Exploring infidelity around the world

Co-author with Erin Dierickx LMFTA

Infidelity affects approximately 1 in 3 couples in the United States alone (Spring, 2020). The Western media often describes matters as taboo and morally atrocious, which they often incur in contempt of society. However, this social phenomenon is culturally influenced, while international couples may view and respond to infidelity differently.

While non-Western cultures may face equally high infidelity prevalence rates, they may also be more likely to stay together. For example, one study found that China had higher rates of sexual infidelity than the U.S. and France, but these couples were less likely to divorce (Zhang et al., 2012).

Differences around the world

Ultimately, cultural values ​​can influence the way people perceive infidelity in Western countries and not in Western countries. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

Western values Non-western values
Individualism (strong sense of autonomy) Collectivism (strong sense of community)
Succeeding Being modest
Adopt change Keeping the tradition
Focus on the future Focus on the past
Assertiveness (being direct) Indirectness

Many sources guide these values ​​such as religion, cultural background, historical experiences, and ecosystem factors, such as socioeconomic status (Penn, 1997). Knowing the importance of these values, Gottman Method Couple Therapy takes into account each couple’s unique cultural contexts throughout treatment.

Gottman method couple therapy internationally

Gottman Method Couple Therapy is a research-based approach that consistently demonstrates effectiveness in addressing a variety of issues presented, such as conflict management, expecting a baby, reducing situational violence in relationships. of couple and betrayal. (read more about this research here).

Numerous studies have also explored the effectiveness of the Gottman method around the world. For example, scholars showed that this approach to couple therapy not only effectively reduced irrational beliefs about communication between Iranian couples, but that couples were also less likely to divorce and demonstrated verbal communication skills and improved nonverbal, with positive effects lasting four to six years. later (Rajaei et al., 2019). In another study, Gottman method couple therapy also improved marital adjustment and intimacy issues with Iranian couples (Davoodvandi et al., 2018).

Gottman’s method for dealing with infidelity

Couples build their relationships on the pillars of trust and commitment. If the trust is not present or if it has been broken due to past wounds or betrayals, this is where treatment would begin to foster the success of the relationship. Betrayals can take many forms, such as sexual or emotional issues, absenteeism, lies, and broken promises (Gottman and Silver, 2013). Gottman method couple therapy incorporates tools to promote dialogue, develop a deeper connection, and build the trust needed for a relationship to thrive, especially after betrayal. In fact, due to the extreme need to support couples experiencing infidelity, the Gottmans developed a specialized approach within the Gottman Method to address the effects of betrayal on couple relationships.

The road to recovery after an affair

After discovering an adventure, the relationships face considerable pain and sorrow. Trust is broken and the security of the relationship bond is jeopardized. This is true for couples in committed relationships around the world who suffer from infidelity. For this reason, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have a more culturally generalizable view of infidelity, and define affairs as “Whether it’s a clandestine emotional or sexual bond with someone other than the raping partner … vows of sexual or romantic exclusivity. ‘bonding poses a threat to the primary love relationship’ (Gottman & Gottman, 2017, p. 95).

Despite the emotional difficulties that infidelity entails in a relationship, recovery of the affair is possible!

The Gottmans (2017) developed the Trust Revival Method, a three-phase approach especially suited to helping relationships recover from an adventure. In fact, this intervention demonstrated a 75% success rate in an initial uncontrolled trial, treating couples after an adventure (Gottman and Silver, 2013).

These 3 phases are Expand, tune and attach:

  • Atonement: In this first phase, the expression of remorse and total transparency are crucial to successfully moving toward emotional reparation. In addition, the couple who had an affair must be willing to sit down initially with the pain of the injured couple for healing to begin.
  • Tuning: The tuning phase focuses on processing the emotional wound caused by the adventure and setting the plan for the “new relationship”. Tuning also addresses healthy conflict management skills, which ensure that all partners feel heard.
  • Attach: After addressing the main challenges of the atoning and tuning phases, relationships can move into the adhesion phase. Here, rebuilding emotional and physical intimacy becomes the priority. Couples learn ways to integrate new shared meanings and connection rituals.

While infidelity causes considerable damage, an adventure doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship! Certified Gottman therapists receive extensive training in the Method of Revitalizing Trust and work alongside couples to help them repair trust and move forward after discovering an adventure.

Has your relationship experienced a sexual, emotional, or cyber relationship? The Gottman Institute is currently conducting an international research study on recovery of the affair and I would like to include couples from non-American countries. This study is a collaboration between Drs. John and Julie Gottman, The Gottman Institute, Taylor Irvine and Dr. Paul Peluso of Florida Atlantic University, as well as participating couples and therapists. If you are an international couple in an engaged relationship and have experienced an adventure, learn more about participating in the study here.


Davoodvandi, M., Navabi Nejad, S. and Farzad, V. (2018). Examining the effectiveness of Gottman couple therapy to improve marital adjustment and intimacy of couples.

Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 13(2), 135–141.

Gottman, J. and Gottman, J. (2017). Treatment of issues and trauma (TAT). Clinical manual. He

Gottman Institute.

Gottman, JM and Silver, N. (2013). What makes love last ?: How to build trust and avoid

betrayal. Simon & Schuster.

Penn, CD, Hernández, SL and Bermúdez, JM (1997). Use an intercultural perspective to

Understand infidelity in couple therapy. American Journal of Family Therapy, 25(2), 169–185. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926189708251064

Rajaei, A., Daneshpour, M. and Robertson, J. (2019). The effectiveness of couple-based therapy

on the Gottman method among conflicting Iranian couples: a quasi-experimental study. Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, 18(3), 223–240. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2019.1567174

Spring, JA (2020). After the adventure: heal the pain and regain confidence when a

the couple has been unfaithful (3rd ed.). HarperCollins.

Zhang, N., Parish, WL, Huang, Y. and Pan, S. (2012). Sexual infidelity in China: prevalence

and gender-specific correlations. Sexual Behavior Archives, 41(4), 861–873. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-9930-x

#Exploring #infidelity #world

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