Dealing with cheating — or even the possibility of a partner cheating — is most relationships' worst nightmare. The stakes are so high around cheating, that it's easy to feel like if it happens it can ruin even the best of relationships.
"Cheating and its consequences are one of the most devastating moments in a relationship," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver, tells Bustle. "It turns your whole world upside-down when you find out your partner is cheating, [and] you begin to look at everything in your relationship as a lie, and your self-esteem plummets." With such huge consequences, it's easy to see why you need to know the signs of cheating or factors that influence if someone might cheat. And there may be one big indicator of cheating that you haven't thought to look at before.
New research published in the Journal of International Association for Relationship Research shows that there's one big factor that indicates whether your partner is likely to cheat. And it's surprisingly simple: look to the parents. The research, from Texas Tech University and University of Nevada, Reno, looked at how parental infidelity affected their children's relationships. Researchers tested this over the course of three different studies with a mixtures of undergraduate and adult respondents. Respondents were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement about statements related to cheating, such as “A relationship can become stronger after an infidelity" and “Infidelity causes relationships to end”.
The three studies showed that parental infidelity is linked with children's infidelity.
Together, the three studies showed that parental infidelity is linked with children's infidelity. So someone may have a more lax view of cheating from having seen their parents do it, which may make them more likely to do it in their own relationship.
Now, that's a big statement, but it's important to emphasize that this link is not some sort of fate or death sentence. My father cheated constantly and it certainly didn't make me more relaxed about infidelity. In fact, it probably made me the opposite. So though the link totally makes sense, don't assume that because your partner's parents cheated they automatically will too. Instead, use it as a jumping off point for conversation.
If You're Worried Your Partner Might Cheat
If your partner's parents cheated or if you're worried about them cheating in general, try not to not let let worries or jealousy take over. "We all experience jealousy at some point; the key to keeping things healthy is being able to identify the feeling and not allow it to control behavior," marriage and family therapist and relationship expert Esther Boykin tells Bustle.
If you think there's a real chance that they might cheat, it's important to talk to them. You can use this study as a way to talk about infidelity and how big of a deal you think it is. If you can get on the same page about what infidelity means, you can set up boundaries and have a more honest conversation.
If You Think They're Cheating
If you do think that your partner is cheating — if you have some proof — take a deep breath. "Stay calm and call a trusted friend to give you support," psychologist, image consultant and dating expert Dr. Jennifer Rhodes tells Bustle. "Do not react impulsively. Given the circumstances of your relationship, you may need to respond in a thoughtful manner."
Rather than try to "catch" them cheating, confront them in an honest way and help them open up. No matter what happens between you and your partner, remember that them cheating is not your fault. "It can scar you emotionally for a very long time and interfere with future relationships," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "You have a very big decision to make. Do not make excuses for this person or believe in any way that it’s your fault. The person cheating make a conscious decision to do this. They could have told you that things are not going well in the relationship and made it clear that continuing it may not be the best thing."
Cheating can be a huge issue in relationships and there's no one, single reason people cheat. Sure, there's a link between parental infidelity and children's infidelity, but that doesn't mean it's a guarantee someone will cheat. Every relationship is different — and there's no point punishing your partner for something their parents did. When it comes to infidelity, or anything else you're worried about in your relationship, your best bet is to give your relationship a real shot at success by talking to your partner first.