Marital infidelity arises when a married person engages in an extra-marital affair, often resulting in a broken relationship with his/her marriage partner. In relationship, infidelity could constitute various issues depending on the expectations that have been vested upon the involved parties. In marriage, however, adultery is in most cases a straightforward subject. It is all about getting close to a third party, be it physically or emotionally. In marriage, it can basically be stated that doing anything that results in feelings of jealousy and sexual rivalry in ones spouse is being unfaithful. This could be an innocent interaction with a member of the opposite sex; however, in case it makes ones marriage partner jealous or uneasy, it becomes wrong. A lot has been said about marital infidelity concerning its outcomes. The research show that more than half of the couples that have experienced infidelity become irreconcilable, thus leading to broken homes. Other studies indicate that couples can work through their differences after a case of infidelity and make their union even stronger. Generally, it has been a confusing time for married couples with regards to how they handle their relationships after a case of infidelity. The question thus stands as what should dictate to the married couple, whether the partners should hold on or let go their unions after a case infidelity. To answer this question, it is important to acknowledge that each individuals interpretation of infidelity affects his/her ability to recover from it and forgive the transgressor. This means that people from different backgrounds with different life experiences are likely to have dissimilar views on the subject.
Women are supposedly a forgiving kind. They take on the burden of the society and try their best to live up to the expectations of the fathers, husbands, children, and the whole society. However, over the past few years, this position has changed, and todays women are also looking out for themselves. They are no longer selflessly giving and giving without asking for something in return. From the society, a woman expects respect, from her children, she seeks consideration, and from her husband, she is waiting for unconditional love within both good and bad times. This is the reason most marriages fail after a case of infidelity, as she starts questioning the authenticity of his love for her. The hypothesis that guides this study states that woman is unwilling to work on marriage after infidelity in case she believes that husband has fallen out of love with her.
The research on marital infidelity will be based mainly on online resources that touch on the subject of marital infidelity and its outcomes. First, this research paper will explore the articles that provide justifications or reasons behind marital infidelity before discussing to those that tackle the outcomes of infidelity.
Fitzgibbons (2005) in his article Marital Infidelity discusses the subject of infidelity in a marriage in its entirety. Concerning the causes of infidelity, the author cites vulnerability as the main reason behind infidelity since a marriage partner often feels needy and goes out to seek fulfillment. The vulnerability may appear from feelings of loneliness and sadness often caused by thinking that the spouse is emotionally distant (Fitzgibbons, 2005). Other causes listed in this article include selfishness/materialism, lack of a moral code, lack of confidence, controlling and disrespectful behaviors by spouse, and compulsive use of pornography among others. This implies that just as there are many different reactions to infidelity within the institution of marriage, the causes are also quite numerous, and each experience is unique in itself as dictated by the responsible cause.
Affairs/Marital Infidelity by Brad Lewis also covers the subject from a slightly different angle. In this article, the author states that an affair can happen as an accident within four scenarios. The first possibility is being trapped into a relationship with an attractive workmate who is initially just a friend. The author explains that friendship can sometimes get out of control and end in an extra-marital affair. Secondly, spouse may suddenly become less satisfied than he/she feels he/she deserves in one way or another (Lewis, 2002). Such partners may all of a sudden stop meeting their expectations; as a result, they start seeing other people as better alternatives. It is wrong as marriage partners should be able to live with each others flaws as well as perfections. The third reason is that one may intend to inflate his/her ego and seek to prove to his/her partner that he/she is still attractive enough. Finally, if the spouse devotes his/her time and attention to something else (for example, to career, children, or hobbies), an affair may be retaliation or a subconscious wake up call. From these accidents, it is clear that the aggrieved spouse ends up committing adultery because of an underlying issue in marriage (Clewis, 2014). Even though a friendship gets out of control, it existed on the first place because the spouse needed a friend outside the marriage, and in an ideal situation, the marriage partner should provide more than enough friendship.
Considering the outcomes of a marital infidelity, Clewis in his book, Marital Infidelity,states that marriage can recover from infidelity only if the adulterous spouse is repentant, honest and willing to fully engage in the recovery. He further states that as recovery begins, the hurt spouse must witness positive changes taking place (Clewis, 2014). This means that couples may continue their existence after an extra-marital affair in case they are willing to commit themselves to the process, accept their mistakes, and work on becoming better together. While recovery is a long process, the author states that the commitment of the married couple should be solid as any doubts may lead to a severe failure. If the couple is not sure about what they want after the case of infidelity, it is usually more useful for them to part ways.
