Influence of therapists' gender and professional and personal experience with infidelity on the promotion of disclosure ...


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Influence of therapists' gender and professional and personal experience with infidelity on the promotion of disclosure of affairs in therapy
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xviii, 265 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Upchurch, Rosaria Carlone
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Counselor Education thesis, Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Counselor Education -- UF   ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Rosaria Carlone Upchurch.
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University of Florida
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Copyright 2004


Rosaria Carlone Upchurch


Stephen Julius Nittolo

April 9, 1955-December 18, 1991


Completing this dissertation, and receiving my doctoral degree, signifies for me

the achievement of what I perceive as one of my family's noblest dreams-one long

overdue-the one that reflects that, despite the many barriers created by life's challenges,

a person still has access to knowledge, opportunity, achievement, and acceptance. I have

very many people to thank.

First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge and thank the chair of my doctoral

committee, Dr. Silvia Echevarria-Doan. She retained her faith in me, despite all my

resistance. I thank her for her willingness to generously collaborate with me through

plans A, B, C, D, etc. She counseled me, supported me, and continued to remind me that

I could. She understands my struggles. To her, I wish to say: "Mughas Gragias


Next, I thank the other members of my committee who, in a fashion similar to my

chair, have been my mentors, my colleagues, and my friends. I have been fortunate to

have the most amazing committee of all time: Dr. Peter A. D. Sherrard, a soft place to

fall and a kindred spirit; Dr. Ellen Amatea, a pillar of strength and high standards; and

Dr. David Miller, a man of many talents and a generous heart. I thank Dr. Randall

Penfield for his part in my journey. I feel privileged.

I thank my fellow students who, by now, have either received their doctoral

degrees or soon will. I thank Lyn Goodwin, Erika Hollander, Ann Allen Rai,

Candy Hodgkins, David Marshall, Kitty Fallon, Ibrahim Keklik, and so many others who

crossed my path and enriched my life. It has been an honor to "run" with them.

There are many others at the University of Florida (UF) who offered me wisdom

and support. I thank faculty members Dr. Harry Daniels, Dr. Max Parker, Dr. Sondra

Smith, and Dr. Joe Wittmer. I thank UF staff members Patty Bruner and Candy Spires,

who made the process flow smoothly. Special thanks go to the UF librarians, especially

Damon Austin, who enthusiastically assisted me in navigating modem technology.

I am especially grateful for the work and support of Jeffrey Miller, a

psychometric specialist whose intelligence, knowledge, and diligence were beyond

expectations. I thank him for his hard work and, more importantly, for his friendship. I

also thank my editor, Mary Jane Schaer, for her dedication and support.

Next, I thank Beverly Colella, whose constant and caring attention to my

marriage and family therapy practice assured me that my clients were well cared for,

whether I was there or not. I thank my colleagues in my home community, Dr. R. J.

Parlade, Dr. Shirley Spooner, Dr. Susan Morey, and many others for encouraging me to

stay focused.

Special thanks go to Dr. George Lindenfeld, Dr. Mark Harter, Dr. Robert

Kennerley, and Dr. Peggy Kennerley, and to therapists Dr. Marie Bracciale, Karen

Spicer, Jane Devine, Jane Updyke, Cindy Newman, Buddy Jowers, and Sibel Guelseren,

for their time and their willingness to share their expert experience and wisdom. I am

blessed. I also thank my colleagues in the clinical field who gave their precious time and

participated in this study.

To my many clients (they know who they are), I send a special word of

appreciation, because their struggles inspire me to do better each day. Many pieces of

this dissertation are rooted in their stories. In fact, it was Fred's and Jane's (names have

been changed) courage to rebuild their marriage after the disclosure of infidelity in their

relationship that provided the impetus for me to pursue this topic for my research. I

thank my students for providing me with a venue for validation and affirmation. And, I

thank Dr. Patricia Crawford for her encouragement during a most serendipitous


I thank my many friends, with special emphasis on and acknowledgment of two.

To my fellow hens, Maureen Weiss and Patricia Whitsitt, words cannot describe the

gratitude I feel toward them. They drove my children places, made sure my children were

fed and entertained, and still found time to tell me how proud they were of me that I

would/could pursue this degree-they assuaged my guilt by reminding me that my

actions served as role modeling for our daughters-too powerful a statement to ignore. I

want them to know that I am in awe of them, and the work they do, each day, as mothers

and homemakers.

I thank Dr. Richard Weiss for the many times, frequently late into the evening

after a very long day of work with cancer patients, that he was willing to patch up this

noncompliant patient, quickly-renewing me for the next leg of the race.

I also thank Steve and Lena Cieciura who, while I was growing up, watched from

afar to make sure that I stayed on the path to becoming educated. I have never forgotten

their caring and their financial assistance.

To Julie and Lucy Nittolo, I thank them for their special son Stephen, with whom

I was lucky enough to share a 25-year friendship before his untimely death at the age of

36. I want them to know that their son served as positive peer-pressure and helped me

create a vision for myself that included the pursuit of higher education, which has made it

possible for me to assist others. I want them to know that he was a good teacher to me

and that his life had purpose.

On the home front, I thank my brilliant parents, Fiorenzo Umberto Carlone and

Angelina Pepe in Carlone, who made major sacrifices to give me the opportunities in life

they themselves did not have. They instilled in me a strong sense of belonging and self-

pride. My father died in 1990, and I regret that he will not partake in this celebration.

His music, humor, and zest for life live in my heart. He taught me that I can be joyful

even when life is hard, and he showed me by example how to bring people together in

celebration. I especially thank my mother, a woman born before her time-determined,

strong, capable, innovative, and hard working. My mom always found a way. Despite

having only a fourth grade education, she championed me toward my intellectual

potential. I wish to honor her by writing in our native tongue and saying: "La mia

mamma, come tante altre donne della sua generazione, volevano e non potevano. lo sto'

eretta sulle loro spalle e le ringrazio per la bella vista" (My mom, like so many other

women of her generation, wanted to but could not. I stand on their shoulders and thank

them for the beautiful view).

To my sisters, Teresa Flora Scaturro and Elvira Olga Koury, and to my brother,

Antonio Carlone, I know I was the one that destiny placed at the front. I owe them much

for letting me have that spot. I want them to know that it is good to be their sister. Very

special thanks go to Elvira, for showing me that eyesight is not essential for seeing

beauty and goodness. She taught me that the heart is the core element for clear vision.

And to my nieces and nephews, I want them to know that the door is wide open now.

I also thank the Upchurch family, a family of champions, for their support,

especially my mother-in-law, Barbara Nehring MacLeod, whose expression of pride in

me over the years has made me feel like a true daughter. She was one of the pioneers of

women attending college, and, even though having attended a prestigious college, still

felt in her life the impact of traditional limits placed on women.

Last, but not least, I thank my immediate family, whose constant support cannot

be measured. To my magnificent, brilliant, powerful, talented, and beautiful daughter

Megan Maria Upchurch, I want her to know that I have learned much from her and that I

love and respect the person she is. It was through watching her grow that I have healed

and learned to rejoin with parts of myself. She makes me proud to be her mom, every

day. I started this program when she entered high school, and I will graduate just as she

completes her first semester at Wake Forest University.

To my amazing, witty, brilliant, sharp, and fun-loving son, Rockwell David

Upchurch, I thank him for the many times we laughed together, and the many times he

helped me relax by watching movies with me. He melts my heart with his sense of fair

play and with his ability to understand and care about others. I love and admire him.

To my husband, Paul Nehring Upchurch, the luckiest day of my life was June 17,

1977, when I walked into "a chance meeting of pure hearts"-his and mine-and found a

profound connection. I thank him for his contribution to the good life we have been able

to make together. I especially appreciate the way he never allowed his own impressive

success to hamper or overshadow mine. I envy his humility. I thank him for consistently

supporting my undertakings, frequently at his own expense. I remember fondly when I

signed up for the most demanding semester of the program and asked him if he was sure

he could/wanted to continue with the hardships it created for us. He simply took both my

hands in his, looked at me square in the eyes, and replied, "If you are willing to do it, I

am too. We are going the distance." I thank Paul for what he has given to help make this

endeavor possible for me-but then again, it is not much of a surprise to me because he

helps make everything possible.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........................................... ... iv

LIST OF TABLES ..................................................... xiii

LIST OF FIGURES .................................................... xv

ABSTRACT........................................................... xvi


1 INTRODUCTION ................................................... 1

Opening Statement ................................................ 1
Factors Influencing Therapists' and Counselors' Stances in the Therapy Room .... 7
Need for the Study ...................... ..................... ...... 14
Purpose of the Study ............................................... 18
Promoting Disclosure ................................... .......... 19
Definition of Terms ........................ ......................... 20
Guiding Questions ................... .............. .................. 24
Organization of the Rest of the Study ....................................24

2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE ................................ 26

Introduction ..................................................... 26
Part I: Couples, Couples, and Couples ................................. 28
Part II: Love, Sex, and Betrayal ....................................... 46

3 METHODOLOGY ................................. ...................94

Introduction .................................... .................... 94
Scope and Limitations of the Study ............... .................... 95
Participants ................................................ ......... 98
Sampling Procedures .............................................. 100
Research Design ................. ................. ............... 101
Scale Development ................. ............................. 103
Final Version of Survey .............. .............................. 112
Data Analysis (Main Study) ................ ......................... 112

4 DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS ................................ 113

Introduction and Overview ................. ...................... 113
Descriptives (Sample Demography) ................................... 115
Independent and Dependent Variables ................................ .. 125
Final Version of Survey ............................................. 131
R results ................................ ................... ...... 136
Summary of Results ................... .......................... 145

5 DISCUSSION ..................................................149

Introduction .... ............. ............ .... .................... .149
Purpose of the Study Restated ...................................... 149
Guiding Questions Restated ......................................... 151
Expert Opinion ............................................ ....... 151
Pilot Study ........ .... ... .... ..................................... 154
M ain Study ......................................... ... .. ........... 155
Implications for Theory ............................................ 176
Implications for Practice ............................................. 178
Implications for Training ........................................... 180
Implications for Research and Ideas for Future Research ................... 182
Limitations of the Study ........................ ......... ........... 185
Conclusion and Closure ................................................ 187




(I-CDQ)-MAIN STUDY (EXCERPT) ................................206

D POSTCARD REMINDER ........................................ 209

INSTRUCTIONS .......................... ....... ............... 211

F CONSENSUS GROUP WORKSHEET (EXCERPT) ........... .......... 215












REFERENCES .................................................... 236

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................ 262



3-1 Item-total statistics and reliability (pilot) ................... ...

3-2 Item analysis statistics-IPS (Pilot) ...........................

3-3 Item analysis statistics-CEI (pilot) ...........................

3-4 Item analysis statistics-PEI (pilot) ............... ...........

3-5 Item analysis statistics-FOHI (pilot) ..........................

4-1 Frequencies for gender and race ............................

4-2 Frequencies for highest degree earned ........................

4-3 Comparison of AAMFT population and main study sample .......

4-4 Frequencies for licensures held ..............................

4-5 Frequencies for professional affiliations ......................

4-6 Frequencies for specialized training and certifications ............

4-7 Frequencies for focus of work (approximate percent of time spent) .

4-8 Means and standard deviations for treatment model orientation ....

4-9 Frequencies for religious affiliations .........................

4-10 Frequencies for marital status ................. .............

4-11 Frequencies for religious/spiritual leaning ................... .

4-12 Frequencies for Political Party Affiliation .....................

4-13 Frequencies for political leaning ............................

4-14 Frequencies for self-description of religiosity and spirituality .....


....... 108

......... 109

....... 110

....... 111

....... 115

....... 115

..... .. 116

...... 117

.... ... 117

.... ... 118

....... 120

......... 120

......... 12 1

......... 121

.. ..... 122

....... .. 122

4-15 Frequencies for lifetime number of sexual partners ....................... 123

4-16 Frequencies for sexual orientation .................................... 123

4-17 Frequencies for approximate number of cases in career involving infidelity .... 124

4-18 W worked with populations ...................... . 124

4-19 Frequencies for number of couples treated in career ...................... 125

4-20 Descriptive statistics for scales ....................................... 125

4-21 Item-total statistics and reliability (final) .............................. 131

4-22 Item analysis statistics-IPS (final) .................................... 133

4-23 Item analysis statistics-CEI (final) .................................... 134

4-24 Item analysis statistics-PEI (final) .................................... 134

4-25 Item analysis statistics-FOHI (final) ................................... 135

4-26 Item-total statistics and reliability (pilot and final) ........................ 135

4-27 ANOVA summary table .......................................... 136

4-28 Descriptive statistics for males ....................................... 137

4-29 Descriptive statistics for females ..................................... 138

4-30 Descriptive statistics for both genders ................. ... ....... .. 139


Figure page

4-1 Histogram displaying the mean responses to the IPS across respondents. ....... 127

4-2 Histogram of the mean IPS response for all subjects ...................... 127

4-3 Histogram displaying the mean IPS responses for all items ................. 128

4-4 Histogram of the mean IPS response for all items ........................ 128

4-5 Frequency distribution of respondents with low and high CEI ............... 129

4-6 Frequency distribution of respondents with and without PEI ................ 130

4-7 Frequency distribution of respondents with and without FOHI .............. 131

4-8 Bar graph displaying interaction between IPS and gender .................. 140

4-9 Bar graph displaying interaction between IPS and CEI .................... 141

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Rosaria Carlone Upchurch

December 2004

Chair: Silvia Echevarria-Doan
Major Department: Counselor Education

Infidelity is pervasive in the clinical population of couples. The Infidelity

Perspective Survey (IPS), and the Infidelity: Clinician Demographic Questionnaire

(ICD-Q), were developed. The IPS contains 11 hypothetical relationship dilemmas with

second-person items, and measures a clinician's tendency to promote disclosure. The

ICD-Q solicits demographic information, like gender, and items for three subscales-

Clinical/Professional Experience with Infidelity (CEI); Personal Experience with

Infidelity (PEI); and Family of Origin Experience with Infidelity (FOHI).

Clinical Members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

(AAMFT) responded to the IPS' 62 items, and wrote-in additional responses. Both the

IPS and the ICD-Q were field tested for validity and reliability through expert opinion

(N = 11), piloting (N = 37), and the main study (N = 227).

Pilot and main study IPS' internal consistency was computed at .73 and .81

(Cronbach's Alpha), respectively. Pilot and main study internal consistency (Cronbach's

Alpha), respectively, of the CEI scale was .67 and .73, of the PEI scale was .56 and .61,

and of the FOHI scale was .94 and .97. The instruments proved sufficiently reliable.

The effects of the independent variables, and their two-way interactions, on

clinicians' tendencies to promote disclosure in therapy, were examined. A 2 x 2 x 2 x 2

between-subjects analysis of variance determined no influence when G, CEI, PEI, and

FOHI were examined for main effect. There was a small effect size when G and PEI

interact, male therapists with PEI showing a lower tendency to promote disclosure during

therapy than female therapists with PEI, and male therapists without PEI showing a

higher tendency to promote disclosure than female therapists without PEI.

There was a marginal effect size when CEI and PEI interact, clinicians with a

high level of CEI and with PEI showing greater tendency to promote disclosure than

respondents with a low level of CEI and with PEI. Additionally, respondents with a high

level of CEI and without PEI showed a lower tendency to promote disclosure than

respondents with a low level of CEI and without PEI. The study's limitations and future

implications, and a summary of written-in responses, are set forth.



Opening Statement

Stories about love, passion, and betrayal make for interesting telling and listening.

For some, when love and/or commitment goes awry, they find their way into therapists'

and counselors' offices-angry, brokenhearted, crestfallen, and hopeless. For others,

their experiences in the therapist's office can create a new brand of pain, one that results

from learning previously unknown traumatic information about elements of their

partners' secret lives.

The discovery or the disclosure of an extramarital (outside of marriage), or of an

extradyadic or extrarelationship (outside of exclusive relationship), affair creates intense,

conflicted, inconsistent energy in clients, and typically precipitates a major crisis that can

put the individuals and/or the relationship at great risk (E. Brown, 1991, 1999; Glass,

2002, 2003b; Glass & Wright, 1988, 1992; Guerin, Fogarty, Fay, & Kautto, 1996;

Lusterman, 1995, 1998; Schneider, Corley, & Irons, 1998).

Despite her position on the importance of the disclosure of current and/or ancient

affairs during couples therapy, E. Brown (1991, 1999) cautions that the disclosure of

infidelity within a couple's relationship entails serious costs that must be evaluated in

advance of disclosure taking place, including the heightened probability of destructive

and violent behavior (Brown 1991; Kaslow, 1993). E. Brown urges therapists to

thoroughly think through the repercussions of disclosure before taking action. Others

take a similar position on the issue (Humphrey, 1987; Moultrup, 1990; Pittman, 1987;

Weiner-Davis, 1992).

