Agony Aunt helps you to deal with relationship problems

A worried mother

My son, aged 16 has started sneaking out at night with his friends without telling or letting me or his father know. His grades have been good at school with a minor fluctuation downward recently. We have also found porn on our family computer at home in his browsing history. His room has a mild smell of cigarettes and his behaviour has begun to change slightly. He is still affectionate, respectful and continues to do well at extracurricular activities and is praised by teachers at school. My husband thinks that it is just a phase that 16-year-old boys go through…however my instinct says something is up. Is it just my paranoia? Its bothering me tremendously.

Ans: There is change that takes place at different levels amongst young boys which is not limited only to physical changes. Your son is most likely showing these changes which might be difficult to comprehend. He is probably trying to experiment with different things which might be ‘cool’ at his age. Agreed that sneaking out of the house at late night would be a cause of worry for you thus express your concern to your son rather than laying down rules for him and being authoritative. This is also a sensitive age group as they are learning to be independent and themselves rather than accept that they need an elderly opinion. It definitely can’t be brushed off as ‘boys will be boys’, but your involvement shouldn’t border intrusive level. Encourage your husband to also speak to him so that your son knows he has a channel for open communication as well.

Facing financial crunch

I am a 38-year-old man with a mid-level job in a MNC in Mumbai. I had a broadly stable upbringing and my parents did their best to provide my sister and me with the best that they could. I have been deeply appreciative of whatever that they could do for us. I was able to do my Masters at a premium organisation and expensive education as a result of their sacrifices. They also got me married to the girl I was seeing by sharing half the expenditure. I have always been very respectful towards them and have done my best to support them financially as well. I became a father 4 years ago and as my son has been growing up, expenses have increased. To take care of my son, my wife quit her job and works part time. This has impacted our finances and has impacted my ability to support my parents financially as much. With my son’s admission to school recently, I was unable to send my parents for a promised trip overseas and while they are understanding, the guilt is too much for me to bear. It is eating me up that I had promised them this trip and have had to postpone it. In addition, the fact that my sister has now given them this trip as a gift is causing me much shame and guilt. I don’t know what to do.

Ans: There is high regard for ‘doing the right thing’ belief which is seen through your guilt and shame when you are unable to deliver what you had promised your parents. Firstly, it is essential to understand that your duty towards your parents exceeds much more than what you are able to provide them with. A lot stems from the insecurity harboured since your childhood in terms of your parents providing the best of everything. The complex feelings of love, obligation, care and need for being responsible together are making it difficult for you to come to terms with the fact that it is alright to be unable to stick to your rigid ways in being there for your parents. The fact that your sister fulfilled the impending trip for your parents should be somewhere seen as “shouldering the responsibility” than feeling guilty or shameful. Both of you are equally responsible for being there when necessary for your parents. Thus, if you allow yourself to look at the situation concerning your parents as sharing the onus with your sibling, and your other family members, you will realize that not everything has to be made a personal mission to accomplish.

Lack of physical connection

I am a 28-year-old married lady. I have been married for 3 years. It was an arranged marriage and my parents fixed the match. I had no reason to say “NO” because the boy, now my husband, fitted all the traits that parents would want for their daughter, while looking for a match. He is educated, works as a CA, has a good income, stays separately from his parents and we have our own house. My in-laws are lovely and they love me. However, I am not physically and sexually attracted to my husband and we have not been able to consummate our marriage. My husband is very understanding and has been patient with me. However, this is leading me to exhaustion, physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. I too have my own sexual needs and it is getting very frustrating. My life cannot go this way. My parents and family will not understand if I tell them that I am not attracted to my husband and hence cannot have sexual relations with him.

Ans: The ideal person to talk about the difficulties with your marriage is your husband. Since he has been understanding about the lack of intimacy from your end in the relationship, speak to him about the reason as to why it is happening in the first place. Both of you are entitled to a happy marriage and yours doesn’t seem to fulfil this basic criterion for either of you. Maybe talking to him might lead to an insight and possible future of the relationship. The most important person is your husband whose understanding matters as family would not be able to grasp the intricacies of the relationship.

Abusive childhood

I was physically abused (I realise that now) as a child by my parents. What seemed normal in traditional Indian households of beating up children at the slightest mistake or error. While I would wonder what was the need of being beaten up as a child at the slightest error, it became a part of my routine and I almost made it a game as to how I could run and dodge my parents as a child. What I can recall is that it was not so nice to get verbally and physically abused. Now when I hear anyone raise their voice or mimic anything that resembles my childhood experiences I seem to get stunned and stop in my feet. I shake as a result and feel tremors when such things happen.

Ans: The incidents that were a part of your growing up years have become ingrained to the extent that you are physically reacting towards anything that could remotely remind you about past. An intensive therapy process could help in dealing with childhood trauma. a lot stems from the early years and as a result affects your present. Thus, unless the angst and possible disappointment towards parents isn’t resolved, moving ahead and being okay when there is someone talking to you in a raised voice nay not be possible. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be of great help in your case.

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