The Supreme Court junked an archaic 158-year-old law that was a product of India’s colonial past. In a landmark judgement, the apex court upheld that adultery is no longer a crime in the country, adding that it can, however, be a ground for divorce. The controversial law – section 497 of the Indian Penal Code – deals with adultery in marriage. It has been repealed due to its sexist undertones that punished the man for committing adultery without the consent of the woman’s husband. Adultery, according to section 497, is an invasion on the right of a husband over his wife. But the woman herself is not prosecuted since she is thought to play a passive role in the extramarital relationship.
Junking the law may not be welcomed by many sections of the society that uphold the sanctity of marriage, saying that repealing the law will wreck families. That’s because a large section of the society still views marriage as a sacred institution, inviolable at any cost. Even the legend and lore of the land uphold monogamy. In Ramayana, Rama subjected Sita to an Agnipariksha to test her chastity. Even the Christian wedding vows are centred on the idea of “Till death do us apart.”
Rising Cases of Extramarital Affairs
Instances of extramarital relationships are increasing in the country. While we may still be better off than the west when it comes to divorce rates, we aren’t that far behind when it comes to adultery. Neuropsychiatrist Dr Era Dutta says that attraction to people outside your marriage is quite normal in a relationship. “We are attracted to power, beauty, confidence, fame and personality, both before and after marriage,” she says.
Dr Dutta says that extramarital relationships have become quite common in today’s fast-paced life. “Two out of every five couples that come to me speak about cheating, affairs and attraction. Both men and women are equally capable of cheating,” she says. Relationships have become more fragile than before mainly because spouses don’t have time for each other, according to the doctor. The rise of social media has also, ironically, contributed towards emotional disconnection between spouses, leading to cheating.
Why Do People Cheat?
The reasons why people cheat can be varied. But when it comes to men, the common reasons cited are boredom in marriage, lack of excitement, thrill-seeking, need for sexual gratification if the wife isn’t fulfilling sexual needs, difficulty in reconciling differences with the spouse or nagging. “Men often embark into relationships for both sexual and emotional needs to be fulfilled,” says Dr Dutta.
Women too have their own set of expectations and desires in a relationship, according to Dr Dutta. But she believes women engage in emotional affairs more than sexual ones. The common reasons for women to stray are a loveless marriage, neglect in the relationship, validation, lack of sexual thrill in the marriage and attraction towards exes. Cuckolding: Why Do Some Men Want to See Their Wives Have Sex with Other Men?
How To Stop Yourself From Cheating
Dr Dutta says that attraction towards another person even if you are in a monogamous relationship is normal. She, however, adds a caveat saying acting on the attraction is not. There are some tried-and-tested methods to stop yourself from harming your relationship. “Think how you would feel if you were the wronged person in the relationship,” she says.
Sometimes attraction can be fleeting. It doesn’t compare to the years of trust and love you have built with your significant other. So according to the doctor, it’s important to analyse your feelings and find out why you feel attracted to this person. Is he/she truly special? Or is there something lacking with your relationship? Can it be fixed with communication? Before you cheat, imagine all the consequences of the broken relationship, for your children who will have to endure a toxic environment at home. An episode of infidelity can break your trust forever.
Dr Dutta recommends keeping a confidante, someone to deter you from acting on your attraction. “Have an SOS person, a friend or a therapist, someone whom you can call while facing a dilemma,” she says.
Journaling can also help you keep track of your thoughts. Working out also helps to a great degree, helping you release your feel-good hormones.
Can My Marriage Survive an Infidelity?
How couples decide to proceed after infidelity is completely their call. “The question is complex, and the answer to this is multifactorial,” says Dr Dutta. If the partners share a good equation, they can tide over the problem. It also depends on the type of the affair, according to Dr Dutta.
According to a survey conducted by Victoria Milan, a dating site, 72 percent of men said that sexual affairs were worse than emotional affairs. 69 percent of women said that it was the other way round. 76 percent of women said that they would forgive their partners for a strictly sexual affair. But only 35 percent of men would forgive their women for the same. While 80 percent of the men said they would forgive an emotional affair, only 30 percent women confessed they’d forgive their men if they cheated on them emotionally.
Sometimes, the involvement of the larger family, children and society can deter the person from carrying on the affair. “It also depends on the zeal of both partners to work on their marriage from scratch. Spouses should have the capacity to overcome and forgive their partners,” says Dr Dutta.