New Research Discusses A Unique Way To Stay Faithful In Your Relationship

Are you prone to succumb to short-term pleasures? Here’s how to keep your urges in check.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 13, 2023

A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that a relatively simple technique called 'partner perspective-taking' can help couples maintain stable and satisfying relationships when faced with appealing alternative partners. This approach can prevent vulnerable partners from giving in to their temptations and engaging in cheating behaviors.

"Attempting to see a situation from a partner's perspective, and striving to feel and think as the partner would — in other words, engaging in perspective-taking — enables people to understand their partners and feel compassion for them," says the lead author of the paper, Gurit Birnbaum of Reichman University in Israel.

According to Birnbaum and his collaborators, people in committed relationships cheat for a variety of reasons. People may cheat because their relationships have lost newness or passion or one partner feels their emotional and sexual needs are not being met. People are also more likely to cheat if they associate with people (friends/acquiantances) who also cheat.

But simply adopting the perspective of your partner, like thinking about what your partner is thinking and feeling as they go through their day, may be all it takes to keep unwelcome urges at bay.

For example, in one of Birnbaum's studies, he asked one group of participants to describe a day in their partner's life (control condition). He asked a second group of participants to do the same thing but to engage in partner perspective-taking (i.e., "describe what they might be thinking, feeling, and experiencing if you were looking at the world through their eyes and walking in their shoes"). He then asked both groups to look at a series of pictures and rate whether the individual shown would make for an attractive alternative partner. They found that participants in the perspective-taking group showed less interest in the attractive alternatives.

And, there other relationship benefits associated with partner perspective-taking. Here are a few:

  • It improves couples' interactions by increasing concern for the needs and desires of one's partner. It also creates a deeper level of empathy that helps make the relationship more satisfying for both partners.
  • Consideration of a partner's viewpoint shifts one's focus from immediate, self-centered preferences to broader relationship concerns and long-term consequences. For example, relationships where partners take each other's perspectives into account are likely to be marked by feelings of closeness and care.
  • Feelings of concern induced by perspective-taking promote the de-escalation of conflict, thereby helping sustain relationship well-being even in the face of threats and challenges.

The researchers offer the following four pieces of advice for partners in a committed relationship who are trying to evade the threat of attractive alternatives:

  1. Focus on your current partner and find ways to sustain some sense of growth and passion in your sex life, both of which will strengthen your emotional connection.
  2. Always be on the lookout to learn new things about your partner and come up with new ways to let them know that you care for them.
  3. Try to do things a little differently every time. Share new, non-sexual experiences that increase intimacy, instill a sense of novelty, and make your partner feel special and desired.
  4. Before giving in to short-term pleasures, remind yourself of the long-term consequences of having connections with alternative partners, like the fallout that will inevitably occur among you and your loved ones.

A full interview with the researchers can be found here: Taking your partner's perspective can keep infidelity at bay, a researcher explains