Dimensionalizing Adultery: the Porous Nature of (In)Fidelity
The current study examined attitudinal differences in relational infidelity (as displayed either in couples who were dating or who were legally married) and assessed the extent to which gradations of extra-dyadic activity constituted what in the United States is referred to as cheating. Extra-dyadic behavior was not reported as uniformly uncommon or unacceptable, consistent with predictions that current dimensions of sexual relationships are seen as more porous than cultural discourses suggest. Participants reported that sexual infidelity is seen at least by some as a rite of relationship passage.
Terms used to characterize sexual exclusivity or non-monogamous behavior (e.g., \”cheating,\” “being monogamous,” “hooking up”) are themselves ambiguous and are used to evade self-perceptions of true sexual infidelity. Participants’ own sexual infidelities are largely unrelated to the acceptability or unacceptability of others’ behavior. In a time of late capitalism, the boundaries that once clearly defined adultery are more fluid, and young adults appear to recognize that multiple definitions of cheating – and of monogamy – can co-exist.