Direct-proactive communication and the post-infidelity stay-leave decision

Jayda P. Felder, Laura V. Machia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research at the intersection of infidelity and communication has primarily focused on how partners communicate post-infidelity. However, researchers have yet to investigate whether direct-proactive communication (i.e. having an intentional conversation with one’s partner about attitudes toward infidelity prior to its occurrence) can influence victims’ stay-leave decision-making process in response to the transgression. We conducted two studies (total N = 271) to compare the influence of this communication strategy on people’s anticipated responses to infidelity in hypothetical scenarios, versus people’s actual responses to infidelity that occurred in a past or current relationship. Study 1 results did not reveal a significant association between this strategy and the anticipated stay-leave decision, nor between this strategy and anticipated decision confliction. Study 2 results also failed to reveal a significant association between this strategy and the actual stay-leave decision. However, we did find that particularly among individuals who chose to stay with their unfaithful partner, those who had engaged in direct-proactive communication were significantly more conflicted about staying than those who did not. Exploratory analyses further suggest that although people anticipate direct-proactive communication would greatly influence their choice to stay or leave post-infidelity, it doesn’t seem to matter for those faced with the real decision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-166
Number of pages19
JournalCommunication Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024


  • Romantic relationships
  • communication strategies
  • decision-making
  • infidelity
  • stay-leave behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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