Can You Prevent Adultery and Cheating?

Many marriages are rocked by infidelity. The question is, can cheating be prevented? 

For several decades, social scientists have tried to find the answer to this question by studying the concept of mate retention. It is theorized that people attempt to prevent their mates from straying using mate retention tactics. But do these tactics work? Let’s take a deeper look.

Mate retention tactics

Mate retention tactics can be  “positive” or “negative.” For example, a “benefit-provisioning behavior” is a positive tactic that makes infidelity less attractive than commitment. On the other hand, a “cost-inflicting behavior” is a negative tactic that makes infidelity more costly to the partner than faithfulness. 

Examples of positive mate retention tactics 

Tactics that are considered “positive” aim to take away infidelity’s appeal. Examples, according to academic studies, include gift-giving, submission to the other spouse’s wishes, providing oral sex, and undergoing plastic surgery to enhance one’s appearance.

Other positive mate retention tactics include the following:


One of the best ways for spouses to remain connected is through consistent and heartfelt communication. 


Providing attention to one another and prioritizing time together can help couples find “staying together” appealing.


Affection and physical intimacy go a long way toward keeping partners content and feeling loved.

Respect and active listening

Listening well and conveying respect for one another’s point of view can make the relationship more comfortable and fulfilling.

Validation and appreciation

Spouses who show their partner gratitude and appreciation often find it easier to stay connected and in love.


Trust is an essential ingredient in a healthy marriage. It’s so important, in fact, that many marriages fall apart after an incident of infidelity due to a lack of trust.

Negative tactics for retaining a mate

Tactics that are considered “negative” aim to make infidelity a costly prospect. Examples of negative mate retention behaviors include threats, stalking, deception, manipulation, and abuse. And although they are intended to prevent a relationship loss, often, the opposite happens. These negative behaviors may actually cause a spouse to withdraw from the relationship and even consider divorce

According to research, mate retention tactics are often used when there is a perceived or actual threat to the relationship. A spouse may use one tactic or a combination of tactics to prevent their partner from cheating. 

Why people cheat in the first place

A recent study found that individuals who cheat on their spouse tend to do so for one or more of these eight key reasons. 

  • Situational: A circumstance such as an office party where one spouse drinks too much and becomes attracted to another person can lead to a situational bout of infidelity.
  • Boredom: Long-term relationships can fall into patterns that lack excitement and diversity. When someone else comes along that represents something new and exciting, it can spawn infidelity.
  • Sexual desire: Some couples have differing sex drives. If one partner isn’t getting their desires fulfilled, they may use that as a reason to look elsewhere.
  • Emotional indifference or neglect: Inattention and invalidation from a spouse can leave the other spouse feeling lonely, prompting them to seek what they need elsewhere.
  • Low self-esteem: Sometimes, people with self-esteem have a hard time believing they are lovable. This may prompt them to continuously look for people who make them feel better about themselves. 
  • Falling out of love: Some spouses find that they have stayed with their partner out of comfort rather than love. Hence, they may try to get the love they need from others.
  • Anger: For some spouses, cheating is a form of revenge sought for a perceived wrong. 
  • Lack of commitment: When a spouse is dissatisfied with their marriage, they are no longer committed to its ideals. This can lead them to other relationships in an attempt to fill a void.

Should you divorce after infidelity?

Infidelity doesn’t always have to be the end of a marriage

In some cases, infidelity can be a much-needed wake-up call for a couple. They may use it as a learning experience and a reason to work on improving their relationship. In other cases, a spouse’s infidelity is another nail in the coffin of an already diminishing marriage. 

Each case of infidelity is unique, and the decision to get divorced is a personal one. If you have decided that divorce is the right step after infidelity, Hello Divorce can offer you options and help you make your way through the process with as little stress and cost as possible. With our online divorce process, any divorce plan costs or attorney fees are flat rates, which means you know exactly what to expect and can plan ahead.

For answers to your questions, we invite you to schedule a free 15-minute phone call here.


Use of Mate Retention Strategies (September 2016). ResearchGate. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science.
What Do People Do, Say, and Feel When They Have Affairs? Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.
Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.