When trust is lost in a relationship, it could take years to recover, if ever. In many cases the evidence of adultery is not definitive and the only way to find out the truth is through polygraph (a type of lie detector) testing. Polygraph exams are used extensively worldwide to resolve relationship issues and are 90 to 95% accurate if done correctly. This is one of the areas of testing where experience makes a big difference, and it is the consumer´s responsibility to make sure they are getting the best exam possible.

The first step is to decide on the test issues. A polygraph exam can not contain “mixed” issues. For example, you can not include questions about theft, drugs and infidelity in the same exam. All the questions in a single exam must pertain to the same topic, so unless you are prepared to administer several exams, you should select your topic first. Keep in mind that a single polygraph exam can last up to 3 hours.

There are three general categories for relationship testing:

1. Infidelity or “cheating” questions are usually designed to determine whether one partner has engaged in sexual acts with someone besides his/her partner during a specified time period. This category may also include questions about dating, kissing, specific sexual acts, or acts with specific-named individuals.

2. No-contact activities are covered separately because not all “cheating” requires physical contact. For example, polygraph can be used to determine the extent of internet activities, such as visits to pornographic sites, dating sites, chat rooms, interactive sexual web sites, and cybersex, or placing person ads, visiting strip clubs, or communicating with “exes.”

3. Personal history questions delve into issues relating to activities prior to the current relationship. These personal history questions are appropriate when a partner needs to verify aspects of his/her partner´s background, such as sexual history, drug or alcohol habits, gambling, health issues (particularly STDs) and excessive financial obligations.

Once you have decided on the general test issue, the next step is to select a qualified examiner. Important decisions may be based on the results of the exam, so this hiring process should not be taken lightly. Not all examiners are created equal, and some are outright frauds. To protect your investment and make an educated decision, make sure your examiner has attended an American Polygraph Association (APA) accredited training facility, maintains his/her continuing education, uses fully operational and calibrated equipment, has significant experience with relationship exams, and is well-rated with the Better Business Bureau. Avoid any form of “voice stress analysis” as this is a type of lie detector test that has not yet been scientifically validated.

After identifying a qualified examiner in your area, you must bring up the subject of polygraph testing with the person you wish to have tested, who is know as the “examinee.”. In many cases, the examinee has brought up the polygraph option him or herself as a way to resolve a situation, so that makes your presentation that much easier. In other situations, you should tell the prospective examinee that you have suspicions about some particular activity, and that you would like to be able to trust the other person again and feel that a polygraph exam would be the quickest and most direct way for that person to prove that he or she didn´t do something.

Once the examinee has agreed to take the test and you have scheduled your appointment, you must begin thinking about what questions to ask. Most examiners will allow up to 3 related questions per exam, but keep in mind that as you add more questions the less accurate the overall results will be. In other words, asking only one relevant question will produce the most accurate results. Be very suspicious of any examiner who offers to ask more than 3 or 4 related questions in a single exam.

Relevant polygraph questions must be objective, factual, distinct, and deal with past events. Questions must pertain to a factual event or statement that did or did not take place. Examiners will not ask about thoughts, feelings, emotions, intentions, or the future. It is not appropriate to ask about how someone feels about you – or what they plan to do in the future – in a polygraph setting. You may ask about sexual acts with other persons, contact or communication with specific individuals, viewing pornography, visiting strip clubs, running personal ads, and similar questions. You may also ask about previous marriages, known children, and known STDs. You may not ask whether the examinee loves you, is attracted to someone else, plans to stay with you, or whether he/she has lied to you about something. Examiners do not ask questions indirectly.

At the time of the exam, your examiner will discuss the case with you and work with you to develop the best questions for your particular situation. While you should tell the examinee the general nature of the questions, it is not advisable to provide the examinee with the exact questions that will be asked in advance of the exam. The night before the exam, make sure the person being tested gets a good night´s rest and eats a meal before the test. That person should avoid drugs and alcohol for at least 12 hours, other than prescription drugs taken on a regular basis. Caffeine will not affect the test. On the day of the exam, by all means do not fight or argue with the examinee. You want the examinee to be as relaxed as possible.

Following the exam, you should receive a written report containing the test results. This report should include the purpose for the exam, the relevant questions asked, the answers given, and the final determination of the examiner based on the polygrams (charts) that were produced. Test results will fall into one of three categories: (1) Deception indicated, (2) No deception indicated, or (3) Inconclusive or No Opinion. These results may be global (pertain to the overall exam) or individual (a decision is made to each relevant question) depending on the technique used. Global scoring is considered to be more accurate than individual scoring.

If the examination determined that there was deception indicated, it is strongly suggested that the couple enter couples counseling to discuss the test results and any admissions made during or after the testing process. If the results indicate truthfulness, you owe someone an apology.

Michael Martin is President of the Global Polygraph Network