WHAT counts as cheating? Sleeping with someone else? For sure. Flirty emails? Maybe. Messaging your former mistress to ask if you can name your unborn child after her? Umm…
I’m going to need a minute. The internet exploded with outrage recently when Adam Levine was alleged to have done just that with influencer Sumner Stroh, while his wife, Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo, is pregnant with their third child.
But while everyone on Twitter sharpens their pitchforks for Levine – and heaps a hefty dose of blame on Stroh, too – being judgemental about affairs misses the real reason why men and women cheat.
I’m not defending the Maroon 5 frontman’s alleged behaviour (not least his terrible chat-up lines), but affairs don’t happen out of nowhere.
We like to think of affairs in terms of the “victim” and the “perpetrator” (and the “temptress”), but when someone cheats, it’s more complicated than that, and everyone involved has some responsibility.
First, a confession: I’ve cheated on several partners. Never full-blown affairs, but a snog in a nightclub, some inappropriate touching, texts that got a bit out of hand.
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Initially they all felt euphoric and fun, but later I was floored by guilt and anxiety. I never got caught and I’m not alone in this – according to a study, 95% of women who cheat don’t get found out.
But looking back now, these “slip-ups” (as I viewed them) only signalled the beginning of the end of my relationships.
Many people have commented on how beautiful Prinsloo is in comparison to Stroh, but affairs don’t happen just because you’re tempted by someone more attractive.
Look at Hugh Grant getting caught with sex worker Divine Brown, even though he had Liz Hurley back at home. And whoever “Becky with the good hair” is, you can bet she’s no Beyoncé.
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The reasons I cheated were nuanced – I wanted to feel desired by someone new, I was bored, I wanted to try being single.
Sex therapist Esther Perel says that when we have an affair, we’re not looking for another partner, we’re looking for another self, and that was definitely true for me.
Levine has denied having affairs, but acknowledges his messages to Stroh were “inappropriate”. Perhaps we all have different definitions of what constitutes infidelity. I remember being surprised when a friend thought her boyfriend going to a strip club on a stag do was a betrayal.
Another confessed to spending hours late at night watching her ex-boyfriend’s reels on Instagram. Was it cheating? No. Was it totally harmless? Also no.
As well as being the cheater, I’ve also been cheated on, so I know the almost physical pain you feel when your partner’s been unfaithful. For me, the emotional side of his affair, the secrecy and the lies felt far worse than the actual physical act itself.
I used to think we were too moralistic in this country about infidelity. I thought the French had it right with their “cinq à sept” lovers, who they see from 5 till 7pm.
But now I’m in a relationship that feels fulfilling, the thought of having an affair horrifies me. If I ever felt the urge to cheat, I hope I’d realise it for the wake-up call it was.
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It’s a big flashing neon warning sign that you need to change something. And just FYI, Adam, that “something” isn’t sliding into someone’s DMs.
● Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.
This week I’m…
With just four products, which are carbon neutral and vegan, Tanya Burr’s make-up line is as simple as it is effective.
Excited about… A Streetcar Named Desire
Normal People’s Paul Mescal stars in the play at London’s Almeida Theatre, from December.
Watching… Hocus Pocus 2
Kids of the ’90s, rejoice – SJP and Bette Midler are back for this iconic sequel on Disney+.
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