpetrated by social interaction (Hickle and Williams). Peers also appear to fuel the general perception that cheating happens often, possibly more than is discovered or labeled “cheating”. Females, specifically, have portrayed cheating as not only common but described as inevitable. Even though adolescents are at conflicting times with balancing between the two developmental identity crises, they aren’t the only ones who are cheaters. Marriages are far more serious of a relationship than the everyday adolescent fling. Infidelities are far less frequent in marriages when being compared to relationships but they are still one of the leading causes of a divorce. In 1994, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago did a study that showed 15 to 18 percent of "ever-married people have had a sexual partner other than their spouse while married" (Schulte). The difference between adolescents who cheat and adults who cheat when linking Erikson’s theory of development is that a person who fails to form his or her identity during the identify formation stage and instead rushes into a committed relationship will suffer from boredom, insecurity, immaturity, and poor communicating (Oppenheimer). This not only stems from mishaps in developmental psychology, but social-cultural psychology as well. America had built a nation in which we convinced ourselves as monogamous beings and beings that conform into society’s accepted ideas. Praising monogamy as an ideal expectation when reaching a specific age and serious partner, is leading some experts to think that expectations are exceedingly unrealistic and hypocritical (Schulte). As a society, we are privately more forgiving and publicly often more judgmental. That leaves those who fail to conform into
society expectation forced to hide their inner desires and therefore are left to either rot in an unhappy marriage or escape into multiple sex scandals. Sex scandals have been traced back all the way to Thomas Jefferson, which to this day still triggers public fury and speaks volumes about American society. The reactions of civilians reveals what many people still don't know, or like, about sexuality. "We hold sex to a really high standard because I think we got really deep shame about being sexual beings," says Jean Koehler, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Louisville Medical School. "American society has a tradition of being very scared and highly regulated about their sexuality" (Schulte). Although hiding inner desires through sex scandals are common, there is a growing trend amongst both married and dating participants. Social networking has boomed significantly during the 2000s’ decade. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and more have given many committed folks an opportunity to escape their relationship through viral interactions. Because of the advancement of technology, affairs have become easier in terms of the decreasing trend of faceto-face interaction. Over the past decade, the internet has become an excruciating horror story to many happy couples. With the growth of the internet, many online dating sites, chat rooms, and social networks have developed and created affairs as no longer physical but emotional infidelity. The question arises on whether or not emotional infidelity is considered an affair. If there is no physical contact is it still considered an affair? Married individuals were experimented to express their perceptions of cyber cheating and how serious of a matter it is to their own as well as other marriages. Several studies suggested that even when there is no in-person contact, online affairs can be just as devastating as the realworld cheating encounters, triggering feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy (Oppenheimer).
Women typically feel more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s online affair, while men are more concerned about physical encounters. Almost a third of the participants admitted to their cyber sexual experiences as well as being involved in a cyber-sexual relationship. They reported the mentality of a person in a committed relationships were just as likely to engage in cybersex as those who were single. What studies also showed was that there was a difference in cyber sexual interest between genders. While men’s interest in cybersex decreased the further they aged, women’s interest increased slightly, with thirty seven percent of women between the ages of thirty five to forty nine reporting cyber sexual experiences compared with only a quarter of men in the same age group (Smith). So when I interviewed one of my fellow coworkers who was a victim of her partner’s betrayal with cyber sexual relations, she revealed her personal thoughts and feelings after finding out. I was tortured and obsessed by the affairs. My brain couldn’t include this behavior and a man that loved me at the same time. My resistance to believing I had the whole story was gut level and true. I claimed I couldn’t rebuild my reality until I had all the facts, but it was driven by the sharp pain of betrayal and humiliation. His clumsy lies and cover-ups spanned 3 years after discovery and I stayed on it like some deranged pit-bull. The triggers were debilitating. It could be a glimpse of a pregnant woman or an image of a beautiful blonde and ZAP! It happened in a flash. I learned our 8 year marriage was crowded with other women. She was one of the few people I interviewed about her perceptions of cheating. Cheating not only affects the victim in the relationship, but studies show that those who cheat suffer a vast amount of stress and carries a weight on them when attempting to complete everyday tasks such as throwing a ball, carrying weights, and helping others. Ambady Nalini experimented on several
