What’s your definition of cheating?

“What do you think is the number one reason why people go to therapy?” asked my CÉGEP psychology professor. “Addiction? Paranoia? Money? None of the above. In fact, the answer is relationships.”

It may not be your first guess, but when you think about it, it makes sense.

Relationships take up a vast majority of the time in our lives. It starts as young as elementary crushes, first loves in high school, CÉGEP, and on to the most serious commitment a person can pledge to another: marriage. Until death do us part right?

So, why is something that should bring a person happiness and completeness end up taking them to a therapist’s chair? That is because one of the most common problems with relationships is cheating.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2005, an estimated 71,269 divorces occurred annually across the nation based on one of the following reasons: falling out of love, communication breakdown, unreasonable behavior, infidelity, midlife crisis, financial issues and physical, psychological, or emotional abuse.

These days, as soon as the word infidelity — or the more commonly used term, cheating — comes up, people usually tend to think of physically cheating. However, there is another way in which a person can cheat on their partner, and that is emotionally.

According to psychologist, teacher and self-development expert Michael J. Formica, emotional cheating is defined as any situation that creates or causes some degree of emotional unavailability on the part of one partner.

“It’s an expression of either the need or the desire to absent oneself from one’s primary relationship, without actually leaving that relationship,” wrote Formica in his article for Psychology Today. “It’s a crush that’s reciprocated, but not acted upon.”

So which one affects men and women more?

Psychologist Erica Diamond, founder and editor-in-chief of her website womenonthefence.com says that men are more affected by physical cheating because men relate to everything in a physical way first. Men are protective by nature of their possessions, much like they were as cavemen.

“The reality is that while men don’t care with whom you shop, talk, eat, or text, men do care deeply about who looks at you, smells your hair, holds your hand, and takes you to bed,” wrote Diamond.

For women, emotional cheating affects them more. Women are more likely to forgive a one night affair than an on-going connection.

“The thought of a husband’s connection with another woman, telling her his intimate secrets, without even physically touching her is worse than a one night stand,” wrote Diamond.

When it comes to cheating, perhaps the biggest concern of all is who cheats more and who will admit to it. Stereotypically, it is assumed men cheat more than women, but let’s look at the facts.

According to a study in the College Student Journal in 2008, 1,394 undergraduate students from a large southeastern university were asked whether or not they had ever experienced sexual behaviour with others while in a monogamous relationship. The results showed that more men, 19.7 per cent, had cheated on their partner as opposed to women, 14.2 per cent.

When asked whether or not they had told their partner they cheated on them, more men, 60.2 per cent said they hadn’t, as opposed to women, 46.8 per cent.

Of course, this is just one study. Nevertheless, if the world debate concerned which gender cheats, men, unfortunately, would live up to their stereotype of being strictly physical beings. That is not to say that women are innocent in the matter.

According to the 2012 UK Adultery Survey, although men are more adulterous in pursuit of an ego boost through sexual encounters, when women begin to steer away from their relationships, they are more prone to playing the field for emotional purposes and falling in love with their illicit lover. Interestingly, while men, on average, begin to stray away at age 42 and take on 1 – 2 mistresses, women become unfaithful at 37 with 2 – 3 lovers.

The problem with a monogamous relationship is that on paper, and in the movies, it looks like a great idea. However keeping that faithful promise can be quite challenging as the years go by. Whether it be a monogamous college relationship or 20 years of marriage, there are always alternatives to cheating on your partner. Anyone up for some couple counselling?


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