Adultery and Surviving Infidelity
Is couple therapy effective in treating and helping in adultery and surviving infidelity, and can the unfaithful truly be treated? I posed this question to my psychology intern, Kaela Robertson, BA, who researched the topic and wrote this very cogent article regarding the topic of infidelity and the effectiveness of couples therapy. This article was not only intended to answer this question but to assist those most impacted by a cheating or unfaithful partner. Hopefully this article also assists the person whom has been unfaithful as well.
It has been predicted that anywhere between 50% and 65% of couples will participate in therapy due to infidelity in their marriage (Atkins, Baucom & Jacobson, 2001). These percentages are said to be even higher for those who cohabitate (Dupree et. al., 2007). According to Gordon, Baucom & Snyder (2004) couples “improve in therapy at a greater rate” and cannot be distinguished from other couples that are in therapy for reasons not associated with infidelity. Significant decreases in stress between marital partners post- infidelity therapy has been seen in six-month follow-up assessments (Atkins et. al., 2010). Many couples suffering from the fallout of infidelity attend therapy together, but it has also been suggested that simultaneous individual therapy can aid in the process of healing (Dupree et. al., 2007). Alternative types of therapy, such as decision-based forgiveness (DiBlasio, 2000) and solution-focused concepts have also been used as effective treatments for infidelity in couple’s counseling (Vossler, 2016). The focus of decision-based forgiveness therapy is to release any bitterness the injured partner may have and to aid in forgiving the perpetrator through empathy and restitution (DiBlasio 2000). Solution-focused concepts, on the other hand, involve creating a safe space where everyone feels included and validated, then, through self-disclosure, exploring the past of the relationship to determine the future (Dupree et. al., 2007). As stated by Snyder, Castellani and Whisman (2006), only about 20%-28% of couples remain together after an affair without any form of therapy. Some factors related to infidelity include age, gender, religious behavior, prior divorce, marital satisfaction and educational level (Atkins, Baucom & Jacobson, 2001). McNulty et. al. (2018) identified two mental processes that could aid in predicting infidelity within a relationship. The first of these processes is called disengagement. This includes the ability to divert one’s attention from someone they consider to be attractive. The next process is devaluation. During devaluation, the person downgrades the attractiveness of the other person, no matter how appealing they may be. The more often one engages in these mental processes, the less likely they are to be unfaithful to their partner.
Atkins, D, C., Baucom, D, H., & Jacobson, N, S. (2001). Understanding infidelity: correlates in a national random sample. Journal of Family Psychology, 15(4), 735-749.
Atkins, D, C., Marin, R, A., Lo, T.T.Y., Klann, N, Hahlweg, K. (2010). Outcome of couples with infidelity in a community-based sample of couple therapy. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 212-216.
Diblasio, F, A. (2000). Decision-based forgiveness treatment in cases of marital infidelity. Psychotherapy, 37(2), 149-157.
Dupree, J, W., White, M, B., Olsen, C, S., & Lafleur, C, T. (2007) Infidelity treatment patterns: a practice-based evidence approach. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35, 327-344.
Gordon, K, C., Baucom, D, H., & Snyder, D, K. (2004). An integrative intervention for Promoting recovery from extramarital affairs. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 30(2), 213-231.
McNulty, J, K., Meltzer, A, L., Makhanova, A., & Maner, J. K. (2018). Attention and Evaluative biases help people maintain relationships by avoiding infidelity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, no pagination specified.
Snyder, D, K., Castellani, A, M., Whisman, M, A. (2006). Current status and future directions in couple therapy. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 317-3144
Vossler, A. (2016). Internet infidelity 10 years on: a critical review of the literature. The Family Journal: Counseling and therapy for couples and families, 1-8.
After reading this article, if you have experienced adultery and you are deciding whether to save your marriage or relationship, or you have decided and want to know how to put the pieces back together, we can help you navigate these difficult processes. We provide online (Skype and FaceTime) infidelity recovery coaching as well as face to face infidelity therapy and infidelity counseling with one of our infidelity experts. Our infidelity experts are licensed psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, and licensed clinical social workers ready to help you today.