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An Intelligent Person Under 30’s Guide to Infidelity in the 21st Century


All the things you hear, see, and digest about infidelity would have you believing that it is the single most worst relationship sin in the world. Listening to Michael Baisden’s radio show a few weeks ago, I found out many black  mothers teach their daughters to leave a man as soon as he cheats on you. Don’t ask him any questions. Don’t give him any second chances. Just leave! Then, watching Oprah Winfrey Network’s Unfaithful–a show dedicated to telling the painful realities of infidelities–taught me that 69% of marriages do not survive a case of infidelity. Apparently even God has a cheating clause in the Bible, siting adultery as an approved reason for divorce and public stoning. And I’m sure many of you have experienced firsthand the debilitating effects of extramarital affairs, whether with aunts and uncles, your own parents, or maybe your own marriage/relationship.

Now I do not want to undermine any life experiences or religious beliefs, but I am here today to challenge the most commonly held ideas on infidelity and present you with a new–maybe even radically revolutionary outlook on the issue. Dare say I, cheating is just an unhealthy byproduct of negative feelings and patterns in a relationship and a healthy couple can completely overcome a case of infidelity. For men and women under 30, the chances are pretty high that you’ll either cheat or be cheated on at some point in your dating/married life (See “Truth About Deception“). So it’s high time that we face these situations with a bit more modern knowledge and know-how, hence  An Intelligent Person Under 30’s Guide to Infidelity in the 21st Century. Let’s begin with some cold, hard facts.

Myths on Infidelity 

(1) All Men/Women Cheat

I hear this one spewed around a lot by both men and women and it’s simply not true. One report I read stated only about 20% of men actually cheat on their spouses. Another report claimed a whopping 50% of men violate their wedding vows. The naked truth is that any clinical studies or research polls on infidelity rely on self-reports of it which can vary greatly depending on something as simple as the time of day you asked the question. So researchers can only estimate anywhere from 30 to 60% of married individuals will go looking for sexual gratification elsewhere. But no matter how unreliable the numbers, we logically know that no one group–male or female–make up all those cheating cases. We also know that gender is not the best means for predicting cheating behaviors. In fact, female cheating has almost completely caught up to male cheating. A 2011 university study saw 23% of men admitting to cheating to 19% of women (See “Is Female Infidelity on the Rise?“) Making us ladies what we’ve always wanted to be, equals–at least in the cheating department.


(2) Cheating Is/Isn’t a Big Deal

Interestingly enough, though 30 to 60% of the married population may engage in extramarital extracurriculars,  99% say their vows expecting full faithfulness from their spouses. And a significant majority 80% of Americans still believe adultery is wrong, a 10% increase from the 1970s (Check out “How Common Are Cheating Spouses?“). Wait wait wait, so what’s going on here exactly? More of us believe it’s wrong but at the same time more of us are doing it? So is cheating a big deal or isn’t it? It appears we haven’t decided. Alarmingly, that says we’ve become an increasingly hypocritical nation when it comes to this issue. For the 30 and under set, in particular, it seems we use our parents’ outdated rhetoric and beliefs to negatively judge behaviors we partake in more and more frequently. In short, infidelity expectations aren’t meeting infidelity realities. It might be time to modernize the expectation.

(3) Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’

At times, we are the get-over generation. On one hand, we often find innovative ways to do a task smarter and faster than generations that came before us. But on the other hand, we are always looking for a shortcut or loophole to something–like girls who technically remain virgins because they only have anal sex. -__- Infidelity proves no exception. Nowadays, every man and woman has a different definition of cheating and therefore ways to technically circumvent the whole thing so that technically you never did anything wrong (Peep “The Definition of Cheating In a Relationship“). I suggest adapting the simplest definition of cheating–behaviors and acts meant to mislead, fool, or deliberately break rules. That would expand cheating to include something as diminutive as chatting your ex-beau up on Facebook if you lied about it. But that definition simultaneously frees you from the burden of anything done in truth. So if your girlfriend allows you to have sex with another woman with her full knowledge and coherent consent (also known as a threesome), well, go for it!

(4) Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

I don’t know who started this sack of lies and frankly I don’t care. This is almost as absurd as saying once fat, always fat or once a smoker, always a smoker. People make mistakes! All of us. And sometimes people learn from those mistakes and make changes for the better. Yes, cheating hurts for all parties involved but there are ALSO cases where couples work through the infidelity and find themselves closer and even more in Love than before. I can honestly say this is precisely what happened to me when Mr. Right-For-Now stepped outside. His cheating brought to light some issues we hadn’t yet been able to talk about. And when he expressed himself to me, I actually felt sympathy for him despite what he’d done. To go a step further, I even saw how my own actions contributed to the situation that drove him into someone else’s arms. That didn’t make him any less wrong or me any less hurt. But when those initial feelings dissolved, we made it out on the other end. So I can tell you firsthand some devastating affairs have extremely positive effects for couples who dare move beyond it (Not convinced? Also read “Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?“). This is not to minimize the existence of serial cheaters, playas, and sex addicts. I’ve dated some of those too. But you have to be able to distinguish between a Lover who made a mistake and a Lover who lives to lie to you. One of the first signs you have something worth saving is when your partner admits their wrongdoing to you.

unfaithful-man-and-womanDo’s & Don’ts (Your Infidelity Takeaway)

(1) Don’t write a person off immediately for cheating. The first phase is disbelief, shock, hurt, and anger. Try hard not to make any irrational decisions while in this phase. Because when the smoke finally clears, you might see things a little differently than you did during your fit of rage.

