Confronting the multiple faces of infidelity

I look forward to being married someday and when that happens I have expectations of absolute fidelity. When I voice these sentiments, it draws ridicule from people who consider me naive, inexperienced and delusional. Apparently, what I desire is unattainable and I need to re-calibrate my expectations to reflect reality.

In today’s Ghana, a married man who has an extramarital affair but keeps his mistresses in line and shows utmost ‘respect’ (note the irony) to his wife by being private with the affair is the ideal husband. If his wife is well taken care of, and the household and children lack nothing, then this man is to be praised and the wife lucky.

This is the reality, tragically.

Gone are the days when, when a man had an affair there were ‘feelings’ involved and there were considerations of whether he may divorce his wife to be with his mistress. (Not suggesting this makes it any better). Now, the nature of most affairs is one of a quid pro quo. Neither party is necessarily interested in marriage. There are no feelings involved. It’s simply about the mutual benefit to both parties. It’s a transaction; provision of service for some payment of choice.

There’s a whole host of reasons for this drift in societal standards. However, I believe the rise in consumerism and materialism and the can-have-it-all mentality may be partly to blame. In some western countries there are websites linking married people with people looking to have an affair. There are others that connect ‘sugar babies’ to sugar daddies where sugar babies are women looking for older men to support their lifestyle.

In Ghana especially, the get rich quick attitude also makes these morally compromising acts a means to an end.

As a society, we’ve widely accepted that most men cheat but have refused to put faces to the women in bed with the men (no pun intended). If for every man that cheats there’s a woman involved (assuming a single mistress to one man exclusively at any given time), it means a great deal of women are also involved with men who aren’t their husbands. That’s a whole lot of women. And since the ratio of men to women is nearly even, then the odds of finding a woman who is morally compromised or trading sex or the idea of it for some kind of gain, is higher than a woman who is not. Yet when an accusation is made of a woman to this effect, there’s a huge societal uproar as though such a scenario was unfathomable.

Truth is that the mistresses/women in these relationships are not faceless unknown entities. These women are in our circles. We know them. They are our friends, our classmates, our church members, our sisters, our girlfriends and our colleagues, our mothers and our daughters, and they may form part of the leadership of our country. They’re the best friend who lives in the apartment she cannot afford on her salary, or the one who is gifted a brand new luxury car from the man three times her age whom she calls ‘daddy’. They are the colleague whose benefits package is unparalleled to that of her coworkers, and the student who jets to Dubai every other weekend even though she’s enrolled on a need-based scholarship. These women may be professionals, students, or highly successful on their own merits, but may still pursue such trades as shortcuts to an end. Admittedly, not every scenario such as these may fit the bill, but more often than not, if it quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck.

These types of relationships and ‘arrangements’ are happening all around us and we as a collective have chosen to remain silent in our small circles. But if we must speak about this publicly when it plays out nationally, then absolutely, we have a responsibility to confront it when it happens in our smaller social circles. Let’s quit the hypocrisy. I personally have kept quiet for way too long because I believed it was people’s personal issue, or that I didn’t really have concrete proof. But frankly, the only evidence in situations such as these will be circumstantial at best. But again, if it quacks like a duck…

When as women, our success, hard work and life achievements are attacked and discredited, we will realize in that moment that it was never personal. The women trading their bodies to fast track their rise to the top, put a stain on all of us. It erodes the activism of generation past and robs generations to come of their worth. It diminishes and undermines the achievements of honest hardworking women struggling and defying the odds; rewriting the narratives about women and challenging the stereotypes. To women, earning their worth through hard work, consistency, perseverance and courage, thank you and press on.

We all have a social obligation to address these issues because at the end of it all, their personal choice becomes our public issue.

Note: I have chosen to write this as a woman, focusing on how this scenario affects women. But evidently, the men involved are equally culpable and should the roles be reversed with the men being on the receiving end of such gains, it would pose an equal social and moral threat.