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Wright (2011) in his article, Pornography Consumption, Cocaine Use, and Casual Sex among U.S. Adults,claims that the only issue that destroys marriages more than domestic violence and abusive partners is infidelity that comes as a result of pornography consumption and drugs. This means that infidelity is a very serious offence that can hardly be forgotten, even in the event that it is forgiven. With this in mind, it can be assumed that most cases of infidelity are expected to end in divorce rather than in reconciliation. This may seem to be an easy way out of the stick situation even for the cheating spouse. In addition, Wright (2011) claims that perception and expectations of women engaging in casual sex are nowadays more practical and coordinated compared with their male counterparts. Previously, the men were the pleasure seekers while the women sought validation for their attractiveness and possible affection afterwards. They seem to have learned from their experience and those of others that these things are hard to come by thus having the resultant shift in their expectations concerning casual sex. Nowadays, while engaging in one-night stands, they only expect sexual satisfaction in exchange for whatever they consider themselves to be giving. They expect the casual sex to be worth it and to be attractive for the mate. This trend points to a fact that although men are the physical beings, women also are fast adapting to this trait and considering sex to be more or less a sport activity. It has become like a game, and the best situation is a win for them. The winning in this case is purely the sexual satisfaction.
These works on marital infidelity provide an insight on why people cheat and how they can overcome the experience and live happily past that problem. However, this study seeks to establish the pattern within which women respond to marital infidelity. The response to a case of infidelity is often based on the constructs of why people cheat. This affects the confidence and the ability of the aggrieved partner to forgive and move on. In addition, the outcome of marital infidelity greatly depends on the social constructs of marriage within the specific community.
Being a qualitative research, the study relied more on observation through interviews. The participants were picked based on their age and marital status. For purposes of relevance, the study involved six interviews with women who were either married or divorced to understand their responses to marital infidelity. Throughout the study, I played the role of a neutral researcher, asking open-ended questions and letting the participants answer as they saw fit. As a result, the observations are in their purest form, unaltered in any way by my personal opinion.
The study covered six women from different parts of the world. There were two women from Dubai: a newly married and married to thirty years. I interviewed two women from the United States both of whom were originally from the UAE and unmarried. I also interviewed two women from Sydney, newly married and recently divorced. Both of them are originally from the UAE, as well. All these women are Muslims, with similar values and views on the concept of marriage. However, they currently reside in different cities across the world and may have been exposed to different worldviews on marriage and family. In the current globalized socio-cultural dispensation, this difference is negligible if it exists at all.
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My main concern was on how they would respond to a case of marital infidelity. In order for them to fully commit their answers, I had to first ask whether they had experienced infidelity before. Depending on the answer, I then asked them whether they would forgive their spouse or end the relationships. The women who had experienced infidelity were asked about their response and its reasons.
The first interviewee was a newly married woman from Dubai. She stated that she had never experienced infidelity before and did not expect it from her husband. She claimed that their marriage had been based on love to each other, and infidelity could unlikely exist in their relationships. Her confidence in this case was reassuring. Concerning forgiving of her husband, she stated that she could not move past the fact that he did not love her anymore. Her interpretation of infidelity is that the cheating spouse has fallen out of love and thus letting go is the best option. To her, falling out of love means the end of the marriage as it is based on love.
The second interviewee, also from Dubai, has been married for over thirty years and has experienced infidelity a lot of times. Her philosophy is forgiveness based on the idea that families are kept together by the womenfolk. She explained that forgiveness is the only option in case of infidelity, as her culture has no place for divorce. She emphasized that betrayal hurts both partners, and together they are able to overcome the temptations that caused it.
The third and fourth interviewees were both unmarried and living in the US. For them, infidelity was unforgivable. The third interviewee had experienced infidelity in a previous relationship and claimed to have been hurt badly. She advocates for moving on and not blaming oneself for it. The fourth one, on the other hand, stated that her parents had divorced due to her fathers infidelity, and that her mother had suffered a great deal. She thus grew up knowing that if a partner cheated on her, she would never forgive him. Both agreed that marital infidelity is a sign that the man had lost interest in his wife; thus, she needed to prove to him and to herself that she could do better without him.
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The fifth interviewee was a newly married woman living in Sydney, Australia. She had never been cheated on but had been taught by her mother and aunts that cheating is not enough reason for a divorce. Thus in case of marital infidelity, she would forgive her husband and try to be a better wife to him. According to her, marital infidelity occurs because the woman stops being an ideal wife to her husband; thus, it is up to her to give him her best for as long as they both live.
The sixth interviewee, a recently divorced woman also living in Sydney, states that her husband had cheated her on after twelve years of marriage. When she learned about his adultery, she could not forgive him. According to her, she had given him the best years of her life, and still, he had the nerve to make her feel like it was not enough. Her reason for not forgiving infidelity is that if spouse thinks that the partner is inadequate, spending more time with him damages their self-esteem; thus, it is better to leave or find someone else who is content with what you have to offer in the relationship.
Out of the six women interviewed, only two believed in forgiveness regardless of the real reason behind the marital infidelity. To them, cheating is a sign of weakness, and the cheating spouse actually needed support but not reprimanding. The four women who were against forgiving the cheating spouses clearly stated that there would be no reason to stay back and be hurt considering that cheating signifies a lack of love, respect, and appreciation.
Three out of the four who had experienced infidelity in previous relationships or had witnessed their parents suffering through it were against forgiveness. The pain inflicted by marital infidelity is extremely intense, such that no one would like to go through it, and if being experienced or witnessed once, a person would hardly like to condone it for the second time.
