I have been cheated on. Finding out was one of the most awful, stomach-churning, devastating experiences of my life. Just thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. I was a 22-year-old idiot at the time, so I stayed in the relationship for another year before, surprise, more cheating. And because of that experience I have a hard-line, zero tolerance rule when it comes to cheating. I have no sympathy for cheaters and no real desire to hear about where they were coming from, or why they did it. Completely uninterested in those excuses.
One of the things I love most about my job at Flo & Frank is the opportunity to read, watch, and listen to ways of thinking that are so far away from my own. So, while I had no desire to hear about why a person would cheat, I’m glad that I did, because I gained a new perspective and learned to forgive myself for past mistakes.
In her TED Talk, “Rethinking infidelity…a talk for anyone who has ever loved,” sex therapist Esther Perel points out that, “Monogamy used to be one person for life. Today, monogamy is one person at a time.” People used to get married and then have sex for the first time, but now we get married and stop having sex with other people. “The fact is that monogamy had nothing to do with love,” Esther explains. “Men relied on women’s fidelity in order to know whose children these are, and who gets the cows when I die.”
“Monogamy used to be one person for life. Today, monogamy is one person at a time.” Image via iStock.
Esther says that when marriage was simply an economic arrangement, infidelity was a threat to our economic security. Now that marriage is a romantic arrangement, infidelity is a threat to our emotional security. “Ironically, we used to turn to adultery—that was the space where we sought pure love,” she explains. “But now that we seek love in marriage, adultery destroys it.”
The part I could never understand about my own cheating experience was why he didn’t just break up with me. I hear stories of people cheating on their spouses and think, why wouldn’t they just ask for a divorce? I always viewed cheating as a symptom of something wrong with the relationship or with the cheating person. But Esther suggests that, “Millions of people can’t all be pathological.”