Curbing the animal instinct to cheat

By Thandekile Moyo

I WAS 16 when I first fell in love. The object of my affection was the same age as I was and claimed he felt the same way too. He completed my world and made me the happiest girl in town. We used to spend every moment possible together.

Ours was an emotional connection, we were content just talking and being together doing nothing really. I never expected anything material from him and he never expected anything physical from me. I would like to believe our love was innocent, pure and true. I knew he was the one, and I knew without a doubt we would be together forever.

We were at different schools and the highlight of my day was the letters I received from him almost every day without fail. I would read them and feel the power of his love in every word and I would respond with as much love as one could put in an envelope.

At 17, I detected a change in him and I dumped him and immediately replaced him with the boy who I still refer to as my high school sweetheart. We believed we were soul mates and I knew this one was really the one. We used to hold hands under the table in class and he would give me his groceries when mine ran out. I knew without a doubt we would get married and have lots of kids. He used to sing love songs to me and I would write him poems. For some stupid reason, I dumped him unceremoniously and without dignity, when I met the man I eventually married.

When I think of the fact that I have been in love several times in my life, and each time I thought it was the last time, I wonder if there really is only one person for each one of us. Is the idea of one man, one woman, a realistic one? When we talk of monogamy, are we saying each person should only ever be with one person or are we saying we should love one person at a time?

If it is natural for people of the opposite sex to be attracted to each other, is it then not only natural that in our lifetimes we will find ourselves attracted to several people, and, at times, even at the same time? I am sure everyone has experienced the tell-tale signs of being unintentionally drawn towards someone. Your heart beats faster, your hands become moist, your throat feels dry and you get weak in the knees. All these are physical reactions and I will dare to call them natural because nobody consciously decides to experience them. Both men and women can be victims of physical attraction, nobody is spared.

It is clear though that most people, if not all, desire exclusivity in relationships. Most relationship and marital problems arise when one party cheats on the other. Both men and women react with anger, pain and bitterness when faced with the ultimate betrayal of infidelity. Even when the aggrieved party is also cheating or has been unfaithful before, they feel greatly betrayed when cheated on. This has made me reach the conclusion that people expect fidelity from their partners regardless of whether or not they themselves are capable of fidelity.

We have heard of men who divorce their wives the moment they discover the wife is having an affair, despite them having cheated on the woman for years. With women becoming economically and socially independent, there has been a rise in the number of men who have been dumped for cheating.

King Solomon, in the Christian Bible, is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In Zimbabwe, the Rozvi king at Khami is said to have had 276 wives. Mobutu Sese Seko, who was the president of Zaire for decades, was a known womaniser, and was rumoured to sleep with at least 10 women a month. Linda Wolfe, a woman from Indiana, USA, has 23 ex-husbands. A 21-year-old Indian woman named Rajo Verma has five husbands, who are all brothers and does not know which one fathered which child. This goes to show that, uncurbed, human sexuality can run wild. These are clear examples of men and women who indulged their every attraction to the opposite sex regardless of any consequences of their behaviour.

As human beings, we are blessed with the ability to tame our basic or animal instincts and it is unfortunate that some people ignore that ability. It is this ability to stay away from each other’s partners, to respect boundaries and to stop oneself from grabbing that pretty woman’s breast that prevents anarchy and fosters harmony in our societies.

Infidelity and polygamy have devastating effects on our society, as they usually result in the breakdown of the family structure. The family, I believe, is the most important unit in every society as societies with stable families have been known to thrive in many sectors, including economically and socially. Studies have shown that kids raised by two parents fare better and are usually happier than those from single parent families. The standard of living of monogamous families is usually higher than that of polygamous households.

We cannot dispute that it is human nature to fall in love many times. We also cannot deny the fact that we are attracted to each other even when we should not be. We need to accept that the desires are there, and they are natural, but what differentiates us from animals is our ability to rationalise and exercise control. We are able to weigh the risk of our actions and avoid situations that could cause us problems.

I have learnt that love knows no boundaries and follows no rules hence the need for self-control.

The next time your heart skips a beat and you find yourself having difficulty breathing at the sight of your current attraction, ask yourself these questions. Is this worth losing my husband over? Am I willing to break up my family? If I am caught, will it be worth it?

When all is said and done, can you honestly answer this question: Are you monogamous, or do you just require a monogamous partner?

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