Beautycounter or Beautycontradiction? A closer look into a “new” beauty movement.

large

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”
Yves Saint-Laurent

Getting things for free

I love getting things for free. Every free sample that comes my way makes me feel a little better about my crushing student debt. I also can’t turn down a free party. Even if I am exhausted from working all day, I will rally if invited. My friends are fully aware of my weakness and frequently hook me into last minute events. The most recent was a Beautycounter event at a restaurant in Wicker Park – Birchwood Kitchen. The invitation promised “cocktails and conversation.” It also stated the following: This event will change the way you look at beauty.

I had never heard of Beautycounter so the free cocktails were an easy sell. I arrived about 15 minutes late and the place was overflowing with women. The majority of which were 20-something year olds wearing trendy jumpers, crop tops, and (of course) statement necklaces. There were two bars giving away three different kinds of decent wine and several platters of surprisingly edible hors d’oeuvres. Sliced baguette with garlic mascarpone and prosciutto? I will have twelve. After indulging in all the delicacies, I began to question – Why is all of this free?

Meet Beautycounter

At least sixty women crammed into the tiny room like stylish sausages. After a quick welcome, a Beautycounter representative introduced us to the brand – a “revolutionary” new company geared at bringing “everyone” safer and healthier products. We watched a short promotional video showcasing adorable people of all ages touting the slogan “I matter.” Next, CEO Gregg Renfrew took the stage and began sharing her passion for Beautycounter. I admit this woman is convincing. Think NYC chic fashionista in a peplum top and leather leggings meets fresh-faced Californian – a yoga-loving mom of two.

Renfrew’s speech included heartfelt dismay at the current state of women’s beauty, noting that only 11 toxic chemicals are banned in the US compared with hundreds in other countries. Further, she shared anecdotes about meeting Erin Brockovich and aligned her mission with that of the polluted water busting heroine. Beautycounter boasts a “Neverlist” which is a lengthy collection of harmful products the company will never use. While I do commend Beautycounter for creating a wide range of products that are arguably safer and healthier to use, I am not sold. Sorry Renfrew, but if you give an impassioned speech about “marching to Washington” and making sure “our kids never worry about labels,” you might want to consider the millions of women who it prices out of Beautycounter’s $495 product line.

images (3)

Beautycounter is a young company but it’s structure is as old as hair curlers and red lipstick. It employs a multi-level marketing strategy which involves hiring individuals as “consultants” to sell the products direct to consumer. Unlike pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing is legal and does provide the opportunity for consultants to make more money than their seniors. In the 1960s, Mary Kay was one of the first companies to sell directly to consumers and it is currently netting almost 3 billion in annual sales. The success of Mary Kay has likely inspired many other beauty companies such as: Avon, Arbonne, and Nerium. All of these companies make claims that their products are well researched, minimally harmful, and dramatically effective – despite contradicting evidence.

As far as I can tell with Beautycounter, they did a good job creating “better” products, as determined by their safer ingredients list. Whether these products have significant benefits to the skin remains to be seen. Regardless, I think it’s wonderful and progressive to formulate beauty products with women’s health in mind. However, I wonder why Beautycounter spends so much money on packaging and branding, rather than finding ways to make these healthier products accessible to all individuals of varying socioeconomic statuses.

Reality Check

The reality is that we live in a consumer-driven capitalistic society that places profit over progress. I am one of those consumers. I spend $40 on Anastasia of Beverly Hills (ABH) eyebrow products because Instragram has convinced me they are worth it. I don’t take issue with ABH because they don’t promise to change legislation in Washington and benefit “all” American women. Beautycounter isn’t factoring in the 16 million women that live below the poverty line in the US. These women buy Family Dollar brand face-wash for $3 that is even more harmful that the “comparable” version of $7 Neutrogena at CVS. I realize Beautycounter is striving to become a multi-million dollar giant in the cosmetics industry. As a result, they are branding themselves to fit with the upper middle class – A group that comprises approximately 15% of the population and spends millions on high-end products every year. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, I have no qualms with Beautycounter’s products or tactics but I can’t help but wonder – Are these products worth their price?

beautycounter-rosewater-uplifting_spray-1534x1168

Doing the Math

I was drawn to Beautycounter’s Rosewater uplifting spray, a 1.7oz bottle of refreshing toner for $32. The cost is actually competitive in the market, as similar products range from $15 – $50 depending on brand. Beautycounter is correct in that many comparable products contain more harmful ingredients. Their ingredients include: Water (Aqua), organic Rosa Damascena Water, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, and Phenoxyethanol. According to my research, Phenoxyethanol and Ethylhexylglycerin are safe and effective preservatives. They are also inexpensive. A quick Google search reveals you can buy the duo for $8.70 per 1.70oz. Considering a recommended dose for DIY products in a 1% dilution, this amount could make 100 bottles of Beautycounter’s product.

