Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 49, Tuesday May 25, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

Interpreter of Maladies

Dr. Nighat Ara, Psychiatrist

Q: My wife, a Virgo, has been having extra marital affairs with more then three married individuals. During the past two years her habits, language, and each aspect of her character has gone though radical changes. Her ideas towards family ties and her attitude towards her husband and our two children have completely changed. I could not grasp all the situations because I believed that she was with friends and she would never ever do something that antisocial and anti marital. During the two years of these changes she could do all these things because as I continued to remain preoccupied with my shipping business which involved frequent tours.

During the later six months of the two-year term her aggressiveness and wayward thinking and ideology forced me to tag onto her routine outings. I found that she indiscriminately went out of house, only to return home for lunch (sometimes not) as I regularly have lunch at home after picking up our two wards from school. Then, as soon as I left home would she venture out till late hours past evening and would call me from one of her friends' houses so that I could pick her up and return home with her so that others would have the opinion that she was with me. She had some of her dates at our home as well a number of times. It was only a matter of time before she was caught red handed as I started securing information, locating her in different places in different cars with individuals not familiar to me.

The questions and probing did not affect her as she has the ability to counter claims so ardently that even the person complaining gets baffled. She knows how to handle people. Her friends are her accomplices, as they too are in the same boat and float together.

I caught her red-handed along with her paramour. I took the call report of our TNT telephone lines and identified the incoming calls and report for outgoing. Upon thorough checking of her belongings, I could identify a huge amount of gifts and some business cards with telephone and cell numbers matching those of the reports. I did not meet those people but after a severe fight at home she left for her parents house with the two children who (children) returned after a ten days' stay. I managed the children, their food, coaching, school, outing, what not for over two months. Due to the pressure from my two children and of my relatives I am sure you can grasp all that can transpired.

I bit my pride and ego and my feelings and brought her back of course through pleading and negotiations. Upon her return I bought her a showroom/boutique at a posh shopping mall in a posh Dhaka area so that she can keep herself busy. I employed an interior decorator to decorate the entire place and filled the boutique with choice pieces, cosmetics, imitation jewelry, saris and what not. She is a Virgo, and as always since our marriage eighteen years back offers a sort of an MBA (married but available) glow in her face in parties, functions, during stroll in shopping malls, on way to places, what not. Her habits have not gone at despite all that has happened.

I kept reminding her of what the children had undergone. She has very little feelings towards her family and the children, and probably none towards her husband. I take all my meals alone. During the evening hours I am home alone as the children keep themselves busy studying (both top the list in their respective classes).

I need help as I can see myself as a PTSD patient. We do not sleep in the same bedroom and have minimal exchanges with each other and do not feel like conversing. I remain preoccupied with the thoughts of her behavior towards us during her tenure as forlorn lover to many. I need some guidance as to how and what manner I should conduct myself as even during my regular prayers or when I am free I find myself thinking about those incriminating things that I underwent and the proof that I dug out about her friends. These keep coming to me by the hour and I now have lost considerable amount of business due to reckless handling and stand to lose more in the coming days. Please assist with your recommendations.
-In Trauma

A: I appreciate your courage to share your painful experience in this column. It seems that you are going through a lot in last two years. I understand you are suffering from obsessive rumination along with flashbacks of the past events and are feeling angry being in this situation. The account you have constructed here may not be an accurate one but I believe this is how you perceive it. In fact, during marriage counselling quite often it is found that the husbands and wives construct such different accounts that it becomes difficult to believe that they were in the same marriage. Putting that aside, anger prevents us to create a balanced perspective. Unfortunately, man and woman with two completely different personal standards can make a marriage incompatible. Personal standards are, however, not unbreakable laws and there is no universally accepted rule that dictates a personal standard. My intention is not to minimise your feeling and experience, rather to give you another perspective of this situation. None the less, affair, cheating etc. are barely tolerated in any conventional marriage. It appears to me that your wife's behaviour was beyond your acceptable limit. Nobody can change the past but the impact of past can be changed. The wound you've suffered needs to be healed first to feel better about everything around you. Anger is an important step in the healing process. However, if you don't know how to deal with this anger in a constructive and healthy way, then you'll be stuck at this stage and healing will not happen. Professional counselling and specific therapies are in use in the Western world to overcome this stage. Forgiveness (without forgetting the past) may or may not come at the end of the healing process. Spirituality (through religion and prayers) is also an important healing tool. It seems that reconciliation after third party intervention is not working anymore. Even if your MBA (enjoyed your creativity!) wife stops cheating on you, what else she needs to do to make you feel better? How much change she has to go through just not to trigger you? How much change is humanly possible? How much change is worth of this marriage? How much of these is the result of your inner issues projected on her? All these are relevant questions here.

A radical change in behaviour is sometimes observed in the early stage of Bipolar disorder. Mental illness and marital discord may form a vicious cycle (egg and hen dilemma), primary cause requires to be addressed first. Pathological jealousy, Depressive disorders are other psychiatric conditions that need to be excluded.

