It might seem like a boring sex life might make married men and women more likely to cheat, but the opposite turns out to be true. Couples who are more sexually satisfied in their marriages, commit acts of infidelity at higher rates according to recent research. Social scientists are not sure why, but good sex in a relationship seems to result in some people searching for more good sex outside of that relationship. It’s a confounding find, but perhaps a relief to some aging men who worry about their performance slipping.
“Sexual satisfaction was positively associated with infidelity suggesting that people who were more satisfied with their sex were more likely to engage in infidelity,” study co-author Andrea Meltzer, an assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University says. “Notably, this effect did not differ across men and women.”
Initially, Meltzer and her team were just looking to broadly determine infidelity predictors. To accomplish this, the researchers followed 233 newlywed couples for 3.5 years, interviewing them every four to six months about their marital satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, commitment, and whether or not they had cheated. Results revealed that people who were highly satisfied with sex in their relationships were more likely to commit infidelity, potentially because they were more interested in sex in general.
The findings echo past research that indicates people with higher sex drives may be more prone to cheating. Though the study seemed to correlate cheating behaviors with a a lack of self-control, Meltzer cautions again taking correlation in her study too seriously. More research is needed to determine causality.
“This effect was surprising and so I would hesitate to draw any meaningful conclusions from it until it can be replicated in other samples,” she says. “It is also worth noting that this positive association emerged in a very complex model that controlled for a number of related outcomes.”
Neuroscientist Dr. Nicole Prause, who studies human sexuality, argues that infidelity is mostly determined by personality. That might explain why a number of infidelity predictors such as sex drive or sexual satisfaction only check out sometimes.
“One of the strongest predictors of infidelity is actually power at work, which many scientists think indicates those who are prone to cheat, will, when they have the ability to conceal it,” Prause explains, noting that business trips, personal travel, and the ability to afford a hotel room without their spouse noticing makes it easier for people to pull the trigger on infidelity. “This also may be part of the reason women report higher infidelity, as their power increases in the workplace and their infidelity opportunities increase.”
High levels of sexual satisfaction may not predict infidelity for everyone, but there’s ample evidence that good sex doesn’t ultimately offer a strong defense against outside sex. If the only positive aspects of a relationship are between the sheets, then it’s entirely possible that these couples would be more likely to cheat and potentially divorce. Conversely, couples who have a moderate amount of decent sex may put more time and energy into other aspects of their marriages, ultimately making those marriages more stable.