Categorized | Sex & Health

Cheatin\’ Hearts

[heart2]Kyle Feldscher has had his heart stolen. Little did he know that it would also be ripped apart and thrown back at him in a gory tangle of muscle and blood. Feldscher, a journalism freshman, is one of the many victims of a disheartening trend that occurs among many young adults with a wandering eye: he was cheated on.
Feldscher\’s girlfriend of four months decided to stray from their commitment, leaving him to find out the truth through a friend. Although apologizing and regretting what she had done, Feldscher ended their relationship and has since been skeptical of finding true love. \”I thought that we were a good thing and could have been better,\” he said. \”I guess she felt differently, so it has kind of ruined women for me since. But it just made me realize that it really isn\’t worth it to let one person hold your heart like that and have the ability to do what they want with it.\”
Infidelity seems to be everywhere we turn. America\’s media descend like vultures on any politician, religious figure or celebrity that has fumbled in the ways of monogamy. The same story is told; America bestows its hateful judgment and the offender is considered despicable, sex-crazed and downright sick. Solutions are offered. Rehab? A public apology? An outreach for sympathy claiming a severe disease?
While we crave public scandals of infidelity and feed on every new e-mail and recorded phone call, what we don\’t hear about is the normal, everyday John, or Jane, Doe that stray. Life in the public eye certainly has its temptations, but public life is just an illuminated version of private life. Cheating is not reserved to Las Vegas and otherwise filthy motel rooms we are accustomed to hearing about. Cheating occurs in our neighborhoods, in our schools and in our workplaces. It affects just about everyone at least once in their lives, whether being the cheater or the cheated, and most people don\’t have agents and public relations teams to help improve their damaged image.
Divorce rates in the U.S. are bordering the 50 percent range, with cheating being one of the top causes. If the sanctity of marriage isn\’t so sanctified anymore, why do people continue to dive into the marriage abyss? Their lives are flipped upside down, emotions are stretched to capacity, houses are sold, property divided, children split between parents, and a whole stream of money problems are born. More importantly, the love once shared along with their future has gone down the drain. \”Til-death-do-you-part\” has now become \”til-you-hire-a-good-lawyer-do-you-part.\”
[kyle2]The rate of infidelity, while occurring in a minority amount of marriages, is still large enough to wonder why monogamy is put on such a high pedestal. Social learning may hold the answer. From birth, infants are given gender identities that shape their behavior as they develop into adults. Girls are given dolls and taught how to be good mothers, while playing house with Barbie and Ken, fantasizing about their rich, successful, loving husband and their dream house. Boys are taught to be boys. Rough play and the ignorance of sentimental feelings. But as these children enter their adolescent phase, they are confronted with opposing values. Teens begin to practice the idea of monogamy, often failing miserably with no real consequences. Break-ups are normal and relationships can be ended as easily as sending a text message. Yet with these experiences, they learn that the social norm is to eventually fall in love with one person and spend their life together… Happily ever after.
The aspiration of monogamy is not new. From the beginning of man and woman, there is evidence of a polygynous lifestyle. Biologically speaking, men are made to be able to spread their genes for the utmost survival rate – if they wanted to, they could impregnate infinite women a year. Women, on the other hand, only have the capacity to carry one child per year spanning their fertile years. Therefore, women are subjected to the idea that quality outweighs quantity in a partner and are destined to invest in someone that will provide emotional and economic stability for their children. Once the fathers figured out that sticking around to one set of offspring was crucial to their survival, monogamy was born.
There are opposing biological factors dealing with a person\’s social behavior, increasing the likelihood for monogamy. Oxytocin, a hormone released in the brain during orgasms is associated with socializing and relationship bonding. Studies have shown higher concentrations of oxytocin in people claiming to be in love. Judson McKee, a 2004 MSU graduate and current Master\’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Miami advocates oxytocin\’s role in bonding. \”Evolutionary psychologists believed that it was developed to ensure that in the early days of humanity that the parents became strongly attached to their child so that they wouldn\’t abandon it, therefore ensuring the propagation of our species.\”
Modern society has begun to defy this theory. Today, women are expected to join the workforce. The idea of staying home to raise children is becoming less and less appealing. Gender equality is rearing its ugly head at the defenseless woman. Cheaters can come in all shapes and sizes. There\’s no particular demographic that tops the unfaithful charts, but a survey from the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center found that the more money a person makes, the more likely they are to have an affair. The study also showed higher infidelity rates among those who are either poorly educated, or have gone beyond the college level. While the claim that men are more likely to cheat often holds true, women are gaining clout among the cheating crowd, especially in non-married couples without children. High school and college settings remain the breeding grounds for wandering eyes. At no other time in a lifespan is a person surrounded by members of the opposite sex in such close quarters, especially in college without the restrictions of parental rules.
