It was Jane’s third visit to the Sexology Clinic.
I hoped that this time around we would make some progress in resolving her issues. The last two visits had been difficult. She spent the time crying. The wounds were too fresh to bear.
Jane was 35 and married to John for six years and had two children.
Life had been good until one Tuesday morning when she fell ill. She suspected that she had contracted malaria, bought some medicines from a chemist and decided to go back home.
“I walked into my house and right there in the sitting room was John with the house girl,” Jane says, crying.
The sight threw her into confusion, she walked out of the house into the street and hurried away in anger.
After about an hour, Jane sat on the roadside. Her head was clogged; she could not think. Her phone had been ringing continuously.
John was calling. She picked the call; she heard him say sorry many times. She stood up and decided to walk back home full of rage and devastation. She felt a sense of loss; she was agitated and confused.
“I wanted to revenge; I thought of suicide; I felt like doing something really bad; I wanted to kill the house girl but by the time I reached the house, she had vanished!” Jane explained.
I understood what Jane was going through. Research shows that more than half of spouses cheat on each other.
One study found that up to 80 per cent of people in long term relationships had cheated at one point or another.
“So you are not alone in this. And it is important that we all learn how to manage infidelity, especially the immediate anger and frustration that follows the discovery,” I told Jane, hoping that in this third visit we would make the same headway. She nodded in affirmation.
Once you discover your spouse is cheating, you should be wary of two problematic tendencies: one, making a life-changing decision without much reflection, and two, revenge.
Divorce is the commonest life-changing decision people make under such circumstances.
While it may be necessary to take a short break from the relationship to reflect and calm down, it is premature to decide on divorce immediately.
The desire for revenge, on the other hand, manifests in various ways. The commonest of these is to tell your relatives and those of your spouse about the incident.
Some people even tell children, who need to be cushioned from the emotional trauma at such times. Broadcasting the issue is done to embarrass your spouse and justify additional acts of revenge.
This does not mean that when infidelity happens, you should not talk about it; a counsellor or a close friend of the family can help you navigate the hard times.
It, however, adds no value talking to everyone about the incident.
Revenge is also manifested in angry communication, especially nasty short messages to your partner.
In other cases, revenge is marked by violence towards your spouse, or the person they are cheating with. These add no value.
More common is the tendency to also be unfaithful. In the heat of the moment, you become vulnerable and may fall prey to sexual predators.
“Doctor, you do not seem to understand how difficult it is to find your husband having sex with another woman!” Jane exclaimed.
“Someone who has no respect for you to the extent of sleeping with your housemaid deserves all those things you have described!”
I nodded to affirm her. If you want to win the battle in such cases, however, just try to take charge: do not break your routine; go to work; take time to pamper yourself; go to the gym, and go have your nails and hair done.
Take time out and enjoy the company of your friends. Even more important, be there for your children.
Do not shout or be violent in front of them; shield your children from suffering emotionally by keeping the story to yourself until such a time that both of you are ready to reveal it to them.
Remember that your spouse is still a parent to the children. “Really doctor? That’s being superhuman,” Jane retorted.
“It is anger management for the moment,” I replied. “Once your emotions have cooled down, you can face the issues: is this a man you would want to forgive; are you sure he can change?”
The future of such a relationship only gets decided months after you have gone through counselling, ensured that there is a genuine change in your spouse, and reflected on your ability to trust him again.