20 February 2013

Namibia: Infidelity Tears Families Apart

Windhoek — Infidelity is a huge problem in the country and in more serious cases rends relationships and families, according to two local clinical psychologists.

Infidelity refers to unfaithfulness to a sexual partner, especially a spouse. Clinical psychologist, Dr Shaun Whittaker, yesterday said cases of infidelity are much higher than divorce.

Last April, a weekly newspaper carried a report that revealed that on average 2000 people sue for divorce every month. Additionally, about 61 marriages are dissolved in the Windhoek High Court every month.

It was further reported that 92 divorce cases were heard in one day in April last year and 76 couples sought to have their unions nullified in one week in April.

Whittaker said: "There is no doubt it (infidelity) gives rise to sadness in relationships." The emotional damage that infidelity causes, he said, depends on how long the couple might have been involved in a relationship and how long one of the partners may have been cheating.

Whittaker pointed out that discontentment in relationships leads to cheating. According to him, basic information in the biological make-up of the body of the male and female contributes to infidelity, pointing out that men and women's sex drives differ depending on their age.

In addition, Whittaker said in a marriage a man is most likely to cheat when his wife is pregnant. Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Heidi Burmeister-Nel agrees that cheating happens when there is discontentment in a relationship.

She said there is a "power struggle where couples fight a lot and yet refuse to leave." When a partner shares with an outsider what they should be sharing with their partners, it is a form of cheating, Burmeister-Nel said.

This can be flirting, making phone calls to people other than their partner. "Sometimes it is a lack of commitment to a relationship. People don't see cheating as very wrong." In some environments and cultures cheating is acceptable.

Although both men and women cheat, it is more "socially acceptable for males to have affairs" and women often accept that but that's not okay," she maintains. Having extra-marital affairs or cheating is more prevalent in some cultures than others. However, it is common to all cultures, according to Burmeister-Nel.

Whittaker says communication between couples is the only solution and he advises couples to identify a potential crisis in their relationship and to use that in a constructive way. "It's about compromise, the best relationships are equal."

Burmeister-Nel further explained that being in a relationship is about having a safe space "where you feel commitment, trust, warmth. Relationships should be nurtured."

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