By Joan Thatiah
The other woman. Three words that spell anxiety, even dread, to most women in relationships. If you listen to women talk on the streets or on social media, then you know that the other woman is constant on the minds of many Kenyan women.
Usually, the discussion will revolve around how to deal with her. Do you contact her and try to appeal to her or, better yet, tell her off? Do you walk out on him? Or do you go home and continue being a perfect, loving, and selfless wife and pray that your man will see what he has with you and end the affair?
What is moral?
Her aim, when Grace decided to confront the woman that her husband was seeing, was to scare her away, but Grace’s visit instead seemed to empower her rival.
The fact that Grace went out of her way to find out where she lived seemed to make the other woman feel as if she was the deciding factor whether or not Grace and her husband would stay together. It was as if she knew that Grace was falling apart.
“She told me that if I was so sure that he loved me, I wouldn’t have gone to see her. She seemed so sure of her hold on my husband that I lost it and attacked her. She was able to call him before I could and judging from the fact that he didn’t speak to me for days and even spent a couple of nights after this at her place, I know she used the claws, blows, and kicks she got to get closer to him,” Grace, 30, remembers.
“Confronting her was a lose-lose situation. I lost my dignity and also pushed him further towards her,” she adds.
Against the law
Calling or texting the other woman is unlikely to escalate into a physical fight and may, thus, seem to be a safer option, but not if you do not want to serve time in jail the way 31-year-old Salome found out.
She used to go through her man’s texts and call logs regularly and if she found anything fishy from a woman, she would tell her off. Not very long ago, she sent an abusive text to a woman he was clearly sexually involved with and instead of her writing back like she expected, the other woman went to the police.
“She was the one that was creeping on my marriage but I was the one who begged her to settle out of court. I ended up paying her Sh20,000 while he looked on with a smirk.”
When you discover your man’s betrayal, it is normal to want to speak to her, hear her say why she disrespected your marriage, and probably even make her suffer as much as you have. All these may seem like options of taking away your pain but Nairobi lawyer Kennedy Osoro advises restraint.
Section 29 of the Kenya Information and Communication Act states that sending a message that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, or menacing, or a message that one knows is false, to cause annoyance, inconvenience, or needless anxiety to another person is an offence and upon prosecution, you may be subject to a fine of Sh50,000 or a maximum jail sentence of three months or both. The penal code, on the other hand, outlaws assault and that traditional catfight could land you in jail.
“If, however, she attacks you and throws the first punch, you can protect yourself. The law will be on your side,” he says.
Even women like 26-year-old Meridith Wambui, who confesses to having spied on and trailed a woman she believed was seeing her husband, risks getting caught by the long arm of the law for infringing on another person’s right to privacy and confidentiality.
Don’t need to know
Other than seeking revenge, getting closure is the other main reason that drives a woman to pick up the phone to call the other woman. From her experience, Naomi Wambui, a teacher, says that if you do it the right way, you are likely to get some answers.
However, before you pick up the phone, she cautions that the answers you get may not be the ones that you were looking for. When she tracked down and finally met the other woman in her husband’s life last year, the woman was approachable and remorseful.
“She answered most of my questions. Some of the things that my husband had told her about us hurt me even more than the physical cheating. He broke up with her and we have been trying to work on our relationship and I thought I could get through with it and forget, but her face and the things she said are forever branded in my memory.”
Celestine Silantoi, 25, agrees with Naomi that what you hear might not be what you were hoping for. She confronted the woman she had evidence was the other woman in February this year, eyes blazing, only to find out that she was, indeed, the other woman and this woman had been dating the man for much longer than she.
Deal with him
In any event, and especially if you want to hold on to your man, it is easier to blame the other woman. You should not, however, forget that while she may just be as guilty as he is, he is the one who betrayed you and not her, and regardless of whoever initiated it, he had the choice to desist.
Hellen Ndulu has made sure not to forget this and one thing she claims to have learnt about a cheating man is that unless you catch him in bed red-handed, he will deny that he is cheating and if you attack him, he becomes defensive.
She says that she once confronted her man with text messages she thought were inappropriate but perhaps because he felt caged, he shifted the conversation to the fact that she had been snooping.
“We have had one more incident and I simply talked to him. I didn’t accuse or ask him to explain anything. I just told him what I knew, how bad it made me feel, and that I wanted to work on our relationship. I assume he ended whatever he had going on the side because his attitude changed and now I see him making an effort not to hurt me. I am not saying that this always works, but at least it will have better results than attacking him. It all goes back to the fact that men like to be coddled,” she says.
Others, like 30-year-old Beryl, have resigned themselves to the fact that men are polygamous. When her man strays, which is often, she ignores what she terms as “his little in discrepancies” as long as he is fulfilling his duties. Aware of the risks that he may be exposing the whole family to, she has vowed not to be intimate with him without protection and he goes along with it.
In her words, “No man is perfect here. A marriage or a relationship should never break because of cheating, otherwise there would be few marriages left. Let him do whatever he is doing; he will tire of it at some point, trust me. Never confront the other woman either. It will be like adding insult to injury.”
Apparently, confronting her may not be the right card to play but what if the woman he is running around with behind your back is someone you know or a friend? Does she not owe you an explanation?
When 28-year-old Sophie found out that a casual friend was the other woman two months ago, she girdled her anger and judgment and played the friend card.
“I told her that I knew how my boyfriend was and that we should gang up against him and she foolishly agreed. The man is also my son’s father and I intend to fight for our relationship. I am just gathering all the dirt I can on her so that when she least expects it, I will show him who she truly is.”
“It takes the commitment of two people for a relationship to recover after an affair. If he clearly isn’t trying to fix it, it’s a bad sign,” says Nelly, a mother-of-two.
She draws from experience. Nelly and her husband are on the verge of separation and she says that from the word go, their five-year marriage has been plagued by a string of mistresses. She believes that she has no business confronting the other woman and each time he has betrayed her, she has taken it up with him.
Each time, even when she had evidence, he denied it but because of the young family that she wanted to keep together or perhaps because she hoped ignoring the signs would make everything go away, she believed him.
“I found out about this last one a couple of weeks ago. She must have wanted to marry him because when he attempted to break up with her, she went berserk. She has been to our home, threatened our children, and stalked me on Facebook. What bothers me more is that he is just watching from the sidelines as she torments me and doing nothing about it. He brought her into our lives and I feel he should be the one to get her out. If he was making an effort to get rid of her and work on our marriage, I would have stayed.”