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August 21, 2018


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MIND AND BODY with  Rev. Fr. Vincent E. Arisukwu


Infidelity in marriage can also be referred to as cheating, adultery or extramarital affair. Wikipedia defines it as the subjective feeling that one’s partner has violated a set of rules or relationship norms and this violation results in feelings of sexual jealousy and rivalry. The violation can be sexual in nature, for example involving kissing, sexual fondling or sex with another individual outside of the marriage relationship.

Statistics reveal that the rate of infidelity in marriage is higher in men than in women. In their book, Close Encounters: Communication in relationships, Guerrero, Anderson and Afifi maintained that men are more likely than women to have a sexual affair, regardless of whether or not they are in a married or unmarried relationship. According to the New York Times data from the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey (GSS), interviews conducted since 1972 revealed that the number of men admitting to extra marital affairs is 12 percent and for women, 7 percent. The Kinsey report that came out in America in the early 1950s asserted that about one half of men and a quarter of women had committed adultery while the Janus Report on Sexual Behavior in America also reported that one third of married men and a quarter of women have had an extra marital affair.

Back home in Nigeria, most men seem to have been let loose regarding marital infidelity, women only seem to follow. Some men between the ages of 35 and 60 seem to see it as a way of socialization. Some brag about it while some make jokes with it among their peers. A few have been misled by friends and counterparts who make them believe falsely that a man cannot keep to one woman at a time. I met a woman recently who came to complain about the attitude of her husband in their marriage. The woman said she has endured so much in the marriage that she concluded that the only solution would be to take an offensive vengeance. This woman gave the basest definition of marriage I have ever heard. According to her, marriage is “a game of the smartest partner”. For my client, marriage has lost its texture of being an institution of love. It has become a game of smartness, a game of hide and seek with each couple hiding his/her joker in the pockets. It has become a game of timing, the smarter partner wins.

At the time of exchange of consent, the marrying couples say to each other, “…take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity”. And they seal it with, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” What this means is that the ring exchanged before God and his people in marriage becomes a symbol of the self giving to one another in the sacrament of marriage. What is actually exchanged in marriage is not the ring but love. This love is the mutual acceptance of each other which the bride and bride groom consent to for the rest of their lives. They exchange their hearts, minds, bodies, will and possession for the rest of their lives. They exchange their privacies, their likes and their hates for the rest of their lives. That is why the church teaches thus, “The couple administer the sacrament to one another by their mutual consent… we can say that the matter of the sacrament is the mutual offer of themselves as husband and wife made in words or in signs. The form is the mutual acceptance of the same, expressed in a similar manner. Since it is the bride and bridegroom who make this contract and since it is sacramental in virtue of the baptismal character of the contracting parties, they are said to be the ministers of the sacrament” (Pazhayampallil, T., Pastoral Guide, Vol. 2, Bangalore: 2004, p.817).



Many factors can be responsible for infidelity in marriage. These include false claims, promiscuity, sexual dissatisfaction, power/false sense of autonomy, spiritual dryness, greed, disaffection, etc. Let us look at them separately.

Promiscuity: Promiscuity or sexual permissiveness is the greatest factor responsible for infidelity in marriage. In a Journal of Research on Adolescence in 1999, Feldman and Cauffman, in their article, “Your cheating heart: Attitudes, behaviors and correlates of sexual betrayal in late adolescents”, maintained that individuals exhibiting sexually permissive attitudes and those who have had high number of past sexual relationships are also more likely to engage in infidelity.

Some people have high libidinal tendencies and fail to control their sexual urge. They lack the required discipline to control their desires. They would want to satisfy themselves each time the drive comes.  Promiscuous men go after women with desperation so also promiscuous women. They find it hard to keep to one sexual partner in marriage. These are the group of men who keep companies that have their discussions centered on women. Women with permissive lifestyle also share discussions dominated by the opposite sex. The men keep late companies, visit hotels and even hire rooms in the hotels sometimes arranged for them by their errand boys. They often visit clubs and sometimes patronize prostitutes to satisfy their bodily concupiscence. Such persons don’t imagine the possibility of staying without sex. They flirt with different ladies; even hide their identities as married men. They are never satisfied, never ashamed of themselves. They are the popular sugar daddies and mommies in the society.

Sexual Dissatisfaction: Most marriages have suffered silently today because some partners have been sexually starved by their companions. Marriage involves the total giving of a man completely to his wife and vice versa. In marriage the man has absolute right to his wife’s body, so also the woman. None has the right to deny the other sex which aims at the creation of a community of life and love, procreation and proper upbringing of children. Canon 1061 $1 says that once the couples have been joined in holy matrimony, “By their initial act of intercourse (i.e. consummation), the spouses express their covenantal joining in the most profound manner and become one flesh in the physical sense. This is the most expressive sign of the fact that they have committed themselves to one another for the creation of the community of the whole of life”. It is therefore a great risk when a woman complains that her husband does not touch her or when a man complains that her wife avoids him.

A man once came to tell me that his wife annoyed him and he decided to starve her of sex for three months. I told him bluntly that he was wrong. I made him to understand that he had better starve the woman of money than of what legitimately binds them together. Except in the case of sickness or spiritual exercise, whereby there is mutual agreement to abstain from sexual intercourse for the good of the union, a couple has no right to deny each other the companionship required of husband and wife.

Some men complain that they are not satisfied by their wives. Some women accuse their husbands of non performance. Some use such reason as avenue for infidelity in marriage. Some how, it is a difficult thing for them to voice out, but it is a major cause of marital infidelity in the society today.

To be contd.


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