Cheating on Your Spouse Is Selfish, But That's Why It Should Be Forgiven (VIDEO)

couple cheating What do Mad Men's Don Draper, President Bill Clinton, Dean McDermott, and other famous philanderers quite possibly have in common? Some may say they're "selfish," and renowned sexuality and relationships expert Esther Perel, whose latest TED Talk is going viral, would probably agree. But she'd also say that is actually what may make their cheating more forgivable.


In her TED Talk, Perel says that you don't have to be miserable in your marriage to stray. In fact, people who cheat often believe in monogamy, but their values and behavior are in conflict when they have an affair. That's because cheating may not be about sex or being discontent with your spouse. Instead, it can have a lot more to do with YOU.

She explains:

When we seek the gaze of another, it isn't always our partner that we are turning away from, but the person that we have ourselves become. And it isn't so much as we are looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.

In other words, infidelity may stem from struggling with who we are. It may also be a reaction to the stress associated with facing our own mortality, i.e. "OMG, I'm going to die!" and "Is that all there is?" (as the final Mad Men season premiere was so fittingly titled), as in, "Am I only going to experience the emotions and physical relationship with my spouse for the rest of my (short) life?" As Perel notes, "Some affairs are an attempt to beat back deadness and an antidote to death."

More from The Stir: Women Confess What Really Drove Them to Cheat on Their Spouses

Of course, this is a lot more complicated than simply blaming any and all incidences of cheating on a bad marriage, an unattentive spouse, or loose morals. But it makes so much sense and certainly explains why estimates of how many people cheat range from 40 to 76 percent!

Not to mention that it's a pretty solid argument for why a spouse who strayed -- due to restlessness or an identity crisis of sorts -- may deserve forgiveness. Perel says that in these cases, an affair may serve as a chance for couples to figure out what is not working in their relationship and then address it. It may also serve as a trigger for the unfaithful partner to work on self-improvement. (Hi, the whole point of True Tori!)

The bottom-line is that people's reasons for cheating are more complicated and not nearly as black and white as we tend to think they are. In turn, how we think of affairs and react to them should be anything but cut and dry.

Here's Esther's TED Talk, for her full argument on why we cheat:

How do you feel about the idea that cheaters deserve forgiveness depending on the psychological reasons they strayed?


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