By Veronica Wells
The following is a true story. There was a Black woman married to an Italian man. Although we never really know what’s going on in someone’s marriage, by all accounts, this was a happy one. The man wasn’t a model but he was kind to her, provided for her and her children, they were taking vacations together. Still, she recruited men from Craigslist for sex. She was very sneaky with it. She would meet them during her lunch hour, while both she and her husband were at work. And judging by the way she told the story and the way she executed her plan, her husband became nothing but a sweet sucker.
And something about the thought of a woman doing it was terrifying, something he couldn’t shake no matter how many years had passed, and how many men he’d seen cheat since that particular incident. Maybe it was the clandestine way she did it. The fact that she had a good man or it really could have boiled down to the fact that as a woman she simply wasn’t expected to cheat. After he told me the story, he asked if i was socialized or conditioned to believe that women cheating on men was somehow worse than men cheating on women.
Like most women, having witnessed the aftermath of infidelity on a woman’s psyche, there is no distinction in my mind about the hurt cheating causes a person. With the exception of machismo and toxic masculinity not being able to accept something like this, the hurt is the same. A man and a woman who cheat are equally terrible in terms of the relationship.
Still, I had to agree that I did think women cheating was worse because a woman cheating likely meant that her heart was no longer in it. The older you get, you realize that men can have sex with zero emotional attachment. He can love his wife and his family and still be out here sleeping with randoms. And there are women who can do that too. Still, if she’s stepping out on a marriage, I was conditioned and I still believe that there is a higher likelihood that she checked out emotionally a long time ago. So a woman cheating, while it might cause equal hurt and pain, likely signifies more in terms of the relationship being over. Not only because she was disconnected but also for the millions of examples we have of a woman returning to a cheating man, there are fewer public portrayals—realistic or fiction—of a man doing the same.
And I think the reason for that is two-fold. One, I mentioned before about the male ego and the way we’ve conditioned men to believe a woman and her worth are ruined if she shares her vagina with more than one person. But also the fact that men are not socialized to believe women will do this. They don’t see cheating women return to their husbands, by in large, in the movies. When celebrity couples break up, the woman is rarely the guilty party if infidelity is involved. And if there’s a family history of women cheating, it will likely go with them to the grave. Mothers don’t warn their sons of this possibility from women. But little girls hear and witness the evils of men from puberty—if not before.
Whether it’s because we don’t talk about it or because it doesn’t happen as often, when a man finds himself confronted with this reality, there’s very little programming telling him how to proceed. And the messaging that does exist out there is one that instructs men to leave women who they still love, women who may never do again simply because this is what society said is the proper punishment. I don’t have to tell y’all women rarely receive this message. We’ve seen women go back—for better or worse. There is the expectation that we’ll forgive and work it out and we can sit on the porch with kids and grandkids celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary, with few people privy about how we made it over.
Love prevailing and love overcoming struggle and strife is beautiful. It would just be nice if we saw more men extend and display that type of forgiveness.