Relationship strategists Mo and Phindi spell out that although society sees it as okay for a man to have multiple partners but not for a woman, cheating is wrong either way.
The Saturday morning programme of a marriage excursion we recently attended was opened by an old couple. The husband told the room that before they were married, he had been with a woman he loved deeply and with whom he had a child.
The lady cheated on him with a rich guy and really wanted nothing to do with him so she left him, and took their baby with her for the rich guy. He later found out that she was pregnant with that man.
“I was totally shattered”, he said. What devastated him was the belief that he had lost her for good.
However, after she had been with the rich guy for three years, the man discovered that their relationship had ended.
He decided to go after her again. She was embarrassed and couldn’t bring herself to date him again. But for two years he just wouldn’t give up and eventually she 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 that man bluntly refused to play any part in raising the child. They’ve been married for more than 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 somehow carry an expectation that women get over it when a man is caught cheating?
If a poll were 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 for cheating, after which the men will turn the guns on themselves.
A woman, however, will forgive again and 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. But people cheat anyway.
Why aren’t men as forgiving?
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.
When a man learns that his woman has cheated, 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 that a woman cheats for emotional reasons. So when she decides to cheat, it’s not only a betrayal of trust but also a case of 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.
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 becomes known and they forgive her, believe it will be seen as a sign of weakness, especially before their crew.
When the woman cheats, a man also sees it as a negative reflection on him as there might be a “shortcoming” in the sex department. And men are highly sensitive about 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.
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-emphasise our belief that it’s wrong either way.