MSNBC.com/iVillage Lust, Love and Loyalty survey results

This variation, these differing standards of what cheating is, is why Dr. Stephen Levine, co-director of the Center for Marital and Sexual Health in Beachwood , Ohio , and author of "Demystifying Love: Plain Talk for the Mental Health Professional," wishes we would drop words like "cheating" and "infidelity" altogether. He believes they are so pejorative, they prevent our society from addressing the issue in realistic terms. "The trouble is the public, and especially political discussion, that puts everything in black and white, right and wrong and alienates everybody, keeps everybody silent." So human motivation is rarely addressed because cheating is just "wrong," period.

Beyond sex

Whether we are biologically predisposed toward monogamy or not, many people never go outside their relationship for sex. Why not? Well, experts believe that sex is often a secondary consideration. How can that be when so many cited it in the survey?

Men and women both have emotional needs for intimacy, mental connection and esteem. For many, sex is the currency used to purchase these. Often, we want to know we could have sex with somebody outside our relationship more than we want the actual sex. We want to feel wanted and important. And somebody must really want us if they’re willing to sex up a married person.

If we already have those feelings of being wanted and needed and desired, we are less apt to seek them elsewhere even if we lust for sex. As Schwartz points out, if it really were just sexual release men were after they could always hire a prostitute or try a casual hookup, but most men don’t. Of course, some men — and women, too — can be so ego driven or immature they need constant affirmation of their desirability, no matter what. But all people crave a sense of freedom to be themselves in their relationships, to be fully open to another person, to be accepted.

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