Cheater!

Renee Rosenow

Oh the joys of a campus visit – the informational tour, the old buildings, the bag of university labeled pencils and folders, the dorms, the kissing . wait a second, the kissing?

Though kissing isn’t scheduled on college itineraries, it doesn’t mean it won’t occur. When junior Kahla Kroening’s good friend left for a campus visit during their senior year of high school, kissing was on her itinerary, and it was with Kroening’s then-boyfriend.

“They ended up hanging out and after some drinking, ended up kissing and making out,” Kroening said.

Cheating goes beyond one concrete definition, said Tammy Bednar, a licensed contracted practitioner in marriage, family and sex therapy at Omne Clinic Inc., 2005 Highland Ave. Cheating involves a number of different factors concerning what it is, why it happens and how to move on from it.

It’s physical and emotional

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus; men are more concerned with the physical aspect of cheating and women the emotional side. Or are they?

When it comes to cheating and what it constitutes, really depends on who’s being asked, Bednar said. She said a woman would typically say cheating is emotional. But a man would lean towards the physical context and find it harder to understand cheating as emotional.

Another component which comes into play that determines cheating is defining the relationship and what the ground rules are, Bednar said. Without an agreed-upon set of rules, couples don’t know what’s allowed and what isn’t, as well as how serious the relationship is.

“For some people, cheating might be hanging out with a girl having coffee,” Bednar said. “For other people, it’s more defined as kissing someone, making out with someone or having sex with someone.”

Problems with defining a relationship, Bednar said, is one she thinks is very typical among college students and would separate them from older adult couples. Without a defined line between casual dating and serious relationships, the expectations are unclear.

“I bet you could grab someone who has been living with someone for three years and say ‘what do you think cheating is?’ and they’re going to say ‘this, this and this,'” Bednar said. “For someone who’s younger, because it might not have been talked about, it’s not going to be as clear.”

Kroening and her boyfriend hadn’t defined their relationship, which she said led to uncertainty.

“I don’t think he thought it was as serious as I did,” she said. “He thought we were just having fun and that it wasn’t a big deal.”

Why cheat in the first place?

At times, the reasons are unknown for why people do what they do. Cheating, however isn’t one of those things.

Bednar said there are many reasons for people to cheat in relationships and those reasons vary among every individual.

One of the biggest reasons is when the person who is cheating doesn’t have their needs met, which people use to help validate why they cheat.

An example Bednar gave was feeling empowering and attractive again. She said when a person pays attention to someone who has been ignored by their significant other, the feeling of excitement that was lacking before is back and validates ones self worth.

“Sometimes people cheat because they’re bored, sometimes they cheat because their needs aren’t being met and sometimes they cheat because they’re afraid of commitment,” she said.

Cheating also provides permission to leave. When a relationship is moving too fast for someone and to a point where they can’t handle it, Bednar said all they have to do is cheat and they know they’re out of it.

An important aspect about cheating to remember is that cheating isn’t about the person being cheated on, Bednar said, it’s about the person committing the act.

Senior Matt Springer agrees that most people cheat mainly because they’re unhappy with the way things are

going in their current relationships.

“I think people cheat because they’re not getting what they want,” he said. He added that distances between people emotionally, a change of heart, opinion and personality, and going to college pulls people apart and causes them to stray.

The Sex Drive

In the “American Pie” movies, Jim’s dad believes many things are perfectly, healthy and normal, but is cheating one of them?

When looking from a neurological and biological perspective, the need for sexual stimulation is there because everyone has a sex drive. Since a sex drive exists, Bednar said when an attractive body is seen and contact is made, in the right context a response can be generated.

An example she gave involved a girl who has a boyfriend but feels ignored. When the girl goes out and gets attention from attractive men who flirt, buy her drinks and put their arm around her, a physical response occurs. If that girl is emotionally weak, Bednar said it would be really easy for that situation to get out of control because hormones are increasing, causing stimulation with the sex drive.

“Strictly from a neurological, hormonal standpoint, it would be very easy to understand how easy it is to let something get too far when someone is emotionally weak and has a heightened sex drive,” she said. “Our hormones do not turn off just because we’re in a committed relationship.”

Once a cheater always a cheater?

From every disaster that has occurred in history, a lesson has been taken from it. From the Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive, the United States learned to know the enemy and not underestimate them. Can the cheater and person cheated on learn from the failed relationship?

Bednar said she believes a cheater will be a cheater if they aren’t willing to look at the dynamics that led them there in the first place.

Springer said it all depends on the person. As a former cheater in past relationships, he said he has learned a lot.

“It’s not what I’ve learned about other people, it’s more about what I’ve learned about myself,” he said. “I’ve learned what my values are, what my dislikes are and what matters to me in a relationship and what matters in life . what you’re willing to sacrifice for another person.”

Bednar said the cheater recovers, too, and learns the how to avoid unfaithfulness and how important it is to have a voice in the relationship.

Life after cheating

Once the truth comes out and everything is said and done, life needs to move on.

After a breakup, Bendar said it’s important to remember the good aspects of the relationship that were sincere and truthful.

“It’s not all or nothing. Just because someone cheated doesn’t mean they didn’t love you . it doesn’t mean they weren’t invested,” she said. “So don’t take it as self-defeating and it being a waste of time.”

From the stand point of the person cheated on, Bednar said the more self-nurturance there is, the better chance the person has in reestablishing sexuality and recognizing the complexity of cheating in the sense that it wasn’t personal or something they did.

Hanging out with her friends, spending a semester in Florida and going to college were things Kroening said helped her get over the break up.

Springer said there is life after cheating.

“I know people who have been cheated on that were able to seek meaningful relationships afterwards,” he said. “Their lives weren’t destroyed, not to say it’s not a difficult thing to go through, however.”

Making it work

Rome wasn’t built in a day; it took time. Strong, lasting relationships also aren’t established in a day, they take time and a willingness to work together, as well.

Bednar said communication and listening are key foundations to making any relationship work. Establishing what each other’s needs are and what the relationship is will prevent future confusion. Also, maintaining openness indicates what’s not working and when unhappiness occurs.

“I tend to see people who cheat avoid things . and if they stay in that avoidance they probably will cheat again,” she said.

But if the person is open, communicates, expresses his or her needs and says they’re unhappy and starting to detach from the relationship, Bednar said there wouldn’t be a need to cheat because there will be an adjustment made or a mutual agreement it’s not working out.

Kroening said she too believes communication is important.

“You need to definitely talk about your problems instead of ignoring them,” she said.

Springer said he thought the foundations of a stable relationship were trust, honesty, acceptance, love and reciprocation because they provide a peace of mind and allow for the ultimate giving of each other’s self in the relationship.

Since her breakup, Kroening said she still is a little weary to get back out on the dating scene and trust again, but Bednar said there is “absolutely” no reason for those hurt to trust again.

“Building trust, to me, is about communication,” she said. “The more you know about your partner the less they can hurt you.”