T.I. and Tameka "Tiny" Harris (Prince Williams/Getty Images)

“A lot of chicks really don’t have a choice, to be honest.”

“Wait, what? How do you figure that?”

“I mean, I'm just coming from a place where I know so many of my friends who are still smashing chicks on the side. If every chick threw their dude in the bushes for cheating, no one would be in a relationship.”

I had this conversation with a good (guy) friend of mine a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I am 100 percent certain he was in no way being hyperbolic or facetious — we have some of the same friends and I know how these dudes move; these hoes ain’t loyal.

Aside from the physical dangers that come with cheating (Black women being most likely to receive HIV through heterosexual contact, with partners who fail to disclose they’ve been off sexing someone else in their spare time) there’s also this idea of “choice,” which my friend hinted at. Choices are hard; choices are even harder when you’ve got options. (This fact makes me one of the worst people to decide on dinner. And clothes. And on what to write. And…you get my point.) The neuron misfires during sex make our brains cloudy. I empathize. But I can’t say I understand.

Any healthy relationship is an elective one. Its participants are actively choosing to participate and/or maintain a level of mutual interest in making it work. Cheating happens when someone successfully maintains a series of lies for their own personal benefit; cheaters rob the cheated on of their ability to make informed choices. Inherently, it both presumes and acknowledges that without the lies and performances, somebody would walk away. That the cheater is somehow inadequate as his or her own fool self, which is probably entirely accurate, and this is how couples get here when nobody was supposed to be here.

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But how is it that the prevalence of cheating yields a lack of options available to women? Seems to me if you’re a woman who doesn’t want to deal with a cheating man, you’ve got plenty of options - the first being to get rid of the cheater and find someone who doesn’t cheat. There’s always a choice, but some choices require a little resolve.

There are women who believe this, too, though. They’ve bought into the idea that cheating on some level, even if not the physical, is “what men do.” I’ve had a friend who’s told me “He takes care of me, and he makes me happy, I’m sure he has his little, whatever… but if I don’t see it, then I won’t know.” I’ve had another, so war torn by a situationship she’s trying to maintain that she’s submitted to the idea that “this is just what it is.”

Take a minute and stare blankly at the screen with me.

Women waste countless years of their lives behind this kind of thinking. Many a beautiful child has been conceived under this pretense. And why people make life harder than it has to be, I’ll never know. Because there is always a choice. Yes, cheating happens because human beings are fallible and mistakes are sometimes made and sometimes people are just selfish. But there is always a choice for both parties about what to do and how to move forward — another elective process between two knowledgeable and consenting adults. And though infidelity might be ubiquitous [Note: Is it? I have no idea] it doesn’t make it any more appropriate or fair or acceptable, kind of like the endurance of the Kardashian empire. Somebody has to take a stand on these things. We can't all be Ryan Seacrest.

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Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's 'The Philly Post' and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.