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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The experience of beginning an extra-marital affair: A descriptive phenomenological psychological study and clinical implications
by Zapien, Nicolle Marie Gottfried, Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2015, 188; 3721331
Abstract (Summary)

Extra-marital affairs are common in the US and frequently result in difficulties for individuals, families, and society as a whole. Empirical research on the topic is problematic. There is no universally accepted psychological definition of what behaviors or experiences constitute an affair; there are value-laden assumptions about marriage and affairs that are not usually questioned as part of the design or discussion of studies; and, there are non-trivial non-response biases in sampling on the topic. As a result there is a lack of meaningful psychological understanding of affairs and a dearth of evidence to support clear treatment directions for those who seek psychotherapy for this common issue. In an attempt to understand the essential psychological structure of the beginning of affairs, a descriptive phenomenological psychological study of the experiences from three adults who have had affairs (as they define them) and who had promised monogamy was undertaken. These interviews were transcribed, transformed and analyzed using Giorgi’s (2009) descriptive phenomenological method for psychology. The resulting structure of the experience includes the following constituents: dissatisfaction with the marriage and hopelessness about it improving; a sense of the self and the spouse having a fixed character that does not change; a lack of curiosity for the spouse; a preference for passion and novelty; a sense of deserving sexual satisfaction; the experience of passion overriding judgment; and, a lack of real consideration of divorce as a solution to the dilemma prior to the affair. In addition, passive intentionality, (Husserl, 2001), is offered to explain how a series of interactions with another outside the marriage develops into an affair before it is grasped as such. This structure is potentially clinically meaningful as thus far it has not been articulated in a descriptive and complete manner. It offers direction for the future development of clinical interventions and provides entry points into: discussions of ethics, values, intimacy, passion and subjectivity; marriage reform; and, the socio-historical contexts in which the meaning of affairs is located. Keywords: Extra-marital affair, monogamy, non-monogamy, marriage, infidelity, couples’ counseling, Giorgi, phenomenological research methods, intentionality.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Applebaum, Marc
Commitee: Englander, Magnus, Johnson, Zonya
School: Saybrook University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 77/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Counseling Psychology, Psychology
Keywords: Couples' counseling, Extra-marital affairs, Giorgi, Infidelity, Intentionality, Marriage, Monogamy, Non-monogamy, Phenomenological research methods, Phenomenology
Publication Number: 3721331
ISBN: 978-1-339-02834-7
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