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Cheating and public revenge: What to do when your partner breaks your trust

There’s life after you have been cheated on. How good or bad it’s going to be depends on how you deal with the incident.

sex and relationships Updated: Mar 26, 2018 18:04 IST
Shara Ashraf
Hasin Jahan filed an FIR against her husband, claiming that he was having multiple illicit affairs. She also posted screen shots of his obscene conversations with various women.
Hasin Jahan filed an FIR against her husband, claiming that he was having multiple illicit affairs. She also posted screen shots of his obscene conversations with various women.

Last month, Hasin Jahan posted a video on Facebook titled ‘Happy Birthday, Wifey!. Made by her husband cricketer Mohammad Shami, it had mushy pictures of the couple, with Shami using words such as ‘I am blessed to have such an awesome wife’ and ‘With each passing year, my love for you has grown, dear wife’ to declare his unfailing love for Jahan. Jahan is his wife of five years, with whom he has a three-year-old daughter. The two fell in love and married, after which Jahan, who once aspired to be a model and actor, allegedly put an end to her career to respect the wishes of Shami’s family. The couple seemed so much in love every time they made public appearances, and they often shared their romantic pictures with their fans.

One couldn’t have imagined that just after a month, Jahan would file an FIR against her husband, claiming that he was having multiple illicit affairs. Jahan allegedly discovered that Shami was indulging in obscene chats with multiple women after she was able to access the security code in his phone. The woman posted screenshots of his chats on Facebook.

While many social media users sympathised with Jahan, and took to trolling Shami, many sided with Shami, seconding his rebuttal. Some called this episode a personal matter. Within a few days, Jahan and Shammi’s life turned into a circus. While a visibly agonised Jahan kept giving endless media interviews, trolls from across the world had a field day putting up the most callous and demeaning comments on her Facebook profile.

Supreme court lawyer Indira Unninayar says that the whole episode is unfortunate and covers a fairly grey area; on the one hand, people look up to public figures, so they carry a certain responsibility in terms of their conduct, on the other hand, they have a right to their private lives, and the right to indulge in affairs could be said to fall into this category. At the same time, marriage between two persons is based on trust, and further, if the standards are different for the two partners, where one freely engages in multiple liaison while expecting the other to give up her career because he is uncomfortable about the possibility of her engaging in similar liaison, then it is an obvious expression of control of the husband over his wife rather than having a more ‘equal’ relationship.

The above kind of control and dominance, the violation of trust while enforcing it on your wife, discriminating against your wife on the basis of her gender while “cheating on her” can shatter the confidence of the woman and can amount to domestic abuse.

Compulsive chatters and compulsive cheats

Unninayar says that there are people who are compulsively into the habit of indulging in sex chats; these talks could be expressions of their ‘sexual needs’ or they could have ‘psychological issues’. It is up to the person to acknowledge his condition or requirement and address it in the manner that he deems fit. It is also up to the partners or family to talk about the concern rather than evade the topic. Communication is a far better approach, but often, as in this case, it is extremely difficult to talk about these things as the other partner “feels cheated” and let down, while the former feels defensive.

Is social media the right place to vent out?

Jahan’s lashing out on social media was supported by many users who believed she did the right thing by exposing her husband. But some severely criticised her. Experts say that when people are deeply hurt, their style of expressing hurt and anger differs. It’s not easy to be in the shoes of the person who has been through such kind of trauma. “Whether you should make the incident public or not is solely your personal decision. There is nothing right or wrong about it. It’s a personal choice. No one can make a judgment about it. But of course, when you do so, be ready to face the consequences,” says psychologist Pulkit Sharma.

When your personal life is thrown open in Facebook posts like Jahan’s, it might mess up your life in more ways than you can imagine, says Unninayar. “When a woman discovers that her husband is committing actions which she finds unacceptable in an intimate relationship like marriage, it comes across as very hurtful. When expectations are trust and loyalty, it is very distressing, unless of course, both the parties have decided that it’s an ‘open’ relationship. However, when you choose to make your differences public by putting it up on social media, it is inevitable that it will escalate into something beyond your control,” says the lawyer.

The lawyer says that one must stand up and speak strongly against being treated in the wrong manner, but a social media lash out could makes things complex. “Confront your partner, see if it is possible to sort out the issue, and if things do not work out, you may decide to walk out of the marriage. Having an extra-marital relation is a strong ground for divorce. Two people can part ways by mutual consent if talks to sort out differences fail. Going on Facebook opens your private world to the public at large which may be unnecessary. Lashing out at your partner in a public space attracts the wrong type of attention,” says Unninayar.

