Updated: Oct 29, 2021
So if you consider cheating the ultimate act of betrayal, then here is an alternative view for your consideration.
Many of us have been socialized to view extramarital affairs in black and white. But is it possible that cheating is villainized unfairly? Even the word, "cheating", connotes a terrible, filthy, ugly image in our heads. And maybe it should. But do we want to attach that word and image to people, just for doing what is very natural and in many cases justifiable?
If we agree that a cheater is someone who breaches trust in a mutually agreed upon relationship dynamic, then can we also agree that relationships (and agreements for that matter) are nuanced - and not just black and white, like we were taught? Once upon a time, there was a such thing as an agreement among married couples to have hand maids and concubines and goumadas. The idea being that no one person could or should have to satisfy all the needs of his/her partner. Thus, let the other chicks do it...type of thing.
We discussed on the Yummy & Fearless Podcast how when one partner keeps secrets from the other partner(s), it is considered cheating. But we also delved into the nuances of when it is okay, and even necessary to keep some things to yourself.
“I don't need to know that the Barista at Starbucks thought you were hot.” - Yummy & Fearless Podcast
Emotional connectedness to a person other than your partner can be interpreted as cheating, we determined. And it is the combination of emotional connectedness and physical intimacy that really amount to the most egregious offenses for some individuals. Surprisingly, physical intimacy with another person is not by itself the worst offense, according to some women.
But where is the line between cheating and not cheating? For instance, if we assume that it is the asymmetry of information between partners (e.g. secrets), then is masturbating cheating? What about pornography? You see how it becomes nuanced and fuzzy? And aren't these so-called agreements somewhat outdated and unrealistic anyway? Be that as it may, most of us in this society are socialized to value the one woman/one man partnerships. This is even with the existence now of same sex marriages and the rise of polyamory. It seems, then, that western values and the ensuing "partnership agreements" might be the problem - not the so-called cheaters. But I digress. Our socialization regarding loving relationships are all we have to work with, so it stands that if I'm thinking our relationship is solid, it will definitely hurt me to my core, if I find out you have been loving and hugging and kissing on some other chick behind by back. That was not the agreement, Sir! (...unless it was the agreement, like Will and Jada's.)
So at the end of the day, it boils down to what we agreed to. Albeit, agreements can change and evolve over time, asymmetry of info is the real problem. So the moral of the story is - if you want to get your freak on (or be intimate) with someone outside your primary relationship, it is probably best to give your partner that info and let him or her decide how or if the agreement should change. Yes?
But what do y'all think?