The Truth About Dating: The year of the cheaters
By Steve Penner
In a recent article published in USA Today, Todd Shackleford, a psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University, who has been studying infidelity for more than 20 years, states that people with low scores on personality tests that measure conscientiousness and high scores on openness to experience also are likely to cheat.
But Shackleford adds that especially for men, opportunity is also a major factor, as the temptation for successful guys with lots of money and whose careers cause them to travel away from home and who have women throwing themselves at them, will be far more likely to stray.
I am reminded of a comment that good old Samantha uttered on “Sex and the City,” “Men cheat for the same reason that dogs lick their (privates), because they can.” But in this column, titled “The Truth about Dating,” I want to focus on another reason that men and women eventually cheat on their spouses. I am not merely talking about celebrities, but everyday people. That factor is the overemphasis that both sexes (but especially men) place on physical appearance when they start dating.
I have written this before, but I cannot emphasize this fact enough. Both at the dating service that I ran for 23 years and through subsequent coaching of singles who sign up forInternet dating sites, I have seen too many people place far too much emphasis on physical appearance.
Unfortunately, so many people who play the dating game minimize all other factors except appearance when looking to meet someone, supposedly for a “long-term” relationship. Yes, these people state that they are looking to meet someone with whom they can grow old. Yet what they are really looking for is someone they find very attractive today.
So they ignore personality characteristics, similar values, etc., and look for a person who at this point in their life just “knocks their socks off.” Subsequently, when they find such a person, they ignore everything else, and believe in their heart of hearts that they have finally found Mr. or Ms. Right. After all, that is what happens in the movies.
Many times I listened to feedback from guys after first dates raving about what a great “match” they had just met. What made her such a terrific match? “She was absolutely breathtaking,” they would exclaim. And what about her personality? “Yeah, it seemed OK.” I have written all of this before in many columns over the past 4½ years. I have written about men who get their dating clues from watching gorgeous women parade before them on television commercials or in Victoria Secret catalogs. Then there are women whose dating priorities began to evolve when they were little girls watching the handsome Prince Charming sweep away Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty in their favorite Disney animated feature.
I have written about men who refuse to date a woman because she weighs 10 pounds more than the ideal or women who reject a man because he is two inches shorter than her preference. I have also written about the fact that the infatuation phase of any relationship has a shelf life far shorter than the number of years it takes to grow old with somebody.
So what happens when the initial physical infatuation for such people wears off, whether it is weeks, months, or years after the wedding? If they still want to stay together, perhaps because of the children or for financial reasons, then their eyes will begin to wander …; and inevitably one or both will cheat.
I am not talking about all couples, but I am talking about those couples who based their initial relationship primarily on physical attraction. Any man who tells his dating service counselor to focus only on physical appearance when finding him matches (and I heard many men make that statement), is a guy very likely to cheat down the road.
The same holds true for a woman who skims through her online dating service matches just looking for her tall, dark, and handsome “Prince Charming.” As for Tiger Woods, all his life he probably lusted after beautiful, Scandinavian-looking blondes with classic beauty, and he eventually found one. His wife, the Swedish Elin Nordegren, is the personification of such a gorgeous woman.
Of course I would guess that many gorgeous women who, when young, used their beauty to snare wealthy, successful men may be the victims of a philandering hubby even more than “normal” looking women. It is likely that such men tended to overlook undesirable personality traits when they first wed, and when the infatuation period began to fade, these guys’ eyes began to wonder.
I have often heard the quip “show me a man who has been married to a beautiful blonde for many years, and I will show you a man who lusts after gorgeous brunettes.” (Although Tiger seems to stick with blondes.) I have no way of knowing how Tiger felt about Elin’s personality, her values, her interests, her political views, etc., when he first met her. But I would suspect he couldn’t care less the moment he set eyes on her. Elin fit the image that he was looking for, and for a perfectionist like Tiger that was probably all it took for him to eventually propose.
Yet supposedly he was cheating on her even before they were married!
So, show me a couple who claim it was “love at first sight,” and then got hitched just a few weeks or months later, and I will show you a husband and or wife likely to eventually cheat.
Are there exceptions? Of course. But I would suggest they are about as rare as a double bogey by Tiger Woods during the final round of the Masters.