Many individuals worry about the faithfulness and fidelity of their spouses, partners, or lovers. Cheating is a concern in romantic relationships. Thus, dating and relationship advice is often focused on “ways to spot a cheater” and “how to keep someone from cheating”.
In a previous article, I have already discussed personality characteristics that may relate to individuals being more prone to cheating. With this article, I wanted to find readers a way to persuade existing lovers to stay faithful. So, as always, I took a look in the psychological research literature…
What I came up with surprised me. It was not some complicated influence process. It was not some carefully crafted punishment. It was prayer.
Can Prayer Reduce Cheating in Intimate Relationships?
Fincham, Lambert, and Beach (2010) conducted three studies on the role that prayer plays in romantic relationships. In the first study, the authors looked at correlations among a partner’s prayer behavior, relationship satisfaction, and extra-dyadic romantic behavior (cheating). They found that individuals who prayed more, specifically for the well-being of their romantic partner, appeared less likely to cheat. Furthermore, prayer was an even better predictor of fidelity than the individual’s level of satisfaction in the relationship. Thus, even when the relationship was unfulfilling, those who prayed were still less likely to cheat.
Study two from Fincham and associates (2010) attempted to go beyond correlation to test whether asking an individual to pray for a partner’s well-being could actually reduce cheating behavior. The authors asked individuals in romantic relationships to spend time each day for four months, either 1) specifically praying for their partner’s well-being, 2) praying in general, 3) thinking about a partner’s positive qualities, or 4) reflecting on their own behavior that day. They then measured various aspects of each participant’s fidelity to their partner and feelings about the relationship.
Results of that second study showed that individuals who were instructed to pray for their partner reported significantly fewer thoughts of infidelity, and fewer cheating behaviors, than participants in the other groups. Through subsequent analysis, the authors found that a feeling of sacredness mediated this effect. In other words, prayer for a partner helped an individual feel that their relationship was more sacred, special, and spiritual. That feeling then reduced their motivation to cheat.
The final study of Fincham and associates (2010) again supported this effect. In addition, the authors had objective observers rate the behavior of the participants in each group. Even external observers rated participants who prayed for a partner as behaving in a more committed manner, as compared to the other participants.
What This Means for You
It appears that prayer for a partner, or any behavior that makes a relationship feel sacred, may reduce a lover’s cheating behavior. Indeed, the partners who pray together may really stay together. Those individuals appear to create a feeling of specialness and spirituality around their bond, promoting fidelity.
Given that, if you and your partner share a particular faith or spirituality, it may increase fidelity to pray together. Taking a cue from the research, it would be most effective to take turns praying for the well-being of each other and the relationship, perhaps even out-loud, each sharing your prayer with your lover. Make it a quick daily practice and you might find your relationship more stable – in good times and bad.
For those who are less religious, the benefit could also be gained by making the relationship feel sacred and special in other ways. Perhaps each of you share a daily thought with your partner, why your relationship is sacred and special. Afterward, you can then each share wishes for future well-being for each other and the relationship. Thus, you can still re-create this feeling of “sacredness”, even without religious overtones.
It appears that praying for a partner, resulting in a perspective of the relationship as sacred, helps an individual stay faithful. So, if you are worried about a partner cheating, then it may be a good idea to pray with them. It might just help you both find a new perspective, increase “faith” in each other, and have a better relationship.