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The painful feeling that comes from finding out that your partner has been cheating is unmatched. There is just something unique about that pain, and I know that almost every one of us would do whatever we can to avoid it.

What if I told you that there are supposedly relational patterns that indicate the likelihood of cheating in the future? According to a recent study, some patterns typically tie into cheating later down the line. “Infidelity is largely believed to have damaging consequences for personal and relationship well-being,” the authors of the study write.

“Yet the empirical literature remains inconclusive regarding whether infidelity leads to relationship problems, represents a mere symptom of troubled relationships, or both.”

The goal of the study was to understand the answer to the age-old question, what came first, the chicken or the hen? More specifically, do relationship problems lead to cheating, or is it the other way around? To find out, researchers from Tilburg University analyzed 947 German adults and followed them around for 8 years to see how their lives impacted their relationships.

Of those 947 people, 609 of the participants were the ones who cheated and 338 of them had been the victim of cheating.

Throughout the time that they were followed, they were checked for metrics centered around their well-being, which included both psychological well-being and relational satisfaction. What they found was quite astonishing.

For those who cheated, their well-being was reported as having lower self-esteem, lower relationship satisfaction, and lower intimacy. Conversely, those who had been cheated on also reported lower self-esteem and more conflict, however, their other metrics of well-being did not decrease.

Leading to the affair, well-being measures steadily declined up until the affair. Additionally, more conflict was observed and there were lesser measures of satisfaction. After the cheating took place, most relationships did not recover. One major takeaway was that while other major life events that caused distress were something that the participants could one day recover from, the infidelity was not.