In the current world of sexting, online dating and social media, the line between staying faithful and cheating has become blurred. In a college setting, cheating may seem more common. The combination of parties, alcohol and an attraction to fellow classmates can make it harder for students to resist temptation- leading to what people fear most in a relationship: cheating. This can be exacerbated by the fact that at many college campuses, sex is treated casually and hook-up culture has nearly wiped out the dating scene. But when people are guilty of cheating, does it mean they always will?
“I don’t think you can categorize all people who have cheated the same and say because they have cheated in the past they will always be cheaters,” said Stephany Alexander, an infidelity and relationship expert and the author of The Cheat Sheet. “Some people can change and grow. However, if a person has repeatedly cheated over a certain period of time–especially with multiple people–there is a high probability they will continue cheating because people tend to repeat patterns.”
But what constitutes cheating? While certain behaviors are clearly cheating, such as having sex with outside of one's monogamous relationship, other actions can be more ambiguous. There are no set rules and regulations that dictate the terms of every relationship, so what is right and what is wrong in a relationship can be controversial.
“I would consider anything cheating except dancing,” said Marina Sutter, a junior at Saint Mary’s College. “I have never cheated and cheating is never okay. If you’re unhappy in a relationship, leave.”
On the other hand, Stacy Huhn, a sophomore at UC Davis, said there is more of a desire to cheat in college because there are more guys, and not everyone can resist. “Last year I was at a social with my sorority and there was a really hot guy flirting with me,” she said. “The next thing I knew, he pushed me up against the wall and we started making out. I was kind of tipsy, but at the same time, I knew what I was doing. We hung out the rest of the night and he walked me home, but nothing came of it after that. I felt bad the next day, but I never told my boyfriend. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it since it didn’t mean anything.”
In addition to partying, technology has provided several new ways to cheat. Now people can sext, have Skype sex or even send dirty pictures via Twitter like Anthony Weiner. Perhaps the most popular options, however, are instant messaging and online dating sites. Richard Rockwell, a senior at Claremont McKenna College, said he does not think talking to someone online constitutes as cheating. “If I’m just talking to a girl over the Internet, I don’t think it’s a problem. It’s not like we’re hooking-up or anything.”
But according to a poll of 13,892 women conducted by WomanSavers.com Free Date Screening Service, 92 percent of women believe online affairs constitute infidelity. Christina Appleton, a senior at Pepperdine University, said she is on the side of the women polled. “I would be pissed if I found out my boyfriend was talking to someone online," she said. “Even if they hadn’t slept together, it still violates my trust because he is talking to another girl and possibly getting attached to her emotionally.”
Ian Kerner, a sex and relationship expert and New York Times best selling author, also believes emotional cheating can be just as painful as physical cheating, and said it is often a precursor to sexual infidelity. Alexander would agree: “Fidelity is the bond between you and your partner, and when you do things that weaken that bond or establish part of that intimate bond with someone else, it can eventually lead to the end of the primary relationship,” she said.
Both men and women can get themselves into thorny sexual situations, yet there is a difference in male and female infidelity. According to Alexander, usually women are unfaithful because they are either in a bad relationship they are looking to replace, or because they do not feel loved or appreciated by their partner. Men, on the other hand, tend to cheat opportunistically.
“We expect monogamy because it’s a social institution, but ultimately it’s a choice,” said Kerner. “Not all people are equipped to sustain long-term monogamous relationships.”
Alexander added, “People cheat for so many different reasons. Some people cheat because they have poor sex lives, others cheat for the thrill, for love, because they are insecure or because they need an ego boost.”
At the end of the day, cheating is about dissatisfaction in a relationship. If people stay connected to each other and are happy, it will be as if cheating does not exist. “I believe it is possible to hold onto those feelings of love and respect,” said Kerner. “Monogamy is hard work, but it will work if people put in the effort to try.”