- Exit responses – where the person would leave or dissolve the relationship when they found out about a partner’s cheating.
- Anger-voice responses – where the person expresses their own emotions (anger, frustration, hurt, etc.) to their partner, without any goal of solving the problem or resolving the situation.
On the other hand, Chinese responders were likely to engage in:
- Loyalty responses – where the person reaffirms their commitment to the cheating partner and to the relationship, despite the infidelity.
- Third-party help responses – where the person did not interact with the cheating partner until they had sought advice from another person outside of the relationship (a family member or friend usually) on how to deal with the situation.
Given these differences, one can infer that couples in the US are more likely to break up after a partner cheats compared to China where they are more likely to stay together.
China is not the only country with collectivist ideals and differences to the US. Another study by American researchers looked at Asian Indians and how their cultural values affected their response to infidelity. Like in China, Indian culture is also highly collectivist with the focus on interdependence and less of a focus on individual happiness. Relationships outside of marriage are less common and most marriages are arranged. Love is not the deciding factor for getting married and is actually discouraged in many circumstances, according to the researchers.
For these reasons, often times it is the male of a relationship who engages in an extramarital affairs and the woman in the marriage is encouraged to be silent about the infidelity or find ways to interest her husband in their marriage.
The power structure and gender dynamics in Indian, Chinese and many other cultures varies; it affects how people respond to infidelity and why they respond in certain ways. Comparing these cultures with the US and how we see infidelity can be helpful in understanding varying attitudes toward infidelity. Also, considering how this research can relate to inter-cultural relationships is also important.
So the take away for today is to think about the cultural influences you and your partner have when it comes to relationships. What is important and unimportant to you both? How do you differ in your expectations when it comes to being faithful in a relationship? And finally, if there is a major transgression in your relationship, like cheating, how can you move past it?
Madathi, J. & Sandhu, D. S. (2008). Infidelity in Asian Indian marriages: Implications for counseling and psychotherapy. The Family Journal, 16, 338-343.
Zhang, R., Ting-Toomey, S., Dorjee, T. & Lee, P. S. (2012). Culture and self-construal as predictors of relational responses to emotional infidelity: China and the United States. Chinese Journal of Communication, 5, 137-159.