Science Has Bad News for That Jerk Who Stole Your Significant Other

It's like a Taylor Swift song: The cheaters gonna cheat cheat cheat cheat cheat. And cheat some more. 

A new study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, has given validation to the maxim "once a cheater, always a cheater." The research shows that if a person stole their boo from someone else, or if their new boo cheated on a significant other in order to start a relationship with them, the odds are stacked against the new couple. 

A research team led by social psychologist Joshua D. Foster noticed a number of trends in three different studies about "mate poaching," or the act of stealing a mate from another. Their key finding: "We observed reliable evidence," the study's abstract reports, "that individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied and less invested in their relationships. They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality and engaged in higher rates of infidelity compared to non-poached participants."

The grass is always greener: The poached person has a high probability of repeating the past, meaning the poacher has a good chance of being cheated on themselves. 

"It makes intuitive sense that people who were poached by their partners showed less commitment and satisfaction in their existing relationship," psychologist Christian Jarrett told Research Digest. "After all, if they were willing to abandon a partner in the past, why should they not be willing or even keen to do so again?"

That logic has been borne out in previous research. A recent study by the University of Denver examining 484 unmarried adults ages 18 to 35 found that cheaters were 3.5 times more likely to cheat again.

Furthermore, the study illustrates another negative feature of cheaters, ie. the "mate-poached" — "Individuals who were successfully mate poached by their current partners tend[ed] to be socially passive, not particularly nice to others, careless and irresponsible, and narcissistic. They also tend[ed] to desire and engage in sexual behaviour outside of the confines of committed relationships." 

While there is indeterminate research about why people cheat — the list is myriad, endless and, at times, nonsensical — this study reveals the effects of relationships comprised of one or more immediate cheater. These relationships are prone to significant and serious problems regarding fidelity and correlative emotions of trust, compassion and cooperation. 

The lesson: Don't chase people who are already in relationships. Oh, and karma is real

h/t The Science of Us

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Marcie Bianco

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a Staff Writer at Mic, a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine, and an adjunct associate professor at Hunter College. She has contributed to AfterEllen, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Lambda Literary, XO Jane, and The Women’s Review of Books. She writes and lectures about ethics, from feminism to race relations. Her current writing projects include a manuscript about lesbian academic affairs and a collection of feminist essays.

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