Identified patterns that precede infidelity in the relationship

Is it possible to foresee that one of the partners in a marital relationship (or both) will start an affair with someone else? Second article published on the website IFLScience, researchers from the University of Tilburg (Netherlands) identified a pattern of gradual decline in the relationship before an individual has an affair – and that, once the affair happens, very rarely does the relationship return to being healthy afterwards. The results, published in the magazine psychological sciencesuggest that there are clear reductions in well-being before such a dramatic event, which may help explain and identify why such choices are made in relationships.

“Infidelity is thought to have detrimental consequences for personal and relationship well-being,” the authors write. “However, the empirical literature remains inconclusive on whether infidelity leads to relationship problems, represents a mere symptom of troubled relationships, or both.”

Aiming to offer insight into whether relationship problems actually precede affairs or if they mostly happen afterwards (or even both), researchers analyzed a cohort of 947 German people (609 who were unfaithful and 338 victims of infidelity). They were followed for an average of eight years to show how events affected their relationships.

dramatic changes

Most of these people completed the study to completion. Each of them was in a committed relationship and had experienced infidelity, and another group was matched with individuals who had not. Each person’s well-being was monitored by self-report, including overall psychological well-being and relationship satisfaction.

Predictably, the results showed that the obvious happens after an infidelity event: people who cheated on their partner reported lower self-esteem, lower relationship satisfaction, and less intimacy. Interestingly, event victims only reported lower self-esteem and more conflict, but other measures of well-being did not decrease.

However, before the events of infidelity, dramatic changes in the relationship often occurred. Almost all indicators of relationship well-being gradually declined before the affair. During this period, more conflict and less satisfaction were reported by both parties.

After the infidelity affair, most relationships did not recover. However, this was not always the case with unfaithful women and couples with lower relationship commitments. Another important detail: for years after the event, instances of infidelity were different from most other life events. While most people recover their well-being after several serious events, people involved in infidelity do not.

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