These Are The Factors That Can Help Predict if Your Spouse Might Cheat on You

Certain behaviours to watch out for.

If you’re preoccupied with infidelity, new research may help set your mind at ease.

Two longitudinal studies have revealed some of the factors that correlate with cheating – and, on the flipside, with fidelity, at least in the short term.

 Over 3.5 years, researchers at Florida State University followed 233 newly married couples across two longitudinal studies, comparing certain behavioural tendencies to the couple’s fidelity over time, and whether they were still together.

The team focussed on two psychological processes we may engage when assessing potential romantic partners: ‘attentional disengagement’ and ‘evaluative devaluation’.

Attentional disengagement happens when when you’re able to tear your attention away from something – in the case of the research, the participants were shown pictures of attractive people who could be considered a romantic option.

Meanwhile evaluative devaluation is mentally “downgrading” a potential romantic partner, even if it is one you’d consider especially attractive.

Both studies assessed attention disengagement, and the second one additionally looked at evaluative devaluation as well. The researchers checked in on the couples’ infidelity and relationship status multiple times over the duration of the studies.

The team, led by psychology professor Jim McNulty, showed both members of the couple photographs of very attractive men and women, as well as photographs of average-looking men and women (although it’s not clear by which metric attractiveness was gauged).

 The team found that those partners who disengaged their attention from attractive photos more quickly than average were nearly 50 percent less likely to cheat on their spouses.

Those who looked at attractive photos for longer than average were much more likely to cheat.

And those people who mentally downgraded attractive people, opting to find them less attractive, were also less likely to cheat on their spouses.

It’s also worth noting that none of these behaviours are conscious – but if you’re aware of them, you can nip your roving eye in the bud.

“People are not necessarily aware of what they’re doing or why they’re doing it,” McNulty said.

“These processes are largely spontaneous and effortless, and they may be somewhat shaped by biology and/or early childhood experiences.”

Although not the focus of the study, the results also identified other factors that correlated strongly with the likelihood of infidelity.

Younger people, those less satisfied with their relationships, and those with a satisfactory sex life were more likely to cheat on the partners. The latter is a surprising result, but the researchers hypothesised it could be because those people had a more positive attitude towards sex.

The woman’s attractiveness in a heterosexual couple also played a role. Less attractive women were more likely to cheat themselves – and also to be cheated on by their husbands. However, the man’s attractiveness didn’t seem to make a difference to the likelihood of infidelity.

Finally, sexual history also played a role. Men with a larger number of short-term partners before marriage were more likely to cheat, whereas women with a smaller number of partners before marriage were more likely to cheat.

While the team only looked at a a fairly small pool of newlyweds, insights from these results could potentially help stave off infidelity before it even occurs, the researchers said.

“These findings suggest a role for basic psychological processes in predicting infidelity, highlight the critical role of automatic processes in relationship functioning, and suggest novel ways to promote relationship success,” they wrote in their paper.

The research has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Women with this gene are more likely to cheat, research suggests .

When it comes to infidelity, men often get away with blaming their behaviour on the ‘biological urge’ to spread their seed. But recent research suggests that women may also inherit the impulse to cheat.

In fact, scientists have found one gene in particular that seems to be linked to a woman’s likelihood of being unfaithful.

A study published at the end of last year looked at 7,400 sets of twins in Finland aged between 18 and 49 in long-term relationships. Out of the participants, 9.8 percent of the men and 6.4 percent of women had had at least one affair in the past 12 months.

The researchers then compared the difference in the rates of cheating between identical twins, who share all their genes, and non-identical twins, who don’t. The results showed that 63 percent of the variation in infidelity in men and 40 percent in women could be attributed to genetics.

“Isolating specific genes is more difficult because thousands of genes influence any behaviour and the effect of any individual gene is tiny,” lead researcher Brendan Zietsch, from the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a press release. “But we did find tentative evidence for a specific gene influencing infidelity in women.’’

The gene in question is the vasopressin receptor gene, which is involved in creating trust, empathy and sexual bonding in animals, so it makes sense that this would have some kind of affect on sexual behaviour. But, interestingly, this gene appeared to have no effect on promiscuity in men.

Obviously correlation doesn’t equal causation, but research in animal models also backs up the idea that vasopressin – as well as other hormones linked to our emotions, such as dopamine and oxytocin – may play a larger role in fidelity than previously thought, as psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman reports for the New York Times.

A lot of this research has focussed on the vole, a little rodent that has two closely related species with very different lifestyles – the prairie vole is monogamous, while the montane vole is sexually promiscuous.

Researchers have found that the differences in the sexual behaviour of these two species can be explained by the different positioning of vasopressin receptors in their brains, which changes the hormones’ effects. In fact, scientists have shown it’s possible to take a cheating male montane vole and make him faithful, simply by changing the expression of the vasopressin receptor gene. They can do the same with females by altering the oxytocin (AKA the ‘love hormone‘) receptor gene.

So what does all this mean for your chance of being cheated on by your significant other? While more research needs to be done, the research could help biologists answer one their biggest questions: why, evolutionarily speaking, are women driven to cheat?

For men, the benefits are clear, but for females, who can only give birth to a limited number of offspring, the perks are less obvious. Maybe it all comes down to the fact that, depending on our genes, for some of us, cheating just feels good, as  Friedman explains:

There may be no clear evolutionary advantage to female infidelity, but sex has never just been about procreation. Cheating can be intensely pleasurable because, among other things, it involves novelty and a degree of sensation seeking, behaviours that activate the brain’s reward circuit … which conveys not just a sense of pleasure but tells your brain this is an important experience worth remembering and repeating.”

Either way, the key to understanding why humans, and other animals, are faithful (or not), may lie in the genetic programming of a few key hormones. Read Friedman’s piece over at the New York Times to find out more.

Why do people cheat?

Esther Perel has taken TED by storm once again with her brilliantly challenging talk on ‘rethinking infidelity: a talk for anyone who has ever loved’

Do people who are happy in a relationship cheat? Why do people cheat? Why does infidelity in a digital age feel like ‘death from a thousand cuts’? Esther Perel, renown sex therapist and Psychologies‘ sex expert says that often people don’t cheat because they are unhappy in a relationship.

“When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner that we are turning away from, but the person that we have ourselves become,” Perel says. “And it isn’t so much that we are looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.”

So why do people cheat? Often when you have lost someone close to you, you are more vulnerable to an affair. “Death and mortality often live in the shadow of an affair, because they raise the question: Is this it? Is there more? Am I going on for another 25 years like this? Will I ever feel alive again?” she said. “Perhaps these questions have propelled people to cross the line and some affairs are an attempt to beat back deadness and an antidote to death.”

Does infidelity mean the relationship is doomed? Not always. It can be a great opportunity for growth and to reinvent your relationship.