Infidelity rarely comes out of the closet in Indian society. For the sake of family honor a spouse will choose to ignore a partner's extramarital affair and silently suffer a cheating husband/wife or independently try patch-up measures, rather than publicize the matter and attract social stigma.
Infidelity or a breach of faith, violates the basic assumption of life—trust.
Infidelity can be a heart breaking experience when the betrayal is detected— especially in the case of a spouse getting emotionally or sexually involved with someone outside a marriage. Extramarital affairs have left a trail of broken homes, lust murders, honor killings and suicides across countries and cultures globally.
The fortunate few couples who weathered the storm of infidelity
and renewed their marriage vows of faithfulness and love have reportedly emerged stronger after a cheating partner returned to the fold.
Pollsters in a recent sex poll conducted in England on "Why Men and Women Cheat" found one in five Brit men who love their partners and enjoy great sex at home never lose a chance for an affair on the outside if they can get away with it. One third of women who cheated on their partners said they were happy at home, but they slept around because they were bored. Most women who enjoyed an affair said they saw it as "a reward for being an unappreciated wife and mum", or for tolerating a partner who didn't love, didn't listen or ignored them.
However, marriage counselors agree that it is unfair to compare "a forbidden love affair that is maintained by romantic idealization with the routine familiarity of a long-term marriage."
Certain cultures read a difference in connotation between the terms Infidelity and Adultery. Germany, for example, sees adultery as a "crime against marriage" while Infidelity doesn't attract similar, strong criticism. An adulterous relationship most definitely involves sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than the spouse, whereas Infidelity may involve an emotional affair, sexual affair or both.
Infidelity in marriage manifests itself in different ways—
• One night stand or casual sex is sexual interaction by a married person with a stranger or an acquaintance just for the sake of sex
• Emotional affair is when a married person is involved with an extramarital partner in a close relationship that excludes sexual intimacy but includes emotional intimacy
• Extramarital affair wherein a spouse shares body and soul with another person on the sly, outside the marriage for a prolonged period
• Office romance or work romance blossoms when a married person ‘falls in love’ with someone who is not his/her spouse at the work spot. With the advent of the Internet and the mobile phone, yet another dimension in the form of virtual sex or online intimate friendships has been added to infidelity. In the case of inappropriate emotional intimacy, an unfaithful partner may spend excessive time in person, on the Internet or on the mobile phone, confiding more in the “new friend”, sharing more intimate emotional feelings than with one’s spouse. Such attractions may not involve actual sexual intercourse but the secrecy and deception involved in keeping such relationships under cover seriously undermine the currently permanent relationship.
In societies where marriage is giving way to live-in relationships
and where same sex relationships
are on the rise, cheating on a partner in a current relationship and getting intimate with another of the same or different sex is also frowned upon as Infidelity.
Previous assumption that Infidelity was an offshoot of a bad marriage has proved to be a myth. Spouses bear witness to the fact that an extra marital affair crops up even in a happy marriage when the partners are intimate and enjoy each other's company, have a frequent and exciting sex life and spend quality time together.
Though Infidelity is one grey area where accurate statistics may never be available considering the clandestine nature of the issue, data collected from several surveys conducted in the West may give an idea of the incidence of Infidelity:
• More than 50% of marriages end in divorce on account of marital infidelity
• Majority of affairs are never detected
• 70% of those surveyed reported a partner cheating, despite a high level of marital fulfillment that included an active sexual life
• In 2003, of the 50 UK divorce lawyers who handled cases of extramarital affairs, 55% said it was usually the husbands that cheated, 45% said it was the wives that cheated
• A striking paradox recorded by the Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) in the US is that, while 90% disapproved of extramarital relationships, a national survey revealed 15% wives and 25% husbands experienced extramarital sexual intercourse. There was a 20% increase in the number in the case of emotional affairs or sexual intimacies without sexual intercourse
• 10% to 15% of children are conceived as a result of an extramarital affair
Therapists and researchers have been launching pilot studies since the 1990s to find who cheats, why they cheat and what can be offered by way of therapy to salvage marriages tottering on the brink of a breakdown.
Psychotherapists observe that people commit themselves to a lifetime relationship such as marriage, with a sense of purpose and if that purpose is not realized in some way, for some reason, they tend to look elsewhere for fulfillment. Several studies have shown that affairs crop up when there is something lacking
—perceived or real, in terms of expectations.
Latest studies suggest that the gender gap is narrowing and more women are now getting involved in shady affairs
but that men are still more likely to be the unfaithful partner in a marriage.
Experts who are tracking the changing patterns of extramarital affairs observe that the Internet
is fast fuelling the trend and rapidly becoming a rendezvous for adultery. Likewise the mobile phone
with its instant connectivity has facilitated interpersonal connections for the wrong reasons. Sexual addiction
is also cited as an important reason for infidelity. Truck drivers plying on long routes in Asian countries such as India, periodically visit brothels even though they are married. The worrying outcome of this risky behavior is that they contract sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea and worse still, AIDS, which they pass on to their unsuspecting wives.
Therapists who help couples recover from the aftermath of an affair advise them to rebuild trust—in themselves, in their marriage
. In the process of rebuilding a marriage after an incidence of adultery, spouses need to deal with the sense of betrayal, cope with suspicion, find effective sources of emotional support and most important of all, take care of children in a way they don't feel neglected but enjoy the love of the father and the mother.
Books about Infidelity and how to survive affairs
written by therapists and marriage counselors continue to top popularity charts in the West but the tips offered to counter Infidelity and settle marital discord are sometimes not applicable in the Asian context—particularly in the Indian context.
Infidelity rarely comes out of the closet in Indian society. Even Bollywood movies with Infidelity as the central theme like Kabhi Alvidha Na Kehna bombed at the box office because the idea of a picture-perfect family is firmly ingrained in the Indian public's collective consciousness and any real discussion on Infidelity is discouraged as taboo
. For the sake of family honor a spouse will choose to ignore a partner’s affair and silently suffer spousal unfaithfulness or independently try patch-up measures, rather than publicize the matter and attract social stigma. News of couples separating on grounds of infidelity is only now slowly beginning to surface in India.
Marriage counseling for an extramarital affair is challenging in India because most often it is not just the couple but their family members also who are in the fray and pull each spouse in a different direction. Married couples are rarely allowed to settle their differences on their own without the intervention of the relatives of the husband and the wife.
According to psychiatrists, though it is emotionally possible to love more than a person at a time (polyamory
), practically speaking it is difficult to have Eros or romantic, passionate love for more than one partner at a time.