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Infidelity in Couple's Therapy

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on 16 February 2015

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Transcript of Infidelity in Couple's Therapy

A Critique of Marín, Christensen, & Atkins' (2014) Article "Infidelity and Behavioral Couple Therapy: Relationship Outcomes Over 5 Years Following Therapy"

Those who remained married after 5 years of treatment showed little signs of taking steps toward divorce.

Non-infidelities with high distress were less likely to divorce than those with infidelity and high distress. All deteriorating couples with infidelity divorced.

53% of infidelity couples were divorced by the 5th year.

More than half of infidelity couples divorced versus non-infidelity couples.

All couples that remained married reported a similar amount of relationship satisfaction, including those with infidelity and those without.

Secret infidelity
couples reported more damaged than
non-secretive infidelity

57% of

couples remained married by the 5 years, whereas 20% of
secret infidelity
couples remained married by the end. Secret infidelity couples are more likely to end in divorce and distress.

All couples were heterosexual.

All couples were a mean of 41-43 years old.

Participants consisted of 79% Caucasian, 8% African American, 6% Asian Pacificer, 5%Latino, and 1% Native American/Alaskan.

The couples were “able” enough to engage in communication skills, as well as cognitive and behavioral work.

Participants were retrieved from 1997-2001 through newspaper and radio ads, which may lead one to question SES.

All couples were from research conducted in Washington and Los Angeles, representing a very limited population.

Though men were 58% more unfaithful than women, there was no evidence that the secret partners were of the opposite or same sex.


Infidelity was not defined. Was it sexual or emotional? What impact might each of them have?
All couples were willing to participate in marital counseling, which may have influenced their outcome of satisfaction in the relationship later on.
From the surveys presented there may be bias within the question used and answers given.
Beliefs or values around divorce and infidelity were not assessed.
Family patterns of divorce and infidelity were not assessed.
It is unclear how long couples were married prior to treatment.
Issues of domestic violence and abuse were not assessed.
What might be the reasons for the distress in couples of infidelity?
Atkins (2014) states that couples with infidelity have the option to ether stay together or pursue divorce. This may not be true. Some couples have the option to open their marriages, separate, or pursue polyamory. The article did not mention any of this.
Many factors may play into why couples reported distress or satisfaction, as well as reasons for which they choose to stay together or divorce. These variables were not mentioned and may not be measurable.
It was unclear who was taking the Dyadic Adjustment Scale and Marital Status Inventory. Were both partners taking it, or was one individual answering the survey on behalf of both partners?
Previous research has been done on couples who have had IBCT treatment. However, previous research only included one check-up after 6 months of treatment.

The goal of this research was to do a longitudinal study on how treatment has helped married couples' satisfaction and stability over a long period of time.

In 2014 David Atkins, Rebecca Marin, and Andrew Christenson released a study on relationship outcomes of infidelity couples versus non-infidelity couples who had all received Behavioral Couple Therapy.

Original sample was 134 married couples, 19 of which had infidelity (secret and exposed). The study was over a 5 year period.

This study ties in very well with the MFT field in that the therapy methods used in the study were that of TBCT and IBCT.

The findings reveal that non-secretive infidelity can allow for a more satisfying marriage. MFT might consider why choosing to not hold secrets can be helpful to clients in finding satisfaction in their marriages by working through infidelity.

If we encourage our clients to be honest about their infidelity, it is more likely to be repairable, and couples are more likely to be satisfied.

Research assessed divorce, relationship satisfaction, and marital stability among infidelity and non-infidelity couples.

Relationship Satisfaction was analyzed using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Surveys were both mailed out and taken in a lab.

Marital Stability was analyzed using the Marital Status Inventory, where 14 true or false questions were asked.
What is infidelity? How is infidelity defined by each partner?

How might sexual versus emotional infidelity alter the findings of such a research?

How long had the couples been married prior to treatment?

What is the actual divorce rate in couples with treatment versus without treatment?

What might be the difference of relationship satisfaction and marital stability in couples who did not receive treatment (infidelity and non-infidelity)?
Marín, R. A., Christensen, A., and Atkins, D. C. (2014) Infidelity and
behavioral couple therapy: Relationship Outcomes over 5 Years following Therapy. Journal of Couple and Family Psychology, 3.1, 1-12.

Spanier, G. B. (1976) The dyadic adjustment scale. Retrieved June 21,
2014, from http://www.couplestherapynj.com/perch/resources/das.pdf

Weiss, R. L., and Cerreto, M. (1980) The marital status inventory.
Retrieved June 21, 2014, from http://relationshipinstitute.com.au/files/resources/w-c-msi.pdf

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