When you think about the absolute relationship worst case scenario, high on the list is discovering your partner has been cheating. Then being dumped. Then your (ex) partner ending up with the new fling. Science supports your outrage. Studies show that being cheated on shakes you to the core.
But that’s where these studies tend to stop. They show heartbreak in the immediate aftermath of cheating but don’t check to see how the cheater, cheatee and new flavor fare down the line.
A study published this week in the Oxford Handbook of Women & Competition changes that. The study used surveys to explore the experience of 5,705 women in 96 countries — according to a press release from Binghamton University, the largest ever study on relationship dissolution. Really, they wanted to know about a specific kind of relationship dissolution, namely one in which a boyfriend cheats on his female partner and then ends the relationship to be with the person he’s been cheating with.
Again, this really, really sucks. This blog post is not in any way meant to discount the gut-wrenching aftermath of infidelity. But let’s look at what happens six months, a year or six years later.
“Our thesis is that the woman who ‘loses’ her mate to another woman will go through a period of post-relationship grief and betrayal, but come out of the experience with higher mating intelligence that allows her to better detect cues in future mates that may indicate low mate value. Hence, in the long-term, she ‘wins,'” said Craig Morris, research associate at Binghamton University and lead author on the study, in the university’s press release describing the study. “The ‘other woman,’ conversely, is now in a relationship with a partner who has a demonstrated history of deception and, likely, infidelity. Thus, in the long-term, she ‘loses.'”
In other words, the woman who has been cheated on learns from the experience; she picks up skills that can help her next relationship be successful. On the other hand, the ‘other woman’ ends up with a proven slime ball. Some prize! (“Reaping what you’ve sown” comes to mind…)
Not only is the woman who has been cheated on more likely to find a higher quality partner, but there are consequences “that may be beneficial in terms of personal growth, and that may expand beyond mating and into other realms of personal development,” the paper writes.
Being cheated on, dumped and replaced is probably not a situation that you will want to seek out. But rest assured that if you find yourself in this situation, as so many people do, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You may even be better for it in the long run.