Originally posted on Bustle
Why do people cheat? It can feel like an impossible question to answer — especially as everyone will have their own reasons. But it’s natural to wonder how and why cheating happens, especially because cheating can have such a destructive effect on a relationship.
“Cheating and it’s consequences are one of the most devastating moments in a relationship,” relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver, tells Bustle. “It turns your whole world upside-down… you begin to look at everything in your relationship as a lie, and your self-esteem plummets.”
But a new study gives some interesting insight into what makes us more likely to stray. Researchers at Florida State University followed 233 newly married couples for up to three and a half years, looking at a variety of factors and, of course, whether or not they cheated. They argued that, in a time when we’re constantly plugged in, it’s more important than ever to understand what leads people to stray.
“With the advent of social media, and thus the increased availability of and access to alternative partners, understanding how people avoid the temptation posed by alternative partners may be more relevant than ever to understanding relationships,” the authors said.
One of the most surprising things about the study was that people who had better sex — those who reported being more satisfied with their sex lives in their relationship — were more likely to cheat. It spins the idea that cheating is all about being sex-deprived right on its head. Instead, the authors suggested that it may be that these people feel more positive about sex generally, and have a tendency to seek it out, whether they’re in a relationship or not.
But that wasn’t all the researchers found. Here are the other factors that influenced whether or not someone would cheat because, well, it’s pretty complicated.
1. Attention Disengagement Played A Role
What is attention disengagement? Well, it’s basically what it sounds like. The researchers showed participant studies of “attractive” people and saw how quickly they could disengage their attention — or look away. They found that individuals who looked away even a few hundred milliseconds faster than average were almost 50 percent less likely to cheat.
2. Devaluation Played A Role, Too
Devaluation is another psychological process — it’s whether you “downgrade” how attractive another person is in your mind, especially if they’re good looking. Those who were more faithful were more likely to devalue the attractiveness of photos they were showed.
3. Age Matters
Young people were more likely to not be satisfied with their relationship — and to stray. So maybe it’s not just about getting bored with each other. Young people stray even more than older ones, who presumably have often been together for longer.
4. With Attractiveness, It Really Varied
Interestingly, the study found that “unattractive” women were more likely to have an affair than “attractive” women, but the same wasn’t true for “unattractive” men. However, men were more likely to stray if their partner was “unattractive” — and that wasn’t the case for women. It’s unclear what they considered “attractive” as it’s so subjective, but they seemed to find a link there.
5. Sexual History Came Into Play
Sexual history was another area where women and men differed. Men who had a history of short-term sexual partners were found to be more likely to cheat. But for women, the opposite was true.
There’s probably never going to be one single reason that people cheat in relationships. Every single person is different, but it is useful to get a sense of what makes people stray in general, because it’s not always what you think. Having a great sex life might not mean that someone will stay faithful — and men and women may react differently to their partner’s attractiveness levels. Just make sure that your relationship is healthy and honest and that you constantly touch base with each other — that’s the most you can do.