She is smart, intelligent and working at a level that could conjure begrudging. Married to a Govt Officer who is much respected for his vision, work and ethics, and with two children pursuing their higher education in prestigious institutions- Raina is someone in whose shoes, anyone would love to glide into! After all, could there be a more perfect family!
No one could really blame Raina* for carrying the aura of a queen who commanded utmost respect – at least just till few months ago. After that the bitter truth revealed itself to her that nothing could be really perfect, not even the outwardly perfect looking family! She found out that her husband had been cheating on her, that too for years! Seeped in a culture that had trust, loyalty as its motto, she didn’t really think that anything like that could ever happen to her!
Kriya* too had something similar to share with her friends! The script was hauntingly similar to Raina’s story! She too is a pretty looking, confident (no longer so) and financially independent woman.
But then are these stories only of Raina’s and Kriya’s? Apparently not. About 75 percent Indian married man cheat on their wives, even though may not necessarily revealed to their wives. Incidentally and ironically, most of the women who get to know about it, choose to let go of this ‘infidelity’ and ‘forgive’ their men! While I could understand the reason cited by the women who were financially dependent on their husbands, I simply couldn’t fathom the reason of financially independent women to continue with their cheating partners! I tried to find it out! It helped that my ‘subjects’ were willing to share their stories!
Self critical -
Were these men unhappy? Far from that! Men don’t cheat because they are unhappy. Men cheat because they think they can get away with it and because they’re willing to let themselves get away with it. They often underestimate the emotional ramifications of their actions. They think, “well, I just did this but in every other way I’m reliable, I’m responsible, I’m committed, I show up, I’m a good guy. It’s just the cheating.” On the other hand, it can be quite devastating for women who end-up doubting their self-worth. Talking to them I realized that they tend to become self-critical and easily guilted into being responsible for others. They also easily accept excuses from them and make excuses for them.
Ideal women syndrome-
In a typical Indian society, Women are burdened with the responsibility of keeping the family and its ‘honour’ together. Also, she can be manipulated to think that the onus of a husband cheating, lies on her as well. More often than not, the cheating husband blatantly hints that she is responsible for his cheating but not before trying to assert that his ‘relationship’ with the other women are purely friendly and she is the one doubting it unnecessarily! On being proved otherwise, he puts the blame entirely on her saying that she doesn’t give her enough time, or she is not presentable enough or her temperament is not matching to his!!! Unfortunately, the guilt switch can get easily flicked in a woman. After all, she was supposed to be perfect, virtuous woman in her head, and when a man shifts the blame to her, most women accept the blame that is not even theirs! Surprisingly (or is it so?) there is really no socially acceptable excuse for a woman to cheat because she is supposed to be virtuous.
Society not too safe and accommodating –
It didn’t come as a surprise that in addition to the aforementioned reasons, they also continue being in the marriage, thinking that it’s easier to handle one person’s ‘infidelity’ and continue with the feeling of safety and security than living on their own and feeling unsafe in an Indian society that’s largely hostile towards women in general and to single woman in particular. In a society like ours, women can be forgiven to feel, even if perceptually (or in reality), that she will not be okay alone! So, between being able to blame “hormones” in men and blame the evil other woman, a woman can make and accept enough excuses to accept an unaccountable man back and avoid having to make any changes in her life. Especially if there are kids. More often than not we hear this wishful and defensive tone in her voice and how things are better. But one knows that it is often just a temporary fix until the next time it happens.( have to say though that the rule of exceptions apply here as well)
Difficult to let go of the resources and status the man provides, besides the feeling of safety-
It may not be politically correct to say something of this nature, but then this is a reality in today’s world. Being married to a man without good character, honor or integrity is no doubt a painful experience for most women, yet they often stay! Sometimes it has to do with the strength and resources the man provides, and sometimes it is just the perception of the stability he provides, even if the man, in reality, is hurting her life. The wealthier and powerful a man is, the more is the chance that the wife will ‘forgive’! Women often don't want to give up access to the social position, security, status and resources that comes with the marriage to the powerful man, whether these assets are real or perceived. This perhaps provides one solid reason as to why even financially independent women ‘forgive’ their cheating husbands!
Gullible and Malleable-
Not only Indian, women universally are wired to trust, especially when everything else is against them. They easily trust a statement like “I am sorry, this wouldn’t happen ever again! You are the one for me, nothing else matters to me”! Unfortunately, studies suggest, they rarely mean it!
Now coming to the other part of the write-up, it appears to me that somewhere, ‘being forgiven’ emboldens men and there is a strong probability that they might go on to cross the boundary of consensual relationship and spill into the territory of forced liaisons! And that’s the ‘Me too’ territory!
I strongly feel that perhaps there would be a smaller number of ‘Me too’ stories, if women conjure up courage and come out of a marriage that’s based on shaky grounds and shattered trust, instead of forgiving 'repeat offenders' ! But then I also understand that it’s easier said than done!
*Names have been changed
There is going to be a follow up write-up to find ways to heal and remain in the relationship, that is, if one decides to forgive and forget in true sense and move ahead.
Copyright © Aradhana Mishra
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