Finding out that your significant other is cheating on you can be earth-shattering. And it comes as a devastating blow when you realise that the other woman/man is someone very close to you.
Research has it that 60 per cent of affairs start with close friends or co-workers.
Rebeca Michael, 34, recounts the chilling experience when she found out that her husband was having an affair with her best friend and confidant. She had never felt so betrayed.
“I have been married for 13 years and all this time I was oblivious of my husband’s cheating. I was dumbfounded when I saw him with my friend at a hotel in the city,” she shares.
Rebecca says she and her husband used to fight a lot. He had changed so much that she suspected he was having an affair. She one day stumbled on some romantic emails between him and a woman she could not identify. Her husband got mad when she asked him about the emails and their relationship went from bad to worse.
“At some point, I started having feelings that my best friend could be the source of my unhappiness. However, I quickly brushed off the idea for I could not imagine my best friend being the other woman. I could not bring myself to think of what would happen if this turned out to be true,” says Rebecca.
When she finally found out the truth, Rebecca says she felt like her heart had broken into pieces. She could not believe her best friend was her enemy all this time. Although she is still married to her cheating husband, Rebecca says she no longer trusts him.
“Things will never be the same again,” she says.
But why do people cheat?
Dr Kelly Campbell, an Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University, San Bernardino says there are many reasons why people cheat. These include individual reasons, relationship reasons and situational reasons.
Men, she says for example, are more likely than women to cheat largely because they have more testosterone, which is responsible for the strong desire to have sex.
Dr Campbell says people with rigid values are less likely than others to commit adultery. She gives an example of very religious people and those with a conservative political orientation.
“People also cheat because of relationship reasons—characteristics about their relationship itself that are unsatisfying. For these people, becoming involved in a well-matched partnership diminishes or eliminates their desire to cheat,” says Dr Campbell.
She says dissatisfaction, unfulfilling sex, and high conflict put a relationship at a higher risk for infidelity. Also, the more dissimilar partners are in terms of personality, education level, and other factors, the more likely they are to experience infidelity.
Others, according to Dr Campbell cheat because of the situation.
“A person might not have a personality prone to cheating, and might be in a perfectly happy relationship, but something about their environment puts them at risk for infidelity. Spending time in settings with many attractive people can make cheating more likely,” Dr Campbell says.
The psychologist says the nature of a person’s employment is also related to infidelity. People whose work involves touching other people, having personal discussions, or a lot of one-on-one time are more likely to have an affair.
Richard Nduku, a counsellor based in Dar es Salaam says despite the consequences, a lot of people cheat.
“Infidelity is common and when it happens, it causes pain as well as questions such as should you stay? Can trust be rebuilt? Can you and should you forgive and move on?”
Nduku says cheating stems from failure by couples to build their relationships on a strong foundation.
The counselor notes that for intimate affairs to be firm, they should be rooted on strong values.
“Since childhood children should be enriched with morals which will in the long run make them become good wives and husbands. This will help them realise their mistake when they cheat,” says Nduku.
He says one of the major reasons people cheat is dissatisfaction in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, instead of addressing the problem, most people solve it by seeking satisfaction elsewhere.
Nduku mentions distance as another factor likely to lead to infidelity. He says when married partners live far from each other, the likelihood for one or both partners to start a new relationship to fill the gap is high.
Omary Seif ‘s marriage is an example.
Being a businessman, Omary stays away from home for months most of the time. When he returns home from his business trips, he hears a lot of infidelity stories about his wife.
He is yet to catch her red handed but all the signs are clear. His wife has been behaving strangely and the two seem to be drifting apart. She seems less interested in him and has since been denying him sex.
“My wife has been receiving late night phone calls and when she does, she goes out and speaks in hushed tones. She also spends a lot of time online and gets irritated when I ask her who she is chatting with,” complains Omary.
Nduku the counselor says falling in love may appear to happen naturally and spontaneously but maintaining that love takes a lot of effort. He says without effort marriage just drifts aimlessly along as everything else grabs our attention.
He says although cheating is more common among men, women too stray. To save marriage from infidelity, he says communication is key as it not only builds the relationship but it also makes one feel being cared for.
Nduku advises couples, especially women to maintain looking attractive as they do before giving birth. Failure to do so puts some men off and leads them into the hands of other women.
The counselor says cheating men should also be careful because some women cheat as a way of revenge.
“If a woman finds out that her husband is cheating, she may also find herself another man in revenge. Revenging of such nature is likely to endanger a marriage,” says Nduku.
Nduku believes infidelity should not necessarily be the cause of break ups. Couples may talk things out and start afresh.
“Opening up as a way of venting out feelings may help couples a lot instead of hatching grudges. It is forgiveness that can end the impasse,” he says.
Nduku calls on couples to avoid bad company, insisting that buddies are sometimes to blame for breakups. Bad friends may encourage or influence one to engage in extra-marital affairs.
He advises couples to stick to religious values which are fundamental pillars of marriage. The fear of God helps couples respect their marriage.