Women's health * Men's health * Healthy living * Sexual health

Why some people are more likely to cheat

relationships Men and women cheat for different reasons

People with sexual performance anxiety are more likely to cheat on their partners, a study has found.

But being worried about what happens between the sheets is only one of the factors which may indicate whether someone is likely to stray.

Individual personality and relationship factors are better at predicting whether a partner will cheat than religion, marital status, education or gender, researchers at the University of Guelph, Ontario, said.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, is the first to look at how interpersonal factors and sexual personality can predict who is most likely to cheat.

Some 506 men and 412 women in monogamous sexual relationships lasting from three months to 43 years participated in the study.

The participants were questioned about their religion, education, income, relationships and were also assessed for their sexual personality.

Although both men and women reported similar rates of infidelity (23 and 19 per cent respectively), different factors indicated whether a man or woman was likely to be unfaithful.

Personality traits were one of the biggest predictors of sexual infidelity in men, the study found.

Risk-taking, sexual performance anxiety, becoming easily sexually aroused were all traits associated with male infidelity, the study found.

“People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused, or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an ‘out’ if the encounter doesn’t go well — they don’t have to see them again,” said Dr Robin Milhausen, a sexuality researcher at the university.

For women, relationship happiness was the most important factor. Women who were dissatisfied with their relationship were more than twice as likely to cheat, and those who felt they were sexually incompatible with their partners were nearly three times as likely.

“All kinds of things predict infidelity,” Dr Milhausen said. “What this study says is that when you put all of those things together, for men, personality characteristics are so strong, they bounce everything else out of the model.

“Taken at face value, this research might seem to just support sexual stereotypes: Women are just concerned about the relationship, and, for men, once a cheater, always a cheater, regardless of their relationship.

"But the caveat is that there are a lot of variants and factors that are not explained here that might impact whether someone cheats,” she added.

This article was published on Tue 26 July 2011

Image © Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

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