A Web guide for the talking wounded
By Karen S. Peterson
Peggy Vaughan sees herself as a woman with a mission. And the expert on dealing with infidelity is rolling up her sleeves in cyberspace.
Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth and Making Love Stay, wants to make the public aware of what she and some of her peers think are the best Web sites on relationships. Somebody has to wade through the cyberjunk, she says.
Vaughan wants the public to know "there are people and Web sites out there whom they can trust, somebody who is responsible and has substance."
Too many, she says, are "rip-offs," irresponsible sites run by unqualified people.
She plans to post links through her Web site to website addresses that have received the approval of Vaughan and her peers. [The list of Therapists is no longer on this site, but has been moved to beyondaffairs.com]
Vaughan's site is designed to guide the wounded through healing after an affair. She has posted research based on 1,083 men and women whose spouses have had at least one affair and responded to her online survey.
Among her findings: Discussing the affair helps. More than four-fifths (86%) of those who talked a lot about the infidelity were still married. Just 55% who talked about it very little stayed together.
Diane Sollee, director of the non-profit Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, runs a site that gets high marks from Vaughan and other experts. The site, SmartMarriages.com, is a reservoir of information for those who want to learn skills to strengthen families.
"The difference between successful and unsuccessful couples is how they handle their differences," her Web site says. "Successful couples disagree in a way that makes their marriage stronger. They also have a bunch of other skills which help them build long-term happiness and satisfaction."
Sollee applauds experts who offer their advice online completely free.
(One quickly notices that while many psychotherapists are online for the good of humanity, most also are online for the good of their careers. Web sites heighten public profiles. And most experts pitch their books, tapes, CDs, seminars, classes, courses or upcoming pubic appearances, or perhaps a telephone counseling service.)
Among Sollee's picks, coupled with information from the Web sites:
Retrouvaille (www.retrouvaille.org). A "live-in weekend and post-weekend program for married couples." An intense Catholic program, but all faiths are welcome. Emphasizes communication between a couple. "No couple is ever denied the chance to heal . . . because they lack the finances."
Stepfamily Association of America (www.stepfam.org). Support organization for stepfamilies. Supports research and training; provides lists of local support groups and professional help. Says about 43% of marriages are remarriages for at least one of the adults; 60% of remarriages eventually end in divorce.
Family Wellness (www.familywellness.com). Teaches entire families -- parents and kids -- the skills to help stay together. Explains an enrichment program that communities can provide for families through schools, hospitals, churches, industry, day-care centers, mental health professionals and interested parents.
Peggy Vaughan's official list favors some different Web sites. Some of her picks, including comments from the sites:
Affairs-Help (www.affairs-help.com). From therapist Emily Brown. Message board for questions. Guides to types of affairs, such as the "conflict avoidance" and the "intimacy avoidance" affairs. "Affairs are loaded with romanticism, morality, mythology and intense emotions. They're not really about sex, but about pain and fear and the desire to feel alive. They're also about betrayal."
Marriage Builders (www.marriagebuilders.com). From marriage counselor William F. Harley Jr. Gives methods to overcome marital conflicts and quick ways to restore love. Offers counseling by telephone. "The five most important emotional needs of men (are) usually the least important for women, and vice versa. . . . The two sexes lack empathy."
Couples Place (www.couples-place.com). From therapist/educator David E. Sanford. "Marriage Support," an online learning community for improving marriage and relationship skills. Includes e-mail courses and quizzes. Forums to post messages and start discussions. "Your relationship may need information, skill training and encouragement, not therapy."
Divorce Busting (www.divorcebusting.com). From marriage and family therapist Michele Weiner-Davis. Specializes in "brief solution-oriented therapy." Explains approach. Offers message boards, e-mail, book chapters and resources. Her formula: "doing more of what works and less of what doesn't."
Sexual Marriage (www.sexualmarriage.com). From Kathleen Logan-Prince, a certified sex therapist. Details complexities of intimate relationships and how marital and sex therapy works. "According to Masters & Johnson, the famous sex researchers, 50% of all couples experience some sexual dysfunction . . . in their relationship."
Divorce Support (www.divorcesupport.com). Comprehensive informational network, billed as the "divorce page of the Internet." Serves as clearinghouse for extensive resources. Chat rooms, bulletin boards and state-specific legal guides.
The Family Corner (www.thefamilycorner.com). Includes sections on parenting, family time and "just for you." Discussions about and services for families. Consumer corner, frugal living tips and forums for posting comments on the full range of family topics.
Help For Men (www.helpformen.com). From therapist Joe Mansfield. Articles and links to other sites. Offers "relationships coaching" (not therapy) with homework for a fee. "My basic philosophy in my personal life and in my work with men is: If it is in your heart to have a satisfying relationship, then you must devote a great deal of time and commitment to getting the tools to do it right."