This study uses a discourse analytic approach to examine how twenty young adult heterosexual romantic couples (ages 19-26) formulate accusations and insinuations of infidelity in their unstructured natural conversations. The analyses demonstrate how accusations of infidelity among romantic partners work to pursue and avert relational trouble. They indirectly index local interactional breaches that may, if left unattended, lead to non-affiliative interactional outcomes. Unlike mainstream psychological work that would treat talk about infidelity as a sign of emotional insecurity or jealousy, the present study posits that accusations of infidelity may function as a brief but effective way for one partner to signal that they have been dismissed or neglected in the preceding discursive turns, and to indirectly invite the other to repair that. Inductive sequential discursive analyses specifically found a reoccurring 5-part sequential pattern in the interactional environment surrounding spontaneous accusations of infidelity. This study demonstrates that the ways romantic partners affiliate around quotidian accusations of infidelity is not random, but instead can reflect an ordered cultural pattern to the ways couples work to maintain a close relationship.


Infidelity, Accusations, Discourse Analysis, Romantic Relationships, Affiliation

Author Bio(s)

Neill Korobov is an Associate Professor and Director of the PhD program in the Department of Psychology at the University of West Georgia, USA. He is interested in the architecture of people’s conversations and stories for the study of identity. His research is situated in Discursive Psychology, straddling critical discursive and conversation analytic methods. For the last several years he has been studying the natural conversations between young adult romantic partners. He is interested in the ways couples pursue intimacy, connect, and create affiliation while bantering, telling stories, arguing, and sharing their desires. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: nkorobov@westga.edu.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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