I’ve never been cheated on but I can imagine it’s not a pleasant experience. The whole concept of cheating is a little ridiculous to me considering I can barely juggle myself, let alone a relationship and an affair. But on top of that, how hard is it to stay faithful to someone?
The reason I bring this up is not to discuss the motivation of cheating but rather the response to cheating. In many relationships containing an unfaithful participant, once the cheating has surfaced, the relationship immediately ends. But, in Ifemelu’s case, she continues to be with Curt despite the emails he was sending back and forth with the mystery woman SparklingPaola123. And that begs the question, does the reaction to cheating depend on the “severity” of the cheating? Is it still considered cheating if there is no physical contact?
[Note: Here, I am 100% relaying my opinion on this subject. You may have your own opinion on this subject and I would be happy to hear it but for now this is my opinion and my opinion only.]
In my opinion, what Curt did was most definitely cheating. Maybe it wasn’t physical cheating, but it was undoubtedly emotional cheating. And I think regardless of what “level” of cheating it was, if I were in Ifemelu’s shoes, I wouldn’t have continued the relationship with Curt. Which leads me to consider why exactly Ifemelu chose to take him back. Obviously the act of Curt’s cheating had an affect on Ifemelu’s confidence, seen when she says, “She felt small and ugly.” (261). This also happens after Ifemelu’s drastic haircut, further cementing her dislike of the change in appearance. But when the change in appearance becomes a boost of confidence for Ifemelu, I think Adichie is also showcasing a transition in Ifemelu and her relationship with Curt.
I think Ifemelu took Curt back because of how he made her feel outside of the cheating. When she was with Curt, Ifemelu saw the brighter side of the American lifestyle and because of this she began to gain confidence when it came to work and school. So, rather than staying with Curt because she legitimately forgave him or because of the wealth he displayed with her, Ifemelu stayed with him because, subconsciously, she was scared of losing the confidence that came with being with him. She was scared of reverting back to the way things were prior to her job with the Turners. And while I in no way justify Curt’s cheating, I do think Ifemelu taking him back was the choice that led to her eventually becoming confident enough to stand on her own without him.
That’s it for now.