~ November 2021 ~
- Lucia O’Sullivan, a sex researcher who studies monogamy, said couples who use three common strategies are more likely to avoid cheating.
- Focusing on connecting with your partner and reflecting on the potential aftermath of cheating can help.
- You should also always communicate with a new partner about what “cheating” means to you, said O’Sullivan.
On a recent episode of the podcast “Sex & Psychology,” hosted by Kinsey Institute sex researcher Justin Lehmiller, O’Sullivan explained the three strategies successfully monogamous couples use to remain faithful.
Though these techniques can help, O’Sullivan said couples must also be willing to communicate about how they define cheating. She said her research showed people don’t typically discuss what “cheating” means when they enter a new relationship. Since everyone has a different opinion on what cheating entails, it leads to miscommunication and relationship issues later, said O’Sullivan.
To stop cheating, you have to recognize and avoid attraction
By nature, humans are always exposed to other people they find attractive. If someone wants to be monogamous, they have to avoid acting on those instincts, O’Sullivan said.
She found couples who maintain their monogamy tend to use three tactics:
- They focus on their partner and how wonderful they are, which means consistently investing in the relationship through date nights and other forms of intimacy, said O’Sullivan.
- They focus on negative or obnoxious qualities when they’re exposed to someone they otherwise find attractive outside of their relationship.
- They think about the aftermath of cheating and all they would lose if they were unfaithful.
Ultimately, O’Sullivan found people who managed their attraction to people outside of their relationship were more likely to remain faithful.
“It’s one thing to have a crush from afar, but another to communicate it, because to communicate it is to open that door,” O’Sullivan told Lehmiller.
If you act on your attraction verbally or physically, you’re more likely to cheat
That’s why coupled-up folks who act on their attraction to another person, even subtly, can be tempted to cheat, said O’Sullivan.
She said those who stray often spend time with what she called an “attractive other,” which devalues their existing monogamous relationship.
When someone in a monogamous relationship communicates their attraction to that other person, whether verbally or otherwise, it also opens the door for cheating, O’Sullivan said.
She said people who notice this pattern in themselves, but want to stop, should be more cognizant of their thoughts and actions leading up to the moment they feel an urge to act outside of their relationship. With more practice, they can employ the cheating prevention strategies and stop themselves from crossing a line.