Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Other Woman - Saihmingi Speaks

The wife is always the last to know. And I was no exception. I was too confident, too secure in my marriage that I didn’t see that like any other marriage ours could also fail, and I didn’t know we had to work on it to keep it alive and keep it growing. I just assumed that after marriage people lived happily ever after; maybe I was influenced by all the love stories I read growing up where the hero and heroine overcame all the obstacles in their way and got married. We never knew what happened afterwards, and we didn’t care because the lovers were united and all was right with the world.

When I first heard that my husband was having an affair with one of his colleagues I didn’t believe it. This was Zamtea we were talking about, my best friend of more than twenty-five years, the person I knew better than anyone else. It was my sister who first told me about the affair, and we had a big argument because of it. She was very sure of it, she had heard about it from one of the students who lived in her neighbourhood, and I got mad at her for not believing in my marriage and listening to silly rumours. I even demanded to know the identity of the student who was spreading lies about my husband. “Zamtea had many female colleagues and cannot be blamed for having friends,” were my exact words.

Then I heard it from my neighbour, a busybody who poked her nose into everyone’s affair. I never believed anything she said, but when she spoke about my husband and his sudden interest in teaching and going to college the seed of doubt was planted in my mind. It was common knowledge that Zamtea wanted to quit teaching and become a professional photographer. But we had two small children, I didn’t work, money was tight, and giving up a good job was a risk we didn’t dare take.

One day my sister came visiting. It had been a month since our last discussion, and she came to my house to “shake some sense in to me.” I didn’t need any shaking. I had observed Zamtea for the past few weeks and noticed that he always came home late, took his phone wherever he went, was extra conscious about his appearance, and never talked about college anymore. We hadn’t made love in weeks; he would stay up late and I never knew when he’d come to bed. My two daughters kept me very busy, and most nights I was asleep by nine o’clock. My sister came prepared to fight, and was surprised by my easy surrender. She told me everything she knew; the girlfriend’s name was Mahriati, the affair had been going on for about five months now, and the whole college knew. She said they tried to hide it but there are some things you cannot hide.

I had my doubts, but turning those doubts into belief and then accepting them was harder than I imagined. The first emotion I felt was anger. How could he fall in love with another person? Was I not good enough for him? Did I not love him and was I not a good mother to his children? How could he do this do me? How dare he do this to me!

If my sister had not been with me that day I'm sure I would have packed my things and went off to my father’s house. I even tried to burn his clothes but my sister stopped me, physically held me down, and told me to act like an adult. I was not easy to calm down. Was I not Saihmingliani Sailo, descendant of a famous chief? My ancestors were known for their greatness and bravery, and was I just going to sit there and let a man cheat on me and make me look like a fool? How people would have laughed behind my back! How could I ever show my face in public again? Everywhere I go pity whispers would follow me. Now I would be forever known as the wife who drove her husband into some other woman’s arms.

The sight of my two daughters with their surprised and scared faces calmed me down. They had never seen me like this before. I was always hot tempered, but marriage had turned me into a gentler person and I didn’t remember shouting at them any time. I loved them more than anything else, and I wasn’t going to let them grow up without a father. People could make fun of me, but no one was going to hurt my babies, no one was going to laugh at them because their parents were divorced. I would fight to keep my husband, and I would fight to keep my marriage alive.

My sister offered to wait with me for Zamtea to come home, but I sent her home. This was between my husband and me, and although I appreciated her concern and would welcome her support I did not want her to be around. I was a grown woman, capable of sorting out her marital troubles.

Zamtea came home, and although I’d promised myself that I would not get angry, seeing him made me lose control again. I screamed and shouted at him until I ran out of words. He kept quiet and waited for me to finish, and when he spoke he was full of remorse. He didn’t deny anything, but said he would stop seeing her and would even try to move to a different college. I was prepared for war, and this time it was me who was surprised by his easy surrender.

I forgave him. After all, he was my husband, the father of my children, and I still loved him.


  1. It's always a big puzzle to me, how does one cope with infidelity? I can never understand the women who remain married to husbands who openly cheat on them. If it was the woman who was in the wrong, she would be out on her *ss in a hurry. But society keeps discreetly quiet when the husband cheats. He can still remain a respected member of the society and the church. And some may even say the wife was to blame for not paying attention etc. Wife leaves, man takes new wife, and old wife becomes the dreaded 'nuthlawi', and the kids go through all kinds of hell.

