The Effects of a Transgression in a Relationship
For most people, having a partner is one of the most important aspects of social adjustment and well-being. However, although most relationships are satisfactory, they can also be full of conflicts and discomforting situations. Some of these problems arise when a partner starts committing acts of transgression in the relationship.
A transgression, in the context of a relationship, is the violation of the relationship’s rules, either explicitly or implicitly, by either member. It’s an aspect closely related to commitment since it also determines the implicit contract of any relationship. Now, it’s important to clarify that the rules can be lopsided: what’s fair for one partner may not be for the other.
Types of transgression in romantic relationships
Finkel and his colleagues identified four types of transgressions in romantic relationships:
- Infidelity: This type of transgression involves either sexual or emotional infidelity. Of course, this type of transgression only occurs in monogamous and exclusive relationships.
- A transgression on the standards of dependence: Possessive or jealous behaviors enter into this category. They show a lack of trust in the other partner.
- Violating privacy rules: Any attempt to reveal the private aspects of someone’s life is an offense or attack on that person.
- Non-compliance with standards of decency: People expect their partners to respect their qualities and characteristics. All types of acts that show a lack of respect fit into this transgression category. For example, lies, criticism, or public shaming all show a lack of respect.
Effects of a transgression in a relationship
The severity of the transgression
The perceived severity of the transgression is one of the factors that will determine its effects and consequences. The more serious the transgression, the more likely it is that a conflict will arise. However, it’s important to clarify that severity is really subjective.
In addition, due to traditional upbringing, men repress their emotions more, which leads to a higher threshold of emotional pain. On the other hand, women tend to view transgressions more seriously than men do in relationships. Also, women see emotional infidelity as the worst transgressions, while men think sexual infidelity is worse.
Commitment and satisfaction in relationships
One of the key aspects in relationships is the commitment factor, which is exactly one of the three dimensions in Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. Commitment is each member’s intention to keep a long-term relationship. Therefore, a greater level of commitment correlates with a greater chance of not breaking up after a transgression in a relationship.
Here we can see a curious and somewhat paradoxical aspect. Commitment is the basis for establishing the norms which transgressions break. This would make us think that a greater level of commitment, with more discipline and rules, would also make it easier for a transgression to occur. It’s interesting to see the role that commitment has as both a facilitator and safeguard against a transgression in a relationship.
A transgression also affects satisfaction in a relationship. When the rules of a relationship are broken, trust between the partners is damaged. Consequently, the degree of satisfaction is affected.
On the other hand, a high level of satisfaction can serve as a protecting factor. If the partner that was transgressed on believes that the relationship is worthwhile, they will be motivated to continue it. Therefore, the level of satisfaction also influences the effects a transgression has on relationships.
The end of a relationship
The severity of the transgression and the level of satisfaction in a relationship determine to a large extent the effects that transgressions will have on the couple. If the transgression was serious and there’s low satisfaction levels, it’s very likely that the couple will break up. This happens when trust and passion are no longer present and commitment can’t keep holding the couple together.
Despite the fact that most people think that ending a relationship is something horrible and that it should be avoided at all costs, many times it can be the healthier answer for both partners. Staying in a relationship due to a foolish commitment isn’t usually the best option, especially if it’s problematic. Therefore, despite the pain and sadness of leaving someone behind, ending a toxic relationship can be a positive step toward our personal development.