Help for Therapists and their Clients
Report of Survey on Extramarital Affairs
Based on the responses from 1,083 people
whose spouses had affairs
by Peggy Vaughan

Printed copies can be purchased at

To download a Free copy of the PDF version,
go to list of Free Books.

Quote from Dr. Don-David Lusterman, author of Infidelity: A Survival Guide:
I think this book is nothing short of magnificent. It confirms everything that my patients have taught me over the last 28 years. I think it is a must for those who have experienced an affair, and equally important for those who treat affairs. For therapists, the page on patients' advice to them is worth the price of the book.

Quote from William J. Doherty, Ph.D., Director of the Marriage and Family
Therapy Program, Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota:
You have written a terrific resource for the lay public and therapists alike. What an effective use of quotes. And I value the data about dissatisfaction with therapists; it's such a crap shoot for people seeking help. Your comments about how marital therapists ignore the affair were quite telling. Congratulations on an important public service.

Quote from John Gottman in his book, "The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples" and
Co-founder of the Gottman Institute and founder of "The Love Lab" at the University of Washington:
The Vaughan Study
Peggy Vaughan conducted a landmark survey of over 1,000 people whose spouses had affairs. Her study shows how confidential communication from people on the Internet can be used to advance science in areas that are very hard to study. The survey shows that people who have healed from affairs and preserved their relationship did so by talking about the affair and following principles very much like the ones I have outlined. I was privileged to be able to help Peggy design her survey.
The result is an important book called Help for Therapists (and their Clients) in dealing with affairs. It is available for free and can be downloaded from Vaughans website. There is very specific advice in the responses to this survey and very good information about affairs and how people have successfully worked through them. I love this book.

I conducted a Survey on Extramarital Affairs through my Website, seeking information from those whose spouses had had affairs. There were 1,083 participants responding to the survey. In addition to gathering demographic information and establishing the current status of their marriage and whether they had children, each participant answered 35 multiple-choice questions about various aspects of their experience.

Note: The information gained from the responses to this survey will be useful not only for therapists in more effectively dealing with this issue—but also for those who are currently struggling to recover from a spouse's affair.

The primary goals of the survey were:

--To discover the factors involved in whether or not marriages are likely to survive.
--To determine the factors involved in whether or not people are likely to personally recover from this experience.

Statistical analyses of the results indicate:

--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with the current marital status and quality of the marriage.
--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with recovery.

Below are the Results of 2 of the 8 Statistical Analyses

1. Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when they thoroughly discuss the whole situation.

x2 (2, N = 1083) = 78.30, p <.001

55% of those who discussed the situation very little were still married (and together)
78% of those who discussed the situation a good bit were still married (and together)
86% of those who discussed the situation a lot were still married (and together)

2. Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when the spouse answers their questions.

x2 (2, N = 1083) = 66.58, p <.001

59% of those who refused to answer questions were still married (and together)
81% of those whose partner answered some of their questions were still married (and together)
86% of those whose partner answered all their questions were still married (and together)

The findings clearly show that getting answers to questions and thoroughly discussing the details of the affair increase the likelihood of maintaining and rebuilding the marriage. (Other results clearly show the same kind of increase in the likelihood of recovering from a spouse's affair.)

These survey results are consistent with what I have been told repeatedly through the years: "nothing is worse than not knowing." For a more thorough discussion of this, see The Need to Know.

The eBook contains all the responses to the 35 questions—both as a whole and broken down by gender. Below is a list of the questions included in the survey:

Below is a list of the questions included in the survey:

