By KIRKLAND PRATT
I recently took to Facebook to engage my reliable contacts in a discussion on Bahamian society and cheating as a norm. My figurative scenario outlined a sweethearting husband and a mutual friend of the couple in crisis, who made the wife privy to the husband’s clandestine affair.
The overwhelming consensus placed the whistle-blower at fault. Could this nonscientific survey mirror the collective Bahamian social experience? Do we exist in a society in which time and frequency of occurrence has encouraged sweethearting?
Last week I recounted my experience of being advised by a property manager that I was to refrain from engaging a prominent sweethearting couple on our shared property lest I violate my lease. As mind-blowing as it would appear, the most important thing to the complicit manager (even before income potential) was that he protected the sweethearting couple.
Is this phenomenon special to Bahamian society or is it global? Why cheat? Consider our either-or party political cycles. With power shifting between a few good men and women, so do the overtures from starry-eyed suitors who seek to (by extension) get piece of the pie. On a good day, sans the luster of political office, some of these nondescript characters wouldn’t have a snowball in hell’s chance at said suitors. If the Punch tabloid is to be believed, these sweethearting men and women attached to the influential among us are bold and demanding.
Have we become desensitized to the impact that sweethearting has on us all? To answer this it is important to focus inwardly and not on the societal context.
Cheating is often perceived as occurring in undercover environments when the truth is people cheat long before anything becomes sexual. Initially, an emotional attachment is born and sometimes even unsuspecting people become enamoured with each other. Imagine the vulnerable man who is concerned about his wife’s lack of attention and affection having to share the office with an attentive and pretty younger version of his wife - day after day - for eight hours per day.
When the relationship becomes strong and the trust develops, the husband’s concern for his wife wanes as he feels now that he has an ally in this fight against his non-attentive wife. The zeal he once had to salvage and protect his marriage is out the door. Eventually, the gifts and good sex flows and the wife becomes something on paper only. The sweethearting coworker steps up and is maintained by the ‘redeemed’ husband. In the sweetheart’s counsel she advises her lover and is there for him – nothing is more endearing for the man.
Some interesting stats on cheating according to a Wilborne and Fleisher 2012 study: Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional - 41 %; percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had - 57 %; Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had - 54 %; Percentage of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker - 36 %.
As I see it, Bahamian norms make it all too easy to indulge and as such the sting of a once taboo behaviour becomes abstract and the behaviour itself covertly glorified. Nobody says it but in many circles having a number one and a number two to your married partner establishes power and respect to those who may gaze on yearning for the glamorous life.
Not so fast though. Could we be devaluing the family system for greed and sex? Could there be a correlation between family erosion and crime?
Keep thinking, you are good for it.
• Kirkland H. Pratt, MSCP, is a Counselling Psychologist with a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology with an emphasis in Education. He lectures in Industrial Psychology and offers counselling and related services to individuals and businesses. For comments, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.