WEB EXCLUSIVE: Cheater’s Anonymous no more

Kate BIgam

My name is Kate and I am a recovering cheataholic.

I know, I know: All of you admirable monogamists out there are gasping and writing me off as a terrible person, but you might be surprised at how many people are just like me.

I first began cheating a month into my freshman year of college. I kissed one of my new guy friends at a fraternity party. When I called to tell my boyfriend, he, of course, did not take it well, although he forgave me. By the time we broke up, I’d stopped telling him about my make-out trysts, writing them off as inconsequential. What he didn’t know couldn’t hurt him. I’d quit cheating eventually, right?

I’m ashamed to say that the answer was a resounding “no.” Even after we broke up, my behavior continued through a series of other relationships. The habit I’d developed – of cheating and then lying by omission – had taken over.

Infidelity ruined Brad and Jen, and it sure didn’t do anything good for Jude Law. But while we only see the glamour and gossip associated with Hollywood’s romantic affairs, real life’s repercussions tend to be much more painful and, unfortunately, real.

While many people have no desire whatsoever to cheat, it’s not always black and white for the rest of us. A 2000 Stanford University study reported that 40 percent of college students have cheated on a significant other, and 56 percent have been cheated on, indicating that although there is an intense stigma associated with being a cheater, it’s a common problem within our age bracket.

There’s typically little sympathy for those who cheat, but in reality, the act of cheating is like many other socially shameful behaviors. Gambling addiction, for example, is not a chemical compulsion, but gambling is still widely recognized as an activity to which many people become addicted.

For many, cheating becomes a similar compulsion, nearly impossible to break free of no matter how badly it destroys relationships, feelings or trust. In fact, a 2004 Emory University study even reported that the inclination to cheat might be genetic, and scientists at Harvard have identified three chromosomes that may harbor the gene.

I’m not saying cheating should be acceptable, but everyone has their vices. Some people smoke, some drink, some gamble or overeat or shop to excess – and some cheat.

It’s easy to judge adulterers, especially if you’re one of the people who can’t fathom cheating, but it’s important to realize that cheaters are people, too. The struggle to overcome the habitual inclination to destroy relationships is all too real for many students.

So should all collegians abandon their relationships? Heck, no! I have friends who’ve been with their boyfriends since middle school, bless their hearts, and I’m certainly jealous.

But as we fumble through our college years, these awkward stepping-stone experiences toward “the real world,” it’s important to recognize our own relationship abilities. Some people have it in them to be monogamous right off the bat. And some simply don’t.

You have your whole life to be in a relationship, so if you can’t handle it now, then by all means, spare yourself (and your significant other) the pain and shame of cheating. If you’re not ready to settle down yet, then please – don’t!

Kate Bigam is a senior magainze journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].