Organic Rosa Damascena Water sells on eBay for $25.95 per 17oz, which would make 10 bottles at approximately $2.60 each. The final ingredient is Sodium Hyaluronate, which “doesn’t easily penetrate the skin when it’s applied topically, so it is most successful when injected into the dermis of the skin through fillers like Restylane” (www.skinstore.com). I think we can leave this one out. Essentially, I could make 100 bottles of a very similar product for $268, or I could spend $3200 and buy 100 bottles from Beautycounter. Even when you factor in packaging, the discrepancy is huge.

24c1956c4dedaca1cc247316253310ed

Why I care

As a therapist, I value transparency and authentic communication. I am impressed with Beautycounter’s honesty about their ingredients and I eagerly support the movement towards health and harm reduction. What irks me is the contradicting messages in their business model. Beautycounter throws free parties enticing people to become consultants. They rely on educated women in middle classes to sell to others with similar privilege. Their campaign highlights our health, our kids, and our environment, yet exclude vulnerable populations by pricing them out of their consumer base. I expect this from most companies. However, when the mission is to “revolutionize beauty” and “provide safer and healthier products for ALL women” – I call bullshit.

If you want to go to Washington and ban more toxic chemicals from beauty products, why not educate and mobilize the majority of the population? If you really want to enact revolutionary scale change, why not focus on reducing costs and increasing accessibility? I imagine those with the most limited means likely need your products the most. It seems to me that Beautycounter’s mandate may be more authentically matched with a non-profit that truly wants to reduce harm and improve health. Ironically, if Beautycounter actually made a point to talk about themselves as a business, with reasonable limitations and a narrow consumer base, I probably would have bought into it. Looks like even free things come with a cost.

Beautycounter or Beautycontradiction? A closer look into a “new” beauty movement.

Anti-Social Media – A Day in the Life

79ec431e1242f546255795dda09858fe

7:45am – The trill of my alarm resounds in my ears. I bat the sleep off my eyelashes and slide my phone into submission. What’s this? A red circle of promise manifests on my Facebook icon. It bares fruit. The number 4 reaches beyond the screen into the depths of my soul. I am yours, four (ever).

Last night I posted a picture of Babe and I drinking at a bar. Our wide toothy grins stand out against a backdrop of exposed brick. My red lips contrast with the foliage in my mason jar of whiskey. What’s old is new again. Still under the covers, I reflect on my conquests. One, two, three, four – how much love can I score? I read my comments with feverish anticipation. We are totes adorbs. My hair is on point. This satisfies me…for now.

8:00am – I shower, brush, conceal, and contour. The mask is almost complete. Black lines curve like a cat, framing my eyes into a disguise. Next comes the magic wand that turns the invisible blonde wisps into blades of black. Finally, I brush my eyebrows into a bold but natural shape. I hope they are on fleek.

8:20am – I stare into an abyss of material dangling in rows. Bold pops of fuchsia, emerald, turquoise, and orange jut out in between glimmers of leopard and snake. The animal kingdom is underrepresented and overshadowed by geometric designs and floral prints. After a while, the colors and shapes form whimsical patterns and blend into a psychedelic rainbow. I trip out in front of my closet; my clothes mock me with their elusiveness. I have nothing to wear.

8:45am – I’m late. I select a white blouse with black dots like a Dalmatian. I pair it with a black skirt, white design like a Jackson Pollock. Black ankle boots complete the look. Time to immortalize this outfit with a photo – hashtag mixed prints. I took it my #selfie.

9:55am – I get to work, sit at my desk, and check my e-mail. An invitation to run the Hot Chocolate 5K race. There are easier ways to obtain chocolate: Delete. A market research invitation. I am never eligible for these studies: Delete. An e-mail chain surfaces with the intent of planning a team lunch. I brace myself for the influx of messages that will inevitably follow. The complexity of coordinating a midday gorge has me stumped. Surely a solution to this dilemma exists. My eyes burn with frustration and it takes all my strength to refocus but I remain hopeful. The phone rings. My 11:00am client cancels stating something about her cat. Prrrfect.

