The Ecological Couples Systems Diagram (ECSD) could be a helpful basis for couples therapy and premarital counseling, especially in the context of infidelity, according to recent research in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
In a review article, the authors discussed how infidelity fits into the ECSD paradigm.
An estimated 34% of men and 24% of women engage in infidelity, they explained. The associated emotional pain and loss of trust can end committed relationships.
The researchers consulted 82 studies for their review. About 56% of the studies were conducted in the United States, followed by Asia, Africa, Europe, and multiple continents. About 80% involved both men and women. Infidelity was assessed with a variety of instruments and questionnaires.
The ECSD model is characterized by systems that inform the couple’s interactions with each other and with the society in which they live. Using this as a guide, the authors noted several points about infidelity, based on their research.
|System||Description||Examples of Factors Associated with Infidelity|
|Microsystem||Individual, partner, and parental characteristics||Male gender, alcohol consumption, partner’s attractiveness, partner’s sexual dysfunction, parental infidelity, parental divorce|
|Mesosystem||Partner relationship||Cohabitation, marital instability, low sexual satisfaction, insecure attachment styles|
|Exosystem||Opportunities||Social media use, social life without the partner, availability of opposite-sex co-workers|
|Macrosystems||Culture||Low religiosity or spirituality, incarceration, gender norms|
|Chronosystems||Effects of time||Crisis situations, such as divorce|
Systems may interact with each other as well, the authors said, adding that helping couples understand these systems and factors can help them determine how compatible they are for an exclusive relationship.
“Using this model, therapists can better identify the factors affecting infidelity and provide the appropriate counseling for couples not only in premarital counseling, but also during married life,” the authors wrote.
They acknowledged that most studies took place in the United States, so it was unclear whether the results could be applied to other cultures.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Haseli, Arezoo, MSc, et al.
“Infidelity and Its Associated Factors: A Systematic Review”
(Full-text. Published online: June 10, 2019)