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Modern Parenthood

Kristen Stewart: Unwholesome mix of tween idol and adult romance?

Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders have publicly apologized for their infidelities, breaking the hearts of Tweens who idealized the romance between 'Twilight' stars Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

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Both Stewart and Sanders have admitted to the cheating. Both have apologized privately and publicly to their families, and Stewart has been photographed looking tearful and drawn. 

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Correspondent

is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..

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Meanwhile, the tween world is outraged.

“I don’t want to believe it,” Tweeted one.

“How could you!” said another in an emotional YouTube video.

And then there were death threats, but the Internet is wacky like that.

But here’s the thing. This situation is surely painful and miserable for those people involved. But when it comes to the widespread reaction to the cheating, there is some context worth pondering.

Americans are notoriously conservative and outraged about infidelity. In a 2008 Gallup Values and Beliefs poll, Americans as a group found extramarital affairs morally worse than polygamy, human cloning and suicide. But an awful lot of Americans do cheat. It’s almost impossible to get accurate statistics for this (estimates range from 3 percent to 80 percent), but a lot of studies put the number at about 30 percent of married people. (Stewart, recall, is not married.)

When I reported a Monitor magazine cover story about infidelity a couple of years back, researchers I interviewed told me that it is a very US phenomenon to believe that cheaters are a certain type of person, rather than to acknowledge that cheating is something that happens. (Other countries have a far different view of infidelity – in Russia, for instance, some therapists will recommend extramarital affairs as a way to spice up a relationship.) In this country a lot of people have the “I’m not the sort of person who would cheat,” or, in this case, “she didn’t seem like the type of person to cheat” attitude.  

But this black and white view doesn’t make any sense, psychiatrists and academics told me. Relationship dynamics, outside temptations, individual characteristics, feelings of isolation, self control – those all have a lot more to do with cheating behavior than the “type” of person.

Which is something of a lesson, perhaps, for the teenagers furious at Stewart right now, or devastated to learn that their example of true love is messier than a young adult romance novel may portray it.

Relationships are complicated. People are complicated. Good people can hurt each other. (Caveat here that I don’t know any of the folks involved, so really can’t judge their personalities, but let’s assume “good” for now.) And there is nuance in the world of adult romance.

Even when there are no vampires involved.

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