Schneider, Corley, and Irons (1998) published a study (n = 82, 82 sex addicts and

their partners, respectively) reporting the results of their international survey of 164

recovering sex addicts and partners with respect to their "survival" of the disclosure of

infidelity in their relationships. They learned that disclosure tended to be a process and

not a one-time event; that disclosure was most conducive to healing when it included

only the major elements of the infidelity and not all the "gory details"; that despite half

the partners threatening to leave the relationship at the time of disclosure, only one

quarter of the partners actually left; that when slips and/or relapses occurred (more

infidelity), new decisions about disclosure had to be made; that neither disclosure nor

threats to leave prevented relapses; and that, with the passage of time, 96% of addicts and

93% of partners came to believe that disclosure had been the right thing to do (versus

58% and 81% of addicts and partners, respectively, when polled at the time of


Schneider, Corley, and Irons (1998) discovered that, following disclosure, the

betrayed partners tend to need a great deal of additional support from professionals and

from friends (beyond their needs preceding disclosure) and that honesty is a crucial

healing characteristic for couples in therapy.

To assist therapists working with couples in dealing with the disclosure of

extramarital sexual activity in their relationships, Corley and Schneider (2002) and

Schneider and Corley (2002) offer guidelines that enable the clinician to lead clients,

through the disclosure, and then through the aftermath of the disclosure. Additionally,

Schneider (1989) offers useful interventions to therapists working with clients as they

rebuild their marriages during recovery from compulsive sexual behavior.

Herring (2001) provides ethical guidelines for the treatment of compulsive sexual

behavior and suggests that therapists be skilled in the six core concepts (informed

consent; competence through a sound theoretical foundation; confidentiality including

the clear understanding of duty to warn/protect, HIV issues, family secrets and

involvement; maintenance of appropriate boundaries through clear understating of own

cultural and personal values, self-disclosure rules, touching, and sexual attraction to

clients; and appropriate supervision) when they attempt this work.

When therapists travel the terrain of couples counseling with the bewildered

couple or a member of that couple, they find themselves drained by the demands of the

work. It is especially important that clinicians be prepared for the roller-coaster, then the

moratorium, and then the rebuilding phases of the process that invariably ensues when

couples decide to stay together following the discovery or disclosure of an affair (Olson,

Russell, Higgins-Kessler, & Miller, 2002; Rhodes, 1984).

In addition to the couples grappling with infidelity, the third leg of this intense

relationship triangle (the other woman, the other man), who is also part of the web of

deceit (Guerin et al., 1996; Lusterman, 1998; Richardson, 1985, 1988; Staheli, 1995;

Tuch, 2000) and who also may be hurt as a function of an affair, often makes his/her way

into therapists' and counselors' offices in need of healing and repairing. Sometimes,

his/her individual therapy evolves into couples therapy and creates a dilemma for the

therapist, who now knows secret information that has not yet been disclosed to the other

partner. At this point, the therapist must decide if he/she is comfortable treating this

couple and must decide how to handle the secret information.

Sometimes, the other man or the other woman is involved in both a committed

relationship of his/her own and an extra-dyadic relationship as the third leg of a triangle

in someone else's committed relationship, and so can be a betrayed and/or betraying

partner of his/her own exclusive committed relationship. Although this dynamic can

provide more equality between and safety within the space of the two people in the extra-

relationship affair, it also creates a more complex therapy case (Moultrup, 1990;

Richardson, 1988).

When individuals and couples enter therapy of their own volition, they typically

intend to work on themselves and/or their relationships and indeed understand that

honesty is important to the process. Yet, despite their commitment to communicating

openly and candidly with their therapists and with their partners, they nonetheless hold

back information about their extramarital, extradyadic, or extrarelationship involvement.

Or, they might desire to keep this information secret from their partners) while sharing it

with the therapist, expecting the therapist to keep the information secret from the

unsuspecting other member of the couple.

Therapists and counselors must remember that, as times have evolved, the milieu

of sexual standards in society has shifted (Manji. 1996; Melton, 1968), as have the faces

of couples (Gurman & Jacobson, 2002; Jacobson & Gurman, 1995; Johnson & Lebow,

2000). The term "couple" is no longer reserved for people who are engaged or married.

Today, couple conjures up images that include many forms of attachments. Currently,

many people openly commit to exclusivity with each other by simply declaring their love

to one another, or by living together and ignoring the legalization of their relationships.

Young and Long (1998) observe that, as a culture, America endorses committed

relationships. The most current census (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2003) supports this

observation (N = 105.5 million households; 54.5 million married couples, plus 5.5

million couples living together, including gays, but not married).

Rathus, Navid, and Fichner-Rathus (2000) summarize studies on homosexuality

that reveal that, in the United States, France, and Denmark, between 3% and 11% of men

and between 2% and 12% of women identify themselves as gay or lesbian. They also

report that between 1% and 4% of the population is bisexual (sexually responsive to

either gender), and possesses an erotic attraction to and an interest in developing

romantic relationships with both males and females.

Despite the lack of widespread legal sanctioning, homosexual couples (males and

females) have become more visible within mainstream society and are considered to have

the same committed relationship status (especially emotionally) as do heterosexual

couples who are either cohabitating or dating seriously, but who are not legally married.

The Census Bureau (2003) reports, notably, that of the total 105.5 million

households in the United States, 1% belong to homosexual couples living together.

Infidelity is as much a therapeutic issue in these relationships as it is in heterosexual

couples (Green & Mitchell, 2002).

Sexual identity can play an important part in the life of families and couples

(Green & Michell, 2002; Johnson & Colucci, 1999; Laird, 2003; Green & Boyd-Franklin,

1996). Pittman (1987) points out that many people can heterosexually perform, maintain

a heterosexual relationship with the opposite sex (maybe a marriage), prefer the benefits

of a heterosexual lifestyle, but have greater sexual emotional and sexual comfort with

their own gender. They may in fact lead a double life in which they are heterosexually

married or committed and are also involved in a secret extramarital/extradyadic affair, or

might be in a committed relationship with a member of their own gender and be involved

in an extradyadic relationship with a member from the opposite gender. When this

dynamic is learned or acknowledged (either through disclosure or discovery) by the

unsuspecting partners) and the couple (either the heterosexual couple or the same gender

couple) goes to therapy, added layers of complications become part of the healing

process. Therapists and counselors can benefit from this awareness and must also

challenge their own belief systems so that moral judgment is minimized in the therapy

room (American Psychological Association [APA], 1992; Melton, 1968).

Malcolm (2000) conducted a study on the sexual identity development of

behaviorally bisexual married men. According to Malcolm (2000), it was originally

found that between 1.3% and 1.9% of heterosexually married men report homosexual

behaviors, and that, in most of those cases, the behaviors remain a secret from the wife.

Malcolm (2000) himself found that improved psychological adjustment followed marital

separation in those men in his sample (n = 355) who were more homosexually oriented

than the rest. Perhaps those men benefit from separation or divorce more than from

rebuilding the marriage. For the wife, the discovery of the existence of this lifestyle in

her husband's life can catapult her into a frenzy of negative emotions that, at best, might

be susceptible to being stabilized at an inconsolable level. There is much at stake when a

therapist encourages either the betrayer to disclose his affair, or the spouse to discover

her husband's affair.

It is not the legal attachment or the sexual orientation of the members of the

couple that determines the level of pain each feels when betrayed by the person he/she

loves. Rather, the depth of the attachment, the emotional expectations, and the beliefs

about exclusivity create the traumatic reaction in the partners.

Clinicians' offices are filled with clients who suffer from a wounded heart that

results from the advent of infidelity in their lives and from the unique interpretations

those clients make about the experiences in their lives (Walsh, 2003), irrespective of their

legal status or sexual orientation. Therapists are part of the process that leads clients to

new levels of being. How the therapist discharges this awesome responsibility and the

factors that influence his/her actions warrant examination.

Factors Influencing Therapists' and Counselors' Stances in the Therapy Room


The literature is prolific on the issue of gender as it pertains to infidelity, and

especially as it pertains to the gender of clients (Buunk & Bakker, 1995; Kinsey,

Pomeroy, Martin & Gebhart, 1953; Lawson & Samson, 1988; Sprecher, Regan, &

Mckinney, 1988; Wiederman, 1997).

The sex of a person (male or female) is typically genetically determined (Worden

& Worden, 1998). In the Postmodern tradition, Farganis (1994) points out that gender is

not something that is a given but rather is a "historical constellation of sex traits"

(p. 103), and socially constructed (Gergen, 1991, 1994; Faucault, 1995). In the

stereotypical sense, men tend to be seen as dominant, rational, objective, independent,

competitive, decisive, and aggressive (Worden & Worden, 1998). Women, on the other

hand, have traditionally been seen as submissive, caring, affectionate, cooperative,

emotional, relationship-centered, domestic, and nurturing.

Because gender is the most basic issue of diversity, Worden and Worden (1998)

point out that a therapist's role requires a range of behaviors that cross the stereotypes of

gender roles. Although this might be true, therapists are not always able to transcend

their own realities and are therefore likely to behave (male or female) according to the

social context of their life's experiences.

Newberry, Alexander, and Turner (1991) examined the effects of therapist and

client sex roles on the behaviors of participants in family therapy. Their research design

included examining two-parent families (n = 34), half of which received treatment from

male therapists-in-training (n = 17), and half from female therapists-in-training (n = 17).

After transcribing the sessions, and dividing the insession behaviors into units, they

concluded that, despite their initial finding that there were no gender differences, a

contingency analysis detected different gender-linked sequential dependencies of

therapist and client behavior. They suggest that female and male therapists may, due to

their gender, experience different types of difficulties in filling the role of therapist.

For example, they suggest that socialization patterns may encourage male

therapists to perform from positions of authority more often than would female

therapists. Female therapists may implicitly challenge the male's role or his behaviors in

the family and in the couple. Infidelity is especially at risk for this type of bias inasmuch

as more males than females engage in infidelity, and so a therapist would more

frequently treat clients where the male is the betrayer. Male clients may have more

difficulty accepting authority from the female therapist, and so if/when a female therapist

has a strong tendency to dictate to clients what should happen during therapy, the male

client might challenge her authority. If men tend to be more forceful than women, how

does gender influence the therapist's tendency to promote the disclosure of an affair

during couples therapy?

Clinical/Professional Experience with Infidelity (CEI)

Basic counselor training addresses the importance of therapists preparing to enter

their therapy rooms with some fundamental skills, and with cognizance of their own

biases and values (Ivey & Ivey, 1999). Some have gathered the opinions of expert

marriage and family therapists with regard to what specialized skills are believed to be

necessary to deem a therapist prepared for his/her work (Figley & Nelson, 1989, 1990;

Nelson & Figley, 1990; Nelson, Heilbrun, & Figley, 1993).

As therapists become seasoned, Jensen and Bergin (1988) and Keller, Huber, and

Hardy (1988) suggest that they focus on developing a personal theoretical orientation that

includes the exploration of values in family therapy theories, as well as the exploration of

the values and the stance the therapist exhibits during therapy sessions. This is especially

true with an issue as socially controversial as infidelity. If therapists are to position

themselves as suggested by the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) profession's

guidelines and ethics (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

[AAMFT], 2001), so as to "let" clients make decisions for themselves without exercising

undue influence, then therapists must become mindful, and remain so throughout the

therapeutic process, of those factors that influence him/her.

Hubble, Duncan, and Miller (2000) offer extensive insight into what works in

therapy. They point out that, typically, a therapist's level of experience does not enhance

the therapeutic relationship. Yet, at the same time, the more experienced and the more

intensely trained therapists are, the more they are able to understand their clients'

experiences with therapy. It follows then that the more exposure a therapist has with

those clients who participate in affairs (the betrayed, the betrayer, the other man, the

other woman), the more experience that therapist will have with the issue and the

dynamics of the work. Perhaps this suggests that the more seasoned therapists are, the

more they are able to appreciate the client's experience and, at the same time, the more

they are able to keep an open mind when controversial issues, such as infidelity, present

in their therapy rooms. It is logical to deduce that an experienced therapist might be

more likely to remain facilitative, and not forceful and/or domineering, as he/she plans

and executes interventions.

Clients, in their relationship with therapists, tend to attribute expertness to them;

and so clients may very well be willing to let their behaviors be overly influenced.

Because of this dynamic, therapists can often freely exert power over clients. Society

teaches its members that experience translates into expertness.

In view of the foregoing, if a client perceives a therapist as being experienced in

the area of infidelity, that client might attribute expertness to that therapist and might

relinquish his/her own right to make his/her own decisions about his/her life to that

therapist. If a therapist tends to be forceful (have a high tendency to promote disclosure),

then that therapist becomes the one to make the decision for that client. If the therapist

perceives himself/herself as an expert (having a great deal of knowledge and having

worked with a great many clients involved in infidelity), that therapist may feel powerful

and appoint himself/herself as the one who knows best what is good for those clients.

Raven (1993) revisits his earlier work (French & Raven, 1959; Raven, 1965) and

proposes a new model for conceptualizing power as it plays out in interpersonal

relationships, such as the one between client and therapist. He acknowledges, as he and

his colleagues had done earlier, that six forms of power are at play during relationships.

They are, specifically, (a) reward power; (b) coercive power; (c) legitimate power;

(d) referent power; (e) informational power; and (f) expert power. Expert power may


exist as a result of the position members of the relationship hold within the stage of their

association (e.g., teacher-student, therapist-client). When person B (the client in our

scenario) perceives person A (the therapist) as having certain knowledge or skills that are

necessary for person B to accomplish his/her goals, person B may subjugate his/her own

decision-making power to "the expert" member of the relationship.

Informational power (Raven, 1992) is very similar to expert power. When this

type of power is at play, if the client (person B) perceives the therapist (person A) as

possessing information that he/she (client) sees relevant to himself/herself, he/she will

attribute expert power to the therapist and once again might place himself/herself in the

one-down position in the relationship (Brown, Pryzwansky, & Shulte, 1998).

It follows that at any given time during the therapeutic process of couples

therapy, regardless of the presenting/evolving issue the client brings to therapy, he/she

will attribute expert power to the therapist and will place some or all of his/her fate under

that therapist's leadership, including his/her decision of whether or not to disclose his/her

secret affair to his/her partner.

How does the therapist's professional experience in the area of working with

clients involved in affairs affect his/her tendency to promote disclosure (exercise power)

over the clients, especially his/her expert power over someone (client) who might be

willing to submit?

Personal Experience and Family of Origin History with Infidelity (PEI & FOHI)

Glass and Wright (1988) take great care in pointing out that the empirical and

clinical literatures are separate, and that each suffers from a bias attributable to which

population is under observation. They underscore the importance of clinicians being able

to recognize that affairs, or extramarital sex (EMS) or extramarital involvement (EMI),


as they call them, do take place in "normal" men and women, in stable marriages, and not

just in people who suffer from interpersonal or relationship pathological processes.

Glass and Wright (1988) and others (Brown, 1989, 1991, 1999; Knapp, 1975)

declare that clinicians lack consensus on ways to address the prevalent rate of affairs and

that, frequently, they abandon an objective stance and project their own personal biases

when their clients present with issues of extra-relationship behavior.

Knapp (1975) boldly reported that the attitudes of therapists towards affairs are

directly related to their own affairs experiences. Specifically, she reported that almost

one-third of the marital counselors she surveyed had more accepting attitudes towards

their clients' affairs if they themselves had engaged in secret affairs. Those therapists

with no personal history of affairs in their own lives tended to judge clients engaging in

affairs as being neurotic, antisocial, or suffering from a personality disorder.

With regard to family-of-origin history with infidelity, rooted in the theoretical

framework of Bowenian Theory (Bowen, 1978), Eaker-Weil and Winter (1994),

Moultrup (1990), and Schnarch (1991) write of affairs as a family legacy handed down

from one generation to the next. They connect the affair legacy to the Bowenian concept

of the nuclear family emotional system, the concept of triangles as the emotional building

blocks of and the stabilizing forces of families, and to the concept of the

multigenerational transmission process that passes patterns from one generation to the

next within the larger family system.

In this vein of thinking, it can be deduced that therapists bring to the therapy

room their own inherited legacies from their own families of origin. The Bowenian

framework is rooted in the psychodynamic philosophy of psychology. In the

psychodynamic model, the idea that a therapist enters the therapy room with his/her own

agenda that may get in the way of the work to be done with clients was referred to as

countertransference. If the therapist does indeed have unresolved issues with his/her

inherited legacy around affairs, he/she might unknowingly project onto the clients)

his/her own unresolved past conflicts through the phenomenon of countertransference

(Freud, 1933/1965). Slipp (1984) suggests that, in fact, a therapist will project onto the

clients) his/her own biases if unresolved conflicts do indeed exist within himself/herself;

therefore, his/her own family of origin experience will play a part in the way he/she treats

clients. In the Bowenian model, the legacy of affairs inherited by clinicians from their

own family of origin and projected (countertransferred) onto the client would be

analyzed from the perspective of the concept of differentiation.

According to Bowen (1978), differentiation is the degree of fusion or lack of

individuation between emotional and intellectual functioning at both the intrapsychic and

the interpersonal levels. People who tend to be "fused" are dominated by their automatic

emotional system and/or by the pull they feel from the lack of emotional separation from

their family system. If the therapist is not well differentiated from his/her family of

origin, he/she may not be able to separate well his/her thoughts from his/her feelings, and

might approach a client with automatic responses, and not with deliberate, rational

interventions. Rational interventions occur best when a clinician is able to place his/her

intellect over his/her feelings, to delineate his/her own feelings from his/her personal

beliefs/preferences, and then to contain the feelings/preferences so that he/she can remain

facilitative and not inappropriately directive or impulsive.

