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Hubby may get away with affairs, but not the wife!

By Bunmi Sofola

When Morola talks about the end of her marriage, her regret is palpable. She says she still loves her husband and the husband admits:”I still love my wife, but will never get over her being with another man.” Even though he’d cheated twice?! Recent research has shown that cheating occurs in over 40 per cent of marriages, but what makes this couple different is that it wasn’t David’s two flings, but Morola’s ‘revenge affair’ that finally ended their marriage. While many believe a man can cheat and believe it ‘means nothing,’ when a woman strays, there’s often a more powerful motive behind it. The emotional turmoil caused by a wife cheating can be far greater, and it is harder to save the marriage.

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When Morola and David met through friends over 15 years ago, they clicked instantly. “Not only did I fancy him like mad,” said Morola, “I felt far more relaxed with him than I had with previous boyfriends. Within months, we were living together and when I got pregnant we got married. None of us was rushed into it. My parents had been happily married for 39 years and I wanted the same. I’d been brought up to think marriage was for life and I took the commitment incredibly seriously.

“After our daughter arrived, I was exhausted by the demands of looking after a newborn even though I had a house-help, but I tried to be a good wife. David was working for a construction company, and every evening I’d welcome him home with a home-cooked meal with me carefully made up. I didn’t want to be one of those wives who let themselves go.” Only, within months of their daughter’s birth, David was struggling to adjust to life as a father. “Fatherhood was far more oppressive than I envisaged,” he confessed. “We felt more like co-workers than husband and wife. I started staying at work and went to the social club more as a means of escape.

“I found myself flirting with female members. I just wanted to feel like myself again.” One August four years ago, David didn’t return home after a night out until the wee hours of the morning. “I lay awake until I heard his key in the lock,” said Morola. “As he got into bed, I could smell his breath was heavy with alcohol, and I knew there was no point trying to talk to him. The next morning, before he left for another engagement, he kissed me with an urgency he’d never shown before. I was gripped with the awful instinctive realisation that he’d cheated. But I had no proof. Until a few days later, the wife of one of David’s friends phoned to tell me he’d met a woman at the club and had been all over her. They had left together.

“I felt stupid, angry and confused. I confronted him and he admitted he’d kissed her, but said nothing else happened. It wasn’t until years later, when he had another fling that he confessed to the previous one. He insisted it meant nothing and that he didn’t particularly enjoy it, but the damage had been done.”

“Husbands straying after their wife has had a baby is not unusual,” says Marital therapist, Andrew Marshall, author of How Can I Ever Trust You Again? “Men tend to feel isolated at this point, but they don’t air their feelings. “When another woman shows them the attention they crave, one thing can lead to another. They don’t set out to cheat; it’s a knee-jerk reaction.”

“I felt too disgusted to have sex with David after he’d strayed yet again,” said Morola. “The thought of another woman’s hands on his body made me want to gag.” In fairness he seemed to be making an effort to sort himself out. He appeared to be genuinely sorry. But how could I be sure he wouldn’t do it again? If he came home late, I’d panic. When we made love I was sure he was thinking of someone else. I monopolised the only driver we had so he couldn’t go out often and was always pouncing on his mobile. I hated the way I was behaving, but I couldn’t help it. Then a devilish thought crept into me—I found myself longing to pay David back. I wanted to feel the excitement he’d got from other women. And I wanted him to suffer as I had.

“Not long after, the inevitable happened when I bumped into Andy on a rare night out with friends. We used to be an item when we were in college, but nothing steamy happened. After all these years, we were delighted we still had a lot to say to each other. As the night wore on, we had so much to drink I didn’t know how I agreed to go back with him to his friend’s house.

“As we got into a clinch, I felt vibrant and free. However, when we got down to it, the feel of another man’s skin on my own felt wrong. As soon as it was over, I hurriedly left, I wept all the way home and the next day, I didn’t feel powerful—just cheap and ashamed. When David wanted to know when I came home so late, I lied I fell asleep on a friend’s sofa, but you could see he wasn’t buying my story.

“A few hours later, the friend called to tell me David wanted to know about our night out and she told him it wasn’t anything to write home about as we all returned home very early. As David raved and ranted at me when he came home, I spat at him that at least he now knew how I felt. But far from enjoying my revenge, I was distressed. Any satisfaction that I’d given him a taste of his medicine was overridden by revulsion at my own behaviour when I saw the contempt on my husband’s face….” A couple of years later, the marriage was over. In his book, Marshall says much of his work involves trying to help victims of infidelity not to have revenge affairs. According to him: “Soldiering on without examining your feelings is the worst thing you can do. People try to bury their resentment, but it only explodes later. They then tend to feel so bad they’d do anything to make themselves feel better—someone else wanting you feels like the answer.

“One reason why it’s harder for a marriage to survive a wife’s affair is because men give up more easily. Generally, if a man says he’s not interested, but the wife wants to continue, she will fight to persuade him. If the reverse happens, the husband tends to take his wife at her word and walk away.”

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