- Hm. Never thought about it that way. I’d say hypothetically yes. But in reality, no, because “the right circumstances” for some people would have to include things like:
- They really want to.
That’s a pretty huge circumstance, and there are some people for whom it will never be met. Their self-image as someone who is true would have to be inconsiderable in that moment. For some people, because of what else sex means to them, no moment could be that huge.
Their existing relationship would have to be inconsiderable. This is the biggie. I’m convinced some people cheat because their existing relationship has gone bad, gone flat, gone sticky with crusted-on resentment and scaled-back give, but they don’t see how to break up. The other hasn’t given them a reason to break up, and they don’t have the guts to end it if they can’t feel the other’s fault. They’re not happy in it – but cheating is a traditional bona fide reason relationships end! Either because the offense is unforgiveable, or the ol’ “I’ve found someone else.” This new person seems to “get them” or bring things out in them like the existing person just doesn’t, or doesn’t anymore. But then…
Whatever they might have with the new person would have to be inconsiderable enough that they don’t mind beginning it with an act of fidelity. As a great friend of mind once observed, “I don’t expect fidelity from infidelity.”
Let’s face it, fidelity doesn’t mean a lot to some people, but it means immutable tons to others. They don’t want to go into something feeling they wouldn’t or couldn’t be true to this person, who in the beginning stages means quite a lot to them. Who in the beginning stages, they want to believe can continue and only grow in what they mean to them – and vice-versa. And that means being someone whose love means something. The self they bring to that exchange matters. Whether they feel like they can be true matters. It’s practically the same in a lot of peoples’ minds with whether they can be any good for someone else.
Sex doesn’t mean any more than just sex to some people (which, “just sex” may mean quite a bit!), but to some people sex not only does but has to mean more than that. To some people sex is good, but it’s only great because of what else it means.
So I would say: the most important circumstances for whether cheating can happen are right inside the person. Their attitude towards sex, towards fidelity. Their attitudes towards the person they’re with and the relationship they have. And the kind of relationship they’d want, if they were going to start something new with the new person. The kind of beginning they’d want that to be. If you think something could be good – did you ever want to give something good a bad start?
For some people, these things just aren’t really considerations. For the people in whom they are strong considerations, I would say no combination of external circumstance would make them want to become that. Someone who in their eyes can’t be true (“given the circumstances”). Or someone who would want to begin something new under such fundamentally compromised conditions.
Or someone who’d want to chicken out of stepping up to end something that was good, but has become unhappy. Someone who would end it like that, in easy and undeniable wrong, rather than just horse up and end it clean or messy as may be – because it was over. Because the time had come, and it’s better to end what’s done and begin again clean.
Needless to say, someone to whom it isn’t important that they can be true to their promises and agreements with another, true to the mutually-agreed upon shared basis of things, it probably doesn’t take much in the way of external conditions for them to cheat. Just a cost/benefit risk analysis. Let’s recognize that to some, monogamy is an artificial construct. Forced upon us by society, and not worth respecting.
On the other hand, here’s what I could never get around: the person I’m with is not an artificial construct. Their real hopes and expectations, their growing trust in me are not artificial constructs imposed by society. They’re natural constructs that come from only us two, in who we are to each other and how we give ourselves. What she and I agree in wasn’t forced on either of us. We each entered into it freely and fully, presenting ourselves as for real, as true. Are we?
Society’s expectations don’t come into that, not to excuse nor to justify. Most of your conditions are in you, when it comes to what you’ll do.
No. I DO believe that people naturally bridle against being restrained, are mostly built to have intense loving feelings for more than one person, and will do what they must to feel alive (even bad things) on this amazing and hopefully slow trek towards death that we are all on.
When I took some classes in lie detection for my continued education in mediation and child welfare, the man running the courses said something that I will never forget:
“If someone lies to you, it is because you failed to create a comfortable enough environment to tell you the truth.”
So following that logic, if you create an environment where people can do, say, or feel what they need to, and that it is OK, there is no need to be cheat or be cheated on.
For example: I don’t worry about my wife lying or cheating or leaving me.
She can go anywhere she wants, follow what inspires her wherever it leads, sleep with whom she wants, love who she finds herself loving, and say what she needs to say, even if it isn’t terribly valid. I have this freedom too of course!
This means she does not need to lie, to leave, or to cheat to follow her heart.
Since I am not the restricted of freedom, I am able to be her guide and ally, and her mine… you would not believe how many times she has provided a bit of wisdom when my heart was leading me in crazy directions!
This holds true for monogamous couples as well.
If you can be honestly authentic and also not restrict each other’s free will, there is no need to cheat; nor to suspect cheating or deceit.
It is a very natural thing when caged people seek freedom… most humans only like the restrictions that we choose, and the feeling of being caged up or not trusted are very likely to increase cheating or other dishonest behaviors instead of reducing them.
No, not everyone, but those who won’t cheat under any circumstances are not very common, I think, and there just may be some circumstance that they have yet to encounter that would break their honesty. It’s hard to know the answer because no one has been in every possible circumstance, but still, I’ve known some people who have a belief(s), or code, or something like that, that I’m pretty sure is not just for show and that prevents them from intentionally cheating, lying, manipulating, etc. I’ve seen them (so far) stick to it for a long time, despite it causing them a lot of grief. They won’t cheat even those who would or do cheat them, so I’ve seen them be exploited on many occasions by people who see their honesty as an opportunity and feel no compunction about using it in conjunction with their own dishonesty to benefit themselves. Although I personally despise this type of abuse when I see it and feel sorry for those who will not be willingly dishonest even when it only seems to benefit those around them who are willing to be dishonest, I understand that many people really believe, or tell themselves, that they must resort to cheating for self-preservation. I also understand that people have different ideas about what is honest and what being honest demands. Some people believe that full disclosure is required to have integrity, some think as long as you don’t outright lie (i.e. hiding the truth through omission or “truthful” misdirection), you can keep your integrity, and others believe that the only thing that matters is not getting caught. Since the definition of equality, fairness, and truth will never be fully agreed on or actually upheld in practice by any large (or even small most of the time) group of people with heterogeneous interests (outside of people brainwashed into a cult like state, will there ever be a group of people with completely homogeneous interests?), and so never achieved more than partially and temporarily, there will always be cheating according to someone’s view. I personally admire people who are honest to a fault, but knowing how things are and always will be as far as I can tell, I would advise them to not advertise it if they wish to keep from despising their fellow humans and have a relatively more bearable life.