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Is it true, male infidelity doesn’t hurt?

MALE infidelity doesn’t hurt, is a common phrase in Zambia. It is more than a phrase because it relates to how marriage is perceived in our society, and depicts the mindsets with which people go into marriage.
From a cultural point of view, young men go into marriage with a mental attitude inclined to having extra-marital affairs as long as one is discreet about it.
In their pre-marital counsel, women are told to remain faithful to their spouses because, as alangizi say, men do not forgive and forget infidelity.
On top of that, the bride-to-be will be told that men are polygamists by nature, so she should expect her man to stray sometimes; it is normal.
In Bemba they say ubuchende bwa mwaume tabonaula ing’anda, loosely translated as ‘male infidelity has no harm on marriage’, or, if you like, ‘male infidelity doesn’t hurt’.
But is it true that male infidelity is harmless?
This is what we have been made to think for a long time, and it’s the philosophy we have been inculcating in young people as they grow and when they are preparing for marriage.
But reality tells us this is not true. Many marriages in our country are breaking up on account of infidelity.
Women and men have been cited as perpetrators, with the latter being the major culprits in terms of seeking sexual satisfaction outside marriage.
Every year, statistics reveal an alarming high rate of divorce in the country, especially from the local courts where divorce petitions are heard and adjudicated on without delay.
I am not sure what the national picture will be by the close of the year, but preliminary divorce statistics from Eastern Province depict a worrying upward trajectory.
Just between January and August this year, about 3,400 couples had filed for divorce in Eastern Province, with the major reason for divorce being adultery.
Indications of the first eight months of 2022 are that more people are likely to opt out of marriage in the region this year than last year when 4,441 divorce petitions were recorded in the province.
And this has been the pattern every year as numbers of families that are disintegrating on account of divorce keep rising. For example, in 2020 we reported that over 20,000 marriages were annulled in the local courts in 2019.
Topping the list of regions with high divorce rates that year were Lusaka, Western and Eastern provinces, which recorded 4,492, 4,292 and 4,203 divorces respectively.
Last year, Zambia recorded over 22,000 divorce cases, with Eastern Province topping the list.
It seems Eastern Province may top the list for the wrong reasons again, given that in the first eight months of the year, over 3,400 people had filed for divorce.
And this time around, adultery has been cited as the major cause of divorce petitions so far received in Eastern Province. Of course, every year, infidelity is cited as the major cause of divorce, alongside gender-based violence (GBV), infertility, family interference and failure to provide for one’s family and inability to satisfy one’s partner sexually.
In the recent past, we have also seen conflicts fuelled by abuse of social media also contributing to marriage annulments.
Over time, the reasons for divorce vary as aggrieved persons have also filed for divorce on account of being deserted by their spouses due to sickness, mental illness and ‘physical appearance’.
Obesity is one such form of physical appearance-related factors on which some women have been divorced by their husbands.
But the all-time triggers of divorce in our country, which we sometimes gloss over, are infidelity and GBV.
For your information, adultery has been cited as the major reason for the over 3,400 divorce petitions that were filed in the local courts in Eastern Province between January and August this year
Thousands of families are tearing apart, of course much to the disadvantage of children and dependants, on account of adultery, yet no one wants to address the subject of male infidelity in marriage.
Strong families are the foundations of a strong nation, the reason why we should worry if the divorce rate is taking an upward trend every year.
To an affected nation, a high divorce rate has both social and economic ramifications. The family is the foundation of a strong nation because it is in a home where children are welcomed in the world, nurtured and nourished by loving and caring parents or guardians.
The moral and material support that a child needs to grow up, get schooled and mentored is found in the family.
Without a strong support system at home, children are likely to fall into harm’s way and this, of course, will culminate in costly socio-economic consequences for a nation.
This is why we should worry about the alarming divorce statistics in our country and do something to address the causes.
We should worry when families are breaking up because it means some children will grow up without mentors, providers and protectors.
Yes, we should fret because a marriage break-up means that some children will drop out of school or fail their exams.
Some of the affected children cannot handle the pain of seeing their loving family disintegrate, so they seek comfort in wrong people and substances such as alcohol and drugs.
Strong families are indeed a treasure of every nation because families are agents of socialisation for children; they provide shelter and basic needs of life to their members; they offer moral and material support to children and other members, and they are also units of care for children, the sick and aged.
The prevailing divorce rate in our country should not just worry us, but call us to action to address the underlying factors, within our spheres of influence.
Most importantly, we should look at why marriages are breaking and seek remedial measures.
If infidelity is one of the major reasons why marriages are breaking, then alangizi should face the realities of life and address this problem in their premarital counselling.
Every stakeholder needs to do something about this problem – the family unit and, of course, the Church.
Information from the courts indicates that Christian marriages have not been spared by the divorce scourge.
As a matter of fact, the legitimisation of male infidelity happens more in our homes than in the marriage counselling quarters of alangizi.
Most of the time, men treat their wives based on the lifestyle that is modelled to them in their homes while they are growing up.
What alangizi or church counsellors may say during premarital counselling may not do much to erase a lifestyle that was modelled to a child by the basic socialisation unit – the family.

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