Your sleep disturbance and deterioration of performance in other aspects of life (e.g. business) could be a result of chronic stress in the marital life (not PTSD). There are three possible ways of dealing with stress- Improve the relationship (easier said than done!), cut off the relationship (separation or divorce- has its own merits and demerits), play helpless and stay miserable (a potentially self-defeating choice- depression and other stress related diseases may appear). Try to regain control over your life situation before it goes out of hand.

Last but not the least, your children are the worst victim of this stressful home environment. As responsible parents, you must take adequate care that they don't feel unwanted or guilty. Every child deserves a safe home. If there is any risk of violence or abuse (severe fights!), separation or divorce becomes a valid choice. To live without fear is everybody's basic human right.


BY THE WAY

Swimming lessons at Sheraton

Do have oodles of time to spare and no idea of how to do it? Is the summer heat getting to you? The Dhaka Sheraton Hotel has a solution to your problem. This summer, learn to swim in their newly renovated Swimming Pool. The hotel will conduct three month long summer swimming courses commencing from April 25, 2004.

Lessons will be supervised under the direction of a highly trained professional swimming instructor. Lessons will be offered to four groups: Group A-boys of 6-16 years, Group B-girls of 6-16 years, Group C -male above 16 years, Group D-female above 16 years

So, if you want to learn how to swim or just brush up on your swimming skills, enrol yourself now in Sheraton's swimming courses. The enrolment fees for group A & B is Tk. 6,500 and for groups C & D is Tk. 7,500.

During or after the lessons treat yourself to refreshing drinks and snacks at the poolside.

Advance bookings are essential. For more information and to enrol please call 8613391, ext. 4115.

~ LS Desk ~

 

 

 

 

UNDER A DIFFERENT SKY

Viral Anosmia

As a child I did not have my Father around as much as I yearned. He was a frequent flyer, making too many business trips. I would have totally hated this if it weren't for the suitcases full of goodies that he would bribe us with. I would cling onto him from the moment he arrived at the airport. Of course part of the reason for my glued attachment was because I terribly missed him during his absence and the other hidden incentive was the foreign scent his body would give off. I was almost addicted to that smell. I remember him opening the suitcases and the whole house would be full of this sweet and snazzy aroma which to me was the definition for America or Europe. I remember this scent would slowly wear off from the suitcases and his body as days passed and slowly he would become just another ordinary Bangladeshi wearing too much cologne.

Upon my return from my first trip aboard, I felt like asking everyone if I too gave off that unique fragrance, but just couldn't gather the courage to be a total freak and actually strike someone with that odd inquiry. I remember trying to sniff for that certain scent when I first came to America and Europe. Sadly I didn't come across anything that pleasant, so subtle yet so present. It wasn't a perfume, it wasn't an air freshener, it wasn't even a chewing gum. I couldn't figure out where it came from, and whether I'd ever smell it again.

Living in America where everyone is worried about usage of deodorant and every store sells thousands of scented lotions and body splashes. Maybe I became immune to appealing aromas. Everything is bound to smell beautiful. When I walk out to go to work in the morning I smell the pine scented floor-wash at the lobby, when I get out of work thousands of seasonal flowers designed to create elegance burn with intensely sweet odors dolling up my work place. At home I have plugged air-wicks making sure the smell of cooked curry doesn't overpower the undertone of lavender in every room. Febreze fabric-refresher is there to take away any indecent smell from clothes and we light thousands of scented candles not in anyone's memory, but to wish goodbye to anything unpleasant drifting the air.

Just to throw me off, my Mother made a trip to Bangladesh. When she returned, she too carried a certain scent. It was not the same scent from my childhood, not modern enough to be from the savvier world, but the scent carried a hint of sandalwood, mixed with a tang of something spicy, sweet and warm, warm with perfect drops of moisture and newly knitted cotton. When I touched the saris she brought back for me, I could sense the vendors who had folded those, making neat creases, tucked them between hundreds of others and pulled them out like exotic delicacies selling them to my Mother who was buying with adoring eyes for her spoilt daughter living abroad.

As I started reading more about the sense of smell I found that scientifically smell is one of the chemical senses, with these senses we sample our environment for information. We are continuously testing the quality of the air we breathe. There are suggestions that smell can influence mood, memory, emotions, mate choice, the immune system and the endocrine system (hormones). We can communicate by smell, without knowing it. In fact the sense of smell could be said to be at the mind-body interface. There is smell of fear, smell of money and smell of memory.

The phrase 'smell of memory' intrigued me and I felt a certain liberation knowing one can communicate by smell without intending it. The scientific scribble behind smell supported my very unscientific observations and hypothesis. So I formed my own conclusion.

I believe the scent my Mother carried back from the east and my Father fetched back from the west was intentional. During their trips they grasped with them a mixture of the mists they fell in love with. They brought back a part of what they left behind, a part of what they wanted to share. They didn't need to spell out in words how their trips went, the aroma told it all. We wasted words asking them to describe, we should have just closed our eyes and used our senses to understand from the aroma their souls gave off.

I am going through a viral anosmia, when I can't smell much of anything. I am in a hurry to find what my heart wants to share and what my soul wants to offer so that I too, can be a certain unique garland, being a memory floating in infinity.

By Iffat Nawaz
*You can contact the writer by emailing nituta@hotmail.c
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