“Marital infidelity often capsizes the boat called marriage, but there are women who swear by the power of standing by your man and weathering the storm to create an even more intimate union”.
“I sat there, my hands in my face as I let tears flow freely down my cheeks, my one-year-old son oblivious of what was going on played around the living room. My head was spinning, a mixture of hate and love all in one filling my soul. How could he do this to me? I lifted my face up and met my son’s now worried face because my loud, ugly sobs had finally caught his attention.”
This was Maureen Mwende (33) two years ago. She had just found out that her husband of three years had cheated on her.
“I sat there crying, waiting for him (to come home). I had planned what I was going to say to him, but when he walked through that door I just had no energy to shout. I simply asked him in a quiet tone whether I was too old for him. I saw the confusion in his eyes. He, of course, denied any knowledge of what I was talking about.”
Maureen had just found out that while he claimed he had been out with his boys every evening, he had in fact been seeing other women, including the one whose house he had just come from in Rongai.
In a fit of anger, she told him that she, too, had lots of suitors still chasing her, and if he wasn’t interested any more, she could always go find someone else.
“He said he was sorry”
“I told him I was not going to stay in a miserable relationship because of a baby,” she adds.
“He tried to reassure me, placing his arms around me as I cried and saying that he was really sorry. I told him it was too little too late. I could not be in a relationship with a man I did not trust, someone who preferred to eat outside.
There was no point in saying we were married then; we should go back to our single statuses so that he could do all that he wanted.
“It was now his turn to get emotional. He went down on his knees and pleaded with me, saying he was sorry, he did not want me to go, he loved me, he had done something very wrong but he wanted my forgiveness. I said no, I couldn’t do this anymore and most importantly, I couldn’t trust him. I had never seen him cry but that day, on his knees and on my lap, he wept like a little boy. He begged for another chance and promised that he would pray for strength from God to stay faithful to me because his son and I were the only ones who meant the world to him.” Maureen decided to stay and work it out.
MANY WOMEN CHOOSE TO STAY
Patricia Kihonge found out her husband was going to his secretary’s house twice a week instead of going to the gym as he had told her he was.
When she found out after an accidental tip from their personal trainer, she confronted him after she caught him red handed.
“I was disgusted, embarrassed and very angry. I felt so betrayed, and there was nothing he could say to me that was going to make it right,” she remembers.
Like Maureen’s husband, Patricia’s also begged for forgiveness and admitted to having a two-month affair with his secretary. “I was confused,” Patricia says.
“I still loved him, but I didn’t trust him anymore. I wanted our three children to grow up in a stable family; even if I dumped this frog of mine, what guarantee did I have that the other frog coming my way was going to be better?” She decided to give her husband a one-month grace period to see if he would change.
Legions of women have been cheated on by their men at least once in their relationship history. Some have left and moved on to other men, some have stayed and chosen to work it out.
Former First Lady of the United States, Hilary Clinton, is one example of a woman who stayed with her husband after revelations of his infidelity became public. Closer home, musician Eric Wainaina’s wife Sheba Hirst stood by him when he was said to have fathered a child outside his marriage.
But before reconciliation can begin, some ‘cleaning up’ may have to take place. The betrayed spouse will obviously have to deal with their feelings of extreme pain and betrayal.
Sometimes, counselling can help, as Maureen found out. She sought the help of their church marriage counselor who took her and her husband through the hurt and the pain of betrayal.
KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY
Friends and family should be kept out at this stage. “Sometimes friends and relatives can fuel unwanted emotion,” she says.
Patricia insisted that her husband take medical tests to make sure he had not contracted any sexually transmitted diseases, and fire his secretary. He also bought some home gym equipment.
Once the foundation has been laid, communication can now become the cornerstone of the marriage. “We are more accountable to each other now, and I can ask him where he is going without him saying that I am infringing on his privacy,” Patricia says.
“We have also found ways to spruce up our sex life. A year later, our marriage is stronger than before.”
Maureen and her husband agreed to open all channels of communication; any disgruntled party should speak before it got out of hand. It has been two years now and Maureen says that she is reaping the happy fruits of marriage.
“Sometimes it may hurt a lot,” she says, “but only time heals. Learn how to trust each other and have fun together as (it was) when you started dating or you will lose your man to some 20-something-year-old carefree girl.”
“After I caught my hubby cheating, the first impulse was to walk away. But he seemed willing to change and reconcile,” shares Triza Gathoni, a 35-year-old accountant. “It took a great deal of self-scrutiny, open and honest communication and extremely hard work to salvage our marriage.”
She came out honestly about her feelings and demanded the same from her hubby. “We talked it through and decided that the affair was definitely over, that we still wanted our marriage.”
To restore trust between them, her hubby provided her an accurate itinerary of his movements. “He told me where he was going, when he would be back, and if plans changed, he was careful to let me know.”
But sometimes, the reconciliation can fail, as it did for Margaret Waruguru, 33, a Nyahururu ex-wife. “I persevered and forgave his indiscretions for the sake of our two children. I did not want them to grow up without a father,” she says. But this backfired on her.
“His behaviour only got worse; he began staying out late and sometimes came home at dawn or slept out. His excuses never added up and we always got into a fight. On one occasion, I caught him in a very compromising situation with our house-help. It was so painful that I just had to leave,” she shares.
IT TAKES COMMITMENT
In cases where the infidelity persists, the hurt and damage are not easily undone. “For the first few days I kept thinking that maybe I was the problem because I was not a good wife,” Margaret says.
“At times, when I’m alone, I still cry for him. One day I feel completely in control, the next day I fall apart. One day I miss him, the next day I remember all the scheming, lying and humiliation.”
To the victim, the betrayal is more than just the wrong done and the injury inflicted; it includes resentment regarding destroyed marital prospects. And there is always the added risk of an STD visiting the couple. In such cases, many women will feel that a divorce is necessary.
Relationship coach and author of the relationship book, Marriage Built to Last, Jennifer Karina, is of the opinion that for healing to take place both spouses must be fully committed to the hard work of putting their marriage back on track. Ultimately, though, whether the marriage will survive infidelity or not is not down to pat statistics; it is simply a matter of commitment.