top of page



Although we hope that you experience our approach as personal and caring, the Affair Recovery Therapy Center also appreciates the scientific approach and evidence-based research. In that spirit, we have provided some research about affairs for those who may be interested. 


Although the vast majority of romantic relationships in the United States include expectations of monogamy (Conley, Moors, Matsick, & Ziegler, 2013Treas & Giesen, 2000), infidelity is widespread, with estimates of lifetime engagement in extra-relational affairs around 20% for married couples (Blow & Hartnett, 2005b) and up to 70% for unmarried couples (Wiederman & Hurd, 1999).


Infidelity occurs in approximately 25% of all marriages (Allen et al., 2005; Laumann et al., 1994).

Estimates suggest that over 25% of married men and 20% of married women engage in extra-marital sex over the course of their relationships (Atkins, Baucom, & Jacobson, 2001Greeley, 1994Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994Wiederman, 1997).

Nass, Libby, and Fisher (1981) estimated 50–60% of
married men and 45–55% of married women engaged in affairs at some time in their married life.

More recent surveys have discovered that in 80% of all marriages, one partner will be unfaithful. In one study
therapists reported that 34% of their cases of relational infidelity ended in divorce, and an additional 50% of the cases involved intact marriages that were viewed as in considerable distress (Charney & Parness, 1995).



Researchers have examined a variety of individual and contextual risks for becoming involved in an extradyadic relationship. Cross-sectional data suggest that risk factors include:


Dating relationships are typically thought to have a substantially higher risk of infidelity than marriages (Blow & Hartnett, 2005bMcAnulty & Brineman, 2007).


Augustus Y. Napier (1988) suggests that the role of the affair is a couple’s inability to work through a marital impasse.

Emily Brown (1991) says that affairs are ways to find out you are alive in the face of discomfort.

Mark et al. (2011) reported that approximately 20% of the variance in infidelity motivation was explained by different patterns of sexual inhibition and excitement.

Establishing or reestablishing intimacy is necessary to the marital life cycle, and the crisis of infidelity may present an opportunity to challenge past barriers to intimacy (e.g., Napier, 1988, Pittman, 1989; Schnarch, 1991).

Men tend to be more likely to engage in infidelity than women, possibly due to greater social power or evolutionary motivations (e.g., Hughes, Harrison, & Gallup, 2004Lalasz & Weigel, 2011Lammers, Stoker, Jordan, Pollmann, & Stapel, 2011).

Living with more than one different romantic partner before marriage is associated with reduced marital quality and stability (Lichter & Qian, 2008), and having more sexual or relationship partners predicts poorer outcomes in later relationships, including sexual infidelity (Maddox Shaw, Rhoades, Allen, Stanley, & Markman, 2013) and lower marital satisfaction (Rhoades & Stanley, 2014).

Individuals with more approving or permissive personal beliefs regarding infidelity are more likely to cheat (Hackathorn, Mattingly, Clark, & Mattingly, 2011Treas & Giesen, 2000). 


Past engagement in infidelity also predicts having more approving attitudes about infidelity, consistent with cognitive dissonance theory (Foster & Misra, 2013Jackman, 2015Sharpe, Walters, & Goren, 2013Solstad & Mucic, 1999Wiederman, 1997).

Individuals with previous partners who have engaged in infidelity may be at increased risk for partnering with individuals in later relationships who also engage in infidelity because these individuals may be more likely to contribute to relationship contexts associated with higher risk of infidelity (Allen et al., 2005). It may also be the case that individuals who have learned about a previous partner’s infidelity have developed expectations that infidelity is more common and/or acceptable in subsequent relationships (e.g., Glass & Wright, 1992).

One’s own past engagement in infidelity can increase the likelihood of suspecting infidelity from a relationship partner (Whisman et al., 2007).


Infidelity leads to relationship distress and thus decreased relationship satisfaction in both partners (Sănchez Sosa, Hernández Guzmán, & Romero, 1997Spanier & Margolis, 1983).


Women and men vary in their emotional responses to perceived partner infidelity; men tend to report a greater degree of jealousy and distress in response to partner infidelity and to be more threatened by sexual rather than emotional infidelity of their female partners, whereas women report more distress in response to emotional infidelity of their male partners (Edlund, Heider, Scherer, Farc, & Sagarin, 2006Frederick & Fales, 2016Harris & Christenfeld, 1996). 