Feldscher felt the sting of infidelity while still in high school. \”It hurt a lot at the time,\” Feldscher said, \”but I eventually got over it. I felt betrayed, but a girl like her wasn\’t worth dwelling on.\” Since entering college, he has remained single and happily so. He doesn\’t oppose monogamy, but stays away from the idea by not committing to a serious relationship.
Feldscher\’s bad experience is just one case of love gone wrong, but not all hope is lost for sustaining meaningful relationships in the often unrealistic society of college. Carly Selleck, a political science-prelaw senior, has been in a relationship throughout her college years. For the past two years, she and her boyfriend have lived together. With the idea of marriage dangling in the unknown distant future, they remain a happily monogamous couple. \”I think communication and friendship are the most important things to maintaining a relationship,\” Selleck said. The self-proclaimed best friends have been dating for three years after meeting at a party on campus.
[couple2]While Selleck still admits to getting a bit jealous every now and then, she finds the hardest part of having a long-term monogamous relationship is spending time with other friends. \”It\’s hard to go out with your friends, especially when they\’re single,\” Selleck said. \”They\’ll be out looking to get laid, so it\’s hard to just go out and have fun with them.\”
Remaining single during the college years may seem to be a smart idea. Going through a break up can add tremendous amounts of stress to the already demanding life of students. But when the plunge is taken into the world of couple-hood, measures need to be taken to ensure fidelity. There are two types of cheating; emotional and sexual. Studies show that women are more hurt by \”emotional cheating,\” while men are upset when their partner commits \”sexual cheating.\” Women tend to want an emotional bond with their man, something he could not possibly get with another woman. And even though sexual cheating is also very harmful to a relationship, it is more easily forgivable – boys will be boys, right? – when there is no emotional attachment created. Men, on the other hand, feel more defiled when their partner engages in sexual activity with someone else – a hit below the belt to any man with a hint of insecurity about his masculinity.
Selleck doesn\’t understand why some people resort to cheating on their significant other. \”I think some people cheat just because they\’re stupid,\” she said. \”Maybe they don\’t realize what the consequences will be and don\’t realize how far they\’re getting into something until it\’s too late.\” Especially today, with college students addicted to their personal social networks of MySpace and Facebook, it is almost impossible not to have dishonest thoughts. Further, it isn\’t just the act of cheating that initiates a relationship gone wrong. She believes the prospect of cheating on someone begins when two people decide to start dating for the wrong reasons. \”If you\’re just dating someone to have sex with them, it\’s not going to last.\”
Sure, no one enters a \”serious\” relationship with solely sexual intentions, hence the adoption of the \”friends with benefits\” term so widely used to describe two people of mutual understanding on the emotional limits of their relationship. Sometimes this can work out great for each partner, but often times the oxytocin takes its toll and emotions enter the scene.
Jen Mitchell, a health communication senior, thinks monogamous relationships during college are a waste of time. \”There\’s way too many people to meet out there to just spend time with one person,\” she said. \”I think you learn a lot more about yourself when you interact with more people.\” Mitchell suggests that college life is a natural part of developing as a person, set as a transitional phase between meaningless adolescent \”going out\” and the full-on commitment of marriage. \”This is when you learn who you are and what you want out of life,\” she said. \”Unless you plan on marrying the person you\’re with, what\’s the point of being with them when you know it\’ll end eventually anyway? It\’s bad practice for marriage.\”
Mitchell\’s question brings up a good point. When the norm is to have a succession of relationships that can and do end without much regret, how does our society expect marriage to last over time?
\”If you want to stick to those values you were raised with that you should be with one person and one person only, that\’s great. Good luck to you,\” Mitchell said. \”But for me, I choose to not even bother with monogamy until I\’m ready to settle down.\”
Feldscher shares his feelings about monogamy with Mitchell. \”Two people really need to love each other to keep a healthy relationship in college,\” he said, \”if only because there are so many people out there to meet. It\’s really just not a good idea to me; a whole lot of stress and commitment that I don\’t need.\” But Feldscher remains optimistic about his future relationships. \”If I find the right girl that restores my faith in women then sure, but until then I just want to have a good time.\”

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