11:10am – Facebook and Buzzfeed light up my screen (and my life). QUIZ – Which Beyonce are you? Let’s find out. I choose a sparkly dress, “Running the world”, a giant champagne glass, a French bulldog in a pink tutu, and Jay-Z circa 2003. You are Bey’s alter ego Sasha Fierce! Yes, I am.

12:00pm – Still no decision with regard to lunch. This displeases me so greatly I threaten to order a pizza for myself and eat it slowly in front of everyone. I want to make my disdain for their indecisiveness clear. Lunch time is sacred.

12:30pm – Coworkers have ignored my threats. I buy tacos in the cafeteria and return to an office pizza party. I smile with clenched teeth; venom fills my veins. Just as I’m about to explode, I feel a vibration. Text from Babe: Loving you! Kissy-face emoji. I send several heart emojis in return. My blood cools and breathing resumes.

127779_600

3:45pm – I’ve seen three clients back-to-back. My phone withdrawal peaks and I itch to feel the warm glass respond to my caress. I check Instagram and see my #outfitoftheday has 7 likes and one new follower. A new friend.

5:00pm – Done and out the door faster than a Google porn search. I read a book on Kindle, avoiding eye contact with other bus riders. I long for personal space. Breathing into my pashmina, I willingly suffocate on my perfume rather than inhale the bodily odor of strangers. Three more stops. Gasp!

5:47pm – I walk into my apartment, shower, and wait for Babe. I look up recipes online for a while: pork medallions with mushroom Marsala sauce; chicken Florentine lasagna with crispy cauliflower; duck confit with spicy pickled raisins. I settle for pasta with tomato sauce. Babe gets home and we ease into our couch grooves. The hunt begins. After scrolling rapidly through hundreds of channels, we discover a Shark Tank marathon. Our evening is set.

10:00pm – We lie in bed – the darkness cut by TV’s warm glow. Our bodies emit heat under the covers while our heads rest atop cool pillows. Fingers swipe left and right on our little screens. We lull ourselves to sleep with clicking sounds. Our souls search for connection, lost in the infinite portals we hold in our palms.

Artist: Boligan – “Addicted”

Anti-Social Media – A Day in the Life

The Art of Social Media War

banksy

Media images of civilian casualties in Gaza and rocket blasts in Israel saturate Facebook. Comments that venerate one side and vilify the other mark countless controversial videos, yet shockingly we see no solutions. Even with the knowledge and expectation of media bias, we continue to perpetuate someone else’s skewed message. Facebook has become a platform for the polarization of ideas.

In 2013, thousands of people were killed in south Sudan’s civil war and no one talked about it. Over the last few weeks, almost 200 Palestinians were killed and everyone has an opinion. What makes the conflict between Israel and Palestine more deserving of our attention? Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting since the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. However, the escalation of violence after the 2014 murders of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar, is being documented on social media in unprecedented ways. What strikes me is the way people are communicating their opinions. This issue is powerful because it unleashes raw emotions which get publicized on our screens. Whether you identify as Jewish, Arab, or other, it is likely that if you choose to be part of this debate you will promote unwavering support for one camp while condemning the other. How do we discern fact from fiction? We can’t. If we continue to take biased information and showcase it without challenge and critical thought, then what do we prove? Essentially, we are maintaining us vs. them boundaries.

As an individual studying human behavior, I can’t help but analyze the way we relate to each other on social media. What makes North Americans engage in heated debates about foreign politics on Facebook? Firstly, we have learned to act on impulse and seek immediate gratification. When our post gets a lot of likes we receive the message that we are important, worthy, and special. The rewards social media brings are addictive, and like all addictions we learn to continue doing what generates the most pleasurable outcome. Thus, we make a point to highlight extreme opinions, ensuring that others will comment and attend to our thoughts. Secondly, the fact that Facebook is built so that you can tailor your own image results in a disproportionate focus on how we look. Rather than promoting intellectual debate and critical thinking, we simply present an image that others either glom onto or reject. We are often motivated by the reassurance of an in-group, as they provide the feeling that you belong. The more we perpetuate polarizing messages, the more we are solidifying opposing teams. The recent hashtag “Hitlerwasright” is a testament to this phenomenon.

