Since the inception of the institution of marriage, there has been the ever-present shadow of infidelity. This became increasingly apparent especially in monogamous relationships. Cheating has always been perceived to be inherent in the male sex. This has been aided by their higher status in their communities in historical years. Their breadwinner status implies that they are more immune to the adverse effects that may arise if their marriages are broken up. However, this has changed as women become more economically independent. They are less likely to suffer through the emotional burden of a bad marriage or may even be unfaithful to get back at their spouses. It is important to analyze the different in attitudes in terms of sex, marital status, and sexuality. All these factors play their role in the formation of people’s attitudes towards this subject.
THE ROLE OF MARITAL STATUS AND EXPERIENCE
Carr (2010) states that people’s marital experience greatly influences their attitude towards infidelity. Divorcees, individuals who have cheated before are more forgiving of infidelities compared to the widowed and currently married individuals. She further states that the forgiving attitudes are developed as a result of cognitive dissonance to avoid the feelings of guilt in the parties involved in the practice. Infidelity is frowned upon by society. Most of the society’s morals are grounded in religion which views the commission of this practice as an act of betrayal of the sanctity of the family. Perlovsky (2013) described cognitive dissonance as the discomfort that is brought around by having two beliefs that are conflicting. To mitigate this discomfort, the individual is forced to disregard one belief even though the remaining piece of knowledge/ belief might not be entirely moral. From the perspective of infidelity, people who cheat know that infidelity is reviled in the society. This is why they tend to be more secretive about it. However, there is always the underlying feeling that they may be caught red-handed. As a result, they are more likely to adopt a positive attitude towards infidelity to make up for their transgressions in case they are found out. This will enable them to validate their as they do not see themselves as being entirely in the wrong.
GENDER AND INFIDELITY
In her article, Carr (2010) stated that men are more likely to cheat compared to women. It is thus ironical to learn that men are negatively affected by sexual infidelity to a larger degree compared to women (Tagler & Jeffers 2013). In the study by Tagler & Jeffers, the difference in reactions was measured towards both sexual and emotional infidelity. 60 percent of men identified sexual infidelity as most distressing compared to 17 percent of women. This significant difference implies the presence of varying factors that affect both sexes differently that lead to the development of these attitudes. This difference can be attributed to the double-shot hypothesis (Tagler & Jeffers 2013). The most distressing kind of infidelity is the one that usually implies the co-existence of both types of infidelities. In the current society, most men believe that women, in most cases, engage in sexual activity after falling in love. As a result, their sexual infidelity will imply the co-existence of strong emotional feelings towards the man involved, causing grave distress to the man whose trust has been betrayed. On the other hand, most women believe that men can have casual sex without necessarily falling in love. Hence, emotional infidelity will be more distressing to them. The different attitudes and effects can also be ascribed towards societal upbringing. In her study, Carr finds out that people over the age of 65 years old are more tolerating of infidelities compared to the younger generations. In the previous years, men’s infidelity was more tolerated compared to women due to their different statures in the society. This belief will most likely be passed on for a while to future generations. Hence, currently, men are more likely to be distressed by the infidelity of their female partners as the society is more intolerant of infidelity by women.
SEXUALITY AND INFIDELITY
The issue of infidelity has mainly been investigated in heterosexual relationships. Current times have seen a more tolerant attitude towards homosexual relationships and their legalizations across various countries. It would be prudent to investigate if men still have similar rates of distress caused by infidelity in homosexual relationships. Bierma (2017) conducted a study on how attachment and self-esteem influence attitudes towards infidelity among gay men. She found out that men with high self-esteem and were securely attached were less likely to be tolerant of acts of cheating. As the country and the globe evolve in terms of its views of love and sex, it is important to investigate the changes in attitudes towards infidelity and its effect towards divorce rates.
From the articles mentioned above, it can be adequately surmised that men are more likely to cheat compared to women. Paradoxically, they tend to feel more hurt when they discover their female partner’s infidelity. This can be traced back to the elevated social status of men in the society. People who have been involved in infidelity are also more tolerant of the action. They have developed this attitude mostly in an attempt to justify their actions. There was little material on the attitudes towards infidelity in same-sex relationships. It would be prudent to gain more information as relationships become diverse. It is important to know whether the attitudes in heterosexual partners persist in those in same-sex marriages/ relationships. As people continue to evolve, it seems inevitable that infidelity will always stalk marriages. The only difference will be how people will continue to handle it.
- Bierma, S. (2017). Effects of attachment and self-esteem on perceptions of infidelity in gay men. University of Tennessee.
- Carr, D. (2010). Cheating Hearts. Contexts. doi:10.2307/41960779
- Perlovsky, L. (2013). A challenge to human evolution—cognitive dissonance. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00179
- Tagler, M., & Jeffers, H. (2013). Sex Differences in Attitudes toward Partner Infidelity. Evolutionary Psychology, 11(4). doi:10.1177/147470491301100407