Infidelity Secrets in Couple Therapy: Therapists’ Views on the Collision of Competing Ethics Around Relationship-Relevant Secrets


infidelity, marriage and family therapy, secrets, therapy


Infidelity is a common presenting problem in marriage and family therapy, and infidelity secrets are its common companion issue. When confronted with infidelity secrets, therapists encounter tension between the offending spouse's privacy and confidentiality rights and the non-offending spouse's right to relationship choice, which entails access to all relationship-relevant information. Professional ethical codes for relational therapy affirm both confidentiality considerations and equal advocacy for all persons in therapy. A relational therapy practice policy about disclosure of infidelity secrets is both critical and simultaneously fraught with tensions among competing accountabilities. A survey design was employed to investigate therapists’ attitudes concerning the relational impact of infidelity secrets and their judgments concerning how they should be handled in relational therapy. Findings reveal that relational therapists’ clinical judgment is that healing and attachment security are best promoted by disclosure, and that therapists support facilitated disclosure of infidelity in a context of informed, voluntary consent.

Original Publication Citation

Butler, M. H., Rodriguez, M. K. A., Olsen, S. O., & Feinauer, L. L. (2010). Infidelity secrets in couple therapy: Therapists’ views on the collision of competing ethics around relationship-relevant secrets. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 17(2), 82-105.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor