By Surbhi Gogia
Extra marital affairs are on the rise amongst Indo-Canadians. Paul Bains, a registered clinical counsellor, in an interview with Desi Today reveals some shocking cases of how partners are cheating with in Indo-Canadian families, the reasons and solution to this problem
Infidelity is as old as the hills. Poor, rich or middle class, infidelity has always existed amongst every section of the society, across all cultures and times. It is the general human nature to explore new relations, make new friends and look for emotional support. However when married couples look for a relation outside their marriage with opposite sex, it becomes matter of ethics.
When it comes to infidelity in Indian marriages, the issue takes an ugly turn because institution of marriage in Indian culture is much more sacred. The institution is formed on the very basis of love, friendship, respect, selflessness, care, patience, forgiveness, honour, and family. If one partner tries to follow these principles, and another strays, apart from rift in the families, infidelity brings much larger problems.
Paul Bains, a registered clinical counsellor, from Surrey, who has been dealing with infidelity cases amongst South Asian families for more than 20 years, says that the extra marital affair in an Indo-Canadian family brings much larger problems than just rift between the couples. “The difficulty with infidelity across cultures is that it is one of the most devastating things a couple goes through. And if it is not resolved it leads to other mental health issues developing in the partner. I come across women who have anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. After a number of sessions it is found that the main reason behind their problem is their cheating partner. The women especially, want to maintain the secrecy of their husband’s affair because their family honour is at stake. They keep it inside and get into depression.”
Bains observes this trend is more common amongst older generation. “Women in their mid 50’s or 60s come to me and reveal that they have been aware of their partner cheating on them for so many years. But the wife did not reveal it to anyone because she was financially dependent, wanted to raise kids, and wanted a security for her family.” Once the children are settled, the wife struggles through the mental health issues and usually referred to a counsellor by her family doctor.
He also says even if the women try to seek help from a close friend or a relative, most of the times they are asked to stay quiet. All they end up hearing is — Men will be men. If he is feeding the wife and the kids well, the woman should not worry. “But women don’t want that. They want their husbands to care of them and love them,” Bains says.
On the other hand, the problem amongst younger couple is different. The women are more educated and do not need financial security. “Usually younger women are more assertive and come out in open to talk about their cheating partner,” he thinks.
Bains is of the view that infidelity in Indo-Canadian families is defiantly on the rise and there are many reasons for it.
Why do people cheat?
One of the most common reasons, he points out, is the patriarchal structure of our community where men feel the right to have an affair. They do not realize that their wife is the life partner and needs equal respect.
This trend is more common amongst couples with arranged marriages where the match is made by parents without taking the consent of the kids. The men take it more like business relation where he feeds the family and wife raises the kids and takes care of the family. “I do not want to generalize it, but a lot of men do not see infidelity as an issue if they are paying the bills, or feeding their kids.”
Another common reason, Bains point out is the general human nature of exploring variety when it comes to relationships. “In our culture, there is a taboo for young couple to live together before marriage. So they try to explore relations after that.”
Bains does not say that it is only the men who cheat on their partners. “Infidelity although, primarily prevalent amongst men, now is hitting a lot of young professional women too,” Bains states. But he says the reason for both men and women are by enlarge different. In general, men are seeking more sex or attention. When the wives turn them down for sex often, they take that rejection to heart, and it can easily translate to feeling “unloved.”
On the other hand women may cheat when they are often seeking to fill an emotional void. Women frequently complain of disconnection from a spouse. “Most of the time a girl moves in with the in-laws. The expectations from a daughter in law are still the same, even though the time and place has changed. Professional women like doctors, lawyers engineers are expected to cook or clean for the family and the women do not find it fair. The couple starts feeling the pressure leading to emotional disconnect. When either one does not get emotional support from their partner, they try to find it outside. They might get the attention from their colleagues.”
Internet is another great cause of increasing infidelity, particularly around pornography. “Both men and women watch pornography but men are more prone. So when their partners find out they might feel it is cheating,” he says.
The filth of infidelity in family structure
People at every age and in every relationship fall into infidelity. But sometimes the Indian family structure makes it worst. Bains has come across shocking cases of partners coming for counselling as old as 70s. “I feel surprised to find that the wife has known her husband was cheating for past 30 years but she did not share with anyone because of her kids. Now that the kids are settled, she brings up the issue.”
Bains says the shock of infidelity does not stop here. “Since there are joint families and you are living in the same house, it is easy to have an affair with some other family member. I have come across cases where Sister in law is involved with her brother in law. Sometimes even father is having an affair with his own daughter-in law. It is awful because, it is devastating for the entire family.”
What is the solution?
Bains feels infidelity is quite a complicated issue because in most of the cases, the person who is cheating does not see there is any problem and even if he or she may see there is a problem in cheating, he/she might not want to do anything about it.
“The couples who come in together and talk about it, those are the best sets of couples because they are motivated and try to make things work.”
Bains then works in three phases, he says. “The first phase is that of complete confession of things. Both the partners have to speak the truth and there has to be some forgiveness from the one who is the victim. It can be difficult. But Indian couples are ready to work on it.”
Then comes rebuilding emotional connection. “I try to see if couples can start working on a new relationship all together because the infidelity happened since old relation was not working. Rebuilding relations can be difficult for those who had arranged marriages. All they have known is that they their partner was not chosen by them.”
Bains says sometimes couples even get into a business like relation. “As long as the husband is taking good care of the wife, looking after kids — the wife wants to carry on with the relation. Although I always tell them it is not a very healthy way of solving the problem. And I tell my clients it will cause issues in the long run. But there are couples who want to resolve the issue like this. ”
The last recourse, if nothing works out is divorce.
Things you may consider before divorce
It is devastating for a spouse to find his/her partner cheating on them. It is the situation when they do not know what to do or whom to seek help. In our culture going to a counsellor or seeking some outside help becomes a matter of privacy. Bains suggests that if you find out about your partner’s infidelity, there are things you can do on your own to bring your partner back to into the relation, before you seek any help.
1) Sit down with the person and talk. If the partner is willing to acknowledge that there is an affair, talk about it. But if the person is not willing to acknowledge then you are going to have really difficult time.
2) It can be controversial but it can help. You can involve extended family as a way to bring the affair to light. Talk to someone whom your partner trusts and he or she can sit down and talk. Sometimes it does work.
3) If the cheating partner is not coming to counselling or the family intervention is not that helpful, at this point the other person has to make a decision. Either he/she can accept it and continue. If they cannot accept it they can explore options of exiting from a marital relation.
4) At that point they can go and get referrals from a lawyer and find out what are their options legally or what they can do to file paperwork for a divorce. Divorce in our society is still frowned upon, so the couples will do it at the last resort. But the young generation is more aggressive about filing for divorce.
Sometimes divorce can initiate a change since the partner who is cheating, especially the men, feel insecure and they do not want to bring embarrassment to the family, Bains points out.
Working on physical appearance is a misnomer
Most of the time infidelity is attached to physical attraction. “Women in particular do think that they are not pretty that is why their partner is cheating on them. They would make more efforts to look good. But usually it is not about looks. Having said that the complicated factor is some South Asian men do feel pride in having a beautiful woman. But in most of the cases working on looks does not really work. Infidelity has mostly to do with emotional disconnection when your partner cannot find anything common to talk with you.”
Bains suggest the way to reconnect with your partner is to work on your emotional connection instead of financial, physical relation.