    On the other hand, there are so many women who keep their head and chuck their dignity. And these women do turn out to be the winners in the end. The straying husband sooner or later returns, probably tail between his legs, the kids have their dad, and all is supposedly well again. But I hope this particular scenario never happens to me cause I'd probably murder somebody!

    Well writ, and sorry for my long rant :)

  2. This is exactly why I'm afraid of marraige :P
    What if he cheats on me after having 2 kids? Will I have the heart to forgive?
    What if he dies(touchwood)way too soon?
    What if he becomes a terrible drug addict?
    I know I think too much. :-)
    And these are exactly why I think a girl should work and earn, instead of just being a housewife.
    Very ngaihnawm. A pathumin ka chhiar chhuak vek :-)

  3. diary - Right ! If a wife cheats she is called "Uirenu" and her reputation is tarnished for ever, but if a man does the same thing people barely raise their eyebrows and he goes on and preaches from the pulpit and holds important positions in the society as well. Do you think a woman would be allowed to do that? Not in our lifetimes!!

    Mimi - Don't think too much. Marriage is the biggest risk we would ever take in our lives -but everybody is doing it so why can't you? And yes,a girl should be able to take care of herself and not depend entirely on her husband. Some men still like their wives to sit at home and take care of the children, very good if he can provide for them, but I still say there's nothing like knowing that if the worst happens you are able to stand on your own feet.
    Independent Woman - Destiny's Child kha ngaithla nghal rawh :)

    dr_feelgood - To err is human; to forgive, well we can try!!

  4. nice write-up again, with the story going along expected, clichéd lines which, to me, made it incomplete, like there's more coming. a twist in the tale, perhaps.

  5. When we were young and gung-ho feminists (heh) we said that if our man even looks at another girl, we would kick him to the curb.But...maybe things aren't that simple. People make mistakes, love isn't a guarantee of infallibility. That said, I hope Saihmingi bashed him up good before taking him back. Grrrrr... But its sooo unfair. Some men have this idea in their heads of which girl is GF material, and which is wife material. Then they get bored with wifey and cheats with the GF material types.And we women are supposed to forgive them for the sake of our children.

    If the husband is truly remorseful, then its good.Some couples become closer, grow more in love after an affair. But if the husband persists in his affairs, then personally I feel that its better to get a divorce.I think children are more damaged when they are brought up between two warring, bitter parents.
    Ziak ngaihnawm thei hle :)

  6. ruolngulworld - I'm done for now. But if you think it's incomplete and a twist could still happen, maybe I would come back to it some time later.

    ku2 - You want Saihmingi to bash him up? Done. She will give him a bashing he'll never forget. Which I believe is what every wife should do to their lying cheating husbands. Teach them that they cannot get away so easily and that their wives are not doormats that they can walk all over.

  7. E hiau ! In va kawlh hlawm ve!! That said, I do not think there are quick fix solution to love and infedelity. I think every couple have to work hard at making their relationships work.It takes, love, respect and oodles and oodles of patience from both partners.

  8. dr_feelgood - Hetiang topic sawi tawh hi chuan kan kawlh hru zel :)
    Just like there are no quick fix solutions for infidelity, I believe there is no hard and fast rule for love either. What works for one couple may not work for the other,and how you love your wife might be different from the way your neighbout loves his wife. I think it all depends on how well you understand each other, and yes, forgiveness is a very important part of loving.

  9. Hey, your spun yarns are getting gooder and gooder, girl! Your ability to get into the skins of all three is truly admirable.

  10. ambkins, creator of yarns, you've done a very smart about-turn in this set, I see. You've chosen to take on a psychological set-up that's universal and people can relate to irrespective of culture and language (one the first prerequisites of good lit. methinks) and you've done it with great skill and authenticity.

    A word of advice: don't feel pressured in any way to attempt a "twist" solution/follow-up. You've done what you can...presented with great tact and sympathy the perspectives of the three people involved and it's not up to you, despite being their creator, to solve their dilemma. That's how life and good lit. works - often inconclusively.

  11. you are indeed a good writer, read "the other woman" and the others and i salute you...

  12. Aduhi, you are such a smooth writer on such a complicated story! Realistic and believable!

    Extra-marital affair seems to be a sweet bitter pill! Glad that the story ends with forgiveness, but I guess things would never be the same as before!

  13. I think she did right by forgiving him, coz if she leave him it will never be the same even though she gets married again. It will be hard but worth forgiving at the end. Who knows may be even the husband will be thankful to his wife later...:P just my view....