In recent research from Florida State University, scientists found ways to keep love and also identify clear predictors for failed relationships.
Currently, the divorce rate in the United States ranges between 40 and 50 percent, and the ubiquity of social media makes it easier to connect with others.
In the study, the FSU research team followed 233 newly married couples for up to 3 1/2 years and documented intimate details about their relationships.
This includes marital satisfaction, long-term commitment, whether they had engaged in infidelity and if they were still together.
They tested two psychological processes that everyone shares in varying degrees: Attentional Disengagement and Evaluative Devaluation of potential romantic partners.
Disengagement from possible partners is the ability to direct attention away from an attractive person who could be considered a romantic option.
Devaluation of possible partners is a tendency to mentally downgrade the attractiveness of another person, even if he or she is especially good looking.
The research team tested newlyweds on those processes by showing them photographs of highly attractive men and women, as well as average-looking men and women.
They found that participants who quickly disengaged their attention from an attractive person were less likely to engage in infidelity.
The time of that response was notable: Individuals who looked away in as little as a few hundred milliseconds faster than average were nearly 50% less likely to have sex outside marriage.
On the other hand, partners who took significantly longer to look away from romantic alternatives had a higher risk of infidelity, and their marriages were more likely to fail.
The team found the tendency to devalue, or downgrade, the attractiveness of potential romantic partners also lowered the risk of infidelity and raised the likelihood of maintaining the relationship.
Faithful people evaluated romantic alternatives much more negatively.
Both reactions—disengagement and devaluation—minimized the risk of infidelity and, consequently, were predictors of relationships with a higher likelihood of succeeding.
The FSU research team believes these findings could offer mental health practitioners’ practical suggestions to help people stay committed to their partners.
While the processes may be ingrained to some degree, people may be able to boost their psychological ability to employ disengagement or devaluation when tempted.
The study also identified some of the strongest predictors of infidelity, including age, marital satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, attractiveness and history of short-term relationships.
Researchers found younger people and those less satisfied with their relationships were more likely to be unfaithful.
Surprisingly, people satisfied with sex in their relationship were more likely to engage in infidelity.
This may be because they felt more positive about sex in general and would seek it out regardless of how they felt about their main relationship.
Another predictor of infidelity was attractiveness. A person’s own attractiveness was negatively associated with infidelity among women but not men—meaning less attractive women were more likely to have an affair.
A partner’s attractiveness was negatively associated with infidelity among men but not women—meaning men were more likely to be unfaithful when their partners were less attractive.
A person’s history of sex was a predictor of infidelity, too.
Men who reported having more short-term sexual partners prior to marriage were more likely to have an affair, while the opposite was true for women.
It is important to develop new ways that help people maintain long-term relationships.
McNulty is the lead author of the study.
The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Source: Florida State University.
Originally published at knowridge.com