What Stops People From Cheating On Their Partners, According To Science

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

There's a big difference between being tempted to cheat on a partner and actually doing it. When it comes to long-term relationships, having the urge to cheat actually isn't that unusual at all, which is probably why a lot of research has been done into why people cheat in relationships.

"It is perfectly normal to have straying eyes and thoughts after you have been in a long-term relationship for some time," Shane Birkel, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Part of the reason this happens is that couples get swept up in their day to day lives and forget to make their relationship a priority. In the beginning there is a lot more excitement, novelty, and a sense that life is changing for the better. After being with a partner for a long time it is typical to feel bored, stuck, and to desire something more exciting. We take it for granted that having a good relationship takes work and in order to build the life we want, we have to make an effort."

But is building the life that we want a good enough reason not to cheat? A recent study looked into what stops people from cheating. Research from the College of Management Academic Studies in Israel, that was published in The Journal of Sex Research, asked 423 people to fill out a survey about how important they thought 29 different reasons for not cheating were, and the results were really fascinating.

Who's Least Likely To Cheat

In a bizarrely specific set of findings, being female, religious, and married for a short period of time made you less likely to want to cheat in hypothetical scenarios.

When People Are Most Likely To Cheat In A Relationship

People were more likely to cheat later in the relationship, with women being most likely to cheat between six and 10 years into a relationship and men being most likely to do so after 11 years. It makes sense that in the early years, when the romance still feels fresh, that you might be less likely to cheat than later on when things have gotten stale or, as Birkel said, you may start to take each other for granted.

Internal Factors Are More Influential Than External Factors

Ashley Batz/Bustle

The other interesting finding was that internal factors were more likely to put someone off cheating than external ones. What do I mean by internal and external? Well, internal factors like a moral code or fear of being alone seemed to influence behavior more than worrying about how your behavior might impact the people around you. Although you can argue that the two are linked— how you treat people probably impacts your likelihood of being alone, right? — it's interesting that we're more inward looking when it comes to deciding whether or not infidelity is worth it.

What To Do If You're Thinking About Cheating

If you're thinking of cheating, taking a moment to think about the long-term consequences can be helpful. So if you're getting caught up in the heat of the moment or feel like doing something rash, then take a breath and try to get some perspective. "Cheating is typically impulsive and people get wrapped up in the here and now," Kelley Kitley, LCSW, tells Bustle. "If they take a step back and recognize some motive traits of the relationship they might be less inclined to destroy it." While some couples do make it through cheating, it can destroy other relationships, so make sure you're thinking it through.

What makes someone cheat or not cheat is always going to be as varied as the people who cheat or resist the urge, but it's interesting to see some general trends in what stops people from cheating.

Gender, religious, and relationship length might be factors, but so are your own internal moral compass and how you want your life to look. So if you're feeling an urge to cheat, take a good long look at where the temptation is coming from — and what the cost could actually be, to you and those around you.