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Can You Cheat on Your Partner and Still Love Them?

We've said it before, there is no excuse for cheating. And if it happens? You have to make it right. What about for the person who's been cheated on, though? We've talked about what it's like to cheat from the cheaters. What we really love to bring into light is the love aspect of cheating partners. If they cheated, then that must mean they don't love their partner, right? It's never that easy. Author and Journalist Vicki Larson tackles this complicated matter.

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The big infidelity news this year was a story about 22-year-old actress Kristen Stewart cheating on her boyfriend, Robert Pattinson, with married “Snow White and the Huntsman” director Rupert Sanders. If you even consider kissing and hugging cheating, which is all the tabloids caught them doing and all Stewart’s acknowledged. Still, it was enough to cause the 26-year-old Pattinson to declare he’s “heartbroken and humiliated” as he moved out of their L.A. home.

An interesting twist was that Stewart and Sanders apologized the day after the story broke — no denials, no lies, no spin. Stewart called the incident a “momentary indiscretion” and declared, “I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry.”

Sanders’ apology to his wife and two children was similar: “I love them with all my heart.”

So, with all this love, love, love being professed post-make out session, the question that must be asked is — can you truly love someone and still cheat on him or her? It appears that, yes, you can love someone and still fool around on him or her if we are to believe Stewart and Sanders.

Wait a minute. Wouldn’t the cheater know that, if discovered, his/her partner would be hurt, humiliated, angry, sad, devastated? Well, yeah, unless they had an open relationship and they were free to canoodle with whomever. And wouldn’t the cheater be aware that he/she was lying to said beloved? Of course!

But as you probably already know, that doesn’t stop people from cheating. Loving a partner isn’t enough to stop some of us from fooling around.

So what’s going on? According to my chat with Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester and author of The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, the college men in his study who cheated on their partners all said they loved them and didn’t want to lose them. The problem is they eventually want more — their partner’s love and sex with others.

At the point men enter into relationships they, too, think they want monogamy. It’s only after being in a relationship for months or years that they badly want sex with others. But by this point, they don’t want to break up with their partners because they have long-standing love. Instead of chancing that love by asking for extradyadic sex, they cheat. If they don’t get caught (and most don’t) it’s a rational choice.

Which means you can love your partner and still want to have, what he calls, hot meaningless sex with someone else. And, that’s what many people do — or, they just make out with someone they’re attracted to, a la Stewart and Sanders.

With all the neuroscience testing going on lately, we know, via brain scans, known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), that we are fully capable of having many kinds of love and that we may even be able to weed out those who would cheat on us one day.

But for now, we have to make some sort of peace with the idea of love, monogamy, and infidelity. Given what Pattinson has said in the past about love, I’m somewhat surprised by his reaction to Stewart’s make-out session:

“I think it’s to be with someone and let that person be herself. Each one has to live their own lives, but with the support of the other person. And you need to be able to do what you want. This is one of the definitions of a couple in love, because love is about so many other things.”

Needing to be “able to do what you want” is a pretty broad definition of love. Stewart acted on that by kissing someone she was attracted to while still being in love with her partner of four years. I guess she was able to do what she wanted, but just not that.

Oddly, many people are upset that Stewart is getting more flak than Sanders, who is married. One columnist wants to get Stewart off the hook entirely. We don’t like it when married people cheat, but are we saying that cheating in a long-term cohabiting relationship is less important/damaging than cheating in a marriage? That may prove to be be interesting as more people view living together as an alternative to marriage. Isn’t cheating cheating, regardless of marital status?

This article was cross posted with permission from Vicki Larson's blog.

Vicki Larson is a longtime journalist, writer, editor and freelancer whose work can be found in numerous places - websites, magazines, books, newspapers and now at GetLusty for Couples. Vicki is a divorced, co-parenting mother of two wonderful and tall sons. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her time hiking or biking around when not behind her desk at the Marin Independent Journal, writing for numerous columns: Single EditionMommy TrackedHuffington PostModernMom, and The Working Chronicles.
 She is co-writing a book, "The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers" - a cutting-edge book challenging our one-size-fits-all, till-death-do-we-part version of marriage while offering a new model for who we are today.  She is a ravenous observer of people and explorer of places and reader of things and loves to write and share her findings about marriage, society, children - life.
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