In a September 1976 interview with Playboy magazine, Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter famously admitted, “I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.”
Carter, a devout Southern Baptist, was referring to Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
I have authored numerous works of fiction. I have a fairly active imagination. As a writer, and as a man, I have sometimes thought about cheating; I have fantasized about women other than my wife. In this regard, I am certainly not alone.
In SEX & PSYCHOLOGY (9/3/2012), “What percentage of couples fantasize about cheating on each other?” Dr. Justin Lehmiller reported: “For men, the percentage of fantasies about cheating was higher than the percentage that included one’s partner (54% vs. 46%). For women, however, the opposite pattern was observed (64% included their partner, while 36% were about cheating).
“Results indicated that almost all men, 98%, and the vast majority of women, 80%, reported having fantasized about someone other than their current partner at least occasionally...these fantasies were more common among people who had been in their relationships longer, people who had a larger number of sexual partners in the past, and people who had previously cheated on someone in real life.”
Fantasies are one thing; actual adultery is not nearly as common.
Surprisingly, perhaps, most people cheat with someone they know. In Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine (4/4/2018), Doug McPherson reports: “Extramarital sex partners likely to be close friends, and men are more apt to cheat.”
“Americans who admit to having extramarital sex most likely cheat with a close friend, according to research from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
“Just over half, 53.5%, of those reporting extramarital sex said they were unfaithful with someone they knew well, such as a close friend. About a third of affairs, 29.4%, are with someone who’s somewhat well-known, such as a neighbor, coworker or long-term acquaintance. The rest of affairs, about 17%, occur with casual acquaintances...it is consistently reported more frequently by men...about 21% of men and 13% of women reported infidelity at some point in their lifetime....”
At one time or another, and to varying degrees, most of us are attracted to, or become interested in, or lust after a person other than our spouse or significant other. That goes for both sexes, male and female.
Apparently, that is part of human nature. In Psychology Today (September 2011), Michael E. Price PhD noted that “the ethnographic evidence suggests that human nature is adapted to an ancestral mating system that was predominately polygynous (one husband, multiple wives). Most ancestral men aspired to polygyny (even though most weren’t impressive enough to attract more than one wife), and some ancestral women preferred to be the co-wife of a really impressive man than the sole wife of a second-rate one.
“In other words, the genetically encoded psychological machinery of human mating behavior was built by, and for, a world in which striving for polygyny was often reproductively advantageous. That’s why people living in modern societies often seem inclined towards polygyny, even in cultures that have attempted to abolish it.”
It is overly simplistic to say that people cheat because it’s human nature. Why exactly do people cheat? In Today (1/22/2018), “8 reasons why people cheat,” A. Pawloski reports why some lovers are unfaithful.
“Infidelity is costly — it can lead to tears, break-ups, divorces and even violence. So why do people do it?
“The question haunts lovers and fascinates researchers, with a recent study offering some sobering findings: You could be doing everything right and your partner could still be tempted to cheat for reasons that have nothing to do with you or the quality of feelings you share.
“Here are eight reasons why people cheat on their partners: Lack of love; feeling that your partner is not ‘The One’ for you.
“Sexual desire; feeling unsatisfied with the sex life you have in your relationship, perhaps because your partner has lost interest, or you want to try something new.
“Neglect; feeling that your partner is not paying enough attention to you or not spending enough time with you.
“Situation; when you’re in a different setting or not quite yourself — perhaps when you’re on vacation, drunk, or under a lot of stress — you may have a momentary urge to sexually explore that would not necessarily be part of your stable, everyday behavior.
“Variety; you live by the motto ‘You only live once,’ so you want to try lots of sexual experiences with as many partners as possible.
“Low commitment; some people say they never discussed being exclusive with their partner.
“Esteem; you feel sleeping with others will improve your sense of self-worth, signal your independence, or increase your social status and popularity.
“Anger; you suspect or know your partner has betrayed you, so you want to get even.”
There seems a huge double standard in how we view adulterers and adultery. When it’s a lowly friend or neighbor, we strongly condemn and oftentimes ostracize them. But when it’s a rich celebrity, we tend to overlook it—even glamorize it.
The list of celebrity cheaters is practically endless: Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hugh Grant, Kristen Stewart, Ben Affleck, Jude Law, David Letterman, LeAnn Rimes, Kevin Hart, Kris Jenner, and our former womanizer-in-chief, ex-president Donald J. Trump.
In Newsweek (1/12/2018), “How Many Times Has Trump Cheated on His Wives? Here’s What We Know,” Melina Delkic reports: “A Wall Street Journal article on Friday alleged that President Donald Trump cheated on his wife, Melania, with a porn star—and it wasn’t the first time Trump has been in the center of a public cheating scandal....
“Trump’s first marriage imploded on the covers of all of New York’s tabloids after he brazenly took his mistress, Marla Maples, on a family vacation in Aspen along with his wife, Ivana, and attempted to hide her away until she approached Ivana and said, ‘I’m Marla and I love your husband. Do you?’
“The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Trump’s lawyer had allegedly paid a porn star, Stephanie Clifford, [aka Stormy Daniels] over $130,000 for her silence about the alleged affair they had in 2006, one year after Trump married Melania.
“The Wall Street Journal also reported on another alleged affair...the woman in that case was Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year.”
In 30 years of marriage, I’ve never cheated on my wife. I’ve been tempted many times, but somehow I’ve always resisted.
However, I have always said that if a woman is really and truly irresistible—too attractive and tempting to be resisted; incapable of being resisted—then how can I resist?
I am 66 now, and temptations are less frequent. I reckon I will die a faithful husband, foregoing the forbidden fruit.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.