Use Of The Polygraph With Relationship Issues
When we receive a request for a polygraph examination on a relationship matter, we accept that the relationship has probably suffered a serious breakdown in mutual trust. Quite often one party believes or suspects that the other party has engaged in activities that went beyond the normal boundaries of their relationship, while the other party usually denies this.
Without exception, this breakdown in the trust goes hand in hand with emotionality, uncertainty, feelings of betrayal and disillusionment. Sometimes both parties experience these emotions, depending on the particular circumstances. One of the avenues that couples often explore is the polygraph. One has a desire to receive confirmation that his/her suspicions are founded, while the other hope to confirm his/her denial in this regard.
Experience has taught that quite often one of the members feels vindicated upon completion of the polygraph examination, while the other party may feel aggrieved. Even in those instances where both initially accepted the result, it may happen that over time doubts about the accuracy of the examination will develop. Even the impartiality of the examiner may be questioned. It has happened that couples have returned to have the initial results confirmed with subsequent examinations.
What is of paramount importance for both members in this troubled relationship is that the polygraph result cannot and will not mend the relationship. The polygraph can only confirm or reject the suspicions that exist in the relationship. At best, the polygraph result may establish a point of departure to mend the relationship, but then only with the help of a professional person such as a marriage or relationship counselor. To assist couples to decide whether the polygraph is an option to explore, the following information is provided to guide their decision.
How will a polygraph examination assist with a relationship matter?
- Most importantly, it will confirm or reject the suspicions of one of the parties, while it will confirm or reject the statement/position of the other party. In other words, it will establish the truth.
- Provided that both parties in the relationship are willing, it may provide a fresh start, a new beginning. As stated before, the help of a professional counsellor will be required.
- It may provide the confirmation one of the members needed to reach a decision about the future of the relationship, whatever that future may hold.
- It may point towards other causative factors for the troubled relationship such as medical or psychological problems present with one or both of the parties. Obviously, such indications can never be confirmed by the polygraph examiner. Seek professional help!
What procedure will be followed during a relationship examination?
- It is preferable that both parties be present during the initial phases of the polygraph examination, although, during the actual test, the ’non-testing ‘ party will be asked to leave the room.
- At the beginning of the examination, the examiner will ask both members to explain their side of the situation and what each would like to achieve from the examination.
- Should the expectations be unrealistic, the examiner will try to lower the expectations to more realistic levels.
- The examiner would explain the basic polygraph process to both parties.
- The examiner informs the couple of the value that the polygraph result may provide with specific reference to their particular situation. An honest examiner will indicate to the couple if, in his opinion, the polygraph result will be beneficial in the particular situation. (A polygraph is not always the best way forward!)
- The examiner will provide the couple with the opportunity to withdraw from the examination should they feel that their expectations will not be met. If they decide to withdraw, the polygraph fee (which is usually paid upfront), may be refunded partially of in full, depending on the time spent by the examiner.
- Should both parties agree to continue, the examiner will guide the parties to a consensus on what the key examination issue should be. (Usually, the couple has a wide-ranging number of number issues which they would like to be addressed during the examination. (Protocol, however, does not allow for a multitude of issues to be dealt with in one examination)
- Once in agreement about the test issues, the examination can commence, provided both members are willing to proceed. The ‘testing party” will be asked to sign a statement to the effect that he/she voluntarily takes the examination, and that the non-testing member may be informed of the result.
- The examiner puts a basic medical questionnaire to the examinee. The purpose is to establish if the examinee is fit for the examination. Please note: The Examiner is no medical expert. He is guided by the information provided by the testing party, as well as his observations regarding visible physical attributes, possible intoxication, etc. Should the examiner be of the opinion that a person is not suitable to be examined, he will terminate the process.
- At this point, the non-testing party would be requested to leave the room.
- The examiner will question the examinee about the matter under investigation. The examiner will make notes od what is said. A synopsis of this discussion will be included in the written report.
- The examiner thoroughly develops the test questions with the examinee. After the examinee agrees to the questions, the actual examination will commence.
- The examiner will place the sensors on the body of the testing party. These are:
- a blood pressure cuff on the upper arm (identical to those used by medical professionals);
- two respiration sensors (one on the chest and the second on the abdomen) on top of the clothes, although the examiner will request the testing party to remove bulky items such as jackets, coats or jerseys;
- Two sensor plates on the fingers of one hand.
- Supplementary sensors may also be used.
- During the examination, the blood pressure cuff is inflated to about 60 mmHg, and it will remain inflated for the duration of that particular test – about four to five minutes.
- The set of questions will be put to the examinee three to four times, taking the actual examination phase to about 16 – 20 minutes.
- The physiological activity displayed by the testing party is recorded on a computer.
- Upon conclusion of the examination, the examiner will remove the sensors.
- After the examiner has analysed the recorded data, the non-testing member returns. The examiner will discuss the results with both parties.
- Finally, the polygraph examiner compiles the report and forwards it to one or both members as agreed.
The polygraph may add considerable value in resolving relationship issues. However, and this cannot be emphasised enough: The polygraph on its own is not the panacea for all relationship ills – the intervention of a professional counsellor is indispensable.
We can examine (amonst others) the following critical areas:
Illicit sexual relations whilst in a mutually exclusive relationship.
Engaging in any sexual activity whilst in a mutually exclusive relationship.
Use of prostitution and/or escort services
Secretly romantic relationships with anyone whilst in a mutually exclusive relationship
Engaging in online cyber sex or pornographic activities