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What Makes Us Cheat?

Chasing the crystal ball of fidelity.

| July 28th, 2011
Photo Illustration by YouBeauty; image by Thinkstock
What Makes Us Cheat?

Want to know how to predict if your partner will cheat? Take a long, hard look at his forehead. After about 10 seconds—when your intense staring really starts to freak him out—stop. Now, what did you see?

Aside from a few beads of sweat (and maybe a new wrinkle or two), probably nothing. However, just because men aren't born with "cheater" stamped in red across their foreheads doesn't mean you can't assess their propensity for infidelity. You just need to look a little deeper.

Case in point: According to a new study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, a man's personality is more likely to indicate the potential for infidelity compared to his religion, marital status or education.

In particular, researchers found that risk-takers, men with sexual performance anxiety and those who are easily sexually aroused are more prone to cheating. In contrast, women participating in the study were more apt to be unfaithful when they were dissatisfied with their relationship or felt they were sexually incompatible with their partner.

"All kinds of things predict infidelity," Robin Milhausen, sexuality researcher and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "What this study says is that when you put all of those things together, for men, personality characteristics are so strong, they bounce everything else out of the model."

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So, aside from subjecting your future or current significant other to a Myers-Briggs personality test, can you really predict if your partner will cheat? The answer is no, but that doesn't mean you can't take a highly-educated guess.

"Personality traits that aren't necessarily directly related to sex could be key indicators," said Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a sexuality counselor and author of "She Comes First." "I've observed in my own practice that thrill-seekers and men who need a higher degree of stimulation have a high potential for infidelity."

But just because your honey isn't base-jumping his way through your relationship doesn't mean he doesn't exhibit qualities of a risk-taker. Even reckless driving, such as speeding and aggressive maneuvering, could fall under the umbrella of thrill seeking, Kerner added.

Clues to your partner's potential for cheating can show up in the bedroom as well. For example, while a desire to introduce porn, sex toys and sexual fantasies can be indicative of a healthy sexual relationship, a strong, unrelenting need for the aforementioned could be symptomatic of someone who's more inclined to stray, Kerner said.

Moreover, men who suffer from sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, also tip the scales as being predisposed to be unfaithful. "They can feel humiliated, blame their partner and retreat altogether," Kerner said, who added that it's likely they'll eventually cheat to hide their problem in a situation where the stakes aren't as high.

"People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused," Milhausen explained in the press release. "Or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an 'out' if they encounter doesn't go well—they don't have to see them again."

MORE: Healthy, Safe Sex Makes You Beautiful

At the end of the day, none of us has a crystal forehead to look into, leaving relationships and love affairs as life's greatest leaps of faith. Understanding the roles that core personality traits and genetics play in human behavior is a step in the right direction. Research can provide some of the tools we need to try to circumvent infidelity, but it's up to individuals to communicate with their partner in order to identify when these issues arise.

"If you don't try to control him, and encourage him to talk about how he feels, over time you'll be able to tell what kind of character he has," said Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of "Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage."

In other cheating news, find out the places men are most likely to cheat.

Tags: Sex, Research
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