Anytime we learn about a celebrity or public figure who was unfaithful during a partner’s pregnancy, the betrayal feels particularly awful. It seems inconceivable that a person could even bring themselves to cheat on a woman when she is in her most vulnerable state. Pregnancy is far from a simple commitment. Each year, millions of women sacrifice their bodies, health, comfort, and livelihood to bring another life into the world. And Black women in particular literally put their lives on the line when they decide to see a pregnancy to term, which is why it feels like a tremendous slap in the face when they’re betrayed by the unborn child’s other parent.
The reality, however, is that this transgression is far more common than we think and extends far beyond celebrity circles. Several studies find that at least 10 percent of expectant fathers will cheat on their pregnant partner. Even worse, additional studies have found that the likelihood of a man cheating on his pregnant wife increases as the pregnancy progresses. And though one would like to make assumptions about the flawed character of the 10 percent, psychotherapist and couples counselor Dr. Keisha Downey said it’s not that simple.
“I think the answer is that it depends,” said Dr. Downey, who appeared as a resident counselor on VH1’s “Couples Therapy.” “To me, cheating is cheating. It depends on the circumstances and opportunities in most instances. If we use Porsha Williams as an example, we don’t want to go against his (Dennis McKinley’s) character. He could be a great guy so it may not be about his character but more about the opportunity that presented itself or the circumstance.”
According to Dr. Downey, it’s difficult to act as judge and jury in these celebrity scandals because as the public, we really don’t know the ins and outs of these relationships.
“There could have been other things that we don’t know about. Maybe they weren’t as connected. Maybe they were going through a rough patch,” Downey elaborated. “There are so many other things to look at or to assess before we can really determine it. But oftentimes, people are quick to say that men are just the scum of the earth; however, you do have a handful of relationships where it has nothing to do with the person’s character. A lot of times it’s about the circumstances and the opportunity. We love our partners, but if it’s not solid, it leaves room for situations to happen.”
As for whether or not a couple can recover from a betrayal of this magnitude, Dr. Downey said it’s definitely possible, but it won’t be easy because this repair requires a level of self-awareness that may make some uncomfortable.
“It takes a lot of therapy, as you can imagine, a lot of rebuilding trust and, more importantly, both partners have to be willing participants in getting it right,” she explained. “Anytime there’s infidelity, couple’s counseling – even if you see a pastor – it needs to be done. Often times, people try to solve it within the relationship or between both parties, but the likelihood of it happening again might be higher.”
Using celebrity headlines as examples, we’ve already witnessed reconciliation in many instances. In his recently released Netflix documentary, Kevin Hart’s wife, Eniko Parish, expressed happiness after being cheated on by her comedian husband because it made him a “better man.” According to Downey, one of the most important parts of the recovery process is to understand the roles that all parties have played when it comes to an affair.
“My job is to help couples understand both of their roles. Believe it or not, there is a contributing role that each side plays into the affair. There are so many factors and people just don’t communicate,” she said. “When that happens, it makes the relationship vulnerable.”