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3 tactics people use to try and stop themselves from cheating — and why they don't work

INSIDER logoINSIDER 08-09-2018 Lindsay Dodgson
a man sitting on a bed © Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

  • People in about a third of marriages admit to cheating.
  • Some people simply can't avoid temptation.
  • According to a new study, there are three different tactics unfaithful people use to try and stop themselves for cheating.
  • They involve putting more effort into their relationship, avoiding the person they fancy, or thinking about them negatively.
  • Unfortunately, these strategies rarely work.

Some people are serial cheaters. No matter how happy they seem, they can't help chasing after temptation.

However, according to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, there are certain tactics these Casanovas use to try and stop themselves from cheating on their partners.

Related: 20 Subtle Signs You’re in a Bad Marriage and Don’t Know It (Provided by Best Life)

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick asked 362 straight couples about how they resisted the temptation to cheat, three main techniques were revealed.

The first was called "relationship enhancement," and it was the preferred method of 75% of the participants. It's the idea that if you put more into your relationship, you'll be less inclined to cheat. For instance, taking their partner on a date, making more effort with their appearance, or having more s**.

The second tactic is called "proactive avoidance," which means effectively distancing yourself from people who might tempt you. Basically, if you're spending time with someone you start to fancy, it means avoiding them. At the very least, it means not getting to close to them.

The third way people tried to stay faithful was with "derogation of the temptation." This means scolding yourself for having s**ual thoughts about someone else, making yourself feel guilty, and trying to picture the person of your desire in a negative way by focusing on their bad points.

Provided by Getty © Getty Provided by Getty

But the researchers also found in a follow-up study that these strategies are pretty much ineffective, because none had any implication on whether a person cheated or the relationship prospered. Essentially, the tactics may cause people to flirt less, but the consequence is usually the same.

This may be because all the techniques depend on willpower - something cheaters probably don't have a lot of. Or it could be because they aren't putting loads of effort into staying faithful in the first place. Instead, they use the techniques to make themselves feel better in the moment of feeling guilty.

In a post for BPS Digest, psychologist Alex Fradera said the research "paints a gloomy picture."

"We may call upon these techniques, but they don't appear to make much difference in staving off temptation," he wrote.

However, not all is lost. In another study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers from Florida State University asked 233 newlywed couples whether they had cheated, and 37 owned up to it.

Related: What’s causing nearly half of couples to consider a ‘sleep break-up’? (Provided by Buzz60)


Then, the participants were asked to disengage from attractive pictures of people of the opposite s** on a computer screen. Those who were better at automatically not being interested in the pictures were 50% less likely to have cheated.

They were also asked about how attractive the images were, and the participants all said they found them less alluring than a group of single people did - suggesting people in relationships downplay the attractiveness of other people.

"If I meet someone captivating at a party, I might get home and decide to tell myself they aren't so great (ticking the box for that strategy)," wrote Fradera. "But if I'm unpracticed, I may not persuade myself. In fact I may wrestle with myself and end up ruminating on that person all the more."

In other words, if you are prone to temptation, maybe it's best to prep yourself beforehand if you know you're about to meet someone new. This is especially true if your inhibitions are lowered from drinking alcohol.

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