My family refuses to stay back in India and won't allow me to work in UAE and make a living. It is not financially viable for me to bring my family to the UAE in the present scenario. My wife fights with me every day, refuses to take care of our children.
All she wants is to come back to the UAE. I don't know how to convince her about the current scenario. I am unable to focus on my work due the nagging. I am not in a position to leave my job in the UAE and return to India. Please tell me what to do.
Answered by Dr. Ava Ghasemi, Clinical Psychologist, Mapletree Center
You are experiencing pressure from your wife because she is pleading to come to the UAE to be with you. You experience her attempts to convince you, as nagging and you may very well be right that perhaps the way you two are communicating is not effective. No one responds well to “nagging,” criticism, and blame. But then, you respond by trying to convince her of your perspective: That this is the way things are and that there is no other way at the moment. In turn, she might be feeling ignored, neglected and abandoned. But first you need to understand what is happening for you and then you can deal with your marriage.
Your scenario and question has many layers, but I will focus on two of them here:
1. Handling yourself
2. Handling your wife
Handle your stress:
My hunch is that if you experience her attempts to connect with you as nagging you feel overwhelmed, frustrated and maybe even cornered. When this happens, your brain would be interpreting this as a sign of “danger” due to your activated limbic system. We all have this, it’s our fight-flight-freeze, survival response. Once this is activated, it prevents your prefrontal cortex from doing its job (i.e., concentrating, managing, thinking, communicating clearly).
Meanwhile, your wife is trying to reach you and talk to you but you might be getting defensive or verbally aggressive or even avoiding talking to her altogether. Understandable? Yes. Effective? No.
Take care of your mind and body:
As an initial strategy, I recommend you engage in activities that will help you rejuvenate and relax. Whether it’s exercising or going for a walk, or doing yoga or meditating or going for a swim. It’s counterintuitive that when we experience stress we fall out of the routines of the very things that keep us healthy and calm. Your mind and body are one. By taking care of your body and helping it relax, you are much more likely to respond to your wife with more compassion and through your inherent wisdom and creativity. We all have this capacity.
Therefore, it is your job (and I mean this in a kind and holding-you-accountable way) to regulate your emotions and regulate your body when faced with stressful circumstances.
Be honest about your habits:
I know this is not a small ask, but it is a necessary one. It may even help to have a good look at your life and see what strategies you have been using to cope. Some strategies work only short term for example eating or drinking heavily or smoking or spending long hours on your device browsing social media late at night when you need to be resting.
Handle your communication:
Now let’s get to the communication piece with your wife. It is very important that you and your wife don’t discuss these matters when both are in high anger. When this happens you need to name what is happening. For example, “I’m noticing I’m feeling really angry and frustrated and I’m starting to get defensive, let’s pause our conversation and we’ll come back to it (name a time).” I don’t recommend just leaving the discussion off the table for more than 24 hours and it’s important not to be avoiding “the talk” altogether.
Once you both have done whatever necessary to calm yourselves and think more rationally, then you can revisit the subject.
Talk with openness and compassion:
The next thing I recommend is for you both to talk in a calm tone and to really try and listen for the underlying needs you each have at the moment. So rather than focusing on finding a solution if one is not available yet, spend a bit of time really trying to understand each other’s perspectives. You can first both acknowledge how hard this is. Then you can each talk about how you’re feeling. Speak about your emotional experience rather than blaming each other.
Here’s an example of how it could go but you must adjust this to your own true version. If it’s not real and true it will not work:
Wife: I’m so upset that we have to be in India. I worry about (fill in the blank). I’m scared of (fill in the blank). I’m sad that (fill in the blank).
You: I’m so sad too that we can’t be together and that I don’t get to see you every day. It hurts me to see you hurt and I want to figure this out with you. I feel under pressure and I’m trying my best.
Wife: I don’t want you to have to feel under pressure and I don’t want to be “naggy.” I just feel ignored and abandoned. I don’t know what else to do to get your attention.
You: I will never abandon you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t listening. Let’s keep talking about this.
Note: A sincere apology doesn’t say “I’m sorry you felt that way.” An apology has to be for a specific behavior that you can acknowledge and own. Also a true apology doesn’t have “but.” For example, stay away from “I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to you but I don’t have time for these conversations.” It is just a simple apology no buts. When you add “but,” it will not be effective and the listener will get defensive.
Make a plan:
If you can have a rough plan and an idea of when your wife and children could move to live with you, then I highly recommend making one, even if you don’t have full control over when and how, you can still imagine your future together and what your dreams and values are. However, it is very important to be honest and not to make false promises!
Know what you’re dealing with:
If you don’t want to live with your wife and children and you prefer that they stay back home, then it’s important to explore why that is and to be honest with yourself and your partner. It can be very hard to acknowledge your truth but it can also be incredibly freeing and liberating for both, even if it causes pain and hurt initially.
Facing your reality can help you deal with the circumstances at hand. You become two people who have a much bigger task and new priorities in front of you. Whether it’s dealing with the pragmatics of separation, focusing on making a living, co-parenting, staying safe, etc. You will know what you're actually dealing with rather than arguing about unnecessary issues.
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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 doctors are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.