Brown (1991) suggests a list of behaviors that tend to indicate that a therapist has

not separated his/her own issues from those of the clients. She also warns therapists that

if they are treating many couples, and they are not seeing a high proportion of affairs

among their clients, perhaps the reason is that the therapist is obstructing the view.

Specifically, she lists

* Colluding with one partner to keep the secret affair secret because the therapist
wants to avoid the discomfort that comes with dealing with affairs.

* Being over-responsible towards the clients so to create unrealistic goals for the
treatment-for example, wanting the issue resolved and the marriage rebuilt more
than the clients do.

* Imposing moral (right/wrong, good/bad) instead of professional judgment while
working with the couple.

* Being intolerant of one member of the triangle.

* Being fearful of intense feelings and muffling them in therapy sessions.

* Exhibiting more obligation towards marital/relationship fidelity than to the client.

She especially cautions those therapists who are ministers or pastoral counselors and who

might have gone into the ministry as a means of helping themselves control their own

issues of sexuality.

This study attempts to determine how clinicians' own personal and family history

with infidelity influences their clinical actions and their tendency to promote disclosure

when they are working with clients who are involved in affairs.

Need for the Study

The literature indicates that between 40% and 66% of men, and between 18% and

36% of women, become involved in affairs (Athanasiou, Shaver, & Travis, 1970; Hite,

1981; Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey et al., 1953; Pietropinto & Simenauer,

1976; Yablonsky, 1979).

In the clinical population, 25% to 30 % of couples arrive at therapy with infidelity

as the presenting problem, while 30% to 35% more disclose a problem of infidelity

during the course of therapy (Glass & Wright, 1997).

According to Weiner-Davis (1992), although infidelity leads to feelings of

betrayal, mistrust, anger, and hurt, it does not necessarily have to lead to divorce. For the

betraying partner, feelings of guilt over the pain he/she has caused can be too much to

bear and he/she might decide to leave the marriage. Or, feelings of shame may be so

deep that he/she decides to end his/her life.

The work of recovery is lengthy and requires much patience from both partners.

(Humphrey, 1987). The recovery period can vary from 2 to many years and, for some,

recovery is never attained, leaving them to live lives filled with disappointment and

bitterness (Brown, 1991).

The disclosure or discovery of an affair invariably leads to a lengthy period of

deep pain. The decision of whether or not to disclose should not be taken lightly and

should never be made in haste. Clinicians need to be clear about what their policies on

telling are.

The existence and subsequent discovery of infidelity in a marriage and/or in a

committed relationship is a devastating occurrence. In a national study, Whisman,

Dixon, and Johnson (1997) surveyed couples therapists (N = 122) regarding their

perspectives on which problems present most frequently in therapy, which are most

difficult to treat, and which create the most damaging impact on the clients' lives. They

concluded that infidelity is the second most devastating problem to families (second to

physical abuse) and the third most difficult to treat (behind detachment and dysfunctional


Theorists such as Glass (2003b); Glass & Wright (1988, 1992) and Lusterman

(1998) have determined that learning about a partner's affair creates a psychic injury that

leads to an aftermath that includes the same effects and behaviors as those described in

the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-R, American Psychiatric

Association [APA], 1994) for the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Stabilization and recuperation from the trauma can take a minimum of one year and

possibly much longer (Brown, 1991). Lack of trust can remain an issue in the

relationship for as long as three years and longer from the time of disclosure/discovery.

Based on observing his own clients, Pittman (1987) purports that 90% of divorces

involve infidelity. R. Brown (1999) claims that 35% of couples recover from infidelity

and continue their relationship. Through a multiple regression analysis, Stack (1980)

found that in the 50 American states, the incidence of divorce is closely associated with

the rate of suicide (while controlling for age, race, interstate migration, and income). He

reports that a 1% increase in divorce is associated with a 0.54 % increase in the suicide

rate. This finding supports other's opinions that divorce can be a devastating outcome of

marital unhappiness (Ahrons, 1994; Wallerstein, Lewis, & Blakely, 2000). If the

occurrence of divorce is associated with a higher rate of suicide, and if infidelity is

present in 90% of divorces (as Pittman proposes), then it would follow that assisting

people in keeping their relationships intact or in carefully planning the best clinical

interventions for treating infidelity (ones that do not simply cause clients to run to

divorce court) might be best at minimizing the damage done in the process of disclosure,

especially at the hands of the therapist.

Patterns of infidelity become legacies that continue to create devastation from one

generation to the next in family systems (Eaker-Weil & Winter, 1994; Moultrup, 1990).

For those couples that prefer working through their difficulties to pursuing divorce,

meeting up with well prepared, competent clinicians who are familiar with productive

interventions when working with infidelity will optimize the prospect of achieving their

desire to stay together.

If what Pittman (1987) says about infidelity being present in 90% of divorcing

couples approximates truth, and given that infidelity creates deep scars, then helping

clients who go to therapy create a better marriage or a better divorce post-infidelity can

yield a more favorable outcome for the couple, their children, their families, and society

in general, and possibly reduce the number of suicides. The issue of secrets and

confidentiality is especially relevant when the treatment unit consists of more than one

person, as is the case with couples therapy. Clinicians are frequently faced with clinical

dilemmas they must resolve as they attempt to help their clients during therapy (Scaturo,


When clinicians are faced with avoiding collusion with one member of the couple

against the other; knowing information that, if disclosed, could hurt (emotionally or

physically) one or both members) of that couple; or needing to share information in a

conjoint session that was thought to be private by the member who disclosed it, a careful

approach is essential.

Learning what other clinicians do, and how other clinicians handle the dynamic of

disclosure, can be empowering to the clinician who is constructing his/her own careful

approach to facilitate "telling."

Given the plethora of painful activity that can follow the discovery or disclosure

of an affair, the questions remain:

What are therapists' perspectives on the disclosure of affairs during couples

What is happening in the therapy rooms regarding affairs disclosure?

* Who is deciding if the affair is to be disclosed-the client or the therapist-if it
falls on the client to suffer the pain to do the reparation work?

S How is it currently being decided who, what, when, and how much is disclosed of
the affair during couples therapy?

S What factors influence therapists' positions regarding the disclosure of affairs
during couples therapy?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this investigation is to determine the actions clinicians take when

they learn or suspect that a secret affair exists in the lives of the couples they treat or are

about to treat, and how those clinicians' gender, and clinical/professional, personal, and

family of origin experiences with infidelity, influence the actions they take. Three goals

are conceptualized:

Goal 1

To develop a valid and reliable scale that measures a clinician's level of tendency

to promote disclosure when faced with the suspicion or the knowledge of the existence of

an affair in the relationship of couples in his/her care.

Goal 2

To identify and report those actions therapists and counselors take when faced

with the suspicion or the knowledge of the existence of a secret affair in the relationship

of couples whom those clinicians are treating, or are considering treating.

Goal 3

To analyze, determine, and report how a clinician's gender, and

clinical/professional experience with infidelity (CEI), personal experience with infidelity

(PEI); and family of origin history with infidelity (FOHI), influence his/her position on

whether or not an affair must be unearthed or disclosed as part of couples therapy.

In addition to the above goals, it is the hope of this researcher/clinician that the

following objectives also be accomplished as a by-product of this initiative:

To expose clinicians to real-life scenarios that are part of the treatment of
infidelity so that the scenarios will stimulate their thinking as they consider their
actions when faced with each dilemma presented in the questionnaire.

To encourage clinicians to think about whether or not they tend to come to their
therapy rooms with unproductive biases and actions based on moralistic attitudes
or rigid posturing.

To disseminate the study's results into the public domain of the clinical
community so that it might be used for treatment-planning, teaching, training,
writing, personal development, and further research.

To augment the academic dialogue that places infidelity on higher ground within
the identified clinician training needs-and perhaps be seen as an issue with the
same need for focus in couples work as domestic violence and substance abuse.

To assist clinicians in entering their therapy rooms with less bias and judgmental
attitude by beginning the cognitive restructuring process necessary to enable them
to conceptualize infidelity (for clinical purposes) as a neutral phenomenon,
socially constructed, and viewed in the context of the evolution of love and
committed relationships over time.

To identify research ideas for future studies on infidelity.

Promoting Disclosure

Although they may differ on the amount of information to be shared during

disclosure/discovery of an extra-relationship affair, many clinicians recommend that

secret affairs be brought to the surface during couples therapy (Brown, E., 1991, 1999;

Glass, 2002, 2003b; Glass & Wright, 1988, 1997; Pittman, 1985, 1987). Young and

Long (1998) believe that novice therapists make the mistake of keeping confidential the

existence of an affair and therefore conduct therapy on a stage of deceit.

Some (Humphrey, 1987) propose that it is the client who should decide if an

affair is to be disclosed because it is that client who takes the intrinsic risks of disclosure.

He remains somewhat neutral on the subject because he also believes that clients have

the exclusive right to decide whether on not an affair is to be disclosed because the

clients need to decide for themselves whether or not they are willing to do the intense and

extensive work necessary to rebuild the relationship after the affair has been revealed.

Others (Moultrup, 1990) caution therapists not to be overly zealous so as to

imbalance the triangle that the couple has created with the other man/woman and to be

especially slow at promoting that the affair end immediately. He points out that the

triangle has a function in the family and the marital relationship and that disrupting that

balance too quickly can be detrimental to the family system of that couple.

Promoting that an affair be disclosed in therapy requires a clinician who is very

clear on where he/she stands on whether telling/disclosing is a must. It requires a

therapist to exercise a willingness to be active, assertive, directive, and somewhat

authoritarian in his/her approach. In order to dictate what must happen, the clinician

must be willing to exercise authority over his/her clients.

The notion of level of directiveness in promoting the telling of an affair was

formulated from the concept of authoritarian behavior. The more authority a clinician

exhibits, the more direct that clinician will be in his/her requests of the clients. When a

clinicians insists on disclosure-he/she is directly requesting that the action be taken or a

consequence will ensue (termination of conjoint therapy)-that clinician is showing a

high tendency to promote disclosure.

Definition of Terms

Affair is a relationship that can be short-term or long-term and is defined by the

presence of an emotional and/or physical attachment/behaviors between two people, one

or both of whom are involved in an exclusive relationship with someone else. The affair

relationship may include some or all of the following: secrecy; emotional intimacy;

sexual chemistry; flirtatious or passionate kissing; petting; sexual intercourse; anal sex;

oral sex; mutual masturbation; masturbation using the affair partner for visual and/or in-

person stimulation; or using pornographic materials, chat rooms, or exchanging erotic

pictures of self, without the primary partner's knowledge or agreement/endorsement.

The key to defining the relationship an affair is the fact that all or parts of the affair

relationship remain a secret from the committed partnerss. The relationship is an affair

if it violates the contract/agreement for exclusivity and openness of communication

(truthfulness) made by the committed relationship partners to one another. Affairs may

take place over the Internet, on the telephone, and in the workplace.

American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the

professional organization for Marriage and Family Therapists. AAMFT represents the

interests of, and provides training for, it's clinical community (the members).

Couples therapy is the treatment of couples. It is used in two psychotherapeutic

domains. It applies certain treatment methods to problems that are reliably seen as

interactive and interpersonal. It is used also as a first-line treatment of choice for

problems that have been traditionally seen as individual mental health issues. Couples

therapy seeks to help couples resolve conflicts that involve deeply felt values in areas

such as gender, religion, race, and ethnicity. It also seeks to help couples better negotiate

their sex-role identity and culture identification issues as they emerge in the self and in

their marital/committed relationship (Jacobson & Gurman, 1995).

CEI is an anachronism created here to represent the concept of

Clinical/Professional Experience with Infidelity. In this investigation, it is one of the

independent variables of the study and is derived from the responses to the corresponding

questions on the demographic questionnaire in this study. The information it summarizes


pertains to a clinician's responses to the questionnaire vis-a-vis the types of clients he/she

has worked with during his/her work with infidelity (the betraying partner, the betrayed

partner, or the other man/the other woman).

Clinician/therapist/counselor are terms pertaining to members of the American

Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). The terms are used

interchangeably in this study.

Combination emotional-sexual affair is a secret, extramarital or extradyadic

relationship that includes elements of both emotional and sexual affairs. It encompasses

secrecy, intimacy, sexual chemistry, emotional attachment, caring (sharing life-events,

exchanging family photos, and spending time nurturing each other), and sexual contact

(kissing, petting, sexual intercourse, oral sex, and exchanging erotic pictures of self.).

Disclosing is bringing into the open something that is secret. The disclosure of a

secret extra-dyadic affair involves addressing all relevant questions about the infidelity,

setting limits that promote healthy functioning and minimize unhealthy behaviors (such

as sleep deprivation), avoiding the escalation of destructive arguments that can lead to

physical or verbal abuse, and minimizing the traumatic response in the partners (Glass,


Emotional affair is a relationship that is primarily defined by the presence of an

emotional attachment between two people, one or both of whom are involved in an

exclusive relationship with someone else. The affair relationship includes secrecy,

emotional intimacy, and sexual chemistry, but excludes contact and communication of a

sexual/physical nature. The affair can take place in person, over the Internet, or on the

telephone. Even when the relationship (friendship) is known to the excluded committed

partnerss, some aspect of the "friendship" remains secret.

Family of origin refers to the family to which one is born or adopted.

FOHI is an anachronism created here to represent the concept of Family of

Origin History with Infidelity. In this study, it is one of the independent variables and it

summarizes the clinician's responses to whether he/she believes, suspects, or knows

whether his/her female caregiver, and/or his/her male caregiver, and/or his/her maternal

grandmother, and/or his/her paternal grandmother, and/or his/her maternal grandfather,

and/or his/her paternal grandfather, was/has been a betraying partner, and/or a betrayed

partner, and/or the other man/woman. FOHI was conceptualized using the family

systems model of three generations-self, parents/caregivers, and grandparents (Sauber,

L'Abale, & Weeks, 1985).

Gender (G) is one of the independent variables in this study, containing two

levels, male and female.

Infidelity: Clinician Demographic Questionnaire (ICD-Q) is the questionnaire

developed and used in this study that contains questions designed to collect demographic

information about the participants, including the CEI, PEI, and FOHI scales.

Infidelity Perspective Survey (IPS) is the questionnaire developed and used in

this study that contains the scale that measures a clinician's tendency to promote

disclosure of affairs during couples therapy. The IPS includes 11 typical dilemmas

encountered by therapists when they work with couples affected by affairs and also

includes a set of personal belief systems particular to clinicians.

PEI is an anachronism created here to represent the concept of Personal

Experience with Infidelity. In this investigation, PEI is one of the independent variables

in the study and is derived from the responses to the corresponding questions on the ICD-

Q. The information it summarizes pertains to a clinician's responses to the questionnaire

vis-A-vis if he/she or his/her partner is/are now or has/have been in the past a betraying

partner, a betrayed partner, or the other man/the other woman.

Sexual affair is a relationship that is primarily of a sexual nature and that can

take place in person, over the Internet, or on the telephone. It may be a short-term or a

long-term secret relationship unknown to the excluded committed partnerss. It involves

sexual behaviors, such as kissing, petting, sexual intercourse, oral sex, masturbation,

exchanging of erotic pictures of self, and exchanging erotic stories, but excludes

emotional attachment and caring.

Guiding Questions

The following guiding questions framed this study:

* Does the IPS validly and reliably measure therapists' and counselors' tendencies
to promote the disclosure of affairs as part of couples therapy?

* In couples therapy, what is the effect of clinicians' gender (G) on their tendency
to promote the disclosure of affairs

* In couples therapy, what is the effect of clinicians' clinical/professional
experiences with infidelity (CEI) on their tendency to promote the disclosure of

* In couples therapy, what is the effect of clinicians' personal experiences with
infidelity (PEI) on their tendency to promote the disclosure of affairs?

* In couples therapy, what is the effect of clinicians' family of origin experience
with infidelity (FOHI) on their tendency to promote the disclosure of affairs?

* In couples therapy, what is/are the effects) of two-way interactions involving the
combinations of gender and levels of CEI, PEI, and FOHI, on clinicians'
tendencies to promote the disclosure of affairs?

Organization of the Rest of the Study

The rest of the study is contained within the next four chapters. Chapter 2

contains a review of the body of literature related to the issue of infidelity and disclosure.

Chapter 3 presents the methodology that is used in the study, including the data collected


(expert opinion and pilot study) as part of the process that led to the main phase of this

study. Chapter 4 contains the results of the main study, including the qualitative data

obtained as part of the IPS completion. Chapter 5 includes the discussion, conclusion,

and limitations of the study, as well as recommendations for further research.



To best understand the subject matter involved in the "disclosure of affairs"

dynamic in the therapy room, affairs and infidelity must be considered in the context of

the practice of psychotherapy in general and in the social context of the times. When

clinicians enter their therapy rooms to treat clients, they bring with them all the elements

that make them who they are and therefore many of the elements that influence the

decisions they make in that room.

As clinicians are called upon by clients to provide specialized treatment, the

clinicians must not only utilize the special knowledge they possess about the subject

matter, the generic clinical skills they have integrated into their modus operandi, and the

special skills required to handle the special problem, they must also call upon their

understanding of the subject matter in the context of the bigger picture-the field of

families and relationship science. Additionally, the clinicians must be cognizant of their

own beliefs, biases, and moral standards, so that they can remain facilitative and not

become shaming or controlling. This is especially important when the issue is a

controversial one like infidelity.

