Women who are cheated on are actually better off in the long run, the largest ever study of breakups has concluded. Women whose partners stray are left with a 'higher mating intelligence' that helps them choose future partners.
They are better at spotting the clues their partner will cheat and are better at sensing when their partner is going to be 'poached' by somebody else. The 'other woman', by contrast, ends up with a partner with a track record of being deceptive – meaning she is the real loser.
The study, published in the Oxford Handbook of Women and Competition, involved an anonymous online survey of 5,705 participants in 96 countries. It was the largest ever study on relationship breakups and covered a wide range of ages, races and cultural circumstances.
The researchers from Binghamton University in the US and University College London, looked at how happy men and women were before, during and after a breakup. The study showed that if a woman is cheated on, the lessons she learns can be 'evolutionarily adaptive'. Furthermore, they can be beneficial in terms of "personal growth that may expand beyond mating and into other realms of personal development".
Lead researcher Craig Morris said that in the results, women explicitly state that they are 'better off now' after being cheated on more than do men. He said: "In fact, women speak of the breakup experience almost exclusively in the past tense whereas men often use the present tense."
As to the lessons that women have learned, he said: "Women report that they are more attuned to cues of infidelity, dishonesty, and other 'low mate value' signals following having their mate 'poached' by another woman. Women also report that they are now more aware of their female friends and associates behaviour regarding their significant other."
Valuable life experience
Morris added: "Our thesis is that the woman who 'loses' her mate to another woman will go through a period of post-relationship grief and betrayal, but come out of the experience with higher mating intelligence that allows her to better detect cues in future mates that may indicate low mate value. Hence, in the long-term, she 'wins'.
"The 'other woman,' conversely, is now in a relationship with a partner who has a demonstrated history of deception and, likely, infidelity. Thus, in the long-term, she 'loses'."
Relationships expert Jean Hannah Edelstein said that the study 'confirms what most people who have been through a breakup already know': "It can feel brutally painful but also offers valuable life experience that truly does help us make better decisions in the future," she said.
"This research does offer the optimistic perspective that if you've been through a difficult ending, women are not doomed to repeat it with your next partner: in fact, they may have a better chance of relationship success because of the wisdom gained from the first time around."
She added that her advice for the 'other woman' or anyone getting into a relationship with a cheater was to 'take real care': "If he doesn't show remorse for what happened, or talks negatively about his ex-partner, the sad truth is that there's a pretty strong chance he will engage in that behaviour again, except that you will be the victim this time."
Previous research by Morris found that women take longer to get over breakups than men – but bounce back faster. After being dumped women were more likely to be angry, anxious and far more likely to put on weight than men. But they are also 'less destructive' and turn to friends and family for support, which helps them to realise it is time to move on.