The Treatment of Infidelity: A Step-by-Step Research-Based Approach

 How would one know if a relationship has what it takes to make love last a lifetime?

 This 2nd talk by the Gottmans goes far beyond their 1st talk. They will begin by reviewing their research methods, including the importance of physiology in relationship stability. They will briefly review what predicts relationship stability and happiness, including the ratio of positive to negative emotions during conflict, the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” that predict relationship deterioration, and their antidotes. Their “Sound Relationship House” (SRH) theory will demonstrate how the research has lead to a new model of understanding relationships and treating ones that are distressed. 

In their latest research, the Gottmans have found that although the SRH theory explains much about relationships, it is missing an important piece that they have now scientifically defined and understood:  The importance of building trust and loyalty in a relationship, and how that can be achieved during treatment.

The Gottmans discuss the “trust metric” that can be measured in any couple’s interaction, and how couples build or erode the trust metric. They draw from four studies and theory to show how emotional attunement is the process through which couples build trust.  They then explain why lack of trust leads to The Four Horsemen, because negative affect during conflict becomes an “absorbing Markov state” (easy entrance into the state, but difficult exiting out of that state), during which repair fails.  

 An important finding in their new research is that distrust is not enough to explain betrayal, which leads to explaining the “betrayal metric” in terms of the presence of a zero-sum game metric. Betrayal has its own dynamics, and its own serious consequences.  For example, one of their shocking results from a 20-year long longitudinal study shows that the betrayal metric correlates with significantly earlier death of husbands.

The Gottmans then describe the treatment of affairs, based on their research and their new model of treatment, “Atonement-Attunement-Attachment.”  Details of this method are reviewed, including the most powerful tool that couples utilize to move towards recovery and healing.  A case is described, and the Gottmans conclude by reviewing verbatim session dialogues to demonstrate how these methods are practiced.

Talk Goals


Participants will be able to:

    • Identify how couples can build trust and avoid betrayal
    • Describe “emotional attunement” as it applies to couples
    • Discuss the Zeigarnik effect and how it relates to processing negative emotional events
    • Differentiate between the steps that erode trust in relationships and the processes that end in betrayal
    • Describe the steps toward helping couples heal from an affair

Powerpoint Presentation - April 20 2013