Domestic abuse is not a personal matter

Many social media users dismissed the episode as a personal matter. Indira Unninayar says that at the first instance, two people’s matrimonial differences are indeed their personal matter. However, if a very public figure engages in affairs which become very public as well, then unfortunately, their matrimonial differences do get aired in public.

Domestic abuse could be in various forms. It could be physical, mental, emotional and financial. When a woman discovers that her husband has been chasing other women while being in a matrimonial relationship, it would naturally make her feel extremely “inadequate”, “cheated” and “betrayed”, and the feeling that her marriage has been a failure. While affairs of the heart remain a grey area, marital relationships are based on mutual trust. This instance could be viewed as a case of ‘domestic abuse’ given the context of forcing the wife to sacrifice her career while indulging in the very acts that he fears that his wife might if she were to venture outside the home to pursue her career. It also smacks of a patriarchal approach to marriage.

As Jahan has claimed, she sacrificed her modeling career to keep her husband and in-laws happy. When a man expects and insists that his wife give up her career after marriage, does it not reflect that in his mind, there are different set of rules for men and women in marriage? “Making a woman sacrifice her career and blocking her from working outside the home, could also amount to domestic violence. If a husband tells his wife to quit working, he needs to ask himself if he is afraid of other men behaving like himself? Is this his way of ensuring that his wife doesn’t do what he does by forcibly confining her at home?,” says the lawyer.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) was passed after enormous struggle and there have been repeated attempts to dilute it. Domestic violence is one of the most rampant and damaging forms of violence as women are usually shamed into a submissive silence. Domestic violence ranges from physical violence where men beat up their wives for not serving tea at the right temperature, to the mental and emotional – by putting them down and not hearing their needs and by trying to exercise control over them, and economic by withholding money from them, says Unninayar.

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Understanding infidelity: What drives people to cheat their partners

The tragic episode of two people who loved each other turning into enemies also leaves one thinking about the shallowness of relationships in today’s time. The definition of an affair/relationship outside marriage has drastically changed with time. There are casual flings where there is no physical relationship no physical sex. Activities such as engaging in sex on video chats has become shockingly common. “It’s a new phenomenon. Such things were unheard of earlier. Also, there are much stronger opportunities for having an affair outside marriage. A person may not really be waiting to have an affair but might end up falling for it. There are cookies that suddenly pop up on the system, and one gets tempted into chatting with a stranger, there are apps for married people that keep the user’s information discreet, you suddenly come across an old flame online and one thing leads to another,” says psychiatrist Avdesh Sharma. And it’s not just the social media to blame. The opportunities to cheat have increased manifold, and only integrity of character and a strong bond between a couple can keep relationships safe, says Sharma. “People frequently travel overseas with colleagues, they are together till midnight during office parties. The chances of extramarital affairs are much higher. Earlier, people would have not wavered in such circumstances because the social binding was very strong and so was the internal connection between a couple. Now, partners hardly spent time with each other. Things have changed fast in our society,” he says. Disintegrating or dead relationships are also a reason for infidelity. “There are so many couples that live together but they are totally mentally, physically and emotionally disengaged,” says Sharma.

Life may not the same after you have been cheated on.

The acceptability with regard to an illicit relationship has also changed. Earlier, the discovery of an illicit affair would lead to divorce or separation. But it’s taken lightly now, more so if it’s a one-off thing, and a large number of couples are also into open relationships where both partners agree that each may have sexual relations with others. But for those who are in an intimate, trusting relationship, it is difficult to recover from the trauma caused when a partner is caught cheating. Cheating is a serious assault on a relationship. “Once you break someone’s trust, it’s not easy to fix it. It’s never easy to let go of a cheating episode for a partner. Life would never be the same after you have cheated your partner. It’s something that’s not easily forgotten. So, it’s best not to get into extremely mentally and emotionally draining situations like these,” says Sharma.

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Cheating can be difficult to define because the partners may have totally different views on what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. It’s important to mutually set basic ground rules in a relationship that cannot be broken by either of the partners. Be clear that both of you are on the same page when it comes to the definition of cheating and what amounts to fidelity. A majority of couples skip discussing these issues, and end up feeling betrayal when one partner does something that the one finds unacceptable. Not having enough clarity on what amounts to cheating or not for a couple can easily lead to betrayal and deception. There can be no general rules in regard to infidelity, as every relationship is different, but this is what is commonly perceived as being dishonest to your partner:

Flirting with someone

Engaging in sexual talk with someone

Lying about one’s relationship status

Seeking virtual romantic/ sexual relationships

Having sexual relationship with someone

Getting emotionally involved with someone

Is it worth forgiving a cheating partner?

