Picture this: You come home one day to find your girlfriend keeled over, crying, clutching your phone and asking, “How could you?” Maybe it was a sext or an inappropriate Snapchat. Whatever the case, the evidence is damning. Your days of running around are done. Game over.
Are we hardwired to seek out affairs, or is that the exception rather than the rule? Scientists have been asking this question for years, trying to determine what our preferred relationship status is using anthropological data. According to the Kinsey Institute, between 25 and 50 percent of Western divorcees cite infidelity as the primary factor in ending their marriages. With statistics like that, it would be easy to assume that humans just aren’t meant to have monogamous relationships.
So how did they become a thing in the first place? Evolutionary biologists from the University of Cambridge believe monogamy grew out of humanity’s migration to all corners of the globe. It’s theorized that men used to try to impregnate as many women as possible, so they’d compete for female attention. The aim was to spread as many genes to as many partners as possible, but with the advent of fire, tools and weaponry, people were able to spread far and wide outside of their congregation. This made competition fiercer and men were eventually forced to stay with and raise their young to keep them safe—this is what allegedly lead to today’s “social monogamy.”
A pertinent question, then, is whether or not monogamy as a social construct has outlived its biological usefulness. That hypothesis would certainly go a long way to explain the high infidelity rates across the US, but it shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an excuse.
We as a species have evolved to a point in which many forms of cohabitation are being acknowledged and accepted. With the progression of more liberal interpretations of social doctrine, the question shouldn’t be “Why am I cheating?” but rather “Why am I in this relationship?” If you’re so dissatisfied with your partner that you would go out of your way to seek out sex with someone else, just break up. No one will judge you. It’s no longer a given that you’re going to get married, and even the institution of marriage itself has been losing steam in recent years.
So biologically speaking, yes, you may be inclined to cheat on your significant other, but you’re not forced to be in said relationship to begin with. If you are thinking about cheating, be proactive, be modern and tell your partner what you mean to say.