Using RE Therapy in the Treatment of Affairs
One of the most important issues for a couples therapist to be knowledgeable about, and one of the most challenging clinically, is the phenomenon of infidelity and the treatment of affairs. A survey of marital therapists and family psychologists (Whisman, Dixon, & Johnson, 1997) identified affairs as the second most damaging problem to relationships and the third most difficult problem to treat. While figures vary, it is estimated that approximately 30% of marital therapy cases are initiated because of a crisis involving infidelity, while another 30% of cases involve a disclosure of infidelity during the course of treatment (see Glass, 2002, pp. 488-489 for this and all the following figures). In one survey, involving 316 married couples, 23% of the wives and 45% of the husbands had been unfaithful, while 57% of the couples had been impacted by an extramarital involvement. However, the stereotypical belief that the principal reason for having an affair is that the involved partner is unhappy in the marriage turns out to be quite misleading. In a nonclinical survey, 56% of married men and 34% of married women who have had affairs reported that they were happily married. This reality has important ramifications for the clinical treatment of affairs, because it belies the established assumption (on the part of some clinicians and treatment models) that problems in the marriage are the principal explanation for why one spouse has an affair.