we judge it, but why do we cheat?

Many well-known, but also unknown, Dutch people are today socially pillaged for his or her affairs or adulterous acts. We’ve made our assessment about cheating quite easily. ‘Cut off a relationship and never look back’, it sounds fast, but in practice it doesn’t always work that simple. But why do we cheat? And if your own partner is unfaithful? Do you get up like that?

Is cheating in the nature of the beast? We can probably best explain this by actually looking at the animal. Professor Liesbeth Sterck is a behavioral biologist and affiliated with Utrecht University. She investigates themes such as infidelity and relationships from the animal kingdom. Because we can learn a lot from animals. There are several mating systems in nature, one of which is monogamy. For example, gibbons and many birds prefer a monogamous mating system. It used to be believed that these monogamous species were truly loyal to each other. However, this turned out not to be true. “In the 1980s it was discovered in hedge sparrows that the eggs did not always come from the same father.” According to Sterck, there is always some degree of infidelity in monogamous mating systems.

Why do people cheat?

The behavioral biologist explains that there are evolutionary advantages to cheating. “Animals sometimes have children from another person because they simply have better characteristics than the partner. The motivation to cheat is then better genes.” But does that mean cheating is acceptable? Because biology allows it? “While it may be beneficial for the cheater, it is not comfortable for both monogamous men and women if the partner is dating someone else. With guarding the partner they try to prevent adultery. We also monitor that in our society we reject adultery. In this way, individual preferences are transformed into a social norm.

But why do we as humans cheat? According to Johan Karremans, professor of social psychology at Radboud University, this is a complex subject. “Personal characteristics, the strength of the temptation, the situation and the relationship that someone is in all play a role in this.” Karremans also emphasizes that cheating does not mean that something is missing in a relationship. “There is also such a thing”let your guard down‘ at the moment when everything is going very well in the relationship and the weapons against temptation have loosened a little.

Investigation of cheating and adultery

Social psychologist Tila Pronk, affiliated with Tilburg University, has been researching love and relationships for the past sixteen years. Where she also researched the theme of infidelity. She agrees with Karremans’ words. According to Pronk, it is human to feel attracted to someone other than our partner. “Our body reacts to beautiful people, then the reward areas in our brain become active. The brain rewards us for interacting with beautiful people.” According to Pronk, the trick lies in the degree of impulse control. “People with good impulse control can decide not to do something despite the attraction.” And the one seems to be better at it than the other. “It turns out to be an innate personality trait.” However, the social psychologist explains that fatigue or alcohol can affect impulse control. “Then it’s harder to control impulses and the risk of cheating increases.”

prove cites an interesting study in which she examined several obsessed men. The researchers knew in advance that the men were in a relationship, the men had not even reported it. For the study, the participants had to sit in a waiting room where they were “coincidentally” accompanied by a beautiful lady. The waiting room moment turned out to be part of the study, which the participants were not aware of. “We secretly looked at the interaction and the flirting behavior. It turned out that the men who previously scored well on impulse control components were also less likely to flirt.” The participants who scored poorly on impulse control flirted more in the waiting room.”Phone numbers were even exchanged.”

Perpetrators and victims and sexual hypocrisy

Yet we often talk shame about cheaters, while people also tend to forgive their own partner. What about that? According to Pronk, this is logical and explainable human behavior. “We quickly find something that is further away from us. We tend to attribute behavior to the person. In that case, the cheater is the bad guy. But there are several factors that come into play.” When infidelity occurs in our own relationship, we are much more aware of the other factors, explains Pronk. “Sometimes we even turn it around. Then we ignore the person who chooses to cheat and blame the factors. With others we therefore primarily see the person, with ourselves mainly the situation.” According to Pronk, we should be able to nuance things a little more. Professor Karremans agrees with Pronk’s words and emphasizes the hypocrisy. “This is a very persistent pattern. It’s nice to have more insight into it and to go through life less judgmentally.”

Roos Vonk, professor of social psychology and author, discussed this phenomenon in his column Psychology Magazine with the term ‘sexual hypocrisy’. “Our own behavior often looks very different from that of others. Better. Nobles,” she wrote. Vonk cited a study in which participants had been both the ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim’ of infidelity. What turned out? The perpetrators often believed that their infidelity was due to circumstances or their partner. Plus, the cheater thought it was all okay. “These participants had both experienced it and had therefore also been on the other side, but it was apparently a completely different situation in their eyes.”

Monogamy and other relationships

Researcher Pronk emphasizes that a person always has a choice in all cases. According to her, a single misstep is a regular occurrence, but one must guard against multiple missteps. “If you exhibit behavior that is inconsistent with your own standards and values, you will quickly justify things to appease your ego and your own conscience. Then the next step to cheating is taken faster.”

According to her, infidelity is timeless. The chance of getting caught is only greater these days. “We are being kept much more informed at this time.” The dialogue about alternative forms of relationships is also changing, according to her. “We talk more easily about, for example, an open relationship.” Because although monogamy seems to be the norm in our society, according to Pronk, it is not always so realistic. Behavioral biologist Sterck also emphasizes that the social norm does not apply to every individual. “The question is how important you think your partner is and what are you willing to pay for it.” According to Sterck, the way we think about infidelity is changing and we are more careful these days. “In the 1970s, partner exchange was in, so we looked at things differently. Individuals may disagree on that. One says no sex before marriage, the other has multiple partners. If you have an agreement, then it is possible,’ says the behavioral biologist.

Cheating in men and women

And Pronk debunks the myth that men cheat more often than women. “Men are more likely to choose cheating through sex, women choose emotional cheating.” The latter is also known as microcheating. “The question then is, which is worse? But in theory, there is no one gender that cheats more often.” Sterck also substantiates this. “Men are more often jealous of sexual cheating. In contrast, women appear to be jealous of emotional cheating.”

Moreover, Pronk does not believe that you should immediately throw in the towel when you make a mistake in a relationship. “You have to accept that your relationship will no longer be what it was. A lie has crept in.” She calls for an open discussion about this. “How could this happen? What are the chances of it happening again? And how do we move forward? are questions you can ask.” According to the social psychologist, you benefit from the help of a relationship therapist. “People hesitate, but if you’re sick, you go to the doctor, right? The therapist is a doctor in the relationship who can help through a difficult phase. In addition, it can also protect you from relationship trauma in a future relationship.”

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We have our verdict on cheaters, but why does man commit adultery?

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