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Patterns that can lead to affairs in committed relationships identified by scientists

Patterns that can lead to affairs in committed relationships identified by scientists

An affair can be a symptom of an already troubled relationship, it argues

There are few things you can do to betray your partner's trust more than cheating on them.

If you have spent time building a life with someone, finding out that they have gone behind your back and cheated on you is absolutely devastating. Even if you manage to reconcile, there's always the shadow of that cheating hanging over the relationship.

Now, a study may have identified some of the signs that someone in a stable relationship may cheat. This isn't things like someone suddenly losing weight, or spending lots of time at work, or anything like that.

It's not so much with either of the partners as individuals, but if there are problems in the relationship.

The study suggests that cheating is a symptom of a relationship which is already experiencing problems even before one partner cheats.

The study looked at what can lead to cheating.
Peter Dazeley / Getty

Put simply, if you're both happy in the relationship then you're not likely to think about looking elsewhere.

The study looked at a group of just under 1000 people in Germany for the signs that trouble could be brewing in paradise. The main question was whether cheating made the relationship worse, whether the relationship declined prior to cheating, or some combination of both.

The authors wrote: “Infidelity is largely believed to have damaging consequences for personal and relationship well-being.

“Yet the empirical literature remains inconclusive regarding whether infidelity leads to relationship problems, represents a mere symptom of troubled relationships, or both.”

The experiment followed them over the course of eight years, with some 947 people participating.

When it came to the immediate aftermath of cheating, it confirmed a lot of long-standing beliefs. Perpetrators experienced lower self-esteem, lower relationship satisfaction, and lower intimacy.

Interestingly, while victims of cheating did report lower self-esteem and greater conflict, they didn't report significantly lower in other areas.

Many reported changes in the relationship prior to cheating.
Jackyenjoyphotography / Getty

The main result, however, came in studying the period leading up to when the infidelity first took place.

In the period leading up to the infidelity there were often big shifts or changes in the relationship. Not only that, but a lot of indicators for relationship well-being and satisfaction worsened in the period leading up to cheating.

Often, both parties reported more conflict and less satisfaction.

Unfortunately most relationships did not recover following the infidelity, though it did slightly depend on who cheated. If a woman cheated there was a slightly higher chance of recovery, and likewise if the relationship was in lower commitment.

So, cheating may be a symptom of problems, but it can also be the final nail in the coffin for a relationship.

The moral of the story seems to be that communication and making sure that everyone involved in the relationship understands if someone is unhappy are vital.

Featured Image Credit: Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty/Pexels

Topics: Sex and Relationships