The Big Questions

Life, death and free will.

Who Cheats on Their Partner?

Who will cheat on you?

Close, intimate relationships are an essential part of human existence. And obviously, when a partner cheats, it isn't exactly going to brighten your day. New research by Nathan DeWall (psychology professor University of Kentucky) and colleagues explored the role of attachment style in cheating behavior and attitudes.

Basically, there are three types of attachment styles. The first is a secure attachment style, which is characterized by positive past relationship experiences and well, security. The second is the anxious attachment style, which is characterized by inconsistent past relationships. For this style, see the classic clingy partner. The third is avoidant attachment style, which is characterized by a sense of isolation and resistance to getting close to others. For this style, see the partner that never really opens up to the other person (or anyone!).

Their findings indicate that people with avoidant attachment styles are more accepting of other's cheating behavior and are more likely to cheat themselves. It also showed that these people spend longer times gazing at attractive people outside of the relationship, and view alternatives to their current relationship more favorably.

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Do these findings suggest that all avoidantly attached people cheat, or that all secure or anxious ambivalent people do not? Of course not. But they do show that on average, they are more likely to.

If you are currently with someone who has an avoidant attachment style, this research also suggests that if this person reports a high level of committment to the relationship, then they are no more likely to cheat than other attachment style individuals. That is, the reason avoidant attachment style people are more likely to cheat is because they are typically less committed. It is not, for instance, because they (on average) have less self-control or are overly impulsive.

So yeah, getting cheated on isn't exactly the gold standard of happiness or anything. But perhaps you can reduce the chances of this happening by being with partners that do not have an avoidant attachment style.

Attachment style reliably predicts cheating in relationships.

Nathan Heflick completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at The University of South Florida.

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