Much has changed since the late 1800s and early 1900s, the days of Sigmund

Freud and Carl Jung, when psychological and psychiatric intervention included only

Psychoanalytic thought and practice (Campbell, 1971; Strachey, 1965), mostly in a male


dominated society in the back wards of mental institutions (Geller & Harris, 1994; Lamb,


Presently, both male and female clinicians have at their disposal a myriad of

clinical models and a variety of approaches with which to practice their art. Sharing with

each other what they do in their therapy rooms can serve as an empowering source of

new learning for the whole clinical community. This chapter describes many of the

facets of clinical practice in the work of navigating infidelity with the couples in therapy.

This literature review is divided into two parts that together create the foundation

for what happens in the therapy room, each day, as the therapist makes important

decisions while assisting his/her clients navigate their ship in the murky waters of the

wake from infidelity and betrayal. Clinicians have a part in setting sail to that ship when

they make the decision to promote the position that a secret affair must be disclosed

during therapy, or else (Brown, E., 1991, 1999; Glass, 2003b; Lusterman, 1998;

Moultrup, 1990; Pittman, 1989; and Schneider, 1988).

Part I of the literature review describes the context within which much treatment

of infidelity occurs--couples. This part, entitled "Couples, Couples and Couples,"

includes seven subsections:

Couples and Family Therapy in Social Context
Transitioning from Modem to Post-Modern Thought
Indications for Couples Therapy
Contraindications for Couples Therapy
Problems in Committed Relationships
Characteristics of Healthy Couples
Common Issues in Committed Relationships

Part II addresses the core of the information most closely pertaining to the subject

matter in this study. Named Love, Sex, and Betrayal," it includes 13 sections:

* Love and Exclusive Commitment, the Big Picture

* Monogamy in the Social Context
* Sex and Human Nature
* Religion, Christianity, and Sexuality
* Infidelity, Adultery and Other Names
* Prevalence Rates of Infidelity
* Attitudes and Gender--Differences Among People
* Theoretical Typologies and Patterns of Infidelity
(divided into 11 subsections: Shirley Glass and Thomas Wright; Frank
Pittman; Emily Brown; Sexual Addiction; David Moulthrop; Imago
Relationship Therapy; Don-David Lusterman; Lana Staheli and Florence
Kaslow; Eaker-Weil and Winter; Subotnik and Harris; Cyber-Infidelity; and
Open Marriage and Swinging)
* Discovery and/or Disclosure
* Clinical Dilemmas in Treatment
* Dilemmas Encountered by Clinicians Working with Infidelity
* The Professional Community Speaks Directly on Infidelity Dilemmas
* A closing statement.

Part I: Couples, Couples, and Couples

Couples and Family Therapy in Social Context

What occurs in the therapy room is the synergistic culmination of many years of

psychotherapeutic evolution that each clinician has internalized and utilizes. The

therapeutic session leans on influences from the past, from the Modernism era, and from

the more contemporary philosophy called Postmodernism.

Gergen (1991) describes the Moder period as a time when the self resided

primarily in a person's ability to reason, to have beliefs and opinions, and to act on

conscious intentions. The Modernists approach advocates for a stable family life, moral

training, and a rational choice of marriage partner. Additionally, assumptions about

reality include the idea that reality is certain, that it is true or false, and that creating

change is a task done from outside of the problem.

The Postmodern movement proposes that the self is surrounded by many truths

(Anderson, 1995) and that the truth is "made up" instead of "found." Reality is socially

constructed within the four covers of society (the evolving self-concept, the moral and

ethical dialogue, the free-styles of art and culture, and the globalization of the world)

through personal perceptions, language usage, and varied worldviews.

Therapy within the Postmodern approach is a collaborative process that includes

the influence of the therapist's presence and the externalizing of problems as existing

outside of the person, as a separate entity, and resolved through the accessing of personal

power and innovations.

Common themes include diversity, inclusivity, collage, and choice. The issue of

equitable power distribution is paramount (Foucault, 1991). This is especially important

to the way gender roles play out in committed relationships. Morality and religion are

important to the context of infidelity because, for many people, morality and religion

guide their behaviors.

Transitioning from Modern to Postmodern Thought

As mentioned before, the Postmodern movement (Anderson, 1995; Foucault,

1991; Gergen, 1991) in society created a new way to conceptualize families-in the

context of their culture and in the context of their unique experience.

The new ways of thinking change the perception of the self (as mates, as females)

and the roles each self plays in life's tasks (Walters, Carter, Pap, & Silverstein, 1988).

With regard to infidelity, as a woman achieved a more powerful status, her role as

subservient (sexually) to males changed. Now, she could refuse sex, and perhaps even

engage in extramarital sex and affairs in her own right, and maybe even enjoy the support

of society.

Feminism (Haddock, Zimmerman, & MacPhee, 2000; Rampage, 1995) focused

on the power differential of males and females and criticized many of the premises of

family therapy for their male conceptualized and male dominated foundation. For

example, one major issue that emerged was the need to begin seeing families in their

social-political context (Avis, 1988).

In the family therapy field (which includes couples), an emergence of interest and

focus on power differentials caused by gender issues, ethnic/racial concerns, economic

factors, and sexual identity, occurred (Carter & McGoldrick, 1999; McGoldrick & Preto,


In couples therapy, Boyd-Franklin (1989, 1993) and Boyd-Franklin and Franklin

(1998) voiced the challenges encountered by Black couples. They emphasized the even

more difficult challenges that African-American lesbian couples encounter as a result of

being marginalized twice in society. .. once for being black and once for being gay.

Without a new foundational worldview, the therapist may never be able to place

infidelity in the larger context experienced by the couple.

Falicov (1988, 1995) shed new light on the traditional view of family triangles

(Ackerman, 1966; Bowen, 1978; Haley, 1967, 1976; Minuchin, 1974) by proposing

that-when revisioning family triangles, instead of having as a goal the American

middle-class vision of the family where therapy focuses on restoring boundaries around

the marital couple-the clinician take into account that families from other ethnicities,

races, and social classes may benefit from using other family ties to help resolve the

conflict. A clinician's focusing strictly on placing strong boundaries around a conflicted

couple can block important participation by other family members that would enhance

the resolution of the conflict. Clinicians should refrain from the temptation to

indoctrinate ethnically diverse clients with the dogmas of the dominant white middle-

class culture, including those pertaining to relationship infidelity (Falicov, 1998).


The topic of crimes against women was broached (Bograd, 1999; Goldner, 1999;

Jacobson, 1999). The focus on domestic violence (physical abuse, sexual abuse) became

central in the psychotherapy dialogue following a formal call to action by feminist

clinicians (Avis, 1992; Erikson, 1992). Infidelity is at times a core advent in couples that

engage in abusive and/or violent behaviors.

The advent of the depathologizing of homosexuality and other sexual identity

issues (APA, 1994) rendered as "normal" or "acceptable" a great deal of what was once

considered pathological, and the study of Gay and Lesbian Issues and Models for therapy

emerged (Cass, 1979; Clunis & Green, 1988; Coleman, 1982; Levine & Troiden, 1986,

1988; Liddle, 1995). Sometimes, the extrarelationship affair is with a member of the

same sex, or the primary relationship is a gay or lesbian one and the affair relationship is

heterosexual. When infidelity is due to a sexual addiction, preparing clients to enter

recovery requires their willingness and commitment (Miller & Rollnick, 1991).

New models with a positive focus have been developed. Walsh (1993, 1998,

2003) brought to bare the importance of family strengths and resilience. Walsh (1993)

underscores the anxious effects that come from the tension between the idealized

expectations in our culture and the actual experience of contemporary family life. New

perspectives that can replace the old ideas of what is normal must include the

demystification of myths such as the belief that there is one proper gender role, and the

belief that the melting pot is equitable for both the white dominant culture and minority

cultures. Perhaps, if expectations were different, some of the stressors that contribute to

the high rate of infidelity would be reduced, resulting in a lower rate of infidelity

incidence, and, perhaps, a lower rate of divorce (Pittman, 1989).


Walters, Carter, Pap, and Silverstein (1988) attempted to inspire women to access

their ability to redefine their roles and to access their very unique abilities to recreate

their world within the family and within the larger social context, including ways that

involve their sexuality.

When couples divorce, and many do following the disclosure of an affair,

children's lives change drastically. Braver and Griffin (2000) note the importance of

engaging fathers in the post-divorce family. Marsiglio, Day and Lamb (2000) explore

the diversity of thought involved in researching and creating proper ways to involve

fathers in the postmodern family.

Waters and Lawrence (1993) incorporate the use of competence and courage in

their model for therapy. They note that family therapists have been better at mocking the

medical model than they have been at replacing it. Echevarria-Doan (2001) has proposed

a Resource-based Reflective Consultation model that assists therapists to help their

clients access their own resources and strengths.

A new phenomenon has been infiltrating family life. The invention of the

Internet, cell phones, and digital technology has created new challenges for therapists as

they conduct therapy. Many affairs take place over the Internet, and, because they do not

meet the "traditional" criteria for an affair, are frequently minimized with regard to their

significance and impact on the marriage (Neuman, 2001). New models are underway

and many books have been published as theoretical frameworks for dealing with this

issue (Collins, 1999, Maheu, 2003; Neuman, 2001; Schneider, 2000; Young, Griffin-

Shelley, Cooper, O'Mara, & Buchanan, 2000).

The crisis of infidelity can create a need for the exploration of spiritual issues in

therapy. It is an individualized process for each client, with unique forms of


understanding and practices. It is incumbent on the therapist to prepare himself/herself to

meet whatever challenges the client brings to therapy, without imposing undue moral,

spiritual, or religious doctrine on the client. When the therapist insists on the disclosure

of an affair, he/she must be prepared to help the clients manage the aftermath of

disclosure. Pastors, Christian Counselors, Rabbis, and other clerics must be made

especially aware.

Issues of spirituality and religiosity emerge in therapy on a frequent basis.

Clients present at therapy conflicted by their beliefs vis-a-vis their lifestyles, and may

live in a constant state of guilt and dis-equilibrium. This is especially true when secret

affairs are ongoing, so that life consists of many lies.

The counseling relationship can be a crucible for the creation and enhancement of

spiritual awareness in clients (Hendrix, 19898; Schnarch, 1995, 1997). Several theorists

(Frame, 2000; Hodge, 2000; Patterson, Hayworth, & Turner, 2000) have emphasized the

importance of therapists understanding their own spirituality as a means of understanding

spirituality in diverse forms in clients, and as a means of more holistically responding to

what clients want and need in counseling, including the exploration of spiritual issues.

Traditionally, therapists are trained to clarify their own values, biases, and

perspectives on life, and to develop a theoretical framework from which to draw as they

practice. This is especially true as therapists help clients navigate the murky waters of

the aftermath of betrayal. It is especially important for therapists to be clear as to where

their space ends and the client's begins, and for therapists to commit to ongoing personal

development designed to help them stay ahead of their clients as a way of remaining

facilitative to the clients' growth. All this is with the goal of serving clients well and

meeting them where they are, in their own life's context, within the realm of their

individualized social, psychological and intellectual needs, including those related to

their spiritual and religious beliefs.

Calling on one's spirituality is especially important for some whose coping

mechanisms during a time of extreme trauma or stress (as in the crisis of infidelity) are

weakened. Even therapists who are not trained in religious dogma must be prepared to

give spiritual support to clients whose hearts are so broken (as is often the case with

betrayal) that their ability to think clearly is suspended.

Indications for Couples Therapy

That professional approaches, beliefs, and social contexts change as they evolve

over time has been established in the previous sections. Alan Gurman and Neil Jacobson

(1995) write that one of the most notable changes in relationship therapy is the

supplanting of the word "marriage" with one that is more universal and less value-laden

as a descriptor for committed relationships-"couples."

Beavers (1985) made a case for couples therapy as it began to evolve in the

context of family systems therapy. Beavers suggested that couples therapy is especially

indicated when, in a family, the couple (a) requests couples therapy, (b) neither member

of the couple is psychotic or severely depressed, (c) both members of the couple wish for

the relationship to continue, (d) individual psychotherapy reaches an impasse, and (e)

when, in the therapy room, issues related to individual client's relationship with his/her

partner consistently appears within his/her individual therapy session (that individual's

projection of power, control and responsibility for problems on the spouse) and should be

directly addressed with the spouse's collaboration.

Contraindications for Couples Therapy

The criterion for when couples therapy is indicated has both remained the same

and changed over time-depending on the model of intervention preferred by the

therapist. For example, Harville Hendrix (1988), in his Imago Relationship Therapy

Model (IRT), suggests the suspension of decisions by couples regarding divorce or

separation until the couple has undergone 12 sessions of therapy. The processes

experienced during the sessions will clarify whether a commitment to the relationship

journey is still possible for that couple after each member considers closing the exits that

sabotage the achievement of intimacy and joyful living. An affair is one such exit

according to IRT.

On the other hand, some therapists caution that unless both spouses are

committed to the relationship and its well-being, conjoint couples therapy may be

ineffective (Greenspun, 2000). When couples are divorcing, or when one member of the

couple is coming out as gay or lesbian, they sometimes seek couples therapy. In this

context, it is especially important to establish clear goals for the therapy that reflect the

wishes of both members of the couple. Conjoint therapy might not be appropriate.

Some possible contraindications to couples therapy (conjoint or otherwise)

include the presence of domestic violence or substance abuse, or the existence of a secret

affair. Therapists should be very clear about their policies for approaching therapy in

therapeutic circumstances that can present danger to one or both partners. Greenspun

(2000) proposes that conjoint therapy with couples that engage in violence should be

considered only if and when the abuser (usually the man) takes full responsibility for his

violence, for his capacity to tolerate hearing the woman's description of being victimized

by him, and for his willingness to work towards stopping his abusive behavior. This

must take precedence over any other intervention in couples therapy-including the

disclosure of an affair.

Feminist therapist Bograd (1992) challenges family therapists to approach the

issue of violence in a more rigorous manner during therapy. Bograd and Mederos (1999)

proposed a comprehensive model for screening couples for the purpose of determining

the appropriateness of conjoint therapy if violence is present.

A clinician's professional orientation influences couples work. It is important to

remember that no theoretical model should ever supersede sound, clinical intuition and

judgment. The dilemma that clinicians must resolve here is whether or not it is safe to

facilitate the disclosure or the unearthing of a secret affair in a relationship that is or can

become dangerous-especially if the betrayer is the possible victim of the danger.

Problems in the Couples/Committed Relationship Paradigm

Committed relationships can be challenging and often difficult to manage.

Couples therapists must be aware of and prepared to treat the many presenting problems

that coexist with infidelity and may be brought by couples to therapy. Young and Long

(1998) claim that one in seven marriages are considered unhappy.

Divorce plagues the American family (Gottman, 1994a, 1999a; Wallerstein,

Lewis, & Blakeslee, 2000; Young & Long, 1998). Half of all marriages end up in

divorce, which typically is the result of a relationship laden with conflict. Some theorists

claim that infidelity is the leading cause of divorce (Gottman, 1994b; Pittman, 1987).

Given the bleak picture of committed relationships, the evaluation and treatment

of marital/committed relationship conflict is an essential skill for therapists to master

(Guerin, Fay, Burden, & Kautto, 1987). When assessing couples for treatment planning,


Young and Long (1998) suggest that it be done on an ongoing basis and that, perhaps, the

idea that assessment and treatment are intertwined should be remembered.

In the assessment process, some clinicians believe the individuals must be

assessed first to assure that conjoint therapy is indicated (Bograd, 1992; Bograd &

Mederos, 1999; Rosenbaum & O'Leary, 1986), while others encourage seeing couples

conjointly exclusively (Hendrix, 1988).

Next, the therapist should focus on the problems with the relationships. There are

many ways to accomplish this, with or without formal, structured measuring instruments

(Christiansen, Jacobson, & Babcock, 1995; Gottman, 1976, 1979, 1999b; Hendrix, 1988;

Jacobson, 1977; Jacobson & Christiansen, 1996; Straus, 1979).

One of the most widely used tools is the marital satisfaction inventory (Spanier &

Lewis, 1980). Fredman and Sherman (1987) published a book on assessment tools for

couples and families. During a crisis, the focus of assessment should remain on safety

and the interventions on safety measures (Bograd & Mederos, 1999). Genograms may be

used as an assessment tool to place the couple in its family system context (McGoldrick

& Gerson, 1985; McGoldrick, Gerson & Shellenberger, 1999).

John Gottman (1979, 1980, 1993a, 1993b, 1994a, 1994b, 1999b, 2001) has been

working with couples for many years. In his research, he has been able to predict divorce

with an accuracy rate of 97%. His concept of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of

Marriage" (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling [1999, pp. 41-47]) can

be helpful in designing interventions with couples. The "Sound Marital House" therapy

model (Gottman, 1999a) is his effort that specifically targets these relationships

dynamics. He has also produced a self-help workshop that couples can buy and self-

administer (Gottman, 2001).