admitting cheaters to prove his hypothesis on the effects with carrying a mentally heavy burden. The damaging effects of secrets have been attributed to mental stress and impaired judgment. In Nalini’s first experiment, he examined whether bearing a secret could cause hills to seem steeper, as a consequence of carrying physical weight. Participants who have admitted to cheated perceived the hill as steep because infidelity is considered as a bigger and weightier secret when comparing to the other group of participants who have only told little white lies. In the second experiment, Nalini tested if secrets are physically burdensome. If so, the group who hid their big secrets should cause them to overestimate distance, therefore causing people to overthrow when tossing an object at a target. In this experiment, the results showed that keeping a secret is a negative experience, which caused people to avoid additional aversive situations (Nalini). If the physical tasks were seen as more negative than the nonphysical tasks, then the participants whose infidelities were bothersome to them might have wanted to avoid the task, leading to perceptions of those tasks as more effortful. There is a way to acknowledge a cheater through their effort and amount of stress when undergoing the task, but what about their partner? Being cheated on and being the cheater is two completely different feelings. When discovering you have been deceived and betrayed, you gain a sense of disbelief and complete misery. When accomplishing the act of cheating, many usually feel remorse, initially, but eventually it slips down to apathy. Is it possible for the victim to forgive their partner’s mistakes? Is it emotionally healthy to forgive a partner who has cheated? There is no right answer. Although the answer is generally up to us, some researchers have revealed that it is more up to our peer influences. Individuals learn what to expect in romantic relationships through their peers and filter romantic experiences through peer interaction. The victim conflicted between forgiving or leaving for good, will depend more on their peer evaluation rather than trying to understand
what is best for them. This is because peer evaluations have been experimentally implicated in the development of self-concept and social-esteem (Hickle and Williams). Perceptions of cheating were altered as well when it turned from single to peer-oriented perceptions. The peeroriented perceptions of cheating were mentioned more frequently than individual worry of suspicion, indicating the important role peers play in the relationship process (Hickles and Williams). After finding all sorts of information regarding infidelities and the reasoning behind every single factor into it, I was not satisfied with my journey. Rather, I felt more inspired to continue finding more information. The psychology behind infidelities and how the proper balance of identity formation and intimacy formation leaves me to think that some individuals are aware that they have not developed, yet are rushing into growing up while yelling “YOLO”. The science behind carrying a burden from their partner and finding that they are suffering from simple everyday activities makes me think to myself “That’s what they get for doing what they did”. When it all comes down to it, people are going to cheat for many reasons, and some, for no reason at all. But does finding any sort of reasoning for cheating in a relationship leave it justified?
Works Cited Nalini, Ambady, et al. "The Physical Burdens Of Secrecy." Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General (2012): PsycARTICLES. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. Oppenheimer, Mark. "Married, with Infidelities." New York Times. 03 Jun 2011, Weekend ed. MM22. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. Schulte, Bret. "How Common Are Cheating Spouses?" U.S News & World Report. 27 2008: n. page. Web. 8 Nov. 2012. Smith, Brendan. "Are Internet Affairs Different?" American Psychological Association. Vol. 42. No. 3 (2011): 48. APA. Web. 18 Oct 2012. Williams, Lela, and Kristine Hickle. "“He cheated on me, I cheated on him back”: Mexican American and White adolescents’ perceptions of cheating in romantic relationships"." Journal of Adolescence. Volume 34.Issue 5 (2012): 1005-1006. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.
Overall, I thought that your work was very interesting and it was on a subject that I have no experience with on either side (and don’t really want to, haha). I liked that you mentioned that America, as a society, was fostering the idea that our sexual identities are sort of taboo and that it pushes for monogamy. However, I found that you had a few transition issues and I feel as though your conclusion could have been a lot stronger. I think that you had a good variety of sources, including a personal interview. I think that works well with your topic. Reviewed by Allysia Trindade
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