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Couples underestimate likelihood of infidelity

People tend to underestimate the likelihood their partner will be unfaithful to them.

Research from the University of Calgary in Canada suggests that the same people have no problem believing that the chances of infidelity are relatively high in an average romantic relationship.

Around 200 university students took part in the study. Each of them had been part of a heterosexual relationship for at least three months. They were asked to complete an online survey which asked them about their beliefs and expectations when it came to infidelity.

The term ‘infidelity’ was not defined on this survey, allowing each participant to use their own interpretation of what counted when answering the questions.

In an average relationship, respondents believed there was a 42 per cent chance that one partner would be unfaithful. However, when asked about their own relationship they claimed there was only a five per cent chance their partner had strayed. They also believed there was only an eight per cent chance their partner would be unfaithful in the future.

These estimates were lower than the rate of actual infidelity. Nine per cent of participants admitted they had been unfaithful during their current relationship.

The results of the survey “highlight the degree to which people are motivated to really want to believe their relationships and partner [are] better than others” the researchers explained. As a result, this “wishful thinking may blind individuals to real warning signs”.

The study was published in the academic Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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