Characteristics of Healthy Couples

According to Olson (1993), healthy, strong, resilient couples, like families, are

those who achieve a balance among proper levels of cohesion (emotional bonding,

boundaries, coalitions, time, space, friends, decision-making, interests, and recreation),

flexibility (equitable control, negotiation, roles, and rules), and communication (listening,

speaking, self-disclosure, clarity, respect, and regard). When couples find themselves out

of balance in any or all of the three dimensions, they experience stress and

dissatisfaction. They sometimes turn to people outside their marriage relationship for

comfort and validation.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1995), with the intent of learning what is meant by a

"happy" marriage/relationship, conducted a study of couples. They categorized their

information within four patterns of marriage (romantic, rescue, companionate, and

traditional). They discovered that strong, happy, resilient couples are those that

successfully negotiate the nine marriage tasks (separating from family of origin, building

together and creating autonomy, becoming parents, coping with crisis, making a safe

place for conflict, exploring sexual love and intimacy, sharing laughter and keeping

interest alive, providing emotional nurturance, and preserving double vision) while

holding on to me.

In a comprehensive review article of the last decade of empirical research on

marital satisfaction, Bradbury, Finchham, and Beach (2000) conclude that the literature

on the subject shows enhanced understanding of couples vis-a-vis the complex

environments they must adapt to.

The focus of their review includes studies that emphasize the understanding of

(a) interpersonal processes that operate in marriage (cognition, affect, physiology,


behavioral patterns, social support, and violence; (b) marital satisfaction as a function of

the milieus of which the couple are part (presence of children, life stressors, transitions,

economic factors, and perceived mate availability); and (c) ways to conceptualize and

measure marital satisfaction (measuring instruments and self-reports).

Gurman and Jacobson (1995) first declared, and now Johnson and Lebow (2000)

declare, that couples therapy has finally "come of age." In their review of the marriage

and family therapy research over the last 10 years, Johnson and Lebow (2000) establish

the premise that, through couples therapy, distressed, at-risk-for-divorce couples can be

redirected towards wholeness again by enhancing healthy emotional engagement and

connection, enhancing gender equity, and minimizing inhibiting factors.

As the authors review the efficacy of couples therapy, they examine closely

Gottman's work (1994a) and report his findings related to negative emotions and the way

they interface with the presence of criticism, contempt, distancing, and stonewalling in

relationships. When these behaviors become pervasive in a relationship, emotional

engagement (an essential component of healthy, strong, resilient relationships) becomes

impossible. In examining Beavers and Hampson's work (1993), the authors point out the

importance of therapy's fostering responsiveness, fruitful negotiation, and skills for

dealing with conflict.

The groundbreaking work of Jacobson (1985) has brought attention to the

importance of including as essential outcomes in research and therapy not only statistical

significance but clinical meaningfulness. For therapy to be effective, it must move

clients into the satisfied, healthy range of functioning.

Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) (Hendrix, 1988, 1992) offers a comprehensive

model for addressing relationship needs in couples. Despite the maturation of this model,

little research has been undertaken to determine its efficacy. The primary goals of the

therapy include assisting couples to achieve relaxed joyfulness through the healing of

childhood wounds that tend to play a key part in mate selection and that tend to show up

in a disguised form in the conflict couples experience during the power struggle of the


Patricia Love (2001) proposed 12 steps within four stages (infatuation, post-

rapture, discovery, and connection) to making love last forever. She cautions couples to

recognize that relationships are evolutionary and that couples must be willing to go on

the journey from beginning to end. By first feeling the attraction, then settling into the

more mundane, spending time gathering information about each other, clarifying roles,

defining love, building trust, expanding commitment, deepening connection, forging

friendship, creating a haven, providing support, and, finally, claiming love, will assure a

happy, satisfying couplehood and the minimization of psychological pain.

Many types of marriages/relationship have been identified. Schnarch (1997,

2002) promotes the concept of the passionate marriage. To achieve passion and true

intimacy, couples must work on differentiating from each other.

Schnarch (1997) suggests accomplishing differientation through five activities.

Each member must work at

maintaining a clear sense of who he/she is as intimacy increased

maintaining a sense of perspective about anxieties and other shortcomings about
each other

keeping alive the willingness to engage in self-confrontation to maximize growth

remaining intellectually honest about one's own projections and distortions and
especially being willing to admit being wrong

recognizing and accepting that pain must be tolerated in order for growing to
occur. (p. 324);

Other typologies for relationships also inform the way therapists conceptualize

committed partnerships. Schwartz (1994) promotes the idea of peer marriage and the

importance of equality in love. Thoele (1996) uses a transpersonal model for

relationships in her focus of spirituality in marriage, as she promotes the creation of the

heart-centered marriage.

Although not considered a scholar, John Gray (1992) has proposed that men and

women can get along best if they recognize that they are as different as two different

planets (Mars and Venus), and that, as such, they must work on adapting to each other's

cultures and on learning each other's language and worldviews.

Common Issues in Marital/Couples/Committed Relationships Therapy

In couples therapy, many issues emerge that interfere with the achievement of

healthy committed relationships. Some of the most prominent issues are those related to

psychiatric disorders in one or both spouses (Jacobson & Gurman, 1995a). For example,

when alcohol problems are present in one or both spouses, the relationship can become

focused on the addiction (McCrady & Epstein, 1995). The couple's therapy must focus

on the teaching of individual coping skills, on the behaviors of the nonalcoholic partner,

on the interactions between the partners, on the management of the social system outside

the relationship, and, finally, on the teaching of techniques that can help generalize to the

natural environment and that will help maintain the new behaviors. Once the addiction is

under control, the couple can begin working on the other issues in their relationship.

Substance use and abuse has been linked to higher prevalence rates of infidelity, marital

and family violence, and divorce.

The assessment and treatment of marital violence presents with some very special

concerns, not the least of which is whether to see couples in conjoint therapy or each


member of the couple individually (Avis, 1992; Bograd, 1992, 1999; Bograd & Mederos,

1999; Holzwoth-Munroe, Beaty, & Anglin, 1995; Jacobson & Gottman, 1998; Stith &

Straus, 1995).

The existence of undisclosed violence can place partners at a higher risk if

personal disclosures occur in the therapy room. A batterer can be angered during therapy

and then act out his/her anger later at home when the victim is vulnerable and

unprotected. The therapist must remain cognizant of this covert risk and take appropriate

steps to assure the safety of all clients.

Violence (emotional and physical) in couples can increase when the disclosure or

the discovery of an affair/extra-dyadic sex comes to light (Brown, E., 1999). In this case,

the therapist must be prepared to first protect and to then stabilize the situation, and

finally must realign the therapeutic approach with the facts at hand.

Other psychiatric disorders that can be present in couples work are anxiety

disorders (Craske & Zoeller, 1995); depression (Gotlib & Beach, 1995); eating disorders

(Root, 1995), personality disorders (Slipp, 1995) and sexual disorders (Heiman, Epps, &

Ellis, 1995). Grief reactions resulting form loss and other addictions, such as gambling

or overspending, can create havoc in a relationship.

Although, theoretically, divorce ends the existence of the marital dyad in a

family, couples frequently remain connected through conflict, which is then displaced

and projected on the children (Ahrons, 1994). In relationship therapy, saying goodbye

(Hendrix, 1988) in a friendly manner that achieves closure can facilitate a quicker

stabilization of the family, post-divorce (Ahrons, 1994).

When infidelity is the catalyst for divorce, anger and resentment can linger on for

years. Therapists must be sure to assess for any unresolved emotional turmoil that is due

to lack of closure from life's past events. Helping couples create a good divorce can

make a huge difference in their quality of life postdivorce and can help create a happier

environment for the children.

Walsh, Jacob, and Simons (1995) encourage a developmental model that begins

with the evolution of the decision to divorce and proceeds to the management of the

emotional turmoil in the immediate aftermath, the realigning with families and social

support systems, the adjustment of new parenting roles, the adjustment to the resulting

economic distress, and the disruption of the physical and structural dislocation.

Eventually, issues of remarriage and step parenting emerge and must be dealt with

(Visher & Visher, 1993).

Kaslow (1984) noted that each member of the couple (and the children, too) will,

at his/her pace, go through the process of denial, anger, depression, and, finally,

acceptance, within a two to three year period. The couple will experience feelings,

behaviors, and thoughts, through three phases-predivorce decision making, divorce

restructuring, and postdivorce recovery.

Kaslow and Swartz (1987) propose a dialectic model of divorce that

comprehensively lays out feelings, actions, tasks, and therapeutic interventions that

correspond to each of the three stages. Mediation can be used to assist couples through a

more peaceful divorce (Neuman, 1989).

Although the political and social climate couples exist in is quickly changing, gay

and lesbian couples still face special issues when separating because of the lack of legal

status in most of the gay and lesbian relationships. Laird (1993), Sanders (2000), and

Marvin and Miller (2000) point out that gays and lesbians face the issues of losing

children that are not biologically related to them. In couples therapy, gay and lesbian

couples face many challenges that heterosexual couples do not.

Medical conditions can also create the need for specialized therapy. Issues of

death and dying have contributed greatly to the emergence of spirituality counseling.

Spirituality counselors aim to mitigate the transpersonal and the personal.

Rapoport and Rapoport (1971) describe the dual-career couple. Stoltz-Loike

(1992) underscores that this type of couple has become the dominant lifestyle in

America. The dual-career couple has many external stressors that place a burden on the

relationship. Sometimes the members escape into an extramarital affair.

Until 1967, it was illegal in some states for interracial couples to marry.

Intermarriage refers to a committed relationship that includes the added dimensions of

one partner's racial, cultural, and/or religious background as different from his or her


Ho (1990) suggests that intermarriages are like any other union and that although

they may enjoy the added advantages of greater vitality in family living due to the

diversity in the family, the barriers are many at the ecological level and at the spousal

interaction level.

According to Ho (1990), the ecological barriers that can add much conflict to the

lives of intermarried include racism, prejudice, discrimination, social class, immigration

and cultural adjustment, language and physical diversity, extended family problems, and

greater difficulty at adjusting to family life cycles.

Within the realm of spousal interaction, arguments may arise out of conflict due

to food and dining etiquette, festivities and observances, friendships and social network,

financial management, religion, sexual adjustment, childrearing practices, and gender

role expectations. Identifying the couples' values regarding marital fidelity is essential

for best therapeutic outcomes.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), especially HIV and AIDS, have created a

new awareness in the area of sexuality counseling. Couples who must contend with

infectious disorders require a great deal of psycho-education as part of their therapy

(Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus, 2000). The issue of STIs is a special topic of focus in

couples and individuals who are working through the effects of an affair and/or betrayal.

Many spouses learn of his/her partner's infidelity when they themselves are diagnosed

with an STI.

Irrespective of the presenting issues by couples, the typical interventions include

the teaching of combinations of several of the following skills: communication, conflict-

resolution, self and couple assessment, understanding family of origin, negotiation, role-

playing, behavioral contracts, modeling, paradoxes, giving information, spiritual

reflection, group process, behavioral rehearsals, fun enhancement, mentoring,

restructuring expectations, problem-solving, self-instructions, behavioral tasks, and

giving and receiving nurturing. The therapists or facilitators include both professional

therapists/clinicians and para-professionals.

Many models exist that are designed for the treatment of relationship dysfunction.

Dattilio and Bevilacqua (2000), Jacobson and Gurman (1995a), and Gurman and

Jacobson (2002) have assembled three books that include the major theoretical

framework for couple's therapy.

The prolific work of John Gottman has become a staple in marriage counseling

classes. His model of the Marriage Clinic (1999a) has been packaged not only for

clinicians, but for the community at large. The Acceptance and Change in Couple

Therapy (Jacobson & Christiansen, 1996) has provided an integrated model that is

applicable and useful in many circumstances.

Whatever model of therapy a clinician adopts, the desired outcomes remain the

same: marital/relationship happiness and good quality of life that includes emotional,

physical and spiritual connection.

Part II: Love, Sex, and Betrayal

Love and Exclusive Commitment: The Big Picture

A relationship model that includes romantic love, sex, affection, friendship, and

family roles, all in one single relationship, is a relatively new phenomenon. A glimpse at

the evolution of love and sex throughout time provides a useful perspective for present

views on love, sex, exclusive commitment, and monogamy in relationships.

Taylor (1970) describes the evolution of man-woman relationships over a 3200-

year span. His work, similar to that of the social constructivists (Anderson, 1995;

Dickens & Fontana, 1994; Gergen, 1991, 1994), underscores the idea that reality is

contextually created and that humans must be understood in light of the times they live

in, and in light of their experiences, values, attitudes, worldviews, and culture.

The History of Love (, 2004)

summarizes the evolution of love in the following way. In the Grecian Era, we discover

that, in Ancient Greece (450 BC 1300 AD), a sexual double standard existed between

men and women. Women were expected to remain virtuous while men were free to

enjoy sex. In the Golden Age of Greece (450 BC 27 BC), high-class prostitutes were

considered superior to wives and to other virtuous women. Men expected faithful love

from their women-but earned it through gifts and tricks. Men in love were considered

ill. Love was not connected to marriage.


In the Roman Empire (27 BC 385 AD), love was lusty, guilt-free, deceitful, and

unfaithful. In 2 BC, Ovid wrote a manual for sex and adultery that contained items such

as descriptions of sexual positions and how to achieve mutual orgasm. During the

decline of the Roman Empire, as Christianity was emerging, all evils were linked to sex

and pleasure.

In the Dark Ages (385 AD 1000 AD), Christians promoted sex as a guilty and

sinful act. Eroticism increased as sex became more forbidden. In the fifth century,

marriage came under clerical domination and sex was viewed as unromantic, harsh, ugly,

and punishable. Women became sexual property of men. Christian marital sex was

performed only in one position and never during holy days. Sex without values

(prostitutes, orgy, rape, or sadistic) was not a serious offense. Sex with value (loving or

valuing a woman) was a high sin.

Courtly love arrived in the pre-Renaissance era (1000 1300), when the romantic

ideal began to emerge. Courtly love was a clandestine, bittersweet relationship that,

although spiritually uplifting, was highly frustrating because it was unrequited. Courtly

love also introduced the elements of an emotional relationship between men and women

for the first time (primarily in the noble class).

The Renaissance period reintroduced physical love into the culture. Women were

viewed as "evil" if they engaged in sex. Love and marriage were combined for the first

time when Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn. Mind and body began to be associated.

The middle class began associating sex and love in the same way that the upper class had

been doing.

In the Puritan period (1500-1700), two factions of society existed. Those

following Martin Luther underscored the value-oriented meaning of love, sex, and

romance, while those following John Calvin could not dance, or wear jewelry or fancy

clothes. Adultery carried the death penalty. Legitimate love was regulated and was

intended only for reproduction and to eliminate incontinence.

The Age of Reason (1700-1800) brought a de-emphasis of sex; women of

intellect were pursued. Men were deemed Don Juans (wanting to make sexual

conquests) who used love to seduce women. The culture of the Victorian period (1800-

1900) required women to be shy and virginal. Women had to be morally spotless and, at

the same time, a love partner for their husbands and not just "housemaids." The Surgeon

General declared that decent women should feel no pleasure during intercourse and that,

if she did, she was pathological and at risk for sterility. This period resulted in much

fantasy about sex (the popularity of prostitution and pornography rose dramatically).

The emancipation of women began during the Capitalism era (1850-1900). As

the 20th century emerged (1900-1930), so did the idea that romantic love was the basis

for choosing a life-long partner. The sexual desires of both partners could be satisfied.

Lovemaking was separated from procreation, and the sexual revolution began.

The Modem and Postmodern periods (1930-2004) brought the concept of open

marriages, progressive polygamy and sexual enjoyment. Psychological aspects of self

(esteem and happiness) were (and are) acknowledged to be important to quality of life.

Today, romantic love is part of everyone's goal. Its value is that it fulfills emotional

needs and promotes happiness.

Monogamy in Social Context

Sociologist Sanderson (2001) explores monogamy and polygamy within the

context of Evolutionary Psychology. He proposes that polygamy results primarily from

male rather than female choice, as suggested by Kanazawa and Still (1999), because it

flows out of the male sexual desire for variety. Monogamy, on the other hand, is

imposed by nations on their men in order to equalize reproductive opportunities. He

describes women from poor areas as more likely to choose polygamy because poor

women would rather be the last wife of a rich man than the only wife of a poor man.

Sanders (2001) presents a study conducted by Murdock and White (1969) and

later examined by White (1981), which studied 186 societies in the Ethnographic Atlas

(Murdock, 1967) using a cross-cultural sample. He reported that between 20% and 49%

of males in the sample were polygamously married in 32% of societies, and half or more

of the male population was involved in polygamous marriages in 9% of the societies

under review. He applied a five-point scale (monogamy prescribed, monogamy preferred

but some polygamy, polygamy preferred by leaders, polygamy preferred by men of

wealth and rank, and polygamy preferred and attained by most men) to find that

polygamy was moderately correlated with the contribution made by women to

agriculture. He concluded that men are more motivated toward polygamous marriages

when women's economic value is high and that men in all societies desire sexual variety

and will take advantage of opportunities for it when they present themselves.

Sex and Human Nature

Barash and Lipton (2001), a zoologist and a psychiatrist, teamed up to examine at

length the concept of monogamy. They note that within the natural universe, there is

powerful evidence that human beings are not "naturally" monogamous. Whether humans

should be monogamous is not their pursuit, but they caution their readers that monogamy

is unusual and difficult despite the fact that humans can be monogamous. They

acknowledge that for many people, monogamy is synonymous with morality and that for

many, even desire-at-a-glance is considered a sin. They offer the idea that social


monogamy (learned through training) is different than genetic monogamy (which is more


Many theories of sex exist (Karlem, 1971). May (1988) proposes that sex

manifests itself in our lives through four theories that are concurrent, conflicting, and

mischievous in all of us. He states that we view sex as demonic, divine, casual, or

nuisance, and that each of these theories has its roots in a different cultural tradition and

context. He suggests that the demonic theory is rooted in the Victorian era, the divine in

the Romantic era, and the casual in the Liberal era, and that the nuisance theory is part of

the British/Satirist tradition of formality. He concludes that consciously acknowledging

this reality will enable us to better enjoy and participate in sexual pleasure.

