Infidelity is a complex phenomenon, which may or may not be related to divorce. Discuss.

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Infidelity is a complex phenomenon, which may or may not be related to divorce. Discuss.

The relationship between infidelity and divorce is undeniable, with nearly a quarter of all divorces directly related to it (Fincham 2003). However, the extent to which infidelity contributes to the origins of marital breakdown that finalise in divorce is a much more complex notion to address. There is no single factor that has been identified that results in divorce- only an amalgamation of reasons that contribute to an overall sense of marital breakdown failure (Clarke and Berrington 1999; Glezer 1994; Kurdek 1993; Karney and Bradbury 1995; Ono 1998; Olson and Larson 1989; White 1990). Therefore infidelity alone cannot be singled out as a reason that consistently leads to divorce. There are as many complex reasons for infidelity as there are for divorce but they do not necessarily mirror one another.

Monogamy is something most people say they believe in and want for themselves. Every survey ever done on this question shows a high percentage of people think monogamy is important to marriage and that affairs are wrong. But a belief in monogamy as an ideal doesn't prevent large numbers of people from having extramarital affairs. Most people don't intend to have an affair and most people don't think it will happen to them—but it does. No one is immune from having affairs that disrupt their lives or the lives of those they care about; they happen to all kinds of people, in all walks of life.

There are different varieties of infidelity; the two main areas of discussion are sexual and emotional infidelity in a monogamous relationship. Some distinction should be drawn between adultery and infidelity. Adultery concerns the religious and legal aspects of marriage. Infidelity is a secret relationship outside the primary relationship involving lies to avoid a partner’s anticipated objection. Although sexual infidelity is the most common, many spouses complain of emotional infidelity which involves flirtation or furtive sexual innuendo, but no intercourse.

Within this paper I will attempt to unravel the causal link between infidelity and divorce and what influence – if any, infidelity has upon the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. I will do this by outlining the main components of each element and then discussing how they interlock during the process of marital breakdown and ultimately divorce.  

Although in today’s western society is in increasingly difficult to define infidelity, it is relatively uncomplicated to outline what marriage and divorce both signify to us. One is the legal binding of two people typically within a religious context and the other is the legal means by which you break this contract. The five basic grounds for divorce are the same throughout the UK: adultery, unreasonable behaviour desertion, the parties to the marriage have lived apart for at least two years and both consent to the divorce, the parties have lived apart for at least five years

The first three grounds are ‘faults’ that can be committed by one spouse against the other, allowing the ‘innocent’ spouse to apply for a divorce. The last two statements are ‘no-fault’ grounds requiring evidence of separation.

It is projected that 41% of marriages in England and Wales will end in divorce. Nearly one quarter of divorces occur in the first four years of marriage, one half in the first ten and one third after 15 years of marriage. For many years the UK had the highest divorce rate in the EU. In 1996 the UK had the fourth highest marriage rate in the EU (5.4 marriages per 1,000 population), with only Denmark, Portugal and Holland having a higher rate. However, this is still lower than America where half of all marriages ended in divorce. Within the legal framework it is easy to understand the process and statistics of divorce. However, in reality the reasons behind divorce are much more complex to grasp, and the exact nature of marital breakdown is what makes them so hard to unravel.

The relationship between infidelity and divorce can be seen in the statistics – with between 20-25% of all divorces being explained through its occurrence. However there are a huge variety of other factors that can accompany this factor in contributing to a final marital break up. Divorce has been shown to result from a wide range of causes (Amato and Rodgers 1997; Burns 1984; Cleek and Pearson 1985; Gigy and Kelly 1992; Gottman 1994; Kitson et al.1985; Karney and Bradbury 1997; Wolcott 1984), and in some research infidelity is shown to be as low as seventh in the rank of grounds for the dissolution of the relationship (Kitson Sussman, 1982). To fully appreciate the relationship between divorce and infidelity we must first consider some of the other reasons commonly seen as explanations as to why nearly half of all marriages fail. These factors may not only be reasons for divorce but may also explain why infidelity occurs in the first place. Infidelity within marriage may take place as a consequence of one or more of these issues, and consequently will show the extent to which infidelity is or is not directly related to divorce.

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Perhaps increasing divorce rates reflect many anti-family distractions that fill the modern world - or perhaps divorce rates reflect an increasing unwillingness to tolerate unhappy marriages. Factors that affect divorce differ around the world - the following points apply in Western Europe and America:

The shift from an agricultural society to an industrial one undermined many of the family’s traditional functions. Schools, the media, and peers are now important sources of child socialization and child care. Hospitals and nursing homes manage birth and care for the sick and aged. Because the family pays cash for goods and services rather than ...

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