Once a Cheater, More Likely a Cheater Again (and Again)
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because if something seems too good to be true, like the Crime Dog says, it probably is. Or isn’t.
By Anne Miller
A few dates, maybe a few months, and you guys are getting serious. You ask: Have you ever cheated on anyone? If your paramour says that doesn’t matter, they’re wrong. Someone in a relationship who had sex with another is
more likely to cheat again, says research from psychology graduate student Kayla Knopp at the University of Denver, who presented her study at the American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, D.C., this summer. She queried 484 unmarrieds age 18-34, who had least two relationships during the study time frame. Relationships are part of a continuous development, so it’s only natural that past experience affects how we treat future partners, Knopp wrote in an email. Interestingly, that’s what most people already believe, for good reason: “If we think infidelity is something that can just happen to anyone, we probably won’t feel very secure in our relationships.”
Although, if the gorgeous and smart Uma Thurman can lose a husband to the nanny, it really could happen to anyone.
For some, the likelihood is more pronounced. African-American, Latino men, those who have a higher level of education (i.e. more than a high school degree) and those who make more money are all more likely to cheat, according to a variety of peer-reviewed studies. When wives brought home the bacon, men were five times as likely to cheat.
There are some bright spots, though, especially for women. Men remain more likely to forgive a spouse for a dalliance. And year seven of marriage remains the most dangerous time. Once a couple crosses that threshold, the odds of a woman cheating fall — though turn to men, who are more likely to stray around year 18.
But the adage has its skeptics within the scientific community. While there are certainly personality traits that increase a lover’s likelihood to cheat — like sexual permissiveness — the most important factor isn’t an inherent character trait but the context of the relationship, Kristen Mark, Ph.D., and director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky told OZY. How satisfied partners are emotionally and sexually in a relationship is a much better predictor of infidelity, her research shows. And it’s more intuitive that way, she proposes. “If you are completely satisfied with your partner, and retaining him/her requires monogamy, why risk it?”
When in doubt, turn to the Internet. The dating site OkCupid has a quiz to figure out if your partner is cheating, noting that it was used “in a university campus with outstanding accuracy” (though declining to name the university). We’ll just leave it right here in case you have a, um, friend or something, who might want to take a look.
Nathan Siegel contributed reporting.