Just when you thought love couldn’t possibly get more complicated, a study by Florida State University has revealed that sexual satisfaction between partners makes it more likely that one of them will cheat. Before you walk down the aisle with that person who gives you the best sex you’ve ever had, consider these interesting findings.
If you’re a woman, a lot hinges on your attractiveness. If you’re whatever researchers considered an “attractive” woman, good news: you’re less likely to cheat or be cheated on. Less attractive women were more likely to have extramarital sex than less attractive men, but men who were married to less attractive women were more likely to cheat than women who had unattractive husbands. Great.
Hookup history can also predict infidelity. Men and women also differed when it came to how likely their sexual history would predict infidelity. Women who’d previously had lots of short-term sexual partners were less likely to cheat on their husbands while men with more short-term sexual partners were more likely to be unfaithful.
If you don’t want to cheat, just look away. Now you have a reason to raise an eyebrow when your partner claims they were “just looking” — the study participants who took longer to look away from photos of attractive people were far more likely to cheat than people who quickly looked away from the photos. In fact, participants who looked away less than a second faster than the average time were 50% less likely to stray.
It also doesn’t hurt to talk yourself down. “Evaluative devaluation” — or mentally convincing yourself that the person you’re looking at isn’t really as hot as they appear — was effective in reducing the likelihood that a partner would cheat, according to the study. The participants who didn’t cheat were more likely to rate photos of very attractive people lower on the attractiveness scale than the participants who were unfaithful.
The findings are a big deal in the social media age. How many relationships has social media ruined in the past decade or so? We spend a lot of time looking at others’ lives through a filtered lens, so it’s not too surprising when someone who’s constantly checking out sexy Instagram pictures starts to see their own partner as less attractive by comparison. The researchers believe that the “increased availability and access to alternative partners” that social media provides is another challenge to successful relationships, and they hope that their findings will help couples navigate the temptation posed by the “send a private message” button.
The study only applied to married couples. The study was performed over the course of 3.5 years on 233 newly married couples, so the results don’t necessarily apply to couples who’ve been married long-term or haven’t gotten married. Yeah, it’s kind of (OK, really) disheartening to know that you’re more likely to be cheated on in your sexually satisfying marriage, but it’s also a good reminder to not rush into a legal commitment and really make sure you know the person you’re tying the knot with.
Researchers hope that the findings can help therapists. In the study, looking away from or “devaluing” attractive people seemed to be more innate rather than a conscious effort, but the researchers are hoping that therapists helping struggling couples can use the information to suggest ways to help their clients. If one partner is struggling with a crush on a coworker, for example, the counselor might suggest writing down a list of all the things they didn’t like about the coworker. Transforming unconscious habits into deliberate ones might help save marriages.
This doesn’t mean you should only date people you have bad sex with. On the contrary, having good sexual chemistry is a huge part of happy relationships. Even though you and your partner may be less likely to cheat if you have bad sex, your relationship might still be doomed to fail if you can’t satisfy each other in bed.
Don’t get paranoid just because you and your partner have great sex. There are so many factors that go into whether or not a relationship will succeed or fail, and people cheat for all sorts of reasons. If things are going great in all areas of your relationship, one study shouldn’t be the reason you start snooping through each other’s phones. Give your partner the same love and attention you’d want to receive, and don’t marry them unless they do the same for you. And please, keep having mind-blowing sex with each other.
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