Newswise — Once a cheater, always a cheater? The adage might be true, suggests a University of Denver study. According to research led by psychology graduate student Kayla Knopp, people who had sex outside their relationships once were 3.7 times more likely to report sexual infidelity again in their next relationships. Victims of infidelity in the past were also more likely to report being cheated on again. The study, which examined 484 unmarried 18-to-34-year-olds who were in at least two relationships during the time of the study, was presented earlier this month at the American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, D.C. Knopp also found patterns within physically or psychologically aggressive relationships. “Respondents who reported being aggressive in relationships were three times more likely to be aggressive in their next relationship – regardless of how aggressive their partner is,” says Knopp. “We were surprised to see that it wasn’t something you could blame on the couple’s relationship, that they were just in an unhealthy mutual conflict style. Mutuality isn’t the important component; it’s the behavior on its own.” Victims of aggression in previous relationships were five times more likely to report being victims again in their next relationship. We like to think we can learn from our mistakes, Knopp says, but this study shows it’s hard to do. More research is needed to develop interventions to help couples learn from past experiences and make better relationship choices, she says. “In the meantime,” she says, “couples can help avoid these patterns in their own lives by talking to one another about their relationship histories, and deciding which behaviors they do – and don’t – want to bring with them into the future.”

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American Psychological Association Convention, August 2014