By DR KENNETH D KEMP
THROUGHOUT out the world, and especially in sophisticated Western industrialised societies where divorce has evolved from scandalous to commonplace, one of the most common reasons that couples split is infidelity.
Despite the disruption impacting children, finances and family relations, lust or the hope for better love is a powerful motivator and extramarital affairs continue widespread with undiluted frequency.
For those who remain committed to their marriage following the affair, it’s often done so out of love, religion, finance, (to protect their) children, embarrassment, fear of starting over, fear that they can’t do any better or any combination of the aforementioned.
While the vows shared during a marital ceremony are sacred and breaking them to the religious and faithful is considered a blatant sacrilege, the desire to end the marriage following such betrayal is understandable, particularly when the adultery yields an outside child. Whether one remains married or not, however, the most long-term damage is equitably inflicted on the children born within the marriage as well as those without the benefit of clergy. That’s because the ramification of transgressions, trickle down to the next generation and the sins of the father fall upon his children.
In my many discussions with patients in such situations over the years, I’ve discovered that there is no easy solution to their dilemma. They struggle knowing that leaving will ultimately deprive their children of a two-parent household but staying teaches them that the behaviour of the adulterer is acceptable. I myself never offer advice, simply an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on, which is all they ever really want. And for those who have been cheated on and stay within the marriage, I’ve noticed a trend.
Their sons, having born witness to the events of their household many times go on to commit similar offences and the cycle of damage perpetuates. When distrust intrudes and shakes the foundation of the family, the role of whoever was the guilty party is eroded. In The Bahamas where “sweet-hearting” more often refers to a married man and a single woman, the impact of the change in the family dynamic can be perpetrated for generations as boys watch what Daddy does and whether they follow the pattern consciously or subconsciously, the residual impact can last for generations.
The many reasons why men and women cheat on one another is outside the scope of this report. How that cheating affects the family, according to a few of my patients, is today where my focus lies.
One patient, with the alias Paula, didn’t know that her husband of over a decade had another family until one of his best friends became a Christian and told her as she was walking down the stairs outside her job. The guilt of knowing and the toxicity of keeping it from her was slowly killing him and he had to finally get it off his chest. The news made Paula lightheaded so she sat for a moment to think. She could see in his eyes that he was telling the truth and, in that moment, with just a few words, her world came crashing down. Paula was pregnant at the time but she suffered a miscarriage after following her husband and watching him with his mistress and their children. Their confrontation was heated but never violent, refusing to betray her honour and the values her parents instilled in her for anyone.
Fortunately, Paula’s older son, untainted by his lineage, grew up and married a woman who he was deeply committed to until their fairy-tale marriage ended when she died during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their marriage, he maintains, gave him the greatest memories of his life. He saw the pain his mother endured and refused to inflict the same pain on his wife and children just as in many cases children of alcoholics often refuse to touch alcohol.
My other patient, using the alias Craig, was not so fortunate. His father worked in finance, cheated on his mother and had two children with his mistress. Growing up, he recalls hearing them argue but never understood the reason behind their discord. The confusion grew as he was forced to play with children he was told were his siblings, but they didn’t live with him and they didn’t have the same mother. Hearing his mother say that she didn’t want ‘those children’ in her house made him suspicious and reluctant to be friendly so they never forged a close bond. Doing so, he felt would devastate his mother.
Despite that, Craig became an artist and has been married several times. He admits with a modicum of regret that all of his marriages ended because of his extramarital relations. He makes mention of his first wife, now deceased, acknowledging that he caused her a great deal of pain. But you can’t give what you don’t have and he simply couldn’t be the type of husband that she deserved. Craig has remained close with all his children throughout the years but he acknowledges that although he supported them financially, he never had an opportunity to really be there for them as much as he would have liked. One of his sons, born out of wedlock, has a solid job, yet following in his father’s footsteps, has two illegitimate children of his own.
Craig admits that he’s a much better grandfather than he was a father and hopes that the cycle of infidelity that started with his father will end with this current generation of young men. He looks around his community and society as a whole and can’t help but wonder if the crime in our neighbourhoods can be directly linked to the break-down of the home. A chorus of local priests and religious figures across different denominations resoundingly say yes. A single parent household is much more likely to foster teen pregnancy and delinquent young men who, walking steadily toward a cliff, join gangs for acceptance, protection and financial security. Within the gang, they are initially fooled by the illusion of order and soon drown in the virulence cast by the scepter of its criminal shadow. Yet, there is also evidence supporting the fact that a happy single parent household is healthier for children than an unhappy, deeply troubled dual parent where children are subjected to bitter arguments and emotional strife.
In one of my earlier reports, I introduced a woman whose husband left her and their daughter for another woman. Years later, when he had a stroke, his mistress abandoned him and it was his ex-wife who ended up taking care of him and paying his medical bills. According to her, she did this because she wanted to teach her daughter the power of forgiveness and that there is a stark difference between being subservient and being honourable.
Everyone who’s been cheated on has their own personal decision to make if to stay within the marriage or leave. That decision is intensified when it’s made not just for yourself but also for young children who may resent you later on for the choices you made today. The best answer, which may not be the easiest, is the one that will make you sleep best at night, keep you the happiest and allow you to be the best parent that you can be without stealing a single portion of your humanity.
The take home message that my patients wanted to share is to never enter into marriage lightly. Wait until you find the right person, even if the clock is ticking and you’re getting older because it’s infinitely better to be happy by yourself than miserable with someone else. They poignantly add being careful who you choose to have children with because the sins of the father fall upon his children and while we may not be responsible for their failures or the things they exposed us to, we are responsible for what they made us believe and the lives we choose to live.
This is The KDK Report.
• Nicknamed ‘The Prince of Podiatry’, Dr Kenneth D Kemp is the founder and medical director of Bahamas Foot and Ankle located in Caves Village, Western New Providence. He served as the deputy chairman for the Health Council for five years and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation in his role as co-vice-chairman.
birdiestrachan 1 week, 6 days ago
In these situations there is much suffering the children all of them inside and outside as they say and the pains of the wife because of selfish people
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