Relationship infidelity is usually damaging (Allen et al., 2005), frequently leading to psychological distress both for those who engage in infidelity and for their partners (Cano & O’Leary, 2000), as well as to relationship distress or dissolution (Allen & Atkins, 2012Johnson et al., 2002).
Victims and perpetrators of infidelity also frequently experience negative intrapersonal outcomes, such as decreased self-esteem (Shackelford, 2001).

Experiencing infidelity is associated with various devastating consequences for both partners and for the relationship. Individuals may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Cano & O'Leary, 2000; Couch et al., 2017; Gordon et al., 2004).

Couples will often experience significant financial loss when infidelity occurs, which is exacerbated even further for those who get divorced (Crouch & Dickies, 2016).

Infidelity negatively impacts the couple relationship through decreases in sexual desire, frequency, and satisfaction, along with overall happiness (Grov et al., 2011; Manning, 2006; Previti & Amato, 2004).

Infidelity is associated with increased conflict and a tendency toward aggressive behaviors, which can escalate into intimate partner violence (Nemeth et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2012).


Infidelity is one of the most frequently cited reasons for divorce with one in five couples that experience infidelity identifying it as the primary cause of the dissolution of their relationship (Amato & Previti, 2003).


Infidelity is one of the most commonly reported causes of divorce (Scott, Rhoades, Stanley, Allen, & Markman, 2013) and one of the most difficult issues for couple therapists to treat (Whisman, Dixon, & Johnson, 1997). 

Infidelity can have far-reaching effects on their children. Increased exposure to parental conflict can trigger internalizing behaviors, such as anxiety and depression, and externalizing behaviors in children (Ablow et al., 2009).


Research supports an intergenerational pattern of infidelity within families, such that individuals that experience parental infidelity during childhood are more likely to be in romantic relationships in adulthood that are plagued by infidelity (Hunyady et al., 2008; Lusterman, 2005; Platt et al., 2008), further perpetuating the cycle and its associated consequences for future generations.


Standard recovery treatments in the past encouraged partners not to talk with each other about the affair, to keep their narratives separate, and to “forgive and forget.” One large online study found that couples in which the unfaithful spouse answered all of the questions that the betrayed partner asked, 86% remained married and 72% rebuilt trust. In fact, many couples reported that open discussion and honest communication led to a relationship that was even better than before the affair (from a study by Peggy Vaughn of 1083 couples).

Pittman (1989) stated, “The power of the affair may be in its secrecy” (p. 48).  Little research has been done about the actual disclosure of the affair, and long-term effects of revealing the secret, but Pittman has found that it is the lack of knowledge that tends to make people miserable. This is a very pivotal point in therapy. How the couple reacts to disclosure of an affair can affect their lives forever.


Winstead,Derlega, and Rose (1997) found that not telling the partner about their own infidelity centered on the desire to protect that partner. They also discovered that women told their partners more often than men. They said that reasons for telling the partner tended to focus on feelings of guilt and a desire to come clean and make amends.


Buunk (1987) contends that few people are lured away by alternative attractions; rather, they are pushed away by conflicts with their partner. He said only 5% of unfaithful partners told their significant other about the affair because they wanted to break up.


Attachment theory emphasizes the propensity for human beings to make and maintain powerful affectional bonds to significant others (Bowlby, 1988).


Abstract: Infidelity is an attachment injury as it shatters basic assumptions about one’s relationship. This study investigated the role of the attachment bond in affair recovery. Individual qualitative interviews were conducted with couples (both partners; N = 20) who stayed together after an affair. Thematic analysis revealed important aspects of the recovery process including ongoing communication, intentional bids for closeness, and a commitment to the healing process. However, perceptions of partner responsiveness varied amongst participants. These findings reflect new insights from the perspective of both partners about the necessary components of affair recovery. Clinical implications based in attachment theory are discussed. Erica A. Mitchell, Andrea K. Wittenborn, Tina M. Timm & Adrian J. Blow (2021) Examining the Role of the Attachment Bond in the Process of Recovering from an Affair, The American Journal of Family Therapy, 49:3, 221-236, DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2020.1791763


