Infidelity is the elephant in most of our living rooms. Besides money, it is the other main reason so many marriages are on the brink of collapse; held together by either children, or some societal pressure.

Men cheating used to be a standard affair. It was expected, and many women knew it was only a matter of time. But not many men expected that their wives will cheat on them. Esther Perell in her recent book, The State of Affairs; Rethinking Infidelity, avers that since 1990, the number of women who cheat on their husbands has increased by 40 per cent. Whereas this is in America, I have a feeling the same can be reported to be happening in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities and towns.

As a lifestyle journalist, I get to talk to many women about relationships and the issue of infidelity always surfaces. Nearly half the women I ask admit to having cheated once or twice in the course of their marriage.

“We were having issues at the time, but I have never cheated on him again ever since we fixed them.”
“It was just a fling.”
“He cheated, I had to revenge.”
“It was with my ex.”
“We were in this conference and this hunk (boss or hot colleague) became too persistent, I gave in. I actually enjoyed…”

These are the oft-cited reasons. What is often surprising is that they are never guilty of their actions, or at least they never reveal.

“Would you admit that to your husband?” I regularly ask.

A resounding ‘no’ is always the answer and they will justify it with the saying, ‘what you don’t know, won’t hurt you.’ But really, knowing is better because we live in an era where HIV/AIDS is making a resurgence with dangerous strains that do not respond to available drugs. Besides, there are other sexually transmitted diseases equally dangerous to make light of infidelity.

As a man I am left wondering how their men will take it if they discovered that their women have cheated on them. They are likely to break down or go down with depression. Others will be suicidal and will even kill their wife and innocent children. But why do women cheat?
For starters, women are now educated, empowered and have money. Money brings with it power. And power brings with it access to everything a human
soul craves.

Two decades ago, most women were housewives and their choices were limited. If they had to stray, it was with a neighbour, or a relative to their husband. But a working-class woman has access to so many men at her disposal always showering her with compliments. And women like swimming in compliments. Woe unto the husband if he is the busy, laidback type who forgets to get the wife a gift, or to compliment her.

And corporate offices are full of flirtatious men who have no respect for the institution of marriage. Hence if a woman does not have a strong will, it is easy to succumb to the pressure and give away the cookie.

Secondly, most women are actually very liberal in their attitude towards sex. There are those who have accepted the cheating ways of their husbands and they do get their guiltless sex on the side. A colleague recently told me that there are women who cheat so that their marriage can survive. With most men nursing lifestyle diseases and with erectile dysfunction a common condition among middle-aged men, most women discreetly seek sexual comfort outside their matrimonial home rather than suffer with the man in the same house.

Thirdly, materialistic women may cheat when their husbands fail to provide.  And most women with a taste for good life can be a handful. Most men give up and if such women meet men, often their bosses and other moneyed men, they don’t mind cheating while still married and in the end, reap the best of both worlds.

Whatever the motive, cheating is always wrong, and few people think long and hard about the consequences of their actions, that is, until they are staring at a divorce or an irreversibly destroyed marriage.