Monday, June 23, 2008

Survey on Extramarital Affairs

  Frank Pittman wrote Private Lies, and details the anatomy of an affair. The anguish, anger, selfishness, immaturity, the "swamp of pathology" are all discussed in his well known text. I have discussed with countless couples their affairs and some stay married, some divorce, and some, well some are still trying to figure it all out.

PRIVATE LIESOne of the foundational building blocks of all emotionally intimate relationships is truth. Truth extends from honesty, good faith, and sincerity in general, to agreement with fact or reality in particular. Someone today told me that they had committed adultery but would never tell their spouse and I have to wonder if that marriage relationship will survive let alone thrive in this world which seeks to undermine and erode away such foundations. Of course you might ponder, how honest do I have to be, how much must I tell, how much of me does my spouse want to know and need to know? All of this gets really confusing when there is an affair and the troubled couple comes for marital therapy. Many times one spouse has lots of questions and the other spouse is tired of talking about it. Phrases like, "can't she get over it" and "why can't he just put it behind him" become commonplace in the early stages of recovery from an affair. It is my task as their therapist to coach them to talk and discuss and answers questions...many questions. Peggy Vaughn (www.dearpeggy.com) researched couples who were impacted by affairs and discovered that talking about it truly predicts how well the couple will recover. Now as a researcher I am aware of the inherent limitations of this survey, but if you are in the throes of an affair you must consider this material. Find a good therapist and begin to talk...

The primary goals of the survey were:

--To discover the factors involved in whether or not marriages are likely to survive.
--To determine the factors involved in whether or not people are likely to personally recover from this experience.

Statistical analyses of the results indicate:

--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with the current marital status and quality of the marriage.
--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with recovery.

Below are the Results of 2 of the 8 Statistical Analyses

1. Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when they thoroughly discuss the whole situation.

chi squared (2, N = 1083) = 78.30, p <.001

55% of those who discussed the situation very little were still married (and together)
78% of those who discussed the situation a good bit were still married (and together)
86% of those who discussed the situation a lot were still married (and together)

2. Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when the spouse answers their questions.

chi squared (2, N = 1083) = 66.58, p <.001

59% of those who refused to answer questions were still married (and together)
81% of those whose partner answered some of their questions were still married (and together)
86% of those whose partner answered all their questions were still married (and together)

John Mark Trent, PhD, Educational Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist

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