It doesn't take an expert to know that infidelity can send someone into an emotional tailspin—one that could take weeks, months, maybe even years to recover.
But new research suggests that the emotional impact of cheating can also have a negative carryover into our physical health.
According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the ways in which cheating can harm our physical health are in the "risky behaviors" that ensue. For some, it may manifest in alcohol or drugs. For others, it may take on a "self-improvement" guise (extreme exercise or disordered eating, for example)—habits that aren't much healthier if they teeter on the obsessive.
The good news is that there is a way to bounce back from cheating that won’t result in physical harm – but it all depends on your outlook.
The study shows that those who blamed their partner for the infidelity weren't as likely to partake in risky behaviors like alcohol, drugs and other means of self-sabotage. Meanwhile, those who did blame themselves were more likely to engage in these behaviors even if they chose to stay in the relationship.
Women are particularly guilty of placing the blame on themselves, note the researchers.
“This gender difference is consistent with previous research showing that women experience more distress after being cheated on,” the study’s lead researcher, M. Rosie Shrout, told PsyPost. “We think this is because women typically place higher importance on the relationship as a source of self and identity. As a result, women who have been cheated on might be more likely to have poorer mental health and engage in unhealthy, risky behavior because their self-perceptions have been damaged.”
While the study's participants were college-aged students, Shrout hopes to continue the research on marital relationships to see if the theory still applies when children and a mortgage are added to the equation.
The good news is that there is a way to bounce back from cheating that won’t result in physical harm – but it all depends on your outlook. You cannot take responsibility for another person's choices or behavior, and accepting that will make it easier to handle the pain that comes with infidelity. You've got this.