I'm going to say something that will probably make your blood boil.
Cheating is natural.
Note, I said "natural" not "acceptable".
This needs to be stated, because every time I write about the topic, I'm met with irate readers – typically men – declaring I'm obviously a treacherous w**re looking to excuse my own despicable behaviour. (For some reason, it's not occurred to these readers the topics I write about are determined by an editorial team, not self-indulgent whim.)
Consequently, it would bode well for me not to call attention to the fact I've personally been unfaithful in a relationship. The last time I mentioned as much, a group of angry men's rights activists with a lot of spare time on their hands took to making multiple YouTube videos about me, urging their followers to send abuse my way – which they did, gleefully.
Western women who commit adultery don't face the horrific violence meted out to our sisters in countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, where death by public stoning is a routine punishment for having sex outside marriage.
Instead, we can simply expect a thousand or so furious male trolls to spam our social media platforms with gems like, "I hope you get run over by a car, you b**ch!" and, as one chap put it, "You better watch your back, you disease-riddled sl*t!"
I mean, if there's anyone who's privileged in this world, it's us Western women, mirite?
But I digress.
While it would make for choice clickbait to assert, "Cheating's great! Everyone should try it!" I'm not here to justify playing up on your significant other. It's a universally accepted truth, the fastest way to erode a relationship is via the chronic deceit that so frequently accompanies infidelity.
However, this doesn't negate the fact our desire to have sex with people other than our spouse is as innate as the urge to breathe.
If it weren't, sites dedicated to extramarital affairs, like AshleyMadison.com, wouldn't be home to an exploding population of more than 60 million users, nor would a 2015 YouGov study have discovered one in five of us have been unfaithful (and, let's be real here, that's just the ones who are actually fessing up to it).
And, of course, one of the most cited reasons for divorce is – you guessed it – infidelity.
Monogamy is a construct, not a predisposition, for just about every living species on Earth – excluding the roughly 3 per cent of mammals biologically destined for it, according to science. (Fun fact: Beavers top the list. And no, humans aren't on there.)
Regardless, monogamy isn't an impossibility. The good thing about us humans in comparison to some of the other cute creatures on that list is we have the cognitive ability to override some of our more base urges – like, say, screaming "SL*T!" in all-caps at a woman on the internet because you don't particularly agree with her life choices. (Look, some of us are better at it than others.)
Examples abound of people who've superseded their impulses and made it to the finish line without ever having strayed. However, none of this disqualifies the growing body of evidence which suggests that, while morally offensive and certainly not unavoidable, infidelity is instinctive.
A hallmark study by researchers Shirley Glass and Thomas Wright found the itch to stray is so compelling, 34 per cent of women and 56 per cent of men who admitted to scratching it did so despite describing their relationship as "happy" or "very happy".
Another study, published in the Journal of Hormones and Behaviour, found biological signals in women during ovulation which make us more likely to have extramarital sex when our partners aren't sexually active enough. (Interestingly, women who reported having more frequent sex in their relationship were less likely to stray during this period – which destroys the long-held belief women don't desire sex as much as men.)
"Almost everywhere people marry, monogamy is the official norm and infidelity the clandestine one," says best-selling author, psychotherapist and viral TED speaker, Esther Perel.
"Despite a 50 per cent divorce rate for first marriages and 65 per cent the second time around; despite the staggering frequency of affairs ... we continue to cling to the wreckage with absolute faith in its structural soundness," Perel writes, in Mating In Captivity. (Out of interest, Australia's divorce rate is about 30 per cent. The US, where Perel lives, has a 50 per cent divorce rate.)
At the heart of Perel's work, is the acknowledgment of modern monogamy's critical flaws – not the least, the underpinning idea that commitment is a safeguard against our partner's attraction to other people.
Does this make acting on it acceptable? Of course not. But the shame and venom reserved especially for those of us who lapse in moral judgment has historically done very little to dissuade people from embarking on affairs, and it's illogical.
Nowhere do we demand such unwavering perfectionism than within our committed relationships, where a single wrongdoing is deemed cause for nullifying the entire union. Cheating is "the worst possible thing a partner can do!" we declare, while simultaneously ignoring a multitude of sins.
Emotional neglect, sexual anorexia and inequal domestic labour are fobbed off as insignificant: "He doesn't talk to me about anything, but you know, he's just a typical man", "I can't remember the last time she had sex with me, but that's marriage for you", "I'm exhausted from doing all the housework with no help, but I shouldn't complain, he does take out the garbage", we tell ourselves.
Why do we expect so little from our partners within the everyday paradigm of monogamy, and conversely mandate such faultlessness when it comes to sexual fidelity?
Our relationships may benefit if we adopted a gentler approach. One that acknowledged the very real harm of infidelity, while dialectically treating it as a fracture not beyond repair.
We only have to look at the overwhelming rates of divorce and affairs to recognise any relationship that makes it 20, 30 or 40 years in, having only been touched by infidelity once or twice, is one that's succeeded, not failed.
This is all not to say I don't regret my own infidelity. I do, deeply. It exerted immeasurable agony on my partner and eradicated the trust that had blossomed over the course of our relationship.
But several years on – while I still wish I could go back and undo the pain those few moments of selfish passion caused – I no longer carry the shame I held onto, years after the relationship dissolved.
Not because I think cheating is okay (I don't), but because I don't believe it's an offence worthy of a lifetime of punishment.