Abstract: The existing literature indicates that sexual and emotional infidelities are common in adult romantic relationships. Additionally, research suggests that such infidelity is highly detrimental to relationship longevity and to the well-being of betrayed partners, with some authors characterizing it as a trauma and noting its potential to constitute an “attachment injury.” This literature review summarizes the existing research on how infidelity impacts romantic relationships and its emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and stress-related physical health consequences for betrayed partners, thereby providing greater specificity to the nature of this trauma or attachment injury. The integration of the findings discussed herein suggests that infidelity-based attachment trauma manifestations may resemble disorganized attachment behavior. The implications for clinical practice are discussed. Based on these consequences, we evaluate the common “adjustment disorder” diagnosis for infidelity-based attachment trauma and suggest a refined diagnostic sub-categorization for cases with traumatic symptomatology. Finally, we provide recommendations for future research. Benjamin Warach & Lawrence Josephs (2021) The aftershocks of infidelity: a review of infidelity-based attachment trauma, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 36:1, 68-90, DOI: 10.1080/14681994.2019.1577961

Abstract:The present study aimed at determining the effectiveness of emotionally-focused couple therapy, based on attachment injury resolution model (AIRM) on increasing trust among the injured women with marital infidelity. Method: The present study was a single case experiment of the multiple baseline design type. The population included all injured women with marital infidelity, referring to Bushehr family therapy clinics, among whom three women were selected and participated in the intervention through purposive sampling method, based on the desired recall, By considering the inclusion and exclusion criteria and answering the trust scale. Data analysis was conducted by visual analysis, clinically meaningful (reliable change index and normative comparison) and percentage improvement formula. Results: The percentage obtained from the overall increase of trust among the injured women during the therapy was 38.76 and follow-up was 48.58. In addition, the reliable change index during the therapy and a follow-up was 2.77 and 3.49 in the first couple, 3.10 and 3.62 in the second couple, 2.66 and 3.67 in the third couple indicating that these values were significant and higher than z = 1.96 during the therapy and follow-up (p = 0.05). Conclusion: Based on the research results, the emotionally-focused couple therapy based on attachment injury resolution model can be used as an effective intervention in reducing the injuries by marital infidelity. Mostafa Dehghani, Khaled Aslani, Abbas Amanelahi & Gholamreza Rajabi (2020) The Effectiveness of Attachment Injury Resolution Model (AIRM) on Increasing Trust among the Injured Women with Marital Infidelity: A Case Study Approach, The American Journal of Family Therapy, 48:3, 283-297, DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2020.1734883

Attachment theory (e.g., Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003) provides one useful framework for addressing the root cause of infidelity.


Intimates who develop high levels of attachment anxiety are uncertain of the availability of close others and cope by seeking reassurance from and clinging to the partner (Brennan & Shaver, 1995Feeney & Noller, 1990).


Intimates who develop high levels of attachment avoidance doubt the availability of close others and cope by avoiding behaviors that promote intimacy (Brennan & Shaver, 1995Campbell, Simpson, Kashy, & Rholes, 2001Pistole, 1993Simpson, Rholes, & Nelligan, 1992Gentzler & Kerns, 2004).


Allen and Baucom (2004) reported that (a) attachment avoidance was positively associated with the number of extra-dyadic partners reported by male undergraduates, (b) attachment anxiety was positively associated with the number of extra-dyadic partners reported by female undergraduates, and (c) attachment avoidance trended toward being associated with the number of extra-dyadic partners reported by married individuals.


Allen (2001) found that those high in avoidant attachment were more likely to report an affair for reasons related to independence, whereas those higher in attachment anxiety were more likely to report an affair for reasons related to intimacy and self-esteem.


Couples are often unwilling to forgive their partner
for fear that forgiveness eliminates the injustice, so in intentional forgiveness “forgive and forget” is replaced by “forgive and remember” (O’Connor, 1994). “


Forgiveness-based interventions are similar
to trauma-based therapies in their approaches to
helping people get past the hurt of interpersonal
betrayals. These interventions that focus on helping individuals explore the factors surrounding the
affair so that they develop a greater understanding
about why the betrayal took place, studies evaluating these treatments demonstrate increased levels
of empathy and positive feelings, and decreased
anger and feelings of hostility (e.g., Freedman &
Enright, 1996; Worthington, 2005). 