How likely is a person to cheat again often depends on how genuinely they regret it and how much effort are they willing to put in to win back your trust. Remember that liars and serial offenders never change. Observing you partners partner’s reaction when you confront him/her could help you decide what to do. “If your partner resorts to lying, gets into the denial mode, shows aggression, tries to make a monster out of you or starts claiming that you are mad, take a strong stand. This person is certainly not worth forgiving,” says psychologist Pulkit Sharma.

Also, how does one deal with the shock and trauma of discovering that one’s partner has been cheating and living a dual life? Some suffer a serious nervous breakdown while some people even become suicidal as they find the trauma too much to handle. The way one responds to the episode determines how one overcomes it. While it’s not easy to save yourself from breaking down, one can always try and pull oneself together, lessen the hurt and work towards.

Recovery is a journey. It won’t happen overnight.

If you have suicidal thoughts after your trust has been broken, and you feel it’s the end of the world for you, tell yourself that there was a time when this person wasn’t there in your life. “You still lived a few happy moments. The pain will subside. Allow yourself to heal and give the process some time. It’s a journey. It won’t happen over overnight. Have realistic expectations from yourself,” says Sharma.

You will also take time to trust someone else again. Remind yourself that you have met good and bad people in non-romantic contexts. You have had good friends and bad friends, friends who stood by you, and friends who back-stabbed you. “Tell yourself that not everyone is the same. Not all romantic partners will cheat on you or break your trust,” says Sharma.

What to do when your partner cheats on you

1.Take some time off. Do not react instantly. Think quietly about what has taken place and process your thoughts well.

2.Reconfirm the episode. Gather more evidence. Understand the context before reaching the conclusion that your partner has cheated on you.

3.Once you are sure that your partner has broken your trust by cheating on you, gather your emotions. In the initial 15 minutes when you get to know about it, tell yourself that you will it take it up seriously but be calm. Repeat to yourself that you will sail through it.

4.Ask yourself if you are ready to confront your partner. When you talk it out, use very precise language. Avoid talking about past mistakes. Be specific, or else your partner might become defensive. Convey what you have discovered and ask what is going on. Be serious and focus on the present, so that your partner doesn’t change the topic. Chose your words with caution and use neutral statements. Avoid an emotional outburst which will leave you drained. Example: Say, “I don’t know what to make of this,” instead of “You finished my life.” Or “Can you help me understand what is going on?” instead of saying “You are the most horrible person I have ever met.”

5.Based on the information that you have gathered and your partner’s response, ask yourself how you feel, and what would you want to do now. It’s important to be open about your thoughts and feelings. 6.

6.Analyse carefully if you have mixed feelings. Think whether you want to separate or you want to stay on because you have the hope that your partner will change and will never cheat again.

7.Come to a conclusion. Approach your partner and inform him/her about your final decision. Present it as information.

8.Give your partner a good hearing. Listen to his/her side and understand what the person wants to do now.

9.Process your response as well as your partner’s response to understand whether you both are on the same page or not.

10.Based on these learnings, take your final decision and work on your emotional and mental recovery.

A philandering partner is not the spouse’s fault

One should not blame one’s own self for the affair. Accusations such as you could not satisfy your partner, or you weren’t good enough are highly damaging. Women have been heartlessly told that their husbands cheated because they didn’t maintain themselves and ceased to be attractive. The world can be that callous. “To put the responsibility of the failure of the relationship on her own self is the worst thing a woman can do to herself. A philandering husband is none of her fault. While it could be a good time for both the husband and wife to introspect what led to the failure of their relationship, women must save themselves from getting into the self-accusation mode,” says Indira Unninayar.

The truth is that a person can cheat on the most good looking, intelligent and successful partner. Cheating has least to do with the attractiveness of the person is who is being cheated on. Cheating is reflective of lack of integrity and strength of character, and the one who cheated needs to be held accountable, not the one who was cheated on.

If your partner tries to make you guilty, understand that the person is trying to silence you. The partner who cheated should be the one feeling remorse. Lack of acceptance of responsibility is reflective of a weak character. You may have made your sets of mistakes, but those nay not be the reason for your partner to get into an affair. He needs to accept responsibility for his actions.