A new study finds that women who have been cheated on and left behind by a mate are often better off in the long run as they tend to gain a strong system of inner guidance regarding dating and life in general.
The “other” woman, however, often has a long tough road ahead of her as she attempts to work with a partner who has already shown a dishonest and unfaithful side.
Previous research on the effects of mate-loss has typically focused on a breakup’s short-term consequences, such as emotional pain and distress. In the new study, however, researchers from Binghamton University and University College London observed the long-term consequences of losing a mate as it relates to one’s personal development.
The findings show that there are consequences of female intrasexual mate competition that may be both evolutionarily adaptive and also beneficial in terms of personal growth. In fact, the lessons learned tend to expand beyond mating and into other realms of personal development.
“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,'” said lead author Dr. Craig Morris, a biocultural anthropologist, evolutionist and research associate at Binghamton University.
“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.'”
For the study, the researchers conducted an anonymous online survey of 5,705 participants in 96 countries. It was the largest-ever study on relationship dissolution, particularly in regards to cross-cultural experiences and age variation.
In his previous research, Morris highlighted how emotionally difficult breakups can be. His new study, however, highlights the ways in which humans — women, in particular — have adapted to cope with breakups.
“If we have evolved to seek out and maintain relationships, then it seems logical that there would be evolved mechanisms and responses to relationship termination, as over 85 percent of individuals will experience at least one in their lifetime,” said Morris.
So what can women take away from the experience of an unfaithful partner?
“They can learn that they are not alone — that virtually everyone goes through this, that it’s okay to seek help if needed, and that they will get through it,” Morris added.
In future research, the team will investigate how people of different life experience, age and relationship history process breakups, as well as how non-exclusively heterosexual respondents process breakups.
The study is published in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Competition.