1. How long did you date your spouse prior to marriage?
2. How did you (as a couple) deal with attractions to others?
3. How did you as a couple deal with the issue of monogamy?
4. Did you suspect an affair?
5. What was the primary factor that might have warranted suspicion?
6. Did you confront your spouse about your suspicion?
7. How did you find out about the affair(s)?
8. How long ago did you find out?
9. How long had you been married when you found out?
10. How long had the affair(s) been taking place when you found out?
11. How many affairs did you find out about?
12. How MUCH did you and your spouse discuss the whole situation?
13. How LONG did the talking continue?
14. Was the talking helpful?
15. Did you want to know details about the affair(s)?
16. Did your spouse answer your questions?
17. Who did you talk to?
18. How MUCH did you talk to friends/family/others (NOT including professionals)?
19. Was it helpful to talk to friends/family/others?
20. How long after discovery was there a decision as to whether to stay married or get a divorce?
21. What was the decision?
22. Do you still dwell on the affair(s)?
23. Do you feel a sense of forgiveness/resolution?
24. Have you healed?
(For those who had Children)
25. What were the ages of the kids when you learned of the affair(s)?
26. What did you tell the kids about the affair(s)?
(For those who Stayed Married)
27. Has trust been rebuilt?
28. Has the relationship "improved" compared to pre-affair days?
(For those who got a Divorce)
29. Who initiated the divorce?
30. Have you been able to trust enough to develop another intimate relationship?
31. What is the quality of any new relationship?
(For those who had Counseling)
32. How many counselors did you see?
33. Was the counselor helpful?
34. Did the counselor encourage honest communication about the affair(s)?
35. Did the counselor focus directly on the issue of affairs?

While you can read the responses to ALL 35 questions if you download the Free PDF, I want to go ahead and share the striking responses to the last 4 questions about the experience with counseling.

Below are the responses to the last 4 questions about the experience with counseling.

How many counselors did you see?
27% - One
26% - Two
47% - Three or more

Was the counselor helpful?
57% - No, mostly frustrating
23% - Yes, but not as much as I'd like
20% - Yes, very helpful

Did the counselor encourage honest communication about the affair(s)?
23% - No, encouraged us to quickly cover highlights, then move on
45% - Yes, but on a limited time frame and to a limited degree
32% - Yes, very supportive of ongoing honest discussions

Did the counselor focus directly on the issue of affairs?
59% - No, mainly focused on general marital problems
28% - Yes, but not as strongly or clearly as I'd like
13% - Yes, very directly dealt with this issue

Unfortunately, a large segment of the therapeutic community has reinforced the idea that it's not wise to ask too many questions or do too much talking about the affair. The rationale is that the more a spouse knows, the greater the pain. However, this thinking is contradicted by the results of this Survey.

I hope the results of this survey—demonstrating the connection between honest communication and both staying married and recovering—will help the professional community (and all those struggling to deal with this issue) better understand the importance of answering questions and thoroughly discussing the entire situation.

This book not only reports "problems" with therapy—but also offers some "solutions."

Upon submission of the completed questionnaire, each participant was invited to add their Comments—on an open-ended basis. The specific question they were asked to address was: "How could therapists be more effective in dealing with affairs?"

From the many comments offered in response to this question, I gleaned 12 points of "Advice to Therapists" which are included in the book, along with the direct quotes from respondents. (Following the section containing "Advice for Therapists" is a collection of additional comments that were submitted on Other Topics that also provide invaluable insights into effectively dealing with the issue of affairs.)

I hope this study will help bring more attention to this issue and more understanding of its impact on those who face this devastating experience. And I hope the insight and information it provides will contribute toward Breaking the Code of Secrecy about affairs.


Basic Information about the Survey
Overview of the Demograhic Information
Other Information about the Respondents
Methods of Analysis
Statistical Analyses
Significance of the Results of the Statistical Analyses
Responses to the 35 Multiple-Choice Questions
(Including my personal commentary about the responses)
One Person's Story of their Experience with Counseling
Invitation to Submit Names of Therapists/Counselors
"Advice" from Respondents to Help Therapists
Overview of Major Points
Direct Quotes from Respondents
Other Topics included in the Comments from Respondents
Appendix I - Copy of Entire Questionnaire
Appendix II - Complete Demographic Information
Appendix III - Responses Broken Down by Gender
About the Author
Other Books by the Vaughans
Quotes about Peggy's Work

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