A reader asks: I am a regular follower of your section in Gulfnews.com and I must say you guys do a great job. I always feel that the guy walks back with a solution in hand most of the times. Though I never hoped or thought I would be writing to you, but this is what life is all about.
This is the problem I am going through and I really hope you could help me with a solution or a way forward as I am going through the worst phase of my life so far.
I come from Pakistan, from a very respectable family. Settled in Dubai for a little more than eight years and well settled in a very good company. I work in a respectable position in my company and that's the reason why my life is a little hectic as I have to spend some extra time at office.
I recently got married. It was an arranged marriage. I spoke to her a couple of times before I got married just to make sure she was happy with this proposal and she said she was very happy. I got her to Dubai in two months, immediately after I got her visa done. Everything was going perfectly smooth and I was also under the impression we both were extremely happy. We were getting noticed within our friend circle where my friends used to say we are the best couple and we always looked happy. She got pregnant a few months back and I was taking very good care of her. I did everything I could to be the best husband in this world and I am very sure any girl would have felt it that way.
Life had to take a real ugly turn a month ago when by chance I checked her phone and happened to read some messages from an unknown number. I started chatting from this side from her mobile and unfortunately it turned out to be her ex-boy friend. I started probing into it and later on found his number in the dialed list before she came to Dubai. I did a lot of digging into it and found out the entire history. She was still in touch with her former boyfriend. My world ended there. I was shattered and I am in depression for the past one month. Can't eat, can't sleep and always immersed in thoughts.
Since then, I am in deep distress. Everyone thinks I am very happy but deep inside I am dying. I have started feeling I will not survive long as I will never come out of this betrayal. My wife pleads and cries and promises that she would never repeat this mistake ever, but I can't trust her anymore. She repents all the time and cries all the time that she unknowingly committed this crime and she would never ever do it again. I sometimes think of moving out of this marriage, but can't do that because of the unborn baby and our parents. Her parents are so happy with this wedding. They consider themselves so lucky that they have found a son in the form of son-in-law. As a person she is amazing, she has never given me a chance to complain, but this was the biggest mistake she made and I don't know what to do. She is under my radar for the past one month where I check all her calls, messages and she hasn't repeated it so far but I still don't trust her.
I kindly request you to please suggest: Should I move out of this wedding? Should I give her a chance and try to trust her? How should I move on from here? I don't want to break this marriage as I love her a lot as well but as a person, I can never forget this betrayal. I can never forgive her. Please advice.
Dr. Melanie C. Schlatter, PhD, Consultant Health Psychologist, Well Woman Clinic, Dubai, replies: Thank you for your email and for sharing your difficult experience. It is very helpful to know that you have settled so well in Dubai, and that you had such a positive and loving start to your marriage of 6 months — a marriage that is obviously well supported by your family and friends. The fact that you have been so dedicated towards being the best husband for your wife shows me your sincerity, pride, and honour—you truly gave of yourself—so I can understand why it would be so soul-destroying to find out that she was still in contact with her ex-boyfriend. Although I do not know the details of her relationship with him (those of which you found out on the cellphone) they clearly caused you a lot of distress. Furthermore, I assume that this information would have been particularly difficult to digest if you did not realize she had an ex-boyfriend in the first place!
I like to play Devil’s Advocate though, so bear with me here. When you first ‘checked’ her phone, albeit by chance, was there a reason that you needed to go further and read some of the messages? You alluded to ‘probing’ and ‘digging into’ the issue, as well as even starting to chat to him from her phone, as if it were her (if I have interpreted you correctly). Given the extent of your actions, did you actually have any prior misgivings about her or her intentions, which could now be raised openly? Or is this something within your own nature? Because if it is something within your own nature, then your potential worry, suspicion, and /or insecurities could wreak havoc on your relationship in the future, leading to mass generalizations and over-reaction. In saying that, your current thoughts, and the inability to sleep and eat, are a common reaction to the paralyzing shock and indecision of whether or not to end the marriage. When you decide what you want to do, and with some attention to basic self-care, the symptoms should disappear.
- Let us look at your feelings now. Apart from the obvious betrayal that you mention, what actually riled your emotions about her correspondence? Did her messages make you feel uncomfortable, inferior, jealous, panicky, resentful, or even unworthy? It could be worthwhile for you to tap into those emotions, and explore what you are reacting against so strongly. Indeed, how have you coped in other situations where friends or loved ones may have hurt, disrespected or betrayed you? Did you do anything to rectify matters or did you ‘protect’ yourself by cutting them out of your life immediately? Or perhaps you have rarely been treated in a negative fashion which may make you feel extra sensitive about particular situations?
Indeed, although this may feel like the worst phase of your life thus far, I think it would help you to reframe things, away from the worst case scenario. I do see the discrepancy between your wife stating that this is all innocent, and you reading into the matter as the complete opposite (which might warrant investigation from a third party), but you will not die, and you will come out of this. You just need to quickly regain control, instead of feeling so helpless and at the same time being so adamant that your wife’s actions cannot be forgiven or forgotten. I assure you that you will not feel any better unless you bend a little. Do you really envision yourself walking out the door and leaving everything? You see, we are dealing with a marriage here, which you have invested a lot of your time and effort into. And, apart from some perhaps thoughtless communication between your wife and this man — which is the only thing she has done ‘wrong’ to date — things were actually going very well between you. Indeed, if she had been so emotionally or romantically invested in her ex-boyfriend, do you really believe you would have had such a wonderful six months together? It also appears that your wife truly believes her actions were without malicious or harmful intent, which is backed up by no further communications of this nature. And she has not come back to blame you or defend herself — she is actually still deeply upset and trying to repent. Is that not evidence that this marriage is worth another shot? The fact that you never spoke badly about your wife in your email further highlights this potential.
However, you must stop checking her devices and having her imprisoned under your ‘radar’ as this can only lead to bitterness and backlash. Why is it so difficult for you to believe her? If she was so amazing and you love her so much, then show that love. Is true forgiveness not love in action, whereby you are also releasing yourself from the chains of suspicion and doubt? You need to give your wife a chance. It will be tough for you and it will take time. And certainly, if this happens again, it would be a different story — but from what I can interpret about your wife, she is truly sorry for her actions. Do not think this will be easy on her either. Indeed, she might have got quite a shock as a result of this altercation, so she will probably want to do anything to prove to you that she can always be trusted. Let her do this. You may not be able to forget this or even accept it in your mind, but you can choose to forgive her and move on with your lives. The honour of your families is still intact, and you have the power to rectify things between the two of you right now. So please lessen the stress on yourselves, as well as on the unborn baby, and discuss this like adults. No more stress and crying …. because there can be so much more for you to look forward to.
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Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.