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Conjugual infidelity : individialization of privacy and gender

Marie-Carmen Garcia

Research framework : This article expands our knowledge of the individualization of privacy as an explanation for conjugal infidelity. Its analysis takes into account social circles where the upper-intermediate class of the « authentic self » and gender representations are revealed.

Objectives : The main objective of this work is to show how the individualization of private lives and the romantic love model fosters a double-life based on a traditional family model which is largely borne by men.

Methodology : We conducted thirty-nine recorded biographical interviews ranging in length from one to three hours. We interviewed individuals who have, or had, regular extra-marital relationships for more than two years. An analysis of blogs was also conducted.

Results : The social logic of extramarital affairs is close in nature to divorce in terms of age groups and social surroundings. However, the results of extra-marital affairs characterized by sustained clandestine liaisons are singular when it comes to gender.

Conclusion : The quest for an « authentic self » in clandestine relationships is real for both men and women. However, the latter adhere more to the contemporary model of romantic love while men prefer the familial and traditional model–meaning the indivisibility of the family. In relationships which last over a period of many years, women’s representations are closer to those of men.

Contribution : This article contributes to expanding the rare analyses of conjugal infidelity. It shows how a gendered individualization prevails as a « self-quest » in extra-marital love affairs.