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 Understanding Infidelity

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 Understanding Infidelity



A breakup or love lost to infidelity is a kind of dying; we lose a part of our soul when we go through such an experience. It is common for victims of infidelity to go through all five stages of grief and loss, as explained by Kubler-Rose; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Crimes of passion are more likely to occur at the stage of anger and bargaining as the victim asks themselves why their lover behaved this way and looks for any possible way to get things back to where they used to be.

 Infidelity is the single most common threat to marriage. Social media and the mainline media alike seem to be overwhelmed by issues of infidelity; it seems every week there is a trending topic of a wife or husband caught pants down. The Mai Denzel and Mai Takudzwa saga are recent cases of married people going outside their matrimonial houses to seek satisfaction. Mambo Bushu seem to have at least an infidelity case to solve at his traditional court each given week, some of which involve taboos and incest-probably one of the reasons affecting the rains. 

Globalisation and cultural diffusion have perpetuated the increase in infidelity, while social media, especially the use of smartphones by every Tom and Dick, has its share in spreading information to the four corners of the world. 

Explaining Infidelity

Usually, people cheat because of relationship, individual, or situational issues. 

A relationship between married people is a complex machinery that has to work like clockwork as it negotiates through life’s ups and downs. It is often made difficult by a cocktail of extended family issues, employment, child rearing, etcetera. If poorly handled, such relationship challenges can directly affect communication and influence the forces of attraction and intimacy. Research shows that infidelity positively correlates with high conflict in a relationship, while unfulfilled sex and dissatisfaction also lead to cheating. Divergent spouses have also been found to be incompatible, leading to infidelity, and such differences could be in personalities, sociocultural background, education and level of achievement, etcetera. 

We cannot undermine the power of each given individual in a relationship. Every relationship is comprised of two different people with unique behaviour and personality traits, and this has a significant impact on levels of faithfulness. Some personality traits are prone to cheating and infidelity. Research shows that people who rank high in the following traits are more likely to cheat. Lonely Hearts- these are chronically lonely people. Narcissists- these individuals believe themselves to be better, good-looking, and highly worthy than their partners and those around them-sexual narcissism is just but one type of narcissism. Sociopaths and Psychopaths are slightly different individuals, nonetheless one thing they have in common is their tendency to disregard the rights of others and undermine the moral code. Some of the individual issues that contribute to infidelity include religious belief systems, sociocultural background, and childhood experiences, to mention but a few. 

Situational issues are almost always present in infidelity incidents. These include couples separated by employment, their environment, a partner’s work environment, etcetera. Situational factors can be much easier to control, as couples can easily find a way around them. 

What then?

Infidelity can never be fully comprehended; just like other behaviours, there are several causes and explanations, and the best way is to approach it at the relationship level. Couples should not demonise infidelity; instead, they should be able to normalise communication related to their affair and everything else. Research shows that couples who communicate more are comfortable with each other, spend more time together and cheat less. Grieving partners often focus on the details of cheating, which will likely increase heartbreak. Asking your partner where and how often they had sex out of marriage does not solve the problem. What is important is to talk about the causes behind the infidelity, as this will help identify the problem. Knowing a cheating partner’s side of the story is critical before taking any action; sometimes, you are a contributing factor to the problem, and moving on to another partner without changing may yield the same unwanted result.

The relationship talk should be non-judgemental and non-defensive. If you judge a cheating partner, they may never disclose the truth, and a defensive partner may never be remorseful and does not see anything wrong in their actions. It is toxic for a relationship to remind your partner about the time they cheated continually; forgiveness is the first stage to forgetting and developing trust. Seeing a marriage counsellor is essential in dealing with issues of infidelity, and it doesn’t need to happen after the infidelity has started; a stitch in time saves nine. 

Tipedze is MSc Counselling Psychology Student at Great Zimbabwe University .

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