Infidelity and Military Couples: Risks & Effects

By Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT

Picture of a couple's hands
[Flickr, The First Couple- Moments of Togetherness by U.S. Embassy New Delhi, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
Infidelity is a common problem faced by many couples and is one of the leading causes of divorce [1]. Research shows:

 “…21% of men and 11% of women will engage in sexual infidelity during their lifetime” [1].  

Contexts surrounding  infidelity can vary greatly.  However, consequences to the relationship once infidelity is disclosed tends to be devastating and disruptive.

Are Military Couples At-risk?

Military couples can be particularly vulnerable to infidelity because of the types of stressors experienced in these relationships [2].  For instance, prolonged separation due to deployment, high incidences of stress-related mental health problems, and a high prevalence of couples who marry young are a few of the reasons that military couples are particularly at-risk for infidelity.

How Can Infidelity Impact Your Well-being?

Broken window
[Flickr, Broken air by Angelo Amboldi, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
Infidelity is known to connect to a broad range of adverse emotional and behavioral issues [3]. People who have learned that their partner is having an affair are at increased risk for having depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Especially in times of marital separation and divorce, people who have taken part in an affair are at great risk for depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. Domestic violence is also a problem that co-occurs with infidelity and can be exacerbated upon disclosure or discovery of the affair(s) [4].

What Are Treatment Options for Couples?

Military couples can utilize therapy to assist with navigating their way through problems associated with infidelity. Issues surrounding trust, trauma, and forgiveness can assist in repairing the damage that infidelity often causes to a relationship. Furthermore, it can be helpful for couples to consider family therapy when children are involved because they may absorb and react to some of the negative effects infidelity can bring to family life. Marriage education programs offered for military couples can be beneficial by increasing communication skills in couples with a history of infidelity. However, research indicates these programs may not effectively address marital satisfaction [5]. Stay tuned for our upcoming post exploring an evidence-based couples’ treatment approach specifically tailored to military couples struggling with infidelity.



This post was written by Kacy Mixon, M.S., LMFT, Social Media Specialist.  She is a member of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

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