(2) Do take the time to explore the person’s reason for cheating. When you’re ready, it’s worth it to ask why. One way to help prevent future cheating is to figure out the factors that caused the past cheating. If you know why you made a mistake, you’re less likely to make that same mistake again.

(3) Don’t think yourself above cheating. This applies to getting cheated on or doing the cheating. People with this haughty attitude often find themselves falling victim to it because they weren’t ready for the possibility of it. A person who cheats isn’t necessarily a certain type of person. Almost anyone under the right or wrong circumstances can cheat.

(4) Do forgive a cheater. Even when you don’t stay with the person, forgiveness is worth looking into. If you don’t take the time to heal and forgive, you’ll just carry those trust issues into the next relationship.

(5) Don’t belittle the damage cheating does. One of the worst things the cheating partner can do is play the blame game, continue to lie and keep secrets, or shrug off the feelings and emotions of the hurting party. Emotionally, cheating IS a big deal. But it doesn’t have to kill your relationship.

(6) Do take the time to heal yourself. A person could read this and think I’m fully advocating for excusing all cheating partners. And I’m not. I’m advocating a less emotional and more intelligent approach to dealing with infidelity. This calls for balance. Take the time you need to heal and go through all the emotional phases you will go through. But don’t let your pain, which shall pass, keep you from seeing light in a dark situation.

Everybody Plays the Fool

I never expected to learn anything from my little brother or his relentless obsession with the latest Naruto game–besides maybe the correct pronunciation of Japanese names–but I did. As a big sister, I committed the cardinal sin: I turned off his x-box console without saving his progress (insert gasp here!) This left little brother in quite a predicament. He’d managed to duke it out victoriously with his toughest enemy yet just before my mom called and reminded him to go to his piano lesson. But my mishap forced little brother to restart his gaming adventure at a much earlier checkpoint. With a fierce foe once again unconquered, little brother did a very noble thing. Masking his distress,  he picked that black controller up and went right back to it. But his determination didn’t stop there. I watched him lose at least 1,035 times (No exaggeration). He adamantly ignored my pleas that he just give up and pop in another game. Frustration never outweighing his resolve, he sat there and played until he won. What looked like a futile and foolish effort to me, eventually garnered him results.

So by now I know you’re wondering “Passion, what the hell does all this have to do with dating?” Well. The ideology behind little brother’s perseverance is one we’re all well-groomed in. Whether it was something cheesy and sing-songy like “winners never quit and quitters never win” or some celebrity’s E True Hollywood Story, life finds a way to drown us with plenty of don’t-give-up-you-can-do-it-isms. Why does life encourage this? Because people who never give up, will eventually know what winning feels like. In fact, at a very young age, we actually learn to despise quitters. It’s kind of like we associate quitting with a lower class group of lowlifes. We might as well round-up all quitters and force them to wear scarlet Qs. Despite our disdain for quitting, for some reason or another, this don’t-give-up-you-can-do-it philosophy doesn’t seem to apply to every facet of our lives.

At many points in my dating life when things turned sour, I simply gave up. Instead of just chalking those men up as isolated bad experiences, I applied rules and principles learned with one man to men in general. For example, I am very attracted to wit and intelligence. So I tend to go for the kind of guys who get good grades and read a bit more than the average joe. For the sake of time, we can call them nerds. So I dated this nerdy guy once who also turned out to be rather timid in situations where I felt threatened. And as if they could smell the fear on him, other men showed him little to no respect. After that catastrophe, I concluded  that in most cases nerds will also be timid. With this system, I find myself saying things like  “I’ll never date a pretty boy”, “I’ll never date a guy with daddy issues”, and “I just can’t date nice guys, I just can’t!” after each relationship. So after my first true love landed me in the penthouse suite at the heartbreak hotel, it shouldn’t surprise you that I quit men altogether. By then the thought of a real, loving relationship seemed almost laughable. Plus I had a laundry list of dating I can’ts, I won’ts, and nevers. So I folded my hand in the dating game and convinced myself I no longer had an interest in playing it. I just couldn’t handle looking and feeling like a fool again and again. Just the thought of how many more times I might have to lose before I won was enough to keep me benched on the sidelines of life.

(For more on avoiding healthy relationships click here).

By the time my Mr. Right-For-Now came along, I was pretty sure I finished playing the game for good. I’d actaully started to relish the thought of living with cats forever. And nobody spurned me for giving up. The American divorce rate shows I’d joined the ranks of plenty saying “down with Love” these days.  But I guess Mr. Right-For-Now saw a star player in me, a winner that I didn’t even see in myself. So he forced me off the bench, made me place a bet. And every minute on the clock has reminded me why I started playing the game in the first place. It never occurred to me back in heartbreak hotel that no matter your game, Love or Naruto, “everybody plays the fool, sometimes. There’s no exception to the rule.” You will not and I repeat WILL NOT win all the time. You’re bound to screw up, date some losers, and choose the wrong ones for the wrong reasons. But you’ll be happy to know winning all the time kind of defeats the purpose. Because your losses are what build character. They make you go home and reflect on how you can improve. And they prepare you for success. Nobody ever explained back then that you have to lose a few times to really appreciate that win. Why? Because then you can compare that high feeling to the low one, that Mr. Do-Dirty to Mr. Perfect-For-You. Add your love life to your list of things never to give up on and I promise you a W.

Check out this adorable oldie that I named the piece after!!! OMG! lol

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