Although infidelity is a difficult problem to address, marriage therapy has been shown to be highly effective at treating this painful issue. Marriage education, which teaches communication and compromise, is another form of treatment. But until now, its effect on marital satisfaction for couples dealing with infidelity had not been examined. Elizabeth S. Allen of the Department of Psychology at the University of Colorado in Denver, and lead author of a study that looked specifically at this treatment, explained that marriage education does not offer couples the personal experience of working directly with a therapist and is less invasive and intense than marriage counseling. Because many couples who receive marriage education may be struggling with overcoming infidelity issues, it is important to determine if the help they are receiving will actually benefit them in the long run.
For her study, Allen and her colleagues evaluated 662 military couples who were going through treatment as usual or the Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP), an in-depth marriage education program that addresses core issues of relationships. Of the participants, nearly one-fourth reported infidelity prior to treatment. The researchers assessed the participants’ level of marital satisfaction and communication skills prior to treatment, after treatment, and 1 year later.
The study revealed that the couples with infidelity issues in PREP saw more improvements than those in the other treatment. “Thus, overall, couples with infidelity assigned to the intervention showed significantly greater improvements in satisfaction after intervention compared to couples without infidelity assigned to the intervention, and tended to also show relatively greater improvements in communication skills,” said Allen. However, she noticed that although these couples improved their level of marital satisfaction through treatment, it was still much lower than those levels found in couples who had no prior infidelities. She added that even after 1 year, the couples who dealt with infidelity were still less satisfied with their relationships than those who never had struggled with an affair. Allen believes that marriage education programs may be good in the short term for couples with infidelity, but more research is needed to determine if these programs will have long-lasting positive effects.
Allen, E. S., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Loew, B., & Markman, H. J. (2012, January 9). The Effects of Marriage Education for Army Couples With a History of Infidelity. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026742
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