Infidelity and marital therapy: initial findings from a randomized clinical trial
Infidelity is not uncommon in American marriages, yet there is still precious little known about this relationship phenomenon. What is known is that infidelity may be one of the most stressful problems with which couples have to cope and one of the most difficult issues for couple therapists to treat. Two separate analyses addressed basic yet crucial questions regarding infidelity and its role in couple therapy using a sample of couples ( N = 134) from a randomized clinical trial of marital therapy. The first analysis examined the qualities of individuals and couples that may differentiate infidelity couples from non-infidelity couples. Findings indicated that individuals who participated in affairs showed greater marital instability, dishonesty, arguments about trust, narcissism, and less time spent with their spouse. Gender also proved to be a significant moderator of several effects. Men who had participated in affairs showed increased substance use, were older, and were more sexually dissatisfied in their marriages when compared to women who had engaged in infidelity. The second analysis explored the relationship between infidelity and couple therapy. Results showed that infidelity couples began treatment more distressed than distressed, non-infidelity couples; however, there is evidence that couples in which there has been an affair improved at a greater rate than non-infidelit couples. A case-control analysis in which infidelity couples were matched to one or more distressed couples based on pre-treatment marital distress and sexual dissatisfaction also revealed some evidence that infidelity couples improved at a greater rate than the controls. The implications of the findings and directions for future research are discussed.
- Psychology