LeVay (1994) believes that there are two contrasting ideas regarding sex. The

first holds that all people are born with very similar brains and that everything (sexual

lives, inner desires, inhibitions, fulfillment, and external life of sexual and reproductive

activity) is shaped by the environment. The second declares that each person's brain is

preprogrammed to function in a certain way-male or female, gay or straight,

promiscuous or celibate-and that these characteristics will emerge without regard to


Religion, Christianity and Sexuality

Exploring human sexuality within the context of religion can shed light on the

positions clinicians trained in various areas of pastoral/religious counseling take in their

therapy rooms. Some clients prefer a therapist who shares their religious worldviews and

guides them accordingly.

Balswick and Balswick (1999) present the idea of authentic-human-sexuality. By

this, they propose that Christians should consider living an authentic life that includes a

commitment to God and to clean living. Homosexuality is suspect for people of God.

Sexuality is seen as a gift from God that should be expressed in the context of

spirituality. Balswick and Balswick propose that human sexuality has many facets

existing as a result of biological and socio-cultural contributors, and that human sexuality

has four dimensions: natal sex, identity, gender role, and sexual orientation.

In theology, sexual relationships can exist only within commitment, grace, and

the desire to serve and be served. Despite the fact that the four dimensions of human

sexuality are innate and natural, any sexual expression that violates these boundaries is,

according to the mandates of churches, sinful.

Historically, churches have tried to channel sexuality towards heterosexual

marriage or celibacy, and have banned all other forms of sexual expression. This can

have very serious ramifications to couples that are sexually unconventional.

Ellingson, Tebbe, Van Haitsma, and Laumann (2002) conducted a study that

analyzed religion vis-a-vis the politics of sexuality. They used data from open-ended

interviews with religious leaders and other area residents in three Chicago neighborhoods

to determine how sexual norms and practices tend to shape the way congregations

respond to sexuality issues.

According to Ellingson et al. (2002), the challenges faced by most churches are

two: effectively responding to environmental trends and successfully integrating the

members of the congregation. The constraints that churches face include the canons of

beliefs and practices that they must follow, and responding effectively and efficiently to

the dynamics of the neighborhoods they serve, especially to the sexual culture of their

constituents. Many churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and most of the

Protestant denominations, have specific prescriptions that must be advanced. When this

is the case, a therapist whose training includes these rules will more than likely try to

integrate them into his/her approach to his/her work.

The key informants who were most tentative with their responses in this study

were the African-American clergy and members of the gay and lesbian communities,

who feared political fallout. Interestingly, the authors conclude that religious leaders

address sexuality issues more as a reaction to local culture, composition of membership

pools, and identity of their mission, and less on policy, doctrine, and theological

orientation. This is good news for those clients who wish to retain their connection to

their places of worship and yet lead a life that might not be congruent with all of its


It appears that church leaders negotiate among the many constraints they face and

control, accommodate, and tolerate. This has many implications for clinicians who are

trained in the context of religious dogmas, and lends credence to the idea that pastoral

counselors must use their clinical and spiritual judgment when counseling their clients

and not simply the dogmas they study.

Scholars are working toward improving the way religion responds to human

needs. Steensland et al. (2000) ambitiously embarked on the task of measuring American

religion. They recognize that Americans are more religious than other citizens in most

other industrialized countries.

According to the authors, religious worldviews shape social and political attitudes

more than social class, educational achievement, and other sociological factors. This

notion has great implication for counseling, especially in the area of sexuality counseling,

gender identity, and extramarital sex. Slowinski (2002) urges therapists to develop a

willingness to interface religious issues (conscience, sexual scripts, worldview, moral

values, the role of scriptures, and religious tradition) in the therapy room. Gamson

(2001) cautions against embracing sex scandals within institutions as "normal sins." His

concern is that normalizing sexual scandals will create new, acceptable social norms that

have the potential to normalize antisocial behaviors.

The work of Thomas Moore (1990), a former Roman Catholic monk, advances

Carl Jung's and Robert Bly's philosophy of the human shadow and the dark side of

womana. Moore's work points out the dichotomy of human nature-the Libertine

(wild/evil) side and the Justine (pure/angelic) side, and their role in sexual dynamics.

The perspective one brings to the table will determine the approach one takes

when evaluating the quality of his/her conduct, morals, and ideas. As counselors and

therapists, the perspective one embraces strongly influences the types of interventions

one employs with clients. Knowing one's own convictions and biases about religion, as

well as other aspects of the human condition vis-a-vis one's own existence and the

existence of others, can make one a more effective therapist. Knowing how one's gender

and one's professional and personal experiences with infidelity impact the work he/she

does, can assist the clinician to be more cautious and honest with himself/herself and

with the clientss.

Infidelity, Adultery, and Other Names

Thompson (1983), in his review of the literature on extramarital sex, clarifies the

difference between infidelity and adultery. Adultery is a legal term that is appropriate in

referring to sexual relations with anyone other than one's spouse. Infidelity, on the other

hand, is the violation of a promise or vow. Thompson cites Bernard (1974) as pointing

out that, in the strictest sense, infidelity occurs not only when extra marital sexual

relations occur but when one or both spouses cease to love, honor, cherish, or comfort

one another. This is an interesting idea and gives credence to some of the theoretical

models that view infidelity as resulting from the collective interactions between both

spouses (Beavers, 1985; Cashdan, 1988; Hendrix, 1988; Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1995).

In this sense, any time a mate slacks off in his/her focus on the partner, he/she is

committing an infidelity.

Boylan (as cited in Thompson, 1983) includes the fulfillment of emotional and

psychological needs outside the primary relationship as part of the definition of infidelity.

When couples are not married but are dating or cohabiting instead, the parallel behaviors

have different nomenclature. The term used is "extradyadic relationship" (Thompson,

1982). Extramarital or extradyadic relationships usually take place without the

knowledge of the other partner (Hite, 1981) and are usually secretive.

Other types of "extra" relationships involve the knowledge of both partners.

Comarital sex (Knapp, 1975, 1976; Rubin & Adams, 1986), and swinging, mate

swapping, group sex, group marriage, and multilateral relations (Jenks, 1998) fall under

this umbrella. Other terms encountered in the literature are intimate friendships (Ramey,

1977b) and affair (Whitehurst, 1969).

Thompson (1983) also includes extramarital intercourse, extramarital sex, and

cheating as part of the list. He points out the need for operationalizing all the various

definitions. Buunk (1980) introduced a continuum composed of behaviors that pertain to

the lack of loyalty in couples' behaviors. He proposed a list that includes flirting, light

petting, falling in love, sexual intercourse, and prolonged sexual relationship.

In his desire to provide clarity to the topic, Thompson (1983) created three

conditions to consider when organizing information about extra relationship behaviors.

The first is the nature of the behaviors (consensual/sanctioned vs. secretive/nonconsensual).

The second is the nature of the relationship that the behaviors violate (extramarital,

extracohabiting, extramultilateral). And the third condition is the description of the

actual behaviors (intercourse, petting, kissing, and homosexual genital contact).

Prevalence Rate of Infidelity

The prevalence of extramarital/extradyadic relationships has been the question for

many researchers over time (Athanasiou et al., 1970; Bell, Turner, & Rosen, 1975; Billy,

Tanfer, Grady, and Klepinger, 1993; Buunk, 1980; Forste & Tanfer, 1996; Hite, 1981;

Hunt, 1974; Johnson, 1970a, 1970b; Kinsey et al., 1948, 1953; Laumann, Gagnon,

Michael, & Michaels, 1994; Leigh, Temple, & Trocki, 1993; Maykovich, 1986;

Pietropinto & Simenauer, 1977; Wiederman, 1997; Yablonsky, 1979). The most widely

cited research project on prevalence is that of Kinsey et al. (1948, 1953). In this national

study, 3088 men of all ages and 2000 women under 40 years of age were surveyed on

their extramarital intercourse habits. The analysis of the data showed that 50% of men

and 26% of women were engaging in extramarital coitus.

Wiederman (1999a) is a critic of this study. He points out that the sample used in

the study, which was massive, was not representative of the United States population, and

that, nonetheless, researchers have adopted what Wiederman calls "the myth" of the 50%

rule and have used it as an assumption in much research.

Other prevalence outcome studies include findings similar to those of Kinsey et

al. (1948, 1953). For example, Athanasiou et al. (1970), who surveyed 8000 married

men and women of all ages (3/4 of them under 35 years old), found that 40% of men and

36% of women engaged in extramarital relationship; Johnson (1970a, 1970b), who

surveyed 100 middle aged, reporting strong stability couples, found that 20% of the men

and 10% of the women had engaged in extramarital relations.

Similarly, Hunt (1974), whose sample included 982 males and 1044 females,

found a prevalence rate of 41% for males and 18% for females. Some, using only

females in their samples-Bell et al. (1975) (N = 2262); and Maykovich (1986) (N = 100

white-middle class American women aged 35-40, and N = 100 middle class Japanese

women aged 35-40)-found that 26%, 32%, and 27% of the women, respectively, were

involved in extramarital intercourse.

Interestingly, those using only males in their samples-Pietropinto and

Simenauer (1977) (N=4066); Yablonsky (1979) (N=771); and Hite (1981)

(N=7239)-found that 47%, 47%, and 66%, respectively, of the men cheated on their

spouse or girlfriend. Buunk (1980) surveyed 125 Dutch males and females and found

that 43% of the males and 32% of the females were involved outside their relationship.

Contrary to the findings of the earlier studies, Billy et al. (1993), who surveyed a

national sample of males aged 20-39 years, found an incidence rate of only 4%, and

Forste and Tanfer (1996), who surveyed a national sample of women aged 20-37 years,

also found only a 4% prevalence rate. Similarly, Leigh et al. (1993) found a prevalence

rate of 3.6% to 6.4%. Slightly higher percentages were found by Laumann et al. (1994),

where research shows that 3.8% of males and females combined had an extramarital

partner in the past year, while 24.5% of ever-married men and 15% of ever-married

women had cheated on their mates.

Although the sex research has yielded a myriad of data, the literature indicates

that research on the topic of extramarital sexual behavior is problematic because of the

inhibiting nature of the subject (Bullough, 1986; Catania, 1999; Catania, McDermott, &

Pollack, 1986; Morokoff, 1986; Ochs & Binik, 1999). Some of the problems with the

research include nonrepresentative samples, poor reliability of responses due to self-

report inhibitors, volunteer bias, and social desirability problems-attributable in large

part to the sensitivity of the topic of sexuality (Bullough, 1986).

Some researchers endorse further work on the use of theory in sexuality research

and point out in their publications that theory is the missing piece in that field (Edwards,

1973; Weis, 1998). Carballo, Cleland, Carael and Albrecht (1989) propose a fully

developed research agenda for further studies that address conceptual frameworks and

content of interview schedule. There are many articles on current ways of measuring

human sexuality in research (Gribble, Miller, Rogers, & Turner, 1999; Lundervold &

Belwood, 2000; Pinney, Gerrard, & Denney, 1987). Wiederman (1999b) proposes that

"policy capturing" methodology be utilized when conducting sexuality research. He

believes that this is a more direct way of quantifying the factors that influence

respondents' judgment when they participate in studies. They affirmed what Rosenblatt

(1966) found earlier-that societies that allow premarital and extramarital sex for both

males and females rate romantic love much higher than societies that have a double

standard between males and females.

Widmer, Treas, and Newcomb (1998) studied the attitudes towards nonmarital

sex in 24 countries. A cluster analysis revealed the existence of 6 groupings for the 24

countries vis-a-vis similarities towards moral beliefs. The overall results of the 24

countries (Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, East Germany, West

Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New

Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Spain,

Sweden, and USA) were the following: 66% said that extramarital sex is always wrong;

21% said that it is almost always wrong; 9% said it is wrong only sometimes; and 4% felt

that it is not wrong at all. Interestingly, when asked about their attitudes towards


homosexual sex, 59% of the same group responded that it is wrong all the time, 9% said

almost all of the time, 9% said some of the time, and 24% said that it is not wrong at all.

In reviewing three decades of trends in sexual permissiveness in the Netherlands,

Kraaykamp (2001) concluded that the most important influence on whether attitudes

change or not is the trend related to structural developments (time periods) in which

everybody in society is affected. It was interesting to note in his findings that churches

have been able to keep their members from developing more permissive attitudes over

time and that with the exception of sex before marriage where there was a convergence in

the gap between men and women, gender differences in attitudes remained constant.

In this longitudinal study that utilized 8 surveys, Kraaykamp (2001) indicates that

since 1960 tolerance for extramarital sex has increased and that the most notable jump in

permissiveness was from 1965 to 1970. Forty-eight percent of his sample (N = 15,490)

felt that unfaithfulness does not indicate a bad marriage, 19.45% said that a single affair

does no harm to a good marriage, and 39.1% said that it is acceptable for a married man

to have an affair.

Hunt (1974) studied the range of sexual behaviors (N = 2026) experienced by

adults in the United States. His results support the idea that greater sexual experience is

alive and well in contemporary times. People, in general, are experimenting more,

demanding more from their sexual experiences, and enjoying more.

Attitudes and Gender Differences Among People

deMunck and Andrey (1999) propose that when romantic love is the basis for

marriage in a society, it reflects a culture that allows both males and females to give or

not give love freely. For them, romantic love is nothing more than the result of sexual

attraction and passion. Romantic love is an indicator of sexual equality between the


Glass and Wright (1988) and Rodgers (2001) report that the literature reflects that

males experience more extramarital sex than do women and have more extramarital

partners than do women. Men also tend to be more approving of extramarital sex (Glass

& Wright, 1992; Wiederman & LeMar, 1998).

Schackelfold and Buss (1997b) studied cues that might pertain to infidelity

(physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and behavioral). They asked participants (N = 230,

114 men and 116 women, college age) to pick out information from four vignettes that

indicated to them the presence of an affair in the relationship of the protagonists in the

vignettes, and concluded that women have a lower threshold for inferring infidelity than

do men.

Men are more prone to be unfaithful (Fisher, 1987; Hite, 1987). Spanier and

Margolin (1983) found that men experience less guilt when unfaithful and feel more

justified in their behavior.

Glass and Wright (1992) report that more people disapprove of extramarital

involvement than engage in it. They observe that men and women seem to follow

different codes of extra marital behaviors. Their findings indicate that the primary

justifications for an affair are three: sex, romantic love, and emotional intimacy needs.

With regard to gender differences and justifications, they found that men are more

approving of sexual justification (for themselves), while women are more approving of

emotional justification (for themselves).

When an extra relationship affair is present, a women is more pained by her

mate's emotional involvement with the third party, while a man tends to be more pained

by his mate's sexual involvement with the third party (Glass & Wright, 1992; Mongeau,

Hale & Alles, 1994; Wiederman & LaMar, 1998). Interestingly, Wiederman and LaMar

also found that men were most upset by male-female sexual infidelity, whereas women

found male-male sexual infidelity most upsetting. The study controlled for religiosity,

sex-love-marriage association beliefs, erotophobialerotophilia, and erotization of same-

gender sexual contact. Their conclusion remained that both genders are most upset by

the third party of an affair being male.

Scott and Sprecher (2000) reviewed a decade of literature pertaining to sexuality

in marriage, dating, and other relationships. They discovered that 70% to 80% of

Americans express complete disapproval of extramarital involvement. Thompson (1983)

found that permissive attitudes towards extramarital sex are mostly associated with a

person's premarital sexual permissiveness, high education, low religiosity, and being

male. This finding seems to suggest that the same attitudes described by Hunt (1994)

and Taylor (1970) in their study of the historical evolution of love, sex, and marriage,

persist in today's society.

Liu (2000) applied the law of diminishing marginal utility and human capital

theory to explain that, in marriage, the decline in a couple's interest in marital sex is

linked to the length of the relationship.

Theoretical Typologies, Patterns of Infidelity and Relationship Dynamics

Dante Alighieri's metaphor for hell, purgatory, and paradise in his Divine

Comedy, translated and presented by Mandelbaum (1980, 1982, 1984) can be used to

describe the journey experienced by clients as they fall into the pit (hell), slowly ascend

towards atonement (purgatory), and, ultimately, through forgiveness, proceed to trust and

rebirth (heaven). The therapist or counselor is the guide (Virgil) and must be a skilled

navigator to assist clients in reaching their desired destination.

In reviewing the theoretical information relating to patterns of infidelity, this

writer identified several typology models in the literature (Brown, 1989, 1991; R. Brown,

1999; Collins, 1999; Glass & Wright, 1985, 1988, 1992; Hendrix 1988; Lusterman, 1998;

Kaslow, 1993; Maheu, 2003; Moultrup, 1990; Pittman, 1987, 1989; Staheli 1995).

