As much as we might not like to admit it, infidelity in Nigeria is astonishingly high. Every female friend I’ve made since I’ve been back in Nigeria has been blatantly hit on by married men. I’ll admit, this opinion is highly anecdotal and possibly statistically invalid, given that I don’t have close to 250,000 female friends to ask. Anyways, I digress from the intent of this post. A lot of cheating happens in Nigeria, let’s leave it at that.
So I kept wondering, moral reasons aside, is there an economic argument for and against cheating? To put it less simply, what is the economic cost-benefit analysis of infidelity? The more I analyzed, the more I realized that the economic effect of cheating is strikingly analogous to the act of smoking cigarettes. Skeptic? Fret not. I’ll take you through these similarities. Let’s begin with the costs.
Burning Financial Resources (Pun intended)
Much like cigarettes, cheating reduces the earning power of the nuclear family. A family with a tobacco addict will have a significant level of income going into the purchase of cigarettes; money that unfortunately goes up in smokes (Pun intended again. Sorry!). Likewise, cheating moves resources away from the family to …well…the ‘other family’. Typically, large amounts of spending go into financing external relationships: trips to Chinese Restaurants and Drumstixs (for those on a budget); hotel bookings (Penthouse Suites in London preferably); Brazilian hair, bags, shoes and jewelry go into these expenses. After all, it’s never cheap keeping the ‘second-lady’ happy. Moreover, just like a compulsive smoker is likely to steal to get his/her fix, a cheat might be willing to compromise his/her value to finance external affairs.
The same way second-hand smoking kills those around a smoker is the same way the action of a cheat damagingly affects those around him/her. Infidelity potentially leads to higher medical costs associated with depression, other mental health issues and STDs. Also, society suffers from lost productivity and depression due to infidelity.
Compulsive smokers don’t care what time they smoke, as long as they do. Result: time waste. Likewise, two-timers might not be cognizant of the time spent cheating, as long as they do. A common trait of both usually involves disappearing for long periods of time and surfacing with half-baked excuses.
Getting out of a smoking addiction can be very difficult and expensive. You could go ‘cold-turkey’,i.e. completely deprive oneself of cigarettes, but very few are successful. Locking oneself in a rehab is a more effective, but expensive option. Likewise, in infidelity, there’s also the ‘shut-up’ money that goes into trying to terminate the affair quietly. Sometimes, that goes well…most times not so well. So what benefit could infidelity possibly have? Keep reading.
Creation of services
The tobacco market actually plays a role in economic growth by employing a number of people. However, the health costs of tobacco potentially erase the economic gains from the sale of tobacco. Like cigarettes, infidelity actually had an economic benefit. Believe it or not, it plays a role in job creation…at night…on the streets (I won’t explain that one. Figure it out yourself). Also, empty hotel rooms don’t bring money in. Imagine the number of hotels/motels that would shut down if people stopped cheating…or the number of flowers, chocolate, cars, apartments, and trips to France that would remain unsold.
So yes, infidelity actually has its positive externalities…but it’s also bundled with a lot of negative externalities, both social and private. In ‘simple English’, the disastrous repercussions of cheating far outweigh any of its benefits. No amount of economic gain can make up for the broken homes, disillusioned followers, depression, single-parent children and all other social ills that infidelity causes.
I’ll end this with one more similarity and a lesson: a company of smokers tend not to smell the pungent scent surrounding them. Smokers can walk into a stench-filled room and not notice…because they’ve gotten used to the smell. Likewise, a society with a high level of extramarital affairs wittingly ignores the moral stench of marital infidelity, and before long, unwittingly forgets what it smells like.
Necessary Disclaimer: I commenced writing on this a week before the Pastor Biodun of COZA and Miss Ese extramarital affair saga. So, it’s more of fortuitous timing than riding on the coattails of public fascination with high profile affairs. 🙂