‘Blow,’ which is a Guyanese term for infidelity, has been trending in recent weeks. A few local artistes released songs about the subject, which served as reminders that we live in a society in which infidelity is rampant. The songs were frivolous and, therefore, a source of entertainment. But is there anything amusing about infidelity when one examines its effects?

Infidelity is quite common in Guyana. The “Sweet Man” and “Sweet Woman,” which are labels for the men and women who get involved with persons already in “committed” relationships, are often just that–a sweet escape, a sweet secret, a sweet tryst, in rebellion against what society labels as forbidden desires.

There is no one type of person who engages in infidelity although some may label those who perpetuate it as weak, selfish, disrespectful or uncaring. But it is prevalent among every class of people and even religiosity does not shield one from it. It is an indicator of the inherent need of human beings for diversity, adventure and intimacy (which does not always mean sex). The discontented husband or wife, the women who survive by manipulating men, the men who boast about their conquests are all players in the game, which is a maze of secrecy, adventure and heartbreak.

But is infidelity more prevalent now than in years past or is it just more blatant? Perhaps inventions like the internet have emboldened many and created the environment for it to proliferate. But I’m sure many of us know stories of old relatives and friends who had their joys and sorrows with infidelity. There are stories about wives who were aware of mistresses but chose to accept and live with the fact. There are stories about women who deceived men into believing children were theirs biologically. Since the advent of DNA testing, there are mothers who have been exposed. Those stories are heartbreaking because in some cases the children are adults when they learn the truth about who they are. Still, when one analyzes the tales, not much has changed in terms of people’s desires.

But what happens when infidelity or suspected infidelity becomes deadly? Last week one woman lost her life by murder. She was stabbed to death by a partner who said her infidelity was the reason for his actions. It is a story we have heard too often and makes one wonder why some people cannot walk away from situations when they are not happy. Many people have lost their lives or were seriously injured because of infidelity. But does it ever justify death or injury? No. Although in a moment of insanity people may act senselessly, it is never acceptable to kill or harm someone because of their desires. Reacting with violence or vindictiveness exposes one’s inadequacies.

Whether the woman who was killed was unfaithful or it was just an excuse from the killer, gender-based violence cannot be condemned enough. While singers can make light of the topic and we can all have a good laugh, which we need in this society, there are many men and women who are hurting because of infidelity. Unfaithfulness communicates to many people the idea that they are not good enough as human beings. It says to them that they are not doing something right, it damages their self-esteem and reinforces damaging beliefs they might have about themselves–too ugly, too fat, too thin, too ignorant, sexually inadequate or undesirable.

But how can people blame themselves for the actions of others? How can a wife sit at home knowing her husband has another partner—which she would not have agreed to—and think that she must accept it because there is something wrong with her or that she somehow deserves it or must settle? How can a man put up with a woman who has no respect for him and parades her lovers? While there is always the option to detach oneself from a relationship, for many people it is not that simple. Issues such as financial security, children and love are all to be considered.

We live in a society that facilitates a lot of pretense. Many people reject ideas that question the nature of man–like whether we are all meant to be monogamous. Many continue to hold faith in the idea that we are supposed to find our true love, preferably at some point when we are still considered young, and then live happily ever after. Many like to pretend that people in marriages or committed relationships will not become attracted to other people and, in some cases, act on those feelings. We demonize people who support polygamy, polyandry or open relationships. We say they are weak, immoral, demon-possessed, lack self-control, while infidelity continues to be prevalent.

Many people do not want to confess their desires, whether it be for sexual freedom or the desire for other personal relationships. They are fearful that if they live their truth, they will be judged and condemned. So, they hide and fulfil their desires and are often guilt-ridden, which poses far more danger than if they could be honest or feel like they could be open without being judged.

There is no norm in this world that is a fit for all. So, while many people will live happily in monogamous relationships where infidelity is never a factor, there are many others who will never know that.

I started questioning marriage a few years ago because there was infidelity in almost every marriage or committed relationship I knew. The harsh truth was that the happily ever after many people dream of is just a fairy tale. Many often fixate on the wedding and not about the marriage, which requires constant work. It is a sacrifice of self in many ways. Your actions will affect the other person because what you have done is joined your lives together, vowing ‘till death do us part.’

Sometimes people do not intend to be unfaithful but then they meet someone who charms them. And then there are people who will get married and text their lovers on their honeymoon.

It is an age of deception and until people start being honest about what they really want in relationships, infidelity will continue. As individuals, before we commit ourselves to anyone, we must first work on empowering ourselves. We must first love ourselves and accept that we have the power to decide what we will allow to affect us and what we would not. So, when we choose to commit ourselves to another human being in a monogamous relationship, our happiness will not solely depend on the actions of that person. We must be able to be honest with our partners about our desires and not feel the need to keep up appearances while giving ‘blow.’

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