Additionally, literature on alternative lifestyles (open marriages and swinging) also exist

(Jenks, 1985; Knapp, 1976; O'Neill & O'Neill, 1972; Rubin & Adams, 1986). And

finally, literature on sexual addiction provides insight into the life of compulsive sexual

activity that frequently translates into extramarital sex (Carnes, 1991, 1992; Schneider,

Corley, & Irons, 1998).

Shirley Glass and Thomas Wright

In the sex research literature, the work of Glass (2003b) and Glass and Wright

(1985) is frequently cited. Glass and Wright (1988) oppose the assumption many

researchers make when they define affairs as exclusively extramarital sex. They point

out that the term extramarital involvement and extramarital sex are not interchangeable

descriptors when referring to "extra" relationships. In their own work (1985, 1992), they

identified three types of affairs: (a) emotional involvement; (b) sexual involvement; and

(c) sexual and emotional combination involvement.

They differentiate between emotional and sexual affairs by the types of behaviors

included in the relationship. In an emotional affair (unlike in a friendship), secrecy,

intimacy and sexual chemistry are present. Even when spouses are aware of the

relationship, there is a part of that relationship that remains secret. In their earlier study


of extramarital sex (EMS), Glass and Wright (1985) noted a variety of intimate behaviors

that can be part of a secret relationship and that can cause marital distress if discovered.

They propose that the "extra" relationship exists on a continuum from "slight" to

"extremely deep." The sexual intimacies they observed include kissing, petting, sexual

intimacy without intercourse, and intercourse. The intensity of the "extra" relationship

changes, depending on what constitutes the relationship (e.g., one-night stand, long

term). Glass and Wright (1988) urge therapists to conceptualize affairs within a broad

range of emotional and sexual experience.

Frank Pittman

Frank Pittman, in his work alone (1987, 1989) and in work with a colleague

(Pittman & Wagers, 1995), has proposed that affairs are not necessarily the result of a

problem filled marriage. He believes that affairs sometimes happen simply because the

person wanted to have an affair. Pittman drew on extensive work with couples over three

decades to conclude and propose that there are four types of affairs: (a) accidental

infidelity; (b) philandering; (c) romantic affairs; and (d) marital arrangements.

In accidental infidelity, the person finds himself/herself in an unplanned

involvement. This type of affair does not include love and usually occurs when one is

alone, when his/her partner is not available due to medical problems, pregnancy, or other

reasons. Usually, these affairs are the result of bad judgment and pass as quickly as they


Philandering refers to the circumstance of a person making a career of

participating in affairs. In these affairs, Pittman (1987, 1989, 1991) believes that if the

person is male, he is fearful of women and works at avoiding intimacy and being

controlled. If the person is female, she is looking for Mr. Perfect. The affairs are

exciting to the participants and have a certain dangerousness associated with them.

Romantics engage in romantic affairs. It is not uncommon for people involved in

romantic affairs to be trying to escape a boring life. Frequently, one person will be "in

love" while the other is simply involved for the sex. Two romantics together might leave

their other relationships in pursuit of a better life. These affairs usually cause a great deal

of pain to everyone involved.

Marital arrangements suit those people who openly or discreetly have agreed to

see other people outside their marriages. The goal is to establish distance while

maintaining some connection (perhaps because of children). Also a part of this pattern

are behaviors designed to arouse the partner (e.g., flirtation, jealousy, revenge affairs).

Emily Brown

Emily Brown (1989, 1991) offers a five-pattern typology for conceptualizing

affairs: (a) conflict avoidance affairs; (b) empty nest affairs; (c) out-of-the-door affairs;

(d) intimacy avoidance affairs; and (e) sexual addict's affairs. Each of these patterns

serves a different purpose in the primary relationship.

A conflict-avoidance affair usually presents itself because the couple is frustrated

and does not know how to address and resolve conflict. This type of affair involves the

male or female-typically aged 20 to 30 years and having been in the marriage for fewer

than 12 years. The affair is usually brief and includes only a minimal level of emotional


The empty-nest affair is one where a person, usually male around the age of 40

years or more who has been in a long-term marriage (usually 20 years and up), finds

himself unfulfilled in his relationship after the children leave home. During this time,

when the couple's developmental impulse mandates (Rock, 1986) reorganizing around

one another now that the children no longer live at home, a person may find

himself/herself unable to reconnect with his/her partner and, instead, becomes involved

in an affair.

The out-of-the-door affairs usually take place in marriages that are younger than

15 years and are created to prompt the other partner to end the relationship. The

betrayer, who is conflicted over family should and his/her own wants, is unwilling to

take responsibility for ending the relationship and, unable to face ending the marriage,

banks on his/her partner to do so when he/she learns about the affair.

The purpose of an intimacy-avoidance affair is to create distance between the two

marital partners. Usually, after the first 5 or 6 years of marriage, when the couple has

jelled and become very intimate, the 20- to 30-year-old male or female will get involved

in a brief fling that will put some distance between himself/herself and his/her partner.

Either or both members of the couple might have an affair during this time in their


The purpose of the sexual addict's affairs is to make conquests and to engage in

some daring and dangerous behaviors. This'affair is prevalent among males of all ages

and is not associated with length of the primary relationship. Usually, the addict feels

empty inside and tries to fill the void by jumping from relationship to relationship

without any emotional involvement. This type of affair causes much damage and

humiliation to everyone involved.

E. Brown (1999) revised her typology and replaced the empty-nest and the out-of-

the-door affairs with the split-self and the exit affairs. The split-self affair is one that

typically takes place in midlife and tends to be serious, long-term, and passionate. It is

rooted in childhood. The betrayer struggles between choosing the affair or the marriage.

The exit affair occurs when the marriage has deteriorated and the situation is

unclear as to how it should be ended. The affair provides a viable reason to leave the

marriage and typically, one spouse has already decided to leave. The members of the

couple tend to blame the affair for the breakup of the marriage in lieu of looking to the

problems in the marriage prior to the affair as the cause of the breakup.

Sexual Addiction

Other theorists and therapists who have studied sexual addiction include

Bradshaw (1988, 1990, 1992), Carnes (1991, 1992), Levine and Troiden (1988),

Schneider, Corley, and Irons (1998) and Woititz (1989). Carnes' work on sexual

addiction conceptualizes sexual addiction as a progressive disease that intensifies in

involvement over time.

This four-step cycle starts with preoccupation, the first stage, wherein the addict's

mind is completely engrossed in thoughts of sex that create an obsessive search for

sexual stimulation. Next the addict progresses to creating patterns (ritualization-the

second stage), which lead to sexual behaviors and additional obsessive thinking. As the

addict becomes more engrossed in his addiction, he/she moves to the next phase,

compulsive sexual behavior. Here, the actual sex act is ritualized and the obsessive

search for new partners intensifies. In the last phase, despair, the addict feels

overwhelming hopelessness and powerlessness.

Schneider (1988), Schneider, Corley, and Irons (1998), and Schneider and

Schneider (1989, 1990, 1996) have made major contributions to the field of sexual

addictions and its treatment. Bradshaw (1988, 1990, 1992) and Woititz (1989) link

sexual addiction to shame, resulting from the individual having grown up in a

dysfunctional addictive family.


Not all theorists support the idea of sexual addiction. Levine and Troiden (1988)

argue against the whole premise on which sexual compulsivity is based. They believe

that what appears like sexual compulsion is in fact the result of cultural relativity

(construct) similar to other constructs that describe mental illness. In their work, they

point out that the nomenclature and criteria for describing sexual addiction behavior(s)

are flawed and value laden. They proclaim that sexual compulsivity is not inherently

pathological and that it is the result of learned patterns that are stigmatized by dominant

institutions and so are judged as bad. They urge mental health professionals to remain

cautious about "endorsing concepts which may serve as 'billy clubs' for driving the

erotically unconventional into the traditional sexual fold" (p. 361).

David Moultrup

Moultrup's (1990) conceptualization of affairs is rooted in Bowenian theory

(1987) and includes the concepts of differentiation, triangulation, multigenerational

patterns and systemic regulation of anxiety. This framework in endorsed by other

theorists and clinicians (Schnarch, 1991). Moultrup emphasizes the systemic and

strategic significance of affairs in relationships and underscores the idea that inequitable

power hierarchies and alliances are present in the affected relationships. These

hierarchies and alliances must be reconfigured in the treatment of affairs. The less

powerful (the betrayed) partner must be willing to stand on his/her own two feet and

make independent requests (with consequences) of his/her partner.

IMAGO Relationship Therapy (IRT) Model

In IRT (Hendrix, 1988, 1992; Hendrix & Hunt, 1997), affairs are conceptualized

as exits (violations of relationship boundaries) that will greatly damage a relationship.

Affairs, along with addictions and insanity, are considered overly open boundaries that


must be closed so that the couple can use the energy that escapes out of these apertures to

work on the relationship with each other.

R. Brown (1999) points out that 60% of couples who are afflicted with an affair

will end up in divorce. He further asserts that affairs take place because there is an

unmet need from childhood that is longing to be filled. He also proposes that affairs do

not happen in relationships that are experienced as safe and passionate. This notion is

not supported by all those who theorize about affairs (Levine & Troiden, 1988; Pittman,


The IRT typology is proposed by Hendrix (1988). R. Brown (1999) describes the

IRT typology in detail. In IRT, affairs are conceptualized as a response to wounding that

occurred during the individual's psychological and social journey of his/her

development. This concept is rooted in depth psychology (Jung, 1971), and separation-

individuation object-relations theory (Mahler, Pine, & Bergman, 1975). The actual IRT

developmental paradigm (Hendrix, 1988) is made up of seven stages. The model for

addressing affairs utilizes only four of those seven stages (attachment, exploratory,

identity, and concern). The four types of affairs serve to meet the unmet needs of

childhood that remain unmet in the primary relationship (the marriage).

The first type is the attachment affair. This affair, which is an exit from an

avoider/clinger relationship dynamic, is for the purpose of being held close and being

touched. The second type of affair, the exploratory affair, which is part of the

distancer/pursuer dynamic, serves as the tool to manage closeness between the couple.

The identity affair is one that involves a couple who tend to be diffuse/rigid, respectively.

In this affair, the members of the couple seek to feel more in control or to become more

visible through the relationship with the lover. In the competence affair, where the


couple is made up of a competitor and a passive compromiser, the infidel seeks to soothe

insecurities stemming from feelings of incompetence or helplessness and uselessness in

the relationship.

Don-David Lusterman

Lusterman (1998) defines infidelity as the breaking of trust and states that it

occurs "when one partner in a relationship continues to believe that the agreement to be

faithful is still in force while the other partner is secretly violating it" (p. 3). His

theoretical typology includes eight conceptualizations for infidelity: one night stands;

philandering; sexual identity affairs; sexual addiction or Don Juanism; exploratory

affairs; tripod affairs; retaliatory affairs; and exit affairs.

One night stands are extra-relationship sexual encounters that occur due to

unusual circumstances or convenience. They happen one time only as a result of

someone finding himself/herself in a unique situation. Typically, the person feels remorse

and learns from his/her experience. He/she may or may not tell his/her partner about it.

Philandering involves the systemized, consistent pursuit of sexual conquests that

are typically impersonal and compulsive. If remorse exists on the part of the betrayer, it

is usually because the person regrets having been discovered. He/she might stop his/her

behavior if the stakes are great enough.

Sexual identity affairs are the result of conflicted feelings regarding ones own

sexuality. Thoughts of being gay, lesbian, or bisexual remain so deeply buried and

repressed from adolescence that eventually they emerge later in life. The person may

now be ready to explore those old impulses repressed from earlier stages of development

that he/she finds himself/herself involved in a secret life that includes betraying his/her

committed relationship.


Sexual addition or Don Juanism refers to the compulsive need to engage in sexual

activity. The affairs are nonemotional, nonromantic, and nonrelational. Sexual addicts

tend to constantly remind themselves of their inadequacies, hold distorted beliefs about

themselves and the world around them, tend to want to escape painful and suppressed

emotions, deny they have a problem, and have difficulty coping with stress.

Exploratory affairs tend to occur when a person becomes aware that his/her

marriage is in deep trouble and has not yet decided whether to stay or leave. Some

exploratory affairs end when the betrayer realizes that the marriage can improve. Others

become the precursor for divorce. This type of affair can provide the betrayer with the

courage to leave inasmuch as some of what the affair teaches is that he/she can be a

viable partner to someone other than the spouse.

Tripod affairs occur when the marriage is unhappy but the person chooses to

remain in it for a variety of reasons, such as economic, fear, and children. The tripod

affair helps the marriage that cannot stand on its own two feet stay erect. The third party

is added to the relationship for support and to provide for some of what the marriage


A retaliatory affair is one that occurs when the betrayed responds to the pain of

having been betrayed by having an affair of his/her own. Women tend to engage in these

types of affairs more frequently than men do because they might feel less able to leave

the marriage than the man does. This type of affair is usually not intended to end the

marriage but simply to even the score.

Exit affairs typically offer the betrayer the avenue to leave his/her primary

relationship. By the time the person is in this affair, he/she has already decided to leave

the marriage. The couple may enter therapy at the coaxing of the betrayer. He/she

sometimes wants to procure support for the spouse he/she is about to leave. When the

betrayed partner discovers the affair, the rage that the betrayed partner experiences and

expresses is used as further proof that he/she is not the partner the betrayer wants to be


Lusterman (1989, 1998) offers a treatment model he calls Protracted Marital

Infidelity (PMI). He points out that at the core of the work to be done is the need to

navigate through a web of lies and deceit. The effects on the couple are similar to the

effects of Post Traumatic Stress Reaction (APA, 1994) and as such can make therapy a

very intense process.

Eaker-Weil and Winter

Eaker-Weil (Eaker-Weil & Winter, 1994) is an Imago relationship therapist

trained in the Bowenian tradition. She suggests that adultery is a forgivable sin and

offers a typology of affairs that she calls 'states of the affair' (p. 21): the pseudo-

intimacy affair; the peacekeeping affair; the escape hatch affair; the love-seeking affair;

the compulsion-driven affair; and the affair caused by physical or psychological


The pseudo-intimacy affair occurs when people have not properly separated or

individuated from their caregivers. When proper individuation does not occur, persons

tend to be fugitives from intimacy and often create a triangle to use as a wedge to drive

between themselves and their partners.

The peacekeeping affair is a desperate, dysfunctional effort to keep a marriage or

relationship going. Couples who find themselves in this type of affair tend to be those

who try to avoid conflict at any cost. In their view, a polite marriage is a happy one.

Talking about the buried anger is most important for the recovery of this type of

relationship after the infidelity is discovered.


The escape hatch affair is one used when a person finds himself/herself trapped in

a marriage or relationship that is loveless or abusive. Unable to leave the primary

relationship, he/she will become involved in this type of affair so that it will be

discovered and his/her partner will end the relationship. Sometimes, this type of affair

takes place when latent homosexual drives emerge.

The love-seeking affair is one where the betrayer may find the love he/she did not

find earlier when he/she married his/her partner. Once they become involved in this type

of affair, they will more than likely leave the marriage. This type of affair includes

feelings of elation and sexual excitement and is most likely to take place at the end of a

decade of the person's age.

The compulsion-driven affair is one in which the Don Juan or vamp is ducking

intimacy altogether. Some of these betrayers are sexual addicts who use promiscuity for

a quick fix to numb their pain. The person is obsessed with the pursuit of sexual

encounters/partners and frequently will suffer the loss of his/her job, family, and/or


The affair caused by physical or psychological problems is one where a medical

condition, substance abuse, or psychic disorder, such as depression or manic-depression,

may spur partners to affairs or promiscuity. Sometimes, the inability to control the

spouse's condition makes the affair difficult to stop. The person may suffer great losses

in his/her life.

Subotnik and Harris

Subotnik and Harris (1994) offer a typology of affairs that exists on a continuum

based on the degree of emotional involvement in the affair. The continuum spans from

the least amount of emotional involvement to the most. At the extreme of least amount

of emotional involvement is the serial affair, then flings, then romantic love, and then


In the serial affair, the person lacks total emotional investment. Typically, this is

a series of one-night stands or a series of short term involvements. In the fling affair, the

person does not make an emotional investment. It is a one-time event. Sex, like in the

serial affair, is part of the equation. It typically does not pose a threat to the marriage but

does cause pain when discovered.

The romantic love affair involves a high degree of emotional investment and is

central to the romantic partners. They spend time together planning how to integrate

their affair into their regular lives. There is stress around thoughts of leaving the

marriage for the affair partner.

The long-term affair spans years or even a lifetime. In this type of affair, the

affair partners feel very emotionally involved with each other. When this type of affair

exists in the marriage of two people, it is conceivable that the betrayed is aware of the

affair either covertly or overtly and may have quietly agreed to this type of lifestyle. For

most betrayed partners, it is an arrangement agreed to by default.

Lana Staheli and Florence Kaslow

Staheli (1995) focuses on the triangularity of affairs. She proposes that people

can be successful at affair-proofing their relationships (Staheli, 1999). In her work, she

proposes a typology that includes seven types of affairs: loving affairs (are used for

friendship and for a refuge from everyday responsibility); bridge affairs (occur during

transitioning times or tough times in life); hate affairs (are used to hurt and deceive the

affair partner or the spouse); sex affairs (are for physical contact without emotional

attachment); sexual adventure affairs (are used for sport and driven by experimentation,

challenge or rebellion); sexual conquest affairs (are used when the betrayer is trying to

prove something-typically lacks emotional involvement); and cyber affairs (takes place

over the computer and may be physical or emotional). Staheli urges couples to focus on

their relationships so that an affair does not have to create the end of the marriage or


Kaslow (1993) writes of another type of affair-the one that turns fatal. She

points out that, during extramarital liaisons, people experience such strong feelings that

they sometimes act impulsively. The common feelings during an affair include hot

desire, irresistible urges, and claustrophobia in the marriage. Affairs can produce

children, which can serve as a constant reminder of the affair long after it is over. In the

worst-case scenario, the affair can turn fatal.

