I Have a Happy Love Marriage, But I Can’t Stop Fearing That My Husband Will Cheat on Me

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I Have a Happy Love Marriage, But I Can’t Stop Fearing That My Husband Will Cheat on Me

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

“Can you believe he did that?”

I’m biting into a buttery croissant at a café as my friend V relays gossip about someone who cheated on his wife. We were all once part of a close-knit group but today remain scattered all over the country, united only through these stray pieces of information that we gather about each other’s lives. “He’s been doing this for years. Isn’t that just terrible,” she is nudging me to reach her state of fury at this betrayal. V is close to the affronted woman, who at this point, is trying to walk away from the whole debacle with whatever dignity she can gather as the rest of us use her flailing marriage as conversation fodder. I tut along and tell V that it is indeed terrible, and that I am angry and sad that their love came down to this.

“Just goes to show that you never really know anyone…” 

She leaves the words hanging as we sip our coffee. She proceeds to tell me about how our friend’s predicament resembles the plot of Out Of Love, a show she binged on Hotstar, revolving around Meera Kapoor, a married doctor who refuses to be a victim of her husband’s infidelity. After some time, we make plans to go watch a movie. We end up having a wonderful day.

But through it all, I find my mind coming back to the state of my friend’s love marriage. I kept wondering, in a world where there is a growing acceptance towards open marriages, and polyamory, what does it really mean to be faithful in this day and age? You don’t need a survey to know that 50 per cent of India is insecure in their respective marriages. I am too. I married the only man I’ve ever been with. Although there were brief romances that never went beyond holding hands and awkward hugs, I’d never been physically intimate with anyone else. He, on the other hand, had dated a fair share of women. From one-night stands to serious relationships, he’d been with enough people to know what he wanted.

I’m not going to lie: Knowing that he had loved people before me and been in bed with them used to make me incredibly insecure when we had just started dating. I kept torturing myself with different variations of “Am I enough?” and every time, he went out without me, I wheedled details out of him to know who else was around and if by any chance he happened to discover a gorgeous stranger who could pull off stilettos and talk confidently about politics, books, or other worldly subjects. My crippled sense of self-worth convinced me that I didn’t deserve his love. So I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, mentally preparing for the day he’d see how dull I was: Maybe it’d be because of my pale skin with peppered acne, or my odd-shaped body, or even my inability to be socially impressionable when we went to bars and restaurants with his friends.

But as the months turned into years, nothing of that sort happened. If anything, we fell more in love and he made it a habit to constantly remind me of how much he loved me. And before I knew it, the happiness that our relationship managed to evoke erased all my fears. And then one starry night on a boat, he asked me to marry him. It’s been two years since. In the intervening period, we have bought our own apartment, fought over furnishing and decorating it, travelled together at every possible opportunity, built habits and routines that keep us at the right balance between staying disciplined and blasé. I like to think we’re alright.

There are innumerable studies that tell us in one way or the other, that humans weren’t meant to be tethered to one partner.

Although, that’s not enough sometimes. Soon after my marriage, the fears, the worrying, the misery of being cheated upon returned. I know how ridiculous this might sound but I suddenly found myself latching onto the insecurities from two years ago. There is still that part of me that worries about infidelity, even though we made it. Even though, we’re the lucky ones, the one who had a love marriage. Surely ours should be a problem-free marriage that is meant to last? You’d wish. It only makes me worry more. As I take online surveys titled “What would you do if your partner is cheating on you?”and get worryingly borderline answers or listen to him talk about how much his new colleague at work reminds him of a “younger me”, I turn into a paranoid trainwreck. 

An Out Of Love survey that polled married Indians across ages on their expectations of loyalty and definitions of infidelity found out that people in love marriage are more prone to being suspicious of their partners than ones in arranged marriages. Normally, I’d scoff at this finding. But today, I’m living proof. I can’t deny that there have been days when I have occasionally snooped through his phone and over analysed his face when he’s back from a late night to identify traces of guilt. All this is to say, that I return back to that one question without ever intending to: What would I do if he cheated on me? Would I be able to forgive him or treat it as the ultimate travesty of our love? Would I be able to walk away from all that we’d build over the years? 

I’m not sure I have an answer. But the trouble is, that I’m not sure I have a definite answer for what constitutes cheating as well. Like me, people across India have varied definitions of infidelity: that survey stated that 37 per cent of married Indians believe in the idea of emotional cheating. I wonder if my husband is one of them, given that I almost did it once. At a destination wedding of one of my high school friends, I met a charming, blue-eyed, Irish man. Both of us had turned up without our spouses. Over the weekend, we spent many hours drinking, smoking, and talking, developing a comforting chemistry, a mixture of attraction and reverence. We skirted dangerous turf but somehow held ourselves back. As we said goodbye, he tucked his face into my neck, and I felt a deep, inexplicable ache inside me. Even though I’d exercised every bit of restraint to not chase the spark and yet I knew I’d cheated in a different way. Was I cheating when I looked up that stranger’s photos on Instagram a few days later?  I thought it was fairly harmless way to satiate my curiosity but according to the survey, 16 per cent of India seems to think it was cheating.

I think about what V said, about how we can never really know people. While that is true, a bigger wonder is how well do we know ourselves? While I listen to V rant about how terrible it is to be made a fool of, I don’t think it’s so easy to understand why people cheat or have one definition of loyalty. The truth is that monogamy is exhausting. There are innumerable studies that tell us in one way or the other, that humans weren’t meant to be tethered to one partner. But even then, we place such big premium on loyalty, and come up with our own rulebooks for infidelity. Take for instance, 34 per cent of India that believes that secretly spending on someone is a form of cheating or the 19 per cent who think that a friendship at work is grounds for infidelity. 

As for me, I don’t think I’d forgive my husband if he were to ever cheat on me but I’m not sure that I can guarantee that I might not feel something for someone who isn’t him. Perhaps, that’s the takeaway from a 2020 marriage: There are worse ways to fail your partners than cheat on them. Like falling out of love with them.

You can catch Hotstar Special’s latest original series Out Of Love, available on Hotstar VIP here.

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