Last week, I was at the pharmacy with a friend who, like me, recently lost a bit of weight. Our pharmacist was commending us, and tacked on something along the lines of “Una no wan gree at all o, una no want make oga look outside.”
Growing up, I knew a lovely lady whom everyone adored. She was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that made people say God created her on a Sunday. Tall, shapely, with creamy skin that glowed, she was also intelligent, classy, and brilliant at her craft. She was the kind of woman I thought no man could ever have reason to cheat on. Her death came as a shock, and her husband sat on the floor surrounded by her photos and bawled like a baby, his head cradled in his hands. When he remarried soon after and I learnt that his new wife had been his side chick, everything I thought I knew about cheating turned to vapour.
Every time someone insinuated that a man’s cheating had something to do with the way his wife looked or did not look, my mouth curled into a yinmu. If Uncle could cheat on Aunty, IT Girl that she was, then what are we saying? My instinctive reaction to the kind of statement my pharmacist made is something like “Na God o, no amount of effort can keep a straying man o, man wey go cheat, go still cheat.”
I mean, does anyone remember when whats-his-name cheated on Sandra Bullock? Or how Michael Douglas got cancer of the mouth from eating kitty that did not belong to his pretty wife Catherine Zeta-Jones?
However, on this day, I didn’t say that. Why? I had coincidentally been wondering if perhaps there are men who would not have strayed if their wives had done certain things. Yes, there are men who will stray no matter what, but is this the answer we must fling in the face of anyone who suggests that a woman make some kind of effort to “keep” her man? Isn’t there some kind of balance? For instance, anyone who is honest will admit that a wife whose emotional or sexual needs are chronically neglected is vulnerable to temptation, regardless of how fine her man is. Doesn’t the same apply for men?
If he needs to talk and his wife won’t listen to him, or he has sexual needs his wife won’t meet, or she lets herself go and becomes unattractive, isn’t it the same thing? None of these things are excuses to cheat, really, and none of them justify infidelity, but what if the reality is that they predispose to adultery? And what if, that being the case, there are actually some things you can do to affair-proof your marriage? Would you be open to it? Would you do it proudly without feeling ashamed of making the effort?
We all know what a shameful thing it is these days to be caught trying to “keep” a man. Yet I believe that outside of the context of chauvinism, we need to keep each other, husbands and wives. We can’t just take wedding vows and then expect them to stay with us, period.
So, yes, you may do heaven and earth for a man, and literally bend over backwards to please him (this is not a real sex position please, do not try this at home!) and still have him cheat on you with someone else. And there are also men who are terribly unfulfilled in their marriages and yet they do not seek satisfaction of any kind elsewhere. These people really do exist. If a man is going to cheat, he’s going to, but what about the one who never planned to?
Building the kind of marriage where neither partner is vulnerable to temptation involves a huge investment of time and emotional capital. It also involves two people who want to honour their vows and stay faithful. Marriage is one hell of a needy potted plant. Forget to water it and give it sunlight and it starts to die. Friends, I say, feel free to do whatever it takes to make your plant bloom and flourish. There’s no shame in that.