Often spouses who have been betrayed sexually, emotionally, or with some other major breach of trust will be instructed by a therapist or friend to have their spouse take a polygraph. On the surface this can appear a sure—fire way to “force the truth” and transcend spousal denial, ambiguity, minimization, or avoidance. While the polygraph can detect the difference in truthful compared to untruthful responses regarding some overt behaviors (e.g. “have you had sexual intercourse or oral sex outside of your marriage in the last _____ days?”) often spouse don’t know the extent or range of behaviors, their frequency, starting points, circumstance or context, and whether or not the behavior has ceased. Rarely will a forced polygraph equate to healing, trust, or full knowledge of someone’s secret life.
Sometimes the polygraph provides a missing and expedient way to validate safety from such things as STD’s, infection, risk to children, and other scenarios that are laden with immediate concern such that choosing to defer information will dramatically increase fear, uncertainty, and risk to mental health and emotional well-being of the spouse. I such cases the mitigating factors over-ride the collective wisdom that would caution against early polygraph use. Continue Reading →