Sometimes, spouses are left bewildered when they learn of their mate's affair

after the death of the mate. Kaslow (1993) suggests that couples in therapy must be sure

that they achieve the necessary tasks to assure a full closure after the affair. Through the

therapy process, the infidel must have apologized and asked for forgiveness, and must

have made restitution to achieve atonement through good behavior. Therapists must be

aware of their own feelings and attitudes surrounding affairs and infidels.


Staheli (1995) defines cyber-infidelity as "an intimate or sexually explicit

communication between a married person and someone other than their spouse that takes

place on the computer or the Internet" (p. 73).

Collins (1999) introduces the notion of"practical fidelity" (p. 243), a term that

emphasizes interaction between individuals conducted in physical space. She proposes


that virtual relationships should not be regarded as having the same importance as "body

based" relationships (p. 243).

Collins (1999) describes two types of cyber affairs-the on-line erotic affair (also

called the affair of the cyberloins) and the on-line romantic affair (or the affair of the

cyber heart). Collins points out that if society removed all the obstacles that make

infidelity such a bad concept, she believes that although some people would want to build

fidelity into their relationships, feminists would have no real reason to recommend it.

Maheu (2003) offers an elaborate typology for cyber-infidelity. She delineates

the many issues facing practitioners who try to ethically approach treatment either face-

to-face or in a virtual environment. The typology she proposes includes: the covert

cyber-affair, which is a secret relationship where communication occurs electronically in

secrecy from partners; the overt cyber-affair, which exists with the knowledge of the

primary partners) who either may approve or disapprove of the communication; the

menage-a-trois cyber-affair, which is the type of affair where the couple engages in

sexual communication with another person in the virtual world; and, lastly, the group

cyber-affair, which is the type of affair where the infidel meets others in a virtual

community with the intention of erotic exchanges.

Maheu (2003) cautions therapists that the issues they will have to address with

clients that enter therapy to work on the effects of cyber-affairs include coming to terms

with the damage to the self and with the deception that are associated with cyber-affairs.

Open Marriage and Swinging

Although there has been a decline in the prevalence of open marriages (Rubin &

Adams, 2001) and of swinging (Jenks, 1998), the practices still exist. Knapp (1976)

conducted an exploratory study of marriages that were sexually open and Rubin and

Adams (1986) studied outcomes of sexually open marriages.

Knapp found that the 17 sexually open marriages she examined had clear-cut

rules about ways to conduct their relationships. When entering therapy, these couples

tend to look for therapists with liberal attitudes because when they present for therapy, it

is usually not due to the open relationship.

Knapp (1976) found that when the ground rules of (a) honesty with the spouse;

(b) acceptance of emotional involvement with outside partners as long as the relationship

with the spouse was kept primary and the outside partner was aware of this rule; and

(c) pursuit of each spouse's own outside interests separately were preserved, the couples

reported benefits to their primary relationships that they attributed to their sexually open

marriages. In fact, those couples reported better fulfillment of personal needs, social and

sexual excitement about the new experiences, increased communication and enjoyment

of sex with the spouse, a lessening of jealousy and possessiveness, enhanced feelings of

freedom and security in their relationship, and an increase in each of their ability to be

himself/herself fully while minimizing role-playing and games.

Rubin and Adams (1986) conducted a follow-up study to a 1978 study on

sexually open marriages (with a matched sample of 82 couples). In this study, they

sought to determine if, as was found in the earlier study, there is no statistically

significant difference in marital stability between the sexually open marriages and the

monogamous ones, and to review if couples in a sexually open marriage divorce at a

greater rate than exclusive couples.

Of the original samples, 68% of the sexually open marriages couples and 82% of

the originally exclusive couples responded (new N = 23 and 32, respectively). They

discovered that, of the 82 couples studied earlier (55 of whom were in the new sample),

of the 23 that had been sexually open, two couples had changed to a contract of

exclusivity. Of the 32 couples that had been exclusive, one couple had changed to an

open marriage.

Marital stability was discovered to remain the same over time. Of the couples

that reported marital dissatisfaction, the associated variables were identified to be (a)

higher education in women; and (b) women working outside the home, irrespective of

group. The data also indicated that couples in sexually open marriages do not divorce at

a greater rate than do couples in monogamous exclusive marriages.

Rubin (2001) revisited the alternative lifestyles of swingers, group married, and

communes. He reported that the North American Swing Club Association was then

made up of 310 affiliates having, grown from 150 in the past 5 years. He cites Gould and

Zabol (1998) as noting that there are 3 million married, middle-aged, middle-class

swingers or, as the new language calls them, "lifestyle practitioners" (p.721). Group sex

is now called polyamory and that there are 250 polyamory support groups (mostly

through the internet). Citing W. L. Smith (1999), Rubin (2001) reports that there are

3000 to 4000 communes in existence and that according to Newsweek (Murr, 2000),

there are between 20,000 and 50,000 Mormon splinter groups that live in polygamous


In the research related to the practice of swinging, Jenks (1985) points out that

over the last 20 years, reviews on this issue have been dormant. His article's purpose is

to update the literature. He clarifies the fact that words such as comarital sex and mate

swapping are also used when describing this population of couples. Jenks offers a profile

of a typical couple that "swings." He reports that swingers tend to vote Republican but,

overall, hold a liberal sexual predisposition and have low degrees of jealousy.

In addressing the reasons couples tend to give when discussing their involvement

in this lifestyle, Jenks (1985) lists need for variety in sexual partners and experiences,

pleasure and excitement for the "forbidden fruit," meeting new people, voyeurism, and

recapturing one's youth. Additionally, he offers a process model that tends to apply to

the lifestyle of those who engage in swinging: passive (just learning); active (making

contact); and commitment (actual involvement).

Couples report that the typical problems associated with swinging that also serve

as reasons to stop swinging include (a) sexually transmitted infections (VD, AIDS);

(b) finding people; and (c) high time demands. Although no studies exist on the negative

impacts of swinging on marriages, Jenks (1985, 1998), referring to a study he conducted

(unpublished) in 1986, claims that 91% of males and 82% of females indicated that

swinging improved their marriage. Less than 1% of the females reported displeasure

with swinging.

Disclosure and Discovery Process

Disclosure will offset a crisis (Glass, 2003a, 2003b). The process should be

guided by and begin as a quest for truth and information seeking a healing exploration

with understanding and mutual empathy as a goal (Glass & Wright, 1997). The betraying

partner should offer information openly. Secrecy and a tendency to want to protect the

other womann will rewound the betrayed partner.

Typically, when the couple is in the process of disclosure, the interaction will

most likely appear adversarial. The betrayed partner may appear like an interrogating

prosecutor in a trial (Staheli, 1995). The process should begin with simple questions like

who, what, when, where, how, and why. Glass and Wright propose giving the betrayed

partner index cards on which to write all other questions, with the promise that they will

all be answered in due time. Initially, instructions are given that they not discuss the

affair at home, reserving the discussion for therapy sessions. Working through the

disclosure phase should be achieved slowly, with impeccable honesty, and a great deal of

empathy. Disclosure is a more structured process than discovery.

When a partner discovers that his/her mate has been unfaithful, she/she

immediately begins the traumatic response. Frequently, the betraying partner will deny

the existence of the affair and more secrecy is piled on top of an already established web

of deceit. When more lies are told, recovery is even more complicated (Schneider,

Corley, & Irons, 1998).

Glass (2003b) offers advice on how partners should confront their suspicions.

Her advice can be helpful to clinicians as they prepare clients to confront their partners.

She suggests that partners know what they hope to gain through the confrontation, that

partners not set up "truth traps," that partners give themselves time to cool down and

become calm before confronting, and that the partners consider writing down their

thoughts first. With regard to the confrontation itself, Schneider, Corley, and Irons

(1998) suggest that partners share as much information as possible and that the

suspicious partner understand that disclosure is a process and not a task and as such, be

prepared to learn more information with the passage of time.

Glass (2003b) emphasizes the importance of the three stages of disclosure-truth

seeking, information seeking, and mutual understanding-during the disclosure process

(which is evolutionary by nature). She encourages betrayed partners to control

destructive outbursts, remain silent during the disclosure so that information will flow

more easily, and curtail interpretations. Sometimes, these suggestions are difficult to

implement because shortly following learning that an affair exists, the betrayed partner

will begin to experience posttraumatic stress symptoms.

Glass (2003b) cautions betraying partners to avoid certain behaviors during the

disclosure process. She points out that when the betraying partner either avoids telling

the truth (when asked or when the opportunity is present), continues to deny that he/she

is/was involved in the affairss, stonewalls by refusing to talk about what he/she now may

consider bad and wrong behavior, and discounts the severity of the impact his/her affair

has on the committed relationship, it will be very difficult to make progress towards the

next phase of recovery. If these actions persist, then the betrayer may have little to no

willingness to end the affair and/or to return to the marriage.

Sometimes, the betraying partner may also exhibit posttraumatic stress symptoms.

Therapists must prepare themselves to be available to their clients when they agree to

provide clinical treatment-if not, a referral may be in order.

The Clinical Treatment of Infidelity/Betrayal

The literature on the treatment of affairs is primarily anecdotal and the result of

clinicians and philosophers making observations within their own caseloads or worlds

(Belson, 1989; Brown, 1989, 1991; Eaker-Weil & Winter, 1994; Finzi, 1989; Greenwalt,

2000; Lusterman, 1989; Pittman, 1987, 1989a, 1989b; Taylor, 1997). The majority of the

research is focused on attitudes, opinions, and prevalence (Glenn & Weaver, 1979; Glass

& Wright, 1992; Shackelford & Buss, 1997a, 1997b; Shackelford, Buss, & Bennett,

2002; Shackelford, LeBlanc, & Drass, 2000, Wiederman & LaMar, 1998). There are

some qualitative studies that have examined client stories of infidelity (Gordon, Baucom

& Snyder, 2004). There are many self-help books on ways to survive and work through

affairs (e.g., Glass, 2003b; Staheli, 1999), in addition to the many Internet chat rooms

and websites (not included in this literature review).

Barnes (1999) published a book on how a person can best manage his/her affair

passionately, with discretion and dignity, a most helpful publication for those engaged in

open relationships, swinging, or simply embracing the worldview that extradyadic

relationships are appropriate. The plight of "the other woman" has also received some

attention in the literature (Richardson, 1985; Tuch, 2000).

Working through an affair is a difficult and lengthy process that takes at least one

year to stabilize and longer to complete (Young & Long, 1998). The standard of care is

based on the idea that once the crisis is stabilized, then the work of the couple focuses on

the underlying issues of the relationship (Brown, 1991; Pittman, 1987, 1989; Glass &

Wright, 1988; Hendrix, 1988). Research has shown that 30% of couples present with or

openly acknowledge an affair at the onset of therapy (Glass, 1999a; Thompson, 1984),

while 30% more reveal an affair during the course of therapy.

Most therapists endorse the disclosure of affairs (Brown, 1991; Glass & Wright,

1988; Pittman, 1987, 1989). Once the affair is open for discussion, the couple must focus

on whether or not to continue the relationship (Bellafiori, 1999; Brown, 1991; Glass,

1999a, 1999b; Glass & Wright, 1992; Lusterman, 1998; Moultrup, 1990; Pittman, 1987,

1989; Schnarch, 1991; Abrahms-Spring, 1996; Staheli, 1995; Subotniik & Harris, 1994;

Young & Long, 1998) and decide whether or not to stay together. Imago relationship

therapists strongly support the couple's remaining together and working through the

wounds that motivated the affair to begin with (R. Brown, 1999; Eaker-Weil & Winter,

1994; Eaker-Weil & Tuttle, 1998; Hendrix, 1988; Hendrix & Hunt, 1999; Love &

Robinson, 1994; Luquet, 1996).

A summary of treatment issues presented and addressed by the authors cited in

the above paragraph include the following:

* Revealing the affair and/or crisis support. Some researchers (Cottone, 1996;
Glass & Wright, 1988; Schneider, Irons & Corley, 1999) point out that the
therapist's own experience with extramarital affairs will influence whether or not
he/she encourages clients to disclose the affairs. (Their findings indicate that
those therapists whose own backgrounds include affairs will be more liberal in
attitude towards affairs and will also be more tolerant towards keeping some
information secret.)

* Suspending the decision to continue or end the marriage until stability is regained
(depending on the type of affair and/or if the decision is already made in therapy).
Imago therapists ask clients to commit to 12 sessions without deciding. The
underlying treatment belief is that when the clients begin to improve
communication and to achieve safe intimacy with one another, they will be able
to validate and forgive each other (Eaker-Weil & Winter, 1994; Eaker-Weil &
Tuttle, 1998) and resume with an enhanced relationship.

When working with either member of the couple (the infidel and the spouse),
teach patience, perseverance, communication skills, self-care, problem-solving
and teamwork. Schnarch (1991, 1997) encourages clinicians to help couples
differentiate and mature so that their relationship can become passionate and a
crucible for intimacy.

Glass and Wright (1997) and Lusterman (1995) term infidelity as a trauma and

work on reconstructing the marriage using the trauma model (Janoff-Bulman, 1992).

Glass and Wright (1997) describe the traumatic reaction following the discovery or

disclosure of an affair as similar to that of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (APA, 1994).

The symptoms include intrusion (recounting and reexperiencing the trauma);

constriction (avoidance and numbing behaviors); and hyperarousal (physiological

arousal) and extreme hypervigilance. Lusterman (1995) includes the idea of protracted

marital infidelity to his assessment practices and believes that the stress reaction will

depend on the duration and depth of the affair. The traumatic reaction takes place as a

result of shattered assumptions about physical, emotional, psychological safety in the

committed relationship.

Glass and Wright (1997) treat couples by the following:

* Creating safety and hope in the therapy.
* Clarifying the contract the couple has with each other about their relationship.
* Normalizing the traumatic reactions due to betrayal.
* Reversing walls and window (a detriangulation technique called "stop and
* Promoting positivity and caring in the couple.
* Balancing affect and crisis.
* Utilizing individual sessions.
* Assessing suicidal and homicidal ideation.
* Anticipating crises and relapses.
* Managing the traumatic reactions (intrusion, obsessive ruminating, flashbacks,
constriction, hyperarousal).
Teaching the betrayed spouse to be a detective.
Utilizing the therapist's deception detectors.
Developing constructive communication patterns.
Exploring the content of the affair (individual stories of the partners, extramarital
attitudes and values, psychodynamic aspects, the needs of the individuals, tell the
story of the marriage, discuss marital and sexual satisfaction, tell the history of
the marriage, discuss equity issues, and explore dysfunctional patterns in the
Building the narratives of the affair.
Creating meaning in the relationship (forget the pain but remember the lesson,
achieve forgiveness, recommitment and reclaim lost territory).

In her clinical work with couples, E. Brown (1991, 1999) observed that therapy

outcomes differ with the various types of affairs. The prognosis for couples in conflict

avoidance and intimacy avoidance affairs is excellent and the probability of divorce is

low. At best, the couple can emerge from therapy with a solid marriage and newfound

hope in their relationship. At worst, other affairs or divorce may take place.

With sexual addiction affairs, although the probability of divorce is low, the best

result from therapy is that the family is now in recovery. The prognosis for resolving the

couple's issues is poor. With empty nest affairs, the probability of divorce is above

average, but if diligent, the couple can emerge with a revived marriage. Divorce or

empty-shell marriages are also common. Lastly, in the out-of-the-door affair the

prognosis for resolving the issues is very good because the couple can come to terms

with the ending of the marriage and the grieving of its loss.

Pittman (1987) proposes a series of seven steps in his treatment program for


* Respond to the emergency.
* Bring everyone together.
* Define the problem.
* Calm everyone down.
* Find a solution.
* Negotiate the resistance.
* Terminate.

When couples suspect or know that an affair is present in their relationship, they

frequently engage in either self-prescribed or therapist prescribed bibliotherapy. Some

authors who have contributed books useful in this endeavor include Botwin (1988),

Hajcak & Garwood (1987), Hein (2000), Kirshenbaum (1997), Lerner (1993),

Lusterman, (1998), Maslin (1994), Pearsall (1987), Robbins (1998), Schneider (1988),

Staheli (1999), and Subotnik and Harris (1994), among many others.

Carnes (1991) and Bradshaw (1992) endorse 12 step programs for the recovery of

sexual addiction. The models of codependent (Woititz, 1989), in addition to individual,

couple, and family therapy, promote self-help groups to address the spouse's own

dysfunctional behaviors and boundary setting.

Clinical Dilemmas in Treatment

As with any traumatic situation that creates "emotional distress" and a disruption

that might even include danger in the clients' lives, therapists must intervene and decide

when faced with the following classical clinical decisions:

* Whether a client needs to be hospitalized or whether an alternative intervention to
hospitalization can be created.