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One out of the two who had never experienced infidelity could not forgive it based on her interpretation that it is a sign that the love in marriage is gone. The other woman who would be willing to forgive her man would actually blame herself for his infidelity and try to be a better wife to him rather than leave him.
All of the interviewed women are currently living in urban areas, implying that they are relatively modern with contemporary values and perceptions. This means that they are within a controlled environment that would influence their perceptions in a similar manner.
According to Born (2005), women have different ways of dealing with pain. In case of marital infidelity, the average woman would run. Rather than first tackle the underlying issues that caused infidelity, most women would assume that they are not loved enough; consequently, they would leave their spouse. This is an expected outcome of marital infidelity.
From the findings above however, there were two cases in which the women were willing to stand by their men even after being cheated on. These women are the core of this study, given that they support the working hypothesis. The first woman had been married for over thirty years, and her husband has cheated on her several times. She sticks by his side, citing that the only way to recover from infidelity is to support each other. Her reasoning is that her husband fell to the temptations of the other women, and it is her duty, being a good wife, to show him the right path and walk it with him.
From this response, it is clear that the woman believes in her marriage and mostly, in her husband. She bases her defense on the idea that there are so many women out there, both married and unmarried, who interact with their husbands on a daily basis. This is simply as life is, and she cannot keep him from going out and encountering other people. As a result, she has to keep reminding him that she is there for him as a part of him. Even in times of infidelity, the husband loves his wife dearly and falls only in case his strength is greatly inhibited. For this, she continues to believe in his love to her thus wading the murky waters after an incident of infidelity without leaving his side. This is proof that love prevails even in cases of marital infidelity whereupon a woman will only give up if she doubts her husbands love to her.
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The second woman also claims that she would not leave her husband but would instead make herself better in order to prevent him from seeking satisfaction elsewhere. In this case, her husbands love may or may not be in question, depending on how one looks at it. From a worldly perspective, men are visual creatures, and they wish having all their needs met. In this way, they want an attractive wife who performs all her duties efficiently and without complaining. In addition, the man needs to be able to relax in his home; thus, the wife would be expected to ensure that the home is conducive for the husband in terms of peace and comfort (Born, 2005). This means that when the husband cheats, the reason is he lacks something from his home. It may be that the wife does not cook his favorite meals, or is always late with the food, or nags him too much when he is trying to relax, or simply does not look good enough for him in terms of her grooming. Basically, this view implies that the wife is responsible for the way her husband treats her, and that cheating does not mean he does not love her but rather that she needs to improve her game and live up to his expectations.
In this scenario, the woman believes that her husband loves her dearly. She just faults herself for not grooming well, not keeping time, talking too much, or for not cooking his favorite meals. In many ways, the wife in this case considers her role as a homemaker with the responsibility to keep her man happy in order to prevent him from straying. She thus stays with him in the event of infidelity and tries to be a better wife.
This study covered only the views and experiences of Muslim women, with the same views on marriage and family. This means that the interpretation of infidelity and its expected outcomes are solely relevant to the Islamic community only. While the effect of religion on these views may not be so significant (especially, in this globalized time), it may have had an impact on the findings if considered.
Marital infidelity has been a problem for many people for many years. In most cases, people lose their families and spend the rest of their lives in regret while others remain stuck in unhappy marriages with little or no love at all. While it is logical for people to assume that marital infidelity ends in divorce, a few factors provide its exception. First, a womans role in the marriage should be clearly defined. If the woman considers herself as a marriage partner being loved and cherished by her husband, she is likely to stick by his side. The reason is that as much as it hurts to be cheated on, women are willing to forgive their husbands and rebuild marriage founded on true love. Once the infidelity proves that love is on the rocks, most women simply bolt for the nearest exit since they have no business living in a loveless marriage. Love is basically the only thing that these women require from their husbands; and once they cannot get it, the marriage becomes irrelevant. This means that if the woman believes that she failed in her role as a wife and possibly drove her husband to cheat on her, she is likely to try to mend the fence by becoming a better wife and catering to the needs of her husband according to his wishes.
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On the other hand, if the woman feels that her husband has simply fallen to the temptation of the modern world, she is also likely to stand by him and support him until he gets back to the right path. The other side of this coin is that regardless of the views held by a woman on family and marriage, the partner should be accountable for his actions. If a woman can prove that she is not loved the way she deserves, she is likely to leave in the event of marital infidelity.
From this research, it can be concluded that while marital infidelity is a serious offence against ones life partner, it does not have to end in a divorce. While people have different perceptions on the subject and thus different reactions to being cheated on, the basic aspect for consideration is the existence of love in the married couple. If they still love each other, there is no need for separation or divorce. According to Lewis (2002), infidelity can arise because of an unintended accident or incident, and the perpetrator often deserves forgiveness in case he is willing to live with his actions by being repentant and working towards a complete change of his character. Losing a family is never a good option; thus, married couples should endeavor to solve the underlying issues that cause them to stray rather than to pull the trigger on an otherwise happy marriage.