banksy2

When I read the constant barrage of politically charged posts on Facebook, I see anger and hate as driving forces. From a clinical perspective, anger is a mask hiding sadness and hate is protection from fear. Whatever side you think you are fighting for, maybe it is time to ask how effective you are being? The pain of sadness and fear fuels the polarization of opinions, which we maintain by keeping the conversation at a level of extremes. I am not proud to live in a world where Hitler is “trending.” If we spend more time questioning sources and demanding factual reporting, we may actually encourage others to deconstruct information instead of take it at face-value. There is a huge discrepancy in how we react to conflicts in Africa, South America, and Europe, as compared with the Middle East. If the issue is ultimately about religion, why are we using propaganda and biased debate? Considering the fact that religion is abstract, immeasurable, and impossible to prove, you have your work cut out for you.

The debate we have with each other on social media mirrors the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no solution because each side wants to prove the unprovable. I believe in finding meaning and purpose in seemingly hopeless situations. Every patient I see has some maladaptive pattern they can’t seem to get out of, and it is through redefining themselves and their goals that they can begin new patterns. According to Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By this measure, we are all exhibiting signs of insanity, and it is necessary to reflect on why.

Artist: Banksy

The Art of Social Media War

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf of Wall Street?

 wallstreet-580
                The two-minute trailer for Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street inundates us with high energy images of excess and debauchery. As the throbbing beat of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead increases in aggression, so does the frequency of superficial glamour. Despite the obvious indication that this movie isn’t geared to the average woman, I was really excited to see it. Leonardo DiCaprio as a power-hungry stock market tycoon? Yes please! Wait. Why do I care about immoral investors, gratuitous sex, and limitless drug use? That’s right, I don’t. What does interest me is the psychology behind a person like Jordan Belfort. Scorsese’s film was many things: a visual feast, a fantasy of excess, a portrayal of greed; yet, it lacked the depth that would have made it a masterpiece. We saw Belfort indulge in every distraction imaginable (money, prostitutes, Quaaludes), yet we saw very little about his underlying insecurity and pain.
              Scorsese’s focus on visual extravagance was likely strategic. Countless images of wealth and sex dominate American media. Apart from the obvious purpose of selling lifestyle to sell products, these images help create a collective insecurity. We define ourselves by what we own and therefore we are never satisfied. The Wolf of Wall Street effectively mirrored the greed and superficiality our capitalistic society creates. Even Belfort’s punishment was positively influenced by wealth he acquired.
               As a psychotherapist, I was hoping for a more dimensional main character. Someone who has a history underlying his narcissistic personality structure. What we saw instead is an individual who focused solely on gaining power at the expense of love, health, and spirituality. Although there were a few witty lines in the film, the visual images were arguably more memorable than the dialogue. Had there been more focus on creating characters with depth rather than infusing scenes with opulence, the movie may have been thought provoking instead of obvious.
whos-afraid-of-virginia-woolf-burton-taylor
               In contrast to The Wolf of Wall Street, Mike Nichol’s 1966 film adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is largely carried by its sharp wit and strong character development. Shot in black and white, the movie explores the disintegrating marriage between George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor). The entire film consists of one brilliant line after the next as George and Martha verbally and emotionally tear each other apart. There are no extravagant scenes or product placements. Instead, the movie relies solely on the script and the actor’s performances. We can feel their anguish and resentment; we can relate to their tortured relationship even without having one of our own.
                Although Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance was stellar, I never felt engrossed by his character’s story -I felt detached. Belfort’s world was a fantasy millions dream of and few experience. On one hand I understand the entertainment factor, and commend the film for telling the story of excess in such a visually stimulating way. On the other, I crave mental stimulation. I can’t let go of myself and become Jordan Belfort unless there is something human in him I recognize. Of course I can relate to the need for power, security, and control. However, if life becomes an obsession with those experiences, I want to understand why. Did Scorsese mean to show us that excess will diminish our humanity? If so, his point fell flat when he failed to give us insight into the psychology of a man who went from nothing to everything, while forgoing human connection, intimacy and genuine love.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf of Wall Street?

Why would we feel guilty for self-expression?

