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Jealous People Really Are Better at Catching Cheaters, New Study Finds

It's not the most endearing quality but it may be more helpful than you think.

Have you ever been guilty of looking through your partner's phone? Or maybe you have been known to get super envious when you see your significant other harmlessly speaking to a stranger. Being overly jealous is normally seen as a red flag that signals underlining insecurities, but if your partner is being unfaithful this trait may actually work in your favor. Read on to see how being a jealous person may help you catch a cheater faster.

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Cheating is more common than you may think.

A man walks in on his partner cheating with someone new.
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Anyone who has been cheated on knows just how painful this type of betrayal can be; and anyone who has been caught cheating knows just how hard it is to gain a partner's trust back after infidelity. But this doesn't mean it doesn't happen all the time.

"Infidelity is widespread, with estimates of lifetime engagement in extra-relational affairs around 20 percent for married couples and up to 70 percent for unmarried couples," reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "[It is] one of the most commonly reported causes of divorce and one of the most difficult issues for couple therapists to treat."

If you have an inkling that you're being cheated on, it may not be just because you are a jealous person. According to a new study, that jealously may be why you're able to suss out this common truth.

The researchers analyzed romantic jealousy.

Researchers in a lab looking at their computer results.
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In the 2022 study conducted by Apostolou and Antonopoulou, researchers recruited more than 900 participants from the Republic of Cyprus through social media. Their average age was 32 for women and 35 for men. Most of the partakers (56 percent) were either in a relationship or married, while 38 percent were single, and 6 percent marked their status as other.

According to Psychology Today, the researchers measured romantic jealousy, as well as the participants answers to the "Big 5" personality test, which measures levels of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to new experiences. They also asked the participants about whether they had cheated or been cheated on in their previous or current relationships.

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Jealous people are more likely to detect infidelity.

Woman upset looking at her partner flirting with another woman.
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According to the study, individuals who scored higher in jealousy, specifically romantic jealousy, may be more likely to detect if their partner is cheating on them—and many experts agree.

"There are many reasons why jealous people would be more likely to find cheating, mostly related to the behaviors that jealous people partake in," says Ellie Borden, the clinical director of Mind by Design tells Best Life. "For example, someone jealous is more likely to be skeptical of their partner, less trusting, and will often assume that cheating is occurring even if it is not. Thus, compared to someone who is more trusting and open, they will seek out evidence and consistently look out for infidelity making it more likely to be caught."

Jessica Miller, LMHC, of PsycheMag says that someone who is less trusting of their significant other is likely to be more aware of their partners everyday whereabouts and patterns. "Highly jealous people are very conscious of their partner and observe [their] each and every movement," she says.

Of course, as the researchers even note themselves, there are reasons to be skeptical of these findings—and no one is advocating for jealous behavior. The authors also present quite the chicken or the egg scenario, reports Psychology Today: "Increased romantic jealousy may damage existing relationships, thus actually causing both increased infidelity and the increased detection of infidelity in more jealous relationships."

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Things Divorced People Wish They Had Done Differently in Their Marriage

Other personality traits may also help detect cheating—or do the opposite.

Woman in pink sweater guilty of cheating on her partner.
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Researchers in the study found that those who had more neuroticism were more likely to be jealous, thus more likely to catch their partner cheating.

"Individuals with neuroticism may also be more likely to pay attention to subtle cues and changes in their partner's behavior, which can serve as red flags for infidelity," says Crystal Jackson, former therapist and writer at The Truly Charming. "For example, a person with neuroticism might notice that their partner has started to pay more attention to their appearance or has begun to change their usual habits. These changes, which might be overlooked by someone with lower levels of neuroticism, can serve as evidence of infidelity to a person with this personality trait."

On the other hand, the study concluded those who were more open to new experiences had a decreased level of jealousy—therefore leading to a lesser possibility of discovering infidelity. While openness is a quality that many people admire and is a key to a strong relationship, the study says it might not help if your partner is stepping out on you. Clearly more research needs to be done here.

Lauren Jarvis-Gibson
Lauren Jarvis-Gibson is an Associate Editor at Best Life. Her work has been published in Teen Vogue, Allure, HuffPost, and more. Read more
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