Extradyadic involvement (EDI), also known as infidelity, occurs in many relationships. At times, the infidelity is known to both partners, and at other times, only the participating partner is aware of the EDI. Regardless, EDIs have significant negative consequences. “Many negative emotional and behavioral correlates of EDI have been documented including partner violence, acute anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and symptoms similar to those of posttraumatic stress disorder,” said Christina M. Balderrama-Durbin of the Department of Psychology at the University of Colorado. “Relationship distress and dissolution are also commonly associated with EDI, with infidelity being the most frequently cited cause of divorce.”
Poor communication, often exhibited in couples with EDI, can also be a predictor for infidelity. “Dissatisfied couples are more likely to engage in negative conflict communication behaviors including criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and withdrawal,” she said. The most common pattern of communication in conflicts is known as the demand/withdraw pattern. “During conflict interactions, distressed couples often display a dyadic conflict pattern in which one spouse blames, nags, criticizes, or pressures the other for change, while the other spouse withdraws or avoids conflict,” said Balderrama-Durbin, who observed demand/withdrawal behaviors in couples who had a disclosed EDI, couples with an undisclosed EDI, and couples with no EDI.
After observing 170 couples during a conflict, Balderrama-Durbin found that the couples who had undisclosed EDIs used demand/withdrawal behavior the most frequently. “Specifically, male and female demand behaviors, and male withdraw behaviors, were significantly higher within couples where there had been an unknown EDI compared with those in a relationship with no history of EDI,” said Balderrama-Durbin. She also discovered that the participating partners with undisclosed EDIs were more demanding than those with disclosed EDIs. “Conversely, demand behaviors were higher for nonparticipating partners who knew his or her partner engaged in EDI compared with nonparticipating partners who did not know his or her partner engaged in EDI.” Balderrama-Durbin added, “The present study affirms that even undisclosed aspects of a couple’s relationship can be associated with observable negative conflict communication behaviors. Findings indicate the importance of investigating unique interaction patterns in relationships when an EDI has not yet been revealed or discovered.”
Balderrama-Durbin, C. M., Allen, E. S., & Rhoades, G. K. (2011, December 26). Demand and Withdraw Behaviors in Couples With a History of Infidelity. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026756
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