My Relationship with Creativity

I have always had a turbulent relationship with being artistic. Waves of motivation and energy would get channeled into drawing, painting or writing, only to evaporate almost as urgently as they emerged. I started this blog with the intention to write at least once, if not twice a week. WordPress was kind enough to feature one of my articles, leading to a relatively huge influx of views and followers. I had no idea how challenging it would be  to ignore external validation in the context of such personal writing. My efforts increased after my mini surge in popularity, and promptly crashed after a few weeks of steadily decreasing attention. Despite wanting to write for my own self-expression and intellectual exploration, I felt completely distracted by the opinions of others. What’s my problem? Am I doing this for the wrong reasons or is there possibly another explanation?

Insights from a Psychoanalyst

Otto Rank, an Austrian psychoanalyst, introduced insightful theories about how we develop. He focused on the mother-infant relationship, suggesting we develop guilt and anxiety because we grow up and define our individual sense of self as separate from our mothers. I often hear Freud critics say these kind of theories reduce everything to issues with mom, but I think there is merit in processing this idea.

Firstly, Rank discussed creativity as a specific element in development that produces feelings of guilt. It is the creative person, an artist, who will constantly define and redefine their sense of self. If I am constantly producing and receiving recognition, not only am I constantly expressing who I am, but I am doing so in a way that makes me vulnerable. Much like infants are vulnerable at birth without their mother, the exposed creations represent my authentic self.

Mortality

Rank would argue that the act of creating separates you by forcing you to define yourself, while also reminding you of the vulnerability you have in the world as a seperate being. We are essentially alone in the world and this produces feelings of anxiety. Not only do I feel guilt for defining myself, but I am anxious because I am now defined. Ultimately, Rank’s point is once you express yourself, you actually get closer to realizing your own mortality.

I guess I haven’t been writing this blog because I am afraid of dying? Maybe somewhere in the unconscious zoo that is my mind…it’s true.

Painting: Madonna by Egon Shiele (Austrian expressionist painter)

Why would we feel guilty for self-expression?

Found Art, Found Self

Stroke of Creativity

While on a vintage shopping excursion, my partner Andrew discovered a ripped poster from the 70s. “I can totally do something with this!” he exclaimed as he came barreling towards me. I stared at him blankly. Until this moment he had never shown interest in artistic endeavors. I imagined this decrepit poster would be thrown in a corner – forgotten like the countless tchotchkis hidden in our closets. “What could you possibly do with that?” I scoffed. He squinted his eyes and huffed, “I’ll show you!”After a few days of work, he transformed the farkakte poster into this piece of art using reclaimed wood, lacquer, nails and other found objects. After admitting I was wrong (a seldom occurrence), I asked Andrew what motivated his sudden stroke of creativity. He shared with me a lifelong fascination with things from previous decades, and highlighted  the thrill of hunting for abandoned objects. It seems that while working on this project, his mind filled with ideas for new artwork. At the age of thirty, he began to define himself as an artist.

Identity Development

What fascinates me about Andrew’s experience is that his transformation of found objects parallels the transformation of his identity. The process of repurposing discarded materials for artistic expression involves active manipulation. You are essentially redefining things to match internal ideas, feelings and perceptions. The change in your identity is the passive parallel process. It occurs in response to creativity, hard work and dedication. For Andrew, being an artist evokes a sense of pride. He was able to create something out of nothing. I interpret this feeling of pride as a way for human beings to connect with themselves as individuals. In a world where there is abundant pressure to conform, we crave an aspect of life that is simply our own. Redefining objects is a way to redefine yourself. It can give purpose to seemingly meaningless things, while adding another dimension to your identity. There is something romantic about taking something useless and making it art, especially when in doing so you come closer to finding out who you really are.

“Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.” – Fran Lebowitz

Fran Lebowitz and Writer’s Block

Lebowitz is famous for her sardonic commentary on American life, broaching topics such as class, talent and fame through a New York City lens. After reading her two most famous books Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981), I assumed she had written numerous other works full of sarcastic musings. After an unsuccessful search, I learned she had experienced a 16 year writers block. Considering I had avoided writing this blog for the last two months, I felt both comforted and confused. How is it possible someone with such talent felt unable to express herself? After watching Scorsese’s documentary, Public Speaking – A Conversation w/ Fran Lebowitz, I learned she grappled with intense fear when sitting down to write. Even after earning resounding accolades from her audiences, Lebowitz struggled to use her talents. I wonder if this internal struggle had to do with her own sense of identity. If we associate ourselves completely with what we do, who will we be when we stop? I often tell people I want to write, yet I spend infinitely more time procrastinating than I do writing. Although I like identifying as a writer, I often feel anxiety and apprehension before I begin. I believe this dilemma is a consequence of competing drives: intrinsic motivation v. external validation.

