T he Saturday morning programme of a marriage excursion we recently attended was opened by an old couple. The husband told the room full of couples that before they were married, he was with a woman he deeply loved and with-whom he had a child. The lady cheated on him with a rich guy and really wanted nothing to do with him for a number of reasons we don’t have space to outline in this column.
So she left him, and took their baby with her for the rich guy. As he had to keep contact with her for the sake of their joint responsibilities with the child, he found out that she was pregnant with that man.
“I was totally shuttered”, he said. What devastated him was the belief that he had totally lost her for good. Having a child in those days was taken very seriously in the society.
However, after three years with the rich guy, he found out their relationship had ended.
He decided to go after her again. She was so embarrassed and just couldn’t bring herself to dating him again. But he just wouldn’t give up for two years, when she eventually gave in.
The whole room stood up when he introduced his wife as that woman. He took her back along with the child of the rich guy, as he bluntly refused to play any part in raising him. They’ve been married for over 40 years now, more like 45 actually.
This couple’s story got us thinking.
What makes men generally react so aggressively when they catch their women cheating, but somewhat carry an expectation that women get over it when a man is caught cheating?
If a poll was to be conducted about how many men would leave their women after they cheated, it’s almost safe to conclude that the majority would immediately break it off, even if children and joint finances were involved. And we arrive at that conclusion purely on the basis of our regular interactions with couples.
Some even seek to go further than just breaking things off, and quite often we hear of women being harmed or even killed by their spouses for cheating, after which the men will turn the guns on themselves.
A woman however, will forgive and forgive again, as society expects her to do, even when the cheating comes with baggage like extra children.
If you know anything about us, and this column, you’d know that cheating altogether, is something we don’t condone totally. But people cheat anyway.
So why aren’t men as forgiving about cheating as women?
Traditions and customs dictate that cheating is the purview of the male and so when a woman flips the script, she isn’t accepted and men just can’t deal with it.
Although a man is emotionally weaker than a woman, he tends to see himself from a position of power in a relationship, and sees his woman as less authoritative. He can’t deal with his cheating woman, even if he has cheated on her multiple times.
W hen a man learns that his woman has been cheating, he gets mixed emotions. He’s angry, sad, jealous, frustrated and he may not know how or to whom to express his feelings for fear of being ridiculed. He can’t talk to his friends about it as that not only damages his reputation, but deeply bruises his ego.
A woman will hurt for days or even months when her man cheats, but the moment she starts talking to her friends about the problem, it relieves her pain. She has a support group. The man, however, in deciding to keep his feelings inside, carries around his pain for years, which may lead to continuous fights between the couple, or even death.
Men cannot handle it when their women cheat because deep down, men know for a fact that a woman cheats for emotional reasons. So when she decides to cheat, it’s not only a betrayal of trust but also a bruised ego. Because he knows, he has been doing some things wrong for her to decide to hurt him like that.
Women, unlike men, generally don’t suddenly cheat for no reason. Yes, there are exceptions. But generally, it takes her a while and she needs a very good reason to be unfaithful. Some men don’t go into relationships with rose tinted glasses. They know that some women, like some men, cheat just because they simply can, not because they lack in anything at home.
Furthermore, infidelity is the highest form of disrespect and men don’t see themselves recovering from such a blow. There are some men who, if the cheating became known and forgives her, believes it will be seen as a sign of weakness, especially before his crew.
When the woman cheats, he also sees it as a negative reflection on him as there might be a ‘shortcoming’ in the sex department. And men are highly sensitive on how they’re perceived in that department. So his fragile ego is impaired, which sometimes moves him to violent behaviour.
Thus, in an effort to maintain his macho image, he has to ‘man up’ and not yield to his feminine side of forgiving and reconciling with his woman. We’ve heard it so many times when a guy would say, “it’s better if she slapped me many times over than cheat on me”.
However, while society sees it as okay for a man to have multiple partners and for the woman not to cheat, we wish to re-emphasize our belief that it’s wrong either way.