“Everyone cheats in their own way,” says Tim Vargas*, emphasizing the everyone. “It’s just a matter of how.” Vargas is a San Angelo native in his mid-40s whose wife went extramarital several years ago. They are now divorced. Cheating, he says, was a contributing factor.
For Vargas, cheating is not strictly definable. He says that the definition is relative to a person’s partner, and what he or she finds acceptable. He also adds, “I’ve never intentionally cheated, but I’ve had some jealous girlfriends who think I have because they thought I was being too nice or flirting with other women. It’s just the way I am.”
Vargas is not alone in San Angelo. Here, like most any place in the U.S. and beyond, people cheat and are cheated on regularly, to often varying extents. This was the case for Stephany Sherlock*, a local twenty-something who’s had enough of infidelity.
Following a serious relationship in which her partner emotionally cheated on her, Sherlock began to seek others that had had the same experience.
About four months ago, Sherlock started San Angelo Cheaters Downtown, a Facebook group with now nearly 800 members that seeks to offer advice to those in similar situations, but that also does the occasional rat bastard exposé with pictures and stories. But Sherlock says her intention with the group is not be negative.
“I put a lot of stuff on there that people can relate to,” Sherlock says. “I put a lot of stats. I talk about domestic violence—not only towards women, but toward men too…I also put signs that someone might be cheating on you.”
The group functions like an open forum: members ask questions and seek advice, warn others of local cheaters, and discuss questions Sherlock poses on the page. Sherlock herself receives a number of messages each week, both from those seeking advice and from those wanting to oust a cheating ex.
“It’s mostly women [that send photos and stories of cheaters],” Sherlock says. “I probably get three or four every two weeks or so. I’ve put some pictures on there before, what people have messaged me, but I take them down,” she says.
One recent photo Sherlock had on the site was sent by a local woman in her late 20s, and describes a local man of approximately the same age. The name has been left out for discretion. “[He] has been living with babymama for the past 4 years staying with me for a few months. Claims to own businesses but is a broke ass loser. Moochin off me and who knows how many other girls. Stay away he is a straight up LIAR and is good at it till he gets caught up in his own lies,” the entry reads.
Others are shorter and more direct: “[She] cheats on [him] every chance she gets. He is too stupid to figure it out. Cheated with a couple of friends of mine,” writes another.
This negativity is something Sherlock prefers to avoid, thus why the entries are removed after a couple of weeks. Instead, the page tends to focus on advice and warning signs.
One of the biggest focuses is on emotional cheating, which Sherlock says more women are prone to than men. “I talk about that [emotional cheating] a lot because it’s happened to me,” Sherlock says. “Instead of your partner having regular conversations with you, sharing affection and stuff like that, they’re having that connection with someone else.”
Vargas also has experience with this sort of deception. “From my experience with my therapist, emotional cheating is the first step of cheating,” Vargas says. “It can be any kind of personal intimacy. Where he’s investing all of his personal information into someone who is not his spouse. My marriage counselor…advised me to cut my losses and move on because she’s emotionally invested in someone else,” he says.
A number of studies have been done on infidelity and marriage, with similar results. Men are still more likely to cheat than women, however the number of women who do go astray has been increasing over the past couple of decades.
This has been attributed to the liberation of women from the kitchen. Money, education and sexual history are also all listed as contributing factors. However the top reason remains to be whether or not the individual is happy in the relationship and if their feelings and desires are reciprocated.
Also over the past few decades, attitudes of Americans toward cheating have become increasingly less tolerant. According to the website hookingupsmart.com, polls have shown this trend increasing since the early ‘90s:
In a 2006 poll by the Pew Research Center, 88% of Americans said adultery was immoral — a higher number than for any other of 10 unsavory behaviors they were asked about.
In the 2008 Gallup Values and Beliefs poll, Americans as a group found extramarital affairs morally worse than polygamy, human cloning, and suicide.
How San Angelo rates the morality of extramarital affairs remains to be seen in the comment section, however for many on Facebook and in the city’s counseling centers, the threat of cheating and the damage it does to a relationship is very real.
The San Angelo Cheaters Downtown page is open to all members of the community, cheater or cheat-ee. Sherlock says the majority of those on the site range from 18 to their mid-30s, although there are a few older and a few younger members as well.
For more on the group, visit the page here.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity