New research suggests that the old adage “once a cheater, always a cheater” may actually ring true. According to a study conducted by Kayla Knopp at the University of Denver, those who have had sexual liaisons outside of their relationships were three and a half times more likely to do so in subsequent relationships.
Knopp’s method consisted of surveying 484 adults between the ages of 18 to 35, aksing them questions such as: “Have you had sexual relations with someone other than your partner since you began seriously dating?” and “Has your partner had sexual relations with someone other than you since you seriously began dating?”
Although this study indicates there may be some truth to the adage that cheaters never quit, the study does have several limitations. First, the study specifically targets unmarried individuals. Thus, there is no indication that the same results would be found if married individuals were surveyed. Secondly, the study relied primarily on the subjects self-reporting, so it is only reliable to the extent all subjects were truthful. Finally, Knopp and her team specifically asked participants about “sexual contact” with someone other than their partner, and did not address non-sexual infidelity such as emotional affairs, online relationships, sexting, or other types of non-sexual physical contact.
Despite the limitations of Knopp’s study and results, her study did reveal another surprising finding: the pattern of cheating carries over into the lives of non-cheaters as well. According to Knopp’s study, participants who had unfaithful partners in past relationships were three times more likely to be victims of cheating in subsequent relationships. Although this study does not reveal why people cheat, the results may possibly help those who have either cheated in the past or been the victims of an unfaithful partner in the past.
Couples should communicate openly with each other about the topic of infidelity and each other’s expectations, especially if fidelity has been an issue in the past for either partner. Pinpointing and planning for the difficulties that may precipitate infidelity may be the best way to avoid it in the future.