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Marital infidelity is one of the factors militating against marriage and family which are two institutions that work towards the population and growth of the society. This research study is undertaken to make a little contribution towards creating awareness of the ills of marital infidelity in Idemili North L.G.A.; and to search for the most likely causes and solutions to the problem. The research adopted the systematic sampling approach for the study with a sampling size of 530 respondents. The respondents were drawn from various communities within the Local Government Area, covering the market women and men, civil servants, independent workers and police men and women working within the Local Government Area. The research study was able to make some findings, some of which are, that marital infidelity is very rampant the Area of study; and that it is most rampant among the married couples of age bracket of 25-35 and 36-45. The research made a number of recommendations on the problem of marital infidelity. Some of these recommendations are, that churches and Christian organizations of married men and women should establish marriage counseling centres in the Local Government Area; and that victims of marital infidelity should be encouraged not to resort to divorce and separation.
1.1 Background to the Study.
Marriage and family are two unique institutions that form the bedrock of a society. Without marriage and family, society cannot be said to exist. This is why, any phenomenon that does harm to either marriage or family, inevitably does a great harm and damage to the society at large.
Marital infidelity as presented by Igbo (2003) is one of the probable causes of marital instability. It is a phenomenon that adversely destabilizes the uniqueness of marriage and family institutions. It brings about the moral degradation and bastardization of marriage and family as cultural and social institutions.
Marriage is understood as institution in which the parties concerned have exclusive sexual right to each other. Macionis and Gerber (2005), identified marriage as a legally sanctioned relationship usually involving economic cooperation as well as normative sexual activity and child bearing, that people expect to be enduring. Marriage is an institution in
which inter personal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found.
Ifih and Ezeah (2004) specifically identified marriage as a durable union between one or more men and one or more women sanctioned by the society. Giddens (2008) looks at marriage as a socially acknowledged and approved sexual union between two adult individuals. Marriage is a legitimate sexual union, completely exclusive to the partners. It is therefore a sacred institution involving legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. This union permits the partners every sexual right limited to each other and excluding any third party except in cases of polygamous marriages as observed by Ifih and Ezeah.
The family on the other hand is founded on marriage. Marriage gives credence to a family as an institution. Without marriage, a family lacks every merit, that is, why every family that originates from legal marital union is recognized as a microcosm of society.
The family has often been regarded as the corner stone of the society. In both pre-modern and modern societies, family has been seen as the most basic unit of social organization and which carries out vital tasks such as bearing, harnessing and socializing of children. Family is usually the first social group in which man learns aspects of his culture.
Murdock, quoted by Haralambos and Holborn (2004) examined the institution of family in a wide range of societies and came up with the definition of family as a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, owned or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.
Marriage and family are two mutually corresponding institutions that necessarily guarantee the existence and continued survival of a society. The two collaborating institutions play very vital roles to the corporate existence of a society and ensure its progress.
In both marriage and family, we realize that exclusive sexual relationship between the marriage partners is emphasized as a matter of necessity. This is because only in exclusive sexual relationship, is the essence of marriage which gives credence to the family is realized. Any harm done to this sexual union between husband and wife is a harm done to marriage and by virtue of extension, it is also a damage done to the family and the larger society. Peschke (1992), remarks that exclusive sexual union is suited to give expression to the mutual love and esteem of husband and wife; and to deepen their intimate unity. Nature, by means of recurrent longing for sexual union between husband and wife, urges and compels the partners to cohabit together in lasting bond.
Today however, the observable situation in the society seems to indicate that the sacredness and sanctity of marriage and family with reference to exclusive sexual union between husband and wife has been dashed to the mud. Marital infidelity seems to be the order of the day with no equanimity of conscience. In Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, traces of cases of marital infidelity seems to replete every where. From day to day, stories of illegitimate sexual relationships are related here and there within the Local government Area. These
illegitimate sexual relationships keep affecting the smooth and peaceful existence of a number of marriages and families. Years backwards, such situation was not common among the people of the area. But today however, stories of it abound every where.
Consequences of marital infidelity are always too bitter to tolerate. Many couples who some years backwards had lived in peace and mutual accord because they regarded and respected each other and held their marriages sacrosanct, are today experiencing a lot of crisis due to either suspicion of marital infidelity among themselves or out-rightly due to confirmed marital infidelity either on the part of the husbands or on that of the wives, or worse still of the two partners. This situation has disintegrated a good number of marital unions that were once very happy in the Local Government Area.
Obviously, it is a very difficult issue for any marriage to continue to exist smoothly or for any family to continue to thrive peacefully in the face of a case of marital infidelity involving any member of the marriage or family. The exclusive character of the sexual union between husband and wife within a marriage and family setting makes such a setting a happy
and peaceful one; and once anything happens to such an exclusive right and union, it jeopardizes the corporate existence of the institution. The mutual union of the partners in any marriage is essentially broken once the exclusive sexual right between husband and wife is put to question.
1.2 Statement of the Problem.
From oral discussions with a number of married people in Idemili North Local Government Area, it was found out by the researcher, that marital infidelity is a problem devastating a number of marriages and families within the Local Government Area. Marital infidelity perforates the sacredness and sanctity of marriage institution as well as family in the Local Government Area. It has rendered a number of them meaningless. By destroying the institutions of marriage and family, marital infidelity does a great disfavour and harm to the larger society within the Area.
Marital infidelity erodes the exclusive right which husband and wife share together and destroys the mutual trust they had in each other. It equally destroys the love a family shares among its members. By destroying the stability of marriage and family, marital infidelity renders null and void the peace and harmony a couple and family members
previously shared and enjoyed. Marital infidelity, Peschke (1992) maintains, violates the fidelity promised by the marriage partners to each other and the pledges made in the marriage.
The New Encyclopedia Britannica establishes that almost all cultures that recognize marriage also recognize marital infidelity as a violation of the terms of marriage. It is a complete aberration and a negative phenomenon that is meant to disrupt the fact of marriage and its authenticity. Why this phenomenon is obtainable within the society is a problem begging for an answer. Almost on daily basis, people hear talks and remarks in the churches, in the market places, on the streets, in government ministries and commissions, in school institutions and even in the public buses, on the issue of marital infidelity and the havoc it is causing in the society.
In almost every wedding ceremony either in the church or in the hall for reception; and in most gatherings of people for worship, married couples are always requested to respect the sacredness and sanctity of marriage. Yet all these not withstanding, marital infidelity is still very much prevalent within the Local Government Area. People have even
witnessed wives abandon their husbands, and husbands drive their wives away because of the same reason.
Marital infidelity is therefore a social conflict militating against the values of marriage and family. It has done harm and mischief to erstwhile happy marriages and resulted in separation and in most cases divorce. A number of factors are responsible for this ugly situation; and certainly there must be a way out of it. This research study is therefore meant to address the problems which marital infidelity generates in the hope of finding possible solution within the area of study.
1.3 Research Questions.
The researcher has proposed the following research questions to help him out in undertaking the study:
i. How prevalent is marital infidelity in Idemili North L. G. A. of Anambra State?
ii. What age range of married couples is most involved in marital infidelity in Idemili North L. G. A.?
iii. What gender of married couples is most involved in marital infidelity in the Local Government Area?
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