All Woman

Me, him and her

Should women prepare themselves for cheating?

By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 27, 2012    

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AFTER Michelle McGee snatched Jesse James from America's sweetheart Sandra Bullock, the mistress' advice to the Oscar-winning actress in the magazine Steppin' Out, was to accept the fact that men are made to spread their seed and should therefore never be depended on to be monogamous.

"Women need to accept that. If you're going to be married to somebody, you need to know that men are not meant to be with one woman ... I believe you can love your wife 100 per cent and still stray," the tattooed model told the magazine following shocking news that James had thrown away his five-year marriage to be with her.

Like McGee, more and more women are becoming cynical about men's ability to remain faithful to one partner, notwithstanding that there are exceptions. It's a theory that has gained traction, given the firm backing from a few experts who are armed with studies to prove that prolonged monogamy is a farce.

And with the backing comes the belief by some, women included, that it's time women stop being surprised when their spouses cheat, and instead prepare themselves to deal with cheating so as not to be devastated. Because wouldn't it lead to a healthier life and marriage if women went in with eyes wide open to the various realities instead of the sugar-coated hope that "it" won't happen to them?

"All I can do is hope my man doesn't cheat, but I know that no matter how much he loves me, it is a possibility," said 29-year-old Tashawna Wallace, who says she refuses to lose any sleep worrying about the possible exploits of her boyfriend of three years.

Counselling psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell says more and more women are wising up to the reality that their spouses can possibly cheat despite their professed love and devotion to them.

Entertainers like Beenie Man — who has several kids with several different women, and who would be considered 'gallis' in his own right — promote the 'nuff gal' culture both in art and in real life.

"Nuff gal and none a dem mustn't grumble," Beenie Man sings. "Yuh done know seh mi got mi wife a mi yard; a she have mi kids and drive mi Honda Accord; but that nah go stop mi from have gal abroad."

Even Lady Saw has chipped in, and in the song Mi Like Mi Mate, says "Some gal woulda have a problem if dem know dem man have a gal fren; once a gal a support mi boyfriend me nuh have nuttin fi worry bout."

With the faithful being just a minority, tales of heartbreak and stories of relationships rendered irreparable owing to the wanderings of cheating spouses are a dime a dozen in Jamaica. This has forced some women to adopt McGee's attitude, and just mentally prepare themselves for the worse.

For these women who have managed to adjust their thinking to accept the prospects of their men stepping out of line, Dr Bell said it is somewhat easier for them to handle in comparison to those who have blind faith in their spouses, although she pointed out that this mental altering of expectations does demand some amount of emotional energy.

"Once you are able to make that kind of adjustment in how you are processing what cheating means to you, maybe it could prepare you," she said.

Prominent anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle said he doesn't believe it hurts for women to taper their expectations, given the fact that people do cheat.

"I think information is powerful. There are some serious dilemmas out there that people have to live with. One of the dilemmas is that the human species is very adventurous and both males and females are likely to have other partners," he said.

Partners who feel betrayed when the affair comes to light are usually suffering from "socialised victimhood", said sociologist at the University of Winchester, Eric Anderson.

In his new book The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, he noted that cheating is the norm for men and not the exception. Based on his survey of 120 undergraduate men, he found that 78 per cent of those surveyed cheated, although they expressed love for their partners. The sociologist said men mostly cheated for recreational sex.

There are those who argue too that marriage as an institution is in crisis because prolonged monogamy is impossible. As relationship expert Wayne Powell puts it, "the heart is willing, but the flesh is weak" and as a result some stray from their vows to forsake all others.

"The main challenge is to remain focused and not be distracted. It is strongly believed that a 'one-burner' stove is not sufficient and so some males — and females too — seek to increase the burners on the stove," he said.

Dr Gayle said local studies continue to show that a large number of Jamaican men cheat with at least one other woman. He believes the propensity to have more than one partner is ingrained in the biological make-up of a man and so monogamy would not necessarily be a man's first choice.

"Biologically, it is not really plausible," he said, before asserting, "It is not something for debate, it is just a biological fact."

Apart from their natural inclination, the anthropologist pointed out that men are also socialised to have more than one female partner.

"The society promotes men having multiple partnerships. The Jamaican society and many other Western societies do not consider men who only have one sexual partner as being very masculine," he said.

But for women who have not yet accepted this, and even those who think they're mentally prepared to deal with it but really aren't, Dr Bell said the revelation can be devastating.

"There is no preparation for something like that, because many persons who that has happened to will tell you that no matter how you have the mental preparation, when the actual event happens it is altogether a different feeling in terms of the emotional distress that comes with having to deal with a cheating spouse," she said.

"Mental preparation doesn't mean you aren't feeling it, it's when you are in the actual situation that you understand what has happened and then the emotions just take over," she pointed out.

There's hope in religion though, and as Dr Gayle said, this plays a part for those who suppress the "natural appetite" to be with someone other than their spouse.

"Even though the biology supports it, we are not just biological, we are social and a lot of men are constrained by religion and their own personal conviction, and a lot of men, even though they are in the minority, have only one sexual partner," he assured.

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