Answer? Yes it can.
According to the study published in Science, perspective taking—or putting yourself in your partner’s place—not only reduces the temptation to cheat but inoculates against other partnership-destroying behaviors. Journal of Sex Research.
Why do people cheat on their partners?
According to study lead author Gurit Birnbaum, professor of psychology at Reichmann University (IDC, Herzliya), people cheat for a variety of reasons. Birnbaum notes that people can be satisfied with their relationships, yet cheat on their partners.
Context is key.
“People often don’t cheat because they planned to,” Birnbaum says. “Rather, the opportunity presented itself and they were too tired—too tired, too drunk, too distracted—to fight the temptation.”
Men or Women: Who Cheats More?
Coauthor Harry Rees, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, agrees that there are many reasons to cheat. “Men are more likely to cheat because they feel their sexual needs are not being met,” he says. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to cheat because they feel that their emotional needs are not being met.
Practicing empathy may reduce temptation to cheat
One way to practice empathy is to try to take on the other person’s point of view. In the three studies, 408 total participants (213 Israeli women and 195 Israeli men, aged between 20-47) were randomly assigned to either adopt their partner’s perspective or not. All study participants had to be in a monogamous, mixed-sex (heterosexual) relationship of at least four months. As part of the experiments, participants rated, encountered, or thought about attractive strangers while psychologists recorded their expressions of interest in these strangers, as well as their commitment to their current partners and Also registered the will.
The researchers concluded that adopting a partner’s perspective increases commitment to and desire for a partner, as well as decreases sexual and romantic interest in alternative partners. The findings suggest that perspective taking discourages people from engaging in behaviors that may hurt their partners and harm their relationship.
the power of perspective
“Perspective taking doesn’t stop you from cheating, but it does reduce the urge to do so,” Rees says. Ultimately, he says, cheating means “prioritizing your own goals over the well-being of the partner and relationship, so seeing things from the other person’s perspective provides a more balanced view of these situations.”
According to Birnbaum, the findings may help people understand how to resist short-term temptations: “Active consideration of how romantic partners may be affected by these situations serves as a strategy that helps people encourages them to control their responses to attractive alternative partners and reduce their attractiveness.”
The team did not test whether the benefits of perspective taking extended to the participants’ romantic partners, who were not part of the experiment. But researchers have a guess, because perspective-taking generally promotes empathy, understanding, closeness, and caring.
According to Birnbaum, both partners may feel more satisfied with the relationship and therefore less likely to cheat, even if only one partner adopts the tested strategy. In addition to reducing the chances of infidelity, Perspective taking prompts people to be compassionate toward their partners’ feelings and seek to strengthen the bond with that partner, thereby fostering an existing relationship.
“People always feel better understood, and that makes it easier to resolve disagreements, but not be appropriately supportive, and to share joys and accomplishments,” says Reiss. “It’s one of those skills that can help people see ‘we’ instead of ‘me and you’.”