My grandmother said to my mother: “Be careful. Men always cheat.” My parents were newlyweds back then.
People who have been cheated on are understandably scared by their experiences. Especially the generation of my grandparents as they lived under a lot of pressure in Turkey. Even though divorce was legal it was rare and shamed societally in the 1960s.
Women were financially dependent on their husbands and responsible for the family and household. My grandmother married her husband when she was just 16 years old. She was 17 when she already had two children. A woman with that background has a different attitude towards life and marriage in particular.
Concisely: this is not about infidelity. It is not even about marital relationships and sexism. The core of the issue is familiar trauma. Most families have certain behaviours, toxic traits and problems that repeat themselves. Parents pass on their issues and their children grow up with them. These children complain, and in return repeat the exact patterns they disliked before.
It is hard to escape this fate without an active effort to break the cycle.
Behavioural patterns are based on belief systems. Out of our own life experiences we build certain belief systems about the world. They also help us justify our behaviour to protect ourselves.
Let´s break this down, shall we?
- My grandmother has been cheated on. She also saw a lot of women being cheated on in her environment. She concluded that – in a heteronormative society – men cheat and women are cheated on.
- The phrase “All men cheat” implies that in return all women tolerate this.
- The assumption that this happens to “everyone” normalises infidelity. It takes away the personal responsibility in marriages. Without this, my grandmother and many other women would have to accept that their husbands cheated on them and they decided to stay in the relationship.
I want to stress: This is not about blame. Leaving a marriage is hard now and was cruel back then. Without any social and financial support, it was almost impossible to divorce someone safely.
However, to change patterns individuals have to accept their responsibility in their own life.
Now that we analysed the problem, what is the solution?
How do you change the belief systems that you grew up with to break a familiar cycle?
Questioning yourself in your everyday life can be an efficient strategy to catch yourself in unwanted behaviour:
- A big step is being aware of the issue. Look at your family. What are certain patterns that repeat? What do you want in your life and what do you want to avoid?
- What is the belief system behind those issues? What trauma lies behind them?
- Do you want to change?
The active attempt to change something shows the strength of self-awareness and fulfilment. Change can take a long time and can be tough to come to terms with. It is a process of constant observation. In weak moments we lose ourselves in familiar thoughts and behaviours. Once you notice it you can stir the wheel in the desired direction again. Life does not just happen to you. You can change and direct it.
I have learned this from my parents.
My grandmother said: “Be careful. Men always cheat.” My parents were newlyweds back then.
My mother answered: “Maybe your husband did but I know mine. I trust him and he trusts me.”
Feature image credit: Emine Bahar Bora, Aysun Bora
You must log in to post a comment.