The Trouble with External Validation

My desire to write comes from my love of reading, as well as a long-standing interest in languages. I find the way our minds bring words to life mesmerizing. The right combination of words can wrap themselves around you, changing you forever. Much like painting, sculpting or creating a found art piece, writing involves the commingling of your soul with the outside world. It is a process marked by vulnerability and raw exposure. It is impossible to exist without being influenced by the world around you. Unfortunately, the impact of the environment results in a competing demand for external validation. No matter how passionately we may feel, it is difficult not to crave approval from an audience. I think the interaction of these factors creates a state of perpetual unease for artists of all types. We may use art to define our identities, yet not without the risk of damaging our new-found selves.

Found Art, Found Self

The Paradox of Cheating

Leonid+AFREMOV+by+Catherine+La+Rose+%2831%29

Cheating and Monogamy

People in monogamous relationships often experience a visceral reaction to the idea of their partner cheating on them. Even single people will feel a pang at the thought of their future love leaving them for another. Cheating is a unique type of betrayal because it threatens the physical, emotional and mental sanctity of your body. When we commit to a person in a relationship, we are essentially allowing them exclusive access to our body. This is why so many people fall into a pattern of dependency with their partner, relying on them to feel happy and secure. Unfortunately, this mentality often has the opposite effect in the long-term. Whether we are in a relationship or not, we continue to grow and develop as individuals. Eventually, one person is growing in a direction that doesn’t naturally complement their partner. The outcome of this situation is often a “push-pull” effect: one person holds on to what they expect or want of their partner, causing them to pull farther away into who they actually are.

Losing Yourself In Another

This painting by Leonid Afremov is a visual metaphor for how our bodies blur together when we are passionately in love. In those rare occasions when we truly let ourselves go, we are able to get lost in the other person temporarily. This is arguably one of the greatest human experiences we can have. The problem occurs when we expect our relationship to feel this way all the time, resulting in inevitable disappointment. What’s actually happening is a self-created delusion. We learn that losing yourself in love feels good, relieves stress, and takes away insecurities. Later, we realize those negative things still exist when we don’t have the distracting presence of love, and like a drug, we crave our next hit.

So what happens to the love couples have when one person decides to cheat?

Cheating: The Aftermath

People who have experienced cheating describe feeling a mixture of betrayal, shame and disgust. The most immediate thoughts often center on, “Why am I not good enough?” Considering how the blurring of boundaries in a relationship, it makes sense why we feel like insecure victims. We are left with bruised egos, crushed expectations, and the heavy burden of re-evaluating our lives. Many of us end up “giving love a second chance.” We assume it is our fault somehow. The person lies to you, betrays your relationship, and has sex with someone else, yet somehow it is your fault? Sure, in some cases it is purely physical, and the other person is Angelina Jolie. So what? That is no reason to find flaws in yourself. Jennifer Aniston is still gorgeous without Brad Pitt. There are many beautiful people in the world, just because someone cheats on you doesn’t somehow devalue who you are. On the contrary, I think it is far more compelling evidence in support of the other person’s issues. Nevertheless, I don’t think judgment of the cheater is worth much time either. The overarching point I want to make is that there is one common underlying issue with all cheaters: the unwillingness to sacrifice immediate gain for shared future goals.

The Paradox

We get into monogamous relationships to build a life together. Whether you want children or not, we ascribe to the ideology of monogamy because we value meaningful connection with another person who values similar things. A cheater sends the message that their satisfaction in the moment is more important than any commitments in the future. So when you are considering whether you want to take someone back who has broken your trust, it is important to understand what it is exactly they are denying you. Instead of focusing on insecurities about our appearance or social image, we should assess the most important issue: why we are in a relationship in the first place. This is the paradox of cheating. We actively choose to commit to someone, yet the action of cheating negates the very point of our investment.

Is it worth the sacrifice?

No matter how in love you are, neither one of you has ownership of the other’s body. We may buy into the illusion because possessiveness can mask itself as security, giving us fleeting feelings of being in an unbreakable bond. In reality, the only thing your partner truly owes you is the integrity of their commitment to your shared future. I argue that “not cheating” is just a natural sacrifice of a committed relationship, much like enduring bad habits, evil mother-in-laws or financial crises. We all have the option to cheat if we want it, we choose not to when we believe the future is worth the sacrifice.

The Paradox of Cheating