Sam and I both had committed partners — until we tore one another’s relationships apart. Like two Godzillas ripping away the infrastructure and stomping on the burning rubble of some innocent Japanese city, we destroyed what someone else worked hard to build.
But we made no apologies. Homewrecking was exhilarating for both of us.
In deliberately drawing Sam away from his girlfriend, I saw a new side of a predatory dating strategy for finding partners — prying them out of the arms of someone deemed less deserving. Today, I don’t see stealing someone else’s partner as “stealing” at all.
Experts say it’s human nature to find the least available people the most attractive. Their value seemingly increases when another person deems them worthy of commitment. We feel more secure in pursuing them when they’ve been pre-screened for their ability to buy anniversary gifts, perform oral sex, and look good in our Instagram photos.
Of course, Sam and I were attracted to one another for reasons beyond our “taken” status. We were both unhappy in our current relationships. My boyfriend was an unfaithful workout turkey who couldn’t fathom a conversation beyond the topics of weightlifting and protein powder. Sam’s girlfriend physically beat him.
We were both looking for a way out, so we used one another as a catalyst to move on. In an ideal world, we would have left our terrible lovers, moved to some small Italian village to “find ourselves,” and met one another free and clear of any commitments. But real life isn’t like the heart-warming movie Under the Tuscan Sun — we don’t all end up stumbling into the arms of some single, intelligent, sexually-inviting, select-cut piece of ass. So we take shortcuts.
Psychologists have given a name to the phenomenon of stealing partners: “mate poaching.” A surprising number of relationships are the result of mate poaching. Studies of North American adults have found that about half of respondents have been successfully stolen from a relationship before.
In some ways, it seems intuitive that these relationships are doomed to fail. Abandoning someone you’re familiar with for someone who seems new and exciting is a gamble on par with betting on the racehorse with the biggest dick. It might look appealing, but be practical — you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.
The possibility that leaving my boyfriend could have been a huge mistake crashed down on me as all epiphanies do: while I was piss-drunk in the bathroom of a dive bar. I hadn’t talked to Sam in days — something my newly-ex-boyfriend would never have allowed (he hovered over me like a Radioshack bankruptcy clearance sale drone). I wondered if I gave up someone who adored me for someone who couldn’t give two shits about the PBR tears streaming from my bloodshot eyes.
Unsurprisingly, research has found that relationships founded on homewrecking tend to be more dysfunctional. As one researcher writes: “individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships. They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality, and engaged in higher rates of infidelity compared to non-poached participants.”
That study also found that people who have been poached generally share the same shitty personality traits. Lower empathy, lower impulse control and more selfishness, to name a few.
Sam and I seemed to share these, to a degree. When Sam’s girlfriend poked her head through his open window in the middle of the night and saw me butt naked on the bed sheets, I felt more triumphant than shameful. I was a dick. A dick-thieving dick, no less.
However, I’ve stopped considering what we’ve done as “stealing.” Our choices to leave our partners were deliberate. The notion that the person “stolen” is a passive party is completely delusional. They choose to screw over their partner just as much as the person who lured them away.
Let’s just call “mate poaching” what it is: cheating.
However, unlike the current discourse, let’s not dismiss it as something that always ends in disaster. Plenty of people in relationships that are either emotionally unsatisfying or unhealthy get “stolen,” and go on to enjoy long-term, successful relationships with their “home-wrecker.”
It happened to me.