In her lone moments, Kolawole Busola, 38, (not real name) would certainly wish she could undo the string of events that led her into the waiting arms of Daniels, a colleague at work. Married to a businessman, Babatope, 43, who never spent a full week in the house without travelling, and one who never bothered to create the romantic atmosphere for their love and intimacy to grow, Busola still has herself to blame for what she has got herself into. Her undoing was sharing her worries about her home with a male colleague who offered his advice, counsel and even gave her a shoulder to lean on. They became close and started going out together. She did it so well that her husband never suspected anything. Not long after, their friendship became platonic (intimate and affectionate but not sexual) and few months after, they ended up in bed, having sexual relationship. They did that more than once, and being something she had missed from her husband, it became a routine to the extent that her husband suspected and started monitoring her, discreetly. Eventually, Babatope found out that his wife had been cheating on him the day he picked his wife’s phone to read her text messages.
According to him, that was the end. Not even pleas and admonitions by family members and friends could convince him to shelve his plan to file for divorce. They would have celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary two weeks ago, like they did when it was 10 years, but that celebration was the last thing on their mind that day. Their marriage was already on a fast lane to hit the rocks since the day he found out about his wife’s infidelity. The union that many admired, on its face value perhaps because they are rich, seems to be getting worse by the day, and not even the pleas and explanations that Busola is dying to offer would make any difference; at least not yet. Furious Babatope has made up his mind on sending her out of the house, because according to him, the sin committed by his wife was unforgiveable. He had told her, “I can forgive and overlook anything, but not infidelity from my wife. I can never forgive that. So, she has to go.” Meanwhile, Busola recalled that she had also caught him cheating before and she had to forgive him and that they resolved it quietly “and we moved on” but now that it’s “regrettably” her turn, she had not been able to reconcile herself with the fact that the man who begged her for forgiveness years ago had suddenly become so unforgiving “for the same offence.” The union is blessed with three children; two boys and a girl, but that does not seem like a sufficient reason for him to halt his decision to leave the marriage, as he had said repeatedly that he would never forgive her for cheating on him. Truly, the thought of a cheating partner can be unsettling. Also, Busola’s experience is not strange; it is in fact the reality for a number of women. Even though men have always been seen to be guiltier of infidelity, some studies have also shown that women are also becoming as guilty as men in the game, even though they do theirs more discreetly. Understandably and for good reasons, infidelity has repeatedly been condemned in marriage, and it has previously been identified as one of the most common reasons for failed marriages, but it is interesting to note that a man who cheats expects to be forgiven by the wife, whereas the wife is forbidden from having an affair, and if she dares it, she may never be forgiven. This might sound unfair to the females, but that seems to be the case in some parts of the world. Some men would hurriedly ascribe this to the saying and general belief that betrayal of trust is hard to repair, but it appears women are the only ones expected to cling to this saying as a reminder or guide for their conduct. So, why is it that men find it difficult to forgive their partners if caught cheating? According to a British Psychotherapist, Philip Hodson, men often find it more difficult to forgive a cheating partner, because it affects their masculinity, and to them, it might signal the end of the relationship. Hodson, who is also a Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said, “Men can forgive themselves for their indiscretions, but they find it much harder to forgive their partners for the same. For a betrayed woman, an affair by the man is an offence against her dignity, but for a betrayed man, a woman’s infidelity is an offence against his manhood. It goes right to the core of his identity.” Explaining further on the reason for this imbalance treatment or reaction, a psychologist at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Toba Elegbeleye, said when it comes to marriage, men and women see things differently. He pointed out that a man tends to see the woman (his wife) as possession, and so, the moment somebody else tries to cross the boundary and interferes with his property, there is bound to be serious problem. He noted that another factor that sustains men’s unforgiving tendency when it comes to their partner’s, infidelity, especially when they already have children together, is that they tend to think about their children; the possibility that the children might not be theirs, coupled with the natural instinct of a man to want to control his environment. He said, “I think it has to do with the natural and basic instinct of human makeup for men to handle matters of infidelity like that. The difference is that in the advanced world, they have been able to water it down, and that is why the issue of divorce is treated differently over there the way we do it here. “And that is why any of the parties could easily walk out of the marriage and they begin to settle the divorce outcome. But in the African set up, it is not like that. For you as a woman to just break a tie, it’s going to involve so many loose ends, and you don’t want to get yourself involved in all that.” But is it that women find it easier to forgive? Elegbeleye said that is not the case, noting that they would rather endure than dare to face the stigma that comes with leaving the husband’s house. “So, it is not because women don’t care or they forgive so easily, but the circumstances don’t favour them as they favour men. If women were in a dominant position, they easily would have driven the man away. So, the moment a female has committed herself to marriage, for her to voluntarily and openly get out of it becomes a kind of stigma, and women cannot handle stigma, particularly where children are involved. Mothers would not want to walk away, unless it’s beyond their powers, thus they would rather endure. “The statistics weighs more heavily in support of the fact that men hardly forgive their wives, while women would endure because of the stigma that comes with it in this part of the world. Whether we like it or not, men still have that predatory tendency which is present in every male. You want to be able to control your environment, and when it comes to hereditary transition, you just want to make sure that your line is not bastardised by an intrusion.” Even though men have been found to have the higher tendency to cheat, they are less likely to forgive if their partners do, and if that happens, it tends to lead to the end of the marriage. It is equally instructive to note, according to a study by some researchers from Chapman University in Orange, California, United States, that while it is expected that both men and women will experience sexual jealousy, men may exhibit particularly heightened responses compared with women. In other words, most men would be more upset if their other half had a sexual affair, while women would be more hurt by emotional infidelity. In the report reviewed on Mail Online, the researchers said, “If a man’s partner commits sexual infidelity, this brings into question his sexual prowess and therefore threatens his masculinity, which leads him to react more negatively to his partner committing sexual rather than emotional infidelity.” In the study, they asked 64,000 people what would upset them more; whether when their partners have sex with someone else but not fall in love with the person, or when their partners fall in love but not with sexual relationship. At the end of the study, they found that 54 per cent of heterosexual men were more likely to be more hurt by sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity by their partners, whereas just 35 per cent of women would be more hurt by sex than if their partner fell in love with another person. This shows that men fear sexual infidelity, while women fear emotional infidelit