Study: Cheaters More Likely To Skip Condoms Than Those In Open Relationships

People who cheat in relationships also tend to be less diligent about safe sex, according to a new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Compared to people who had their partner’s consent to have sex with others, people who had sexual affairs without a partner’s knowledge (i.e., cheaters) were 27% less likely to use condoms for vaginal sex and 35% less likely to use condoms for anal sex.

It’s a weird study population, philanderers and the polyamorous in committed relationships (recruited through an online ad). But it does bolster the argument of open relationship advocates (and those proponents good old-fashioned “arrangements” within marriages) that in the right circumstances, being open can lead to more respectful, healthier relationships.

“Our research suggests that people who are unfaithful to their monogamous romantic partners pose a greater risk for STIs [sexually transmitted infections] than those who actively negotiate non-monogamy in their relationship,” study author Dr. Terri Conley, of the university’s psychology department, said in a journal news release.

“Monogamy can be an effective method for preventing the spread of STIs, but only if couples … remain faithful while they are together. If people do not find monogamy appealing or feasible, they clearly need to think about the risk this poses to their partner and consider whether an open relationship would suit their needs better, and better protect their relationship partners.”

The cheating partners were also more likely to be drinking or taking drugs at the time of their sexual liaisons, which makes sense, I guess–though how much more likely (64%) surprised me.

Also surprising: Of the more than 1,600 people who responded to researchers initially, about 800 said they’d had sex with someone other than their primary partner. Within that group, only about 300 said they were sexually unfaithful; the other 500 said they had a “negotiated non-monogamous relationship.”

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    • Jenn

      This study seems sketchy. Did they talk to both halves of the supposed open relationships? Could it be that people who would lie to make themselves look better by saying they had an open relationship (as opposed to cheating) would also be more likely to lie and say they used condoms, where people who will admit to cheating will also be more honest about being unsafe?