Even couples that wish and work very hard to rebuild their marriage go through long periods of struggle and distrust (Silverstein, 1998).

It is useful to draw from insight-oriented couple therapy (IOCT; see Snyder & Mitchell, Chapter 12), an approach that is designed specifically to help partners have a greater understanding of how the past affects current relationship struggles (Snyder, 1999).


The discovery or disclosure of an extramarital affair can have a devastating impact on partners, both individually and on the relationships. Research suggests that affairs occur relatively frequently in relationships and are a common presenting problem in couple therapy. However; despite their prevalence, there is little empirical treatment research in this area, and most therapists describe this problem as one of the more difficult to treat. In this study, we used a replicated case-study design to explore the efficacy of an integrative treatment designed to help couples recover from an affair. Six couples entered and completed treatment. The majority of these couples were less emotionally or maritally distressed at the end of treatment, and the injured partners reported greater forgiveness regarding the affair. Details of the intervention, suggested adaptations of the treatment, and areas for future research are discussed. Gordon, K.C., Baucom, D.H. and Snyder, D.K. (2004), AN INTEGRATIVE INTERVENTION FOR PROMOTING RECOVERY FROM EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIRS. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 30: 213-231.

Extramarital affairs are a widespread problem for couples and for marital therapists. In this article, the authors conceptualize affairs as interpersonal trauma and propose a multitheoretical approach for addressing characteristic responses to affairs. They also discuss how forgiveness may be a key element in promoting recovery from affairs and outline a 3-stage model of forgiveness that has previously been validated by basic research. Next, they describe a marital intervention for recovery from infidelity based on a multitheoretical approach and their 3-stage model of forgiveness. The treatment model consists of 3 stages: an "impact" stage, a "meaning" stage, and a "moving on" stage. Finally, they consider individual differences in affect and development that may moderate responses to affairs and outline additional conceptual and empirical issues directing future research. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Gordon, K. C., & Baucom, D. H. (1999). A multitheoretical intervention for promoting recovery from extramarital affairs. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 6(4), 382–399.

“Therapy itself takes place in time ‘out of time’ and a space marked off from everyday life” (Laird & Hartman, 1988, p. 165). They also state that it takes place in a territory
unlike everyday life, where a different set of norms and forms apply. Therapy offers a sacred and dangerous opportunity for confirmation or change (Laird & Hartman, 1988).

Abstract: To examine the efficacy of a couples treatment approach for promoting recovery from a recently disclosed affair, 89 couples that disclosed an affair by one of the partners in the past 6 months were randomly assigned to treatment (n = 46) or to a control group that waited about 3 months for treatment (n = 43). The couples completed self-report measures (Beck Depression Inventory, Impact of Event Scale-Revised, Partnership Questionnaire) at pre- and post-treatment. Since about half of the couples dropped out for various reasons (e.g., ongoing affair, separation), we used multiple imputations to handle the missing data problem. We analyzed the dyadic data with hierarchical linear modeling in a two-level model. Significant improvements on scores of anxiety corresponded with large effect sizes for both partners. Yet significant improvements on depression scores were only found for the unfaithful partner with moderate effect size. Results suggest that the treatment can improve individual complaints, but not relationship satisfaction in a sufficient amount for both partners. Hence, future research should address how this intervention could encourage couples to maintain therapy, and how they might achieve more and sustained improvement in relationship satisfaction. Highlights

We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate couples therapy for promoting recovery from an affair. We analyzed the dyadic data with hierarchical linear modeling in a two level model. Large effect sizes were found on anxiety scores for both partners. Improvements on depression and satisfaction scores were only found for the unfaithful partner. Christoph Kröger, Timo Reißner, Ilka Vasterling, Kristina Schütz, Sören Kliem, Therapy for couples after an affair: A randomized-controlled trial, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 50, Issue 12, 2012, Pages 786-796, ISSN 0005-7967,

bottom of page