While there’s no crystal ball that can predict whether or not you and your partner will stay faithful for the long haul, there are certain factors that make it less likely that one of you will stray. No matter if you’re dating, engaged, or happily hitched, read on for suggestions on how to protect your bond from infidelity.
1. Check out other people (and let your partner do the same)
It sounds counter-intuitive, but the more you let your partner check out other women, the less likely he is to cheat on you — at least, according to a new report published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In the study, participants were shown photographs of two people of the opposite sex — one showing a “hot” person and one of an “average looking” person. But for half of the study’s subjects, the “hot” photos were shown very briefly (to emulate being scolded by their partners for looking at someone else); because of this, they were able to view the “average looking” person’s image for a longer period of time. The results were shocking: those who were “scolded” for looking at the “hotter” people’s photographs were more likely to say they’d cheat on their partners if they were able to get away with it than the people who were allowed to view the attractive people’s photos more freely did. The first group was also more likely to remember the faces of the attractive people afterward.
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“When you make your partner feel guilty for looking at an attractive person, what you’re really saying is that you don’t trust him — and men who don’t feel trusted are usually more likely to cheat,” says Bethany Marshall, Ph.D., author of Deal Breakers: When to Work on a Relationship and When to Walk Away. “Plus, when he feels like he doesn’t have the freedom to look at other people, he’ll feel resentful and have lingering curiosity about them. So, you can unintentionally make the other woman more appealing to him.” Conversely, acting like you don’t even notice when another girl turns his head will make you seem super-confident, which is attractive to men.
2. Hang out with your in-laws
Going shopping with your mother-in-law may sound painful, but spending time with your partner’s parents is an easy way to cheat-proof your relationship. A study published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that people who get along with their in-laws are less likely to cheat. “Infidelity is a byproduct of feeling like something is missing in the relationship, and when you’re welcomed and accepted by your partner’s family, you’re less likely to cheat because your relationship has an added layer of support, enhancing your closeness,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship. “And when you’re close to your in-laws, cheating seems less desirable because you see how much is on the line — it’s not just a partner; it’s an extended family you’re accountable to and run the risk of losing,” Greer explains.
3. Have lots of sex
OK, there are plenty of times when you’re not in the mood for sex: you just ate a big meal, you have your period or you’re annoyed with your guy, for example. But making a point to have sex with your partner often is the glue to preventing infidelity. “Our research found that 48 percent of men who cheat say that a major cause of them straying is infrequent sexual activity,” says M. Gary Neuman, Ph.D., licensed family counselor and author of The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It. And although the men didn’t define how much sex would be ideal for them (it’s different for each couple), more of them said that having sex frequently is more important than having off-the-charts, spine-tingling sex occasionally. In other words, you don’t have to bust out the lingerie and whatever else he likes on a routine basis in order for your man to stay faithful; just agree to have sex more often (if you’re not already).
4. Get deeply personal with other couples
It’s a well-documented fact that couples who let their emotional spark simmer down are more likely to cheat. Here’s an easy way to squash that urge: Invite another couple along with you for date night. According to research published by Wayne State University in Birmingham, MI, couples that have meaningful conversations with other couples see each other as more exciting. In the study, researchers split couples into two large groups, and then paired each couple with another one to create groups of four individuals. They asked one couple to make small talk (i.e., “What do you think about the weather? Were you stuck in traffic on the way over here?”), while the other was asked to discuss more meaningful topics (“Where do you see yourself in five years? What’s your relationship like with your parents?”). The couples that held conversations covering deeper issues not only saw each other in a brand new light, they also felt more physically attracted to each other, too.
5. Curb the pornography habit (or try enjoying it together)
Surprising research conducted by the Department of Marriage and Family at the University of Chicago found a link between infidelity and pornography. “We aren’t sure why, but men who have watched porn within the last year were more likely to have had an affair at one point in their lives,” says James Furrow, Ph.D., of the Department of Marriage and Family at The National Opinion Research Council at The University of Chicago. If your guy watches pornography (and let’s face it, many people do), bring it out in the open so it’s less secretive and make it an activity that you can share together. That way, neither of you will feel like he’s sneaking around or doing something wrong.
Elise Nersesian has written for Redbook, Stuff and other national magazines.