I saw my daughter’s nude picture on a WhatsApp message sent to her. She is having an affair with a married man and the picture was taken by him. This happened when I asked for her phone to make an urgent call as my phone had charged out. I am in a state of shock and don’t know how to process all this. To add to this, the man is a very wealthy client of mine and we get a lot of business from him. I have neither spoken to my daughter nor my family nor the man. I do not know how to handle it. I am extremely disturbed about her immoral conduct and also stand to lose a lot of business as a businessman. To know that my daughter will be responsible for breaking up a family and ruining my business is something I just cannot fathom. I am very upset. What should I do?
Ans: There’s no easy way to say this but you’re going to have to speak to your daughter about this before involving any third parties. No doubt that this is a most embarrassing and damaging situation to be in. The situation is critical and time sensitive. Know that this won’t be an easy conversation for you to have with her.
Go in expecting awkwardness, some resistance, defensiveness and buried emotions that won’t be easy to witness. You could choose to involve your wife or any emotionally mature female relative when you initiate the dialogue with your daughter. The presence of another woman may help add a balanced gender-sensitive perspective to the situation. She may feel less strange in the presence of a female while opening up about this.
Make sure this mediator has the ability to analyse and break down the situation (terse as it is) without getting mercurial, accusatory or dramatic about it. If you find yourself stuck choosing between your family and a business, I’d suggest that you choose your family.
Courage and compassion will serve you well here. Try and understand why your daughter felt the need to have an affair with a married man instead of an eligible bachelor. Are there any promises that he made her? What does she really want from her life? Does she have a need for validation from a father figure? Ask her these things but don’t expect her to blurt out whatever it is you’re expecting to hear from her.
A common and misguided approach to a situation like this would be to exercise parental veto by chiding and chastising her for her loose character and for bringing shame to her people. Extreme measures like this can lead to extreme damage that a bruised relationship may fail to recover from - for a very long time. Families can fall apart or become stronger through a crisis. You need to watch every step you take. You must try and first understand the moral and psychological reasons for your daughter’s behaviour.
You could ask her if she was aware that such behaviour could stake her privacy and reputation while also potentially damaging the business you carry out. It is important to know what’s on her mind before you start prescribing what she should do or should have done. Do not assume that your daughter is naïve or unintelligent at any point during your assessment or conversation.
You could start off by asking her about how she feels about her choices and her behaviour (now that it’s become known to you). This will (in time) help you establish a motive. You could bring your daughter to a psychotherapist since a neutral third party could be a good resource and guide to her. You may have to speak to the man (either directly or through a lawyer) if things get messy.
Get some legal counsel immediately. Prepare for threats being mounted due to your business supplier now being in possession of a highly sensitive nude photo of your daughter. The discredit the circulation of such an image could bring to your daughter and to your family needs to be assessed – before it happens - so that damage control measures are put in place effectively.
Singlehood vs couplehood
I love my comfort and freedom too much but I also feel envious of friends when they show up for social gatherings with their wives and kids. I like both sides of the fence and I swing from feeling like a victim for not having a partner, to fear of losing my freedom when I am introduced to a potential match. I feel I merely seek solace in the fact that I am still sought after by women, and once a woman shows some interest, I lose interest and feel protective of my space. My family thinks I need a sounding board to clear my head about whether I want to stay single forever or settle down in marriage. The years are passing by and I am swinging. Please help me understand myself.
Ans: Well... to put it simply, you can’t have it both ways (singlehood and couple hood). Perhaps a part of you already knew this but wasn’t willing to accept it. One could argue that this is a bitter pill to swallow for you right now. Either ways, you’re going to have to choose at some point or the other. Can you expect to snow ski without experiencing the cold? Can you go for a desert safari and curse the heat? Whatever enters your life will be either by choice or invitation or by sheer happenstance. This is a truth you must learn to accept. Nothing happens automatically in this world.
I appreciate that your space is important to you and that can be something you’re sensitive about at this point. However, any hopes of a family life will mean that you need to make a little more space for a variety of new people and experiences. This is inescapable so you must learn to make your peace with it. Perhaps re-consider how you’re seeing all of this. If you think of a committed relationship as a great sacrifice at the altar of freedom, you’re going to continue to get worked up about it.
If you see it as a willing realignment of intent so that you find your way to new experiences and people, you will not only evolve as a human being but you will also stop feeling so flustered and flaky about it all. Just as monetarily investing in a solid piece of computer software and hardware is important if you’re a professional graphic designer or just as you’ll need to buy good shoes if you’re into some form of athletics, you’re going to have to be sensible about what you invest in if you do want a family life for yourself.
You have still have individual pursuits even when you’re married. The idea is to find a partner who understands your world. In life, we are often forced to choose between the path we enjoy and the path we need to deploy ourselves to reach our goals. This is why having a goal is ideal. Sometimes it’s a choice between a path we dislike and a path we dislike a little lesser. These aren’t easy choices to make for anybody.
Can you imagine the choice a soldier may have to make between being there for his family and going to war to protect his nation? There are many more such examples that you could read up on to know that you’re in the perfect position to be making any choices. Delaying it won’t make it go away.
Not choosing is also choosing. The interesting point about whichever path you choose is that you’ll never know how the other path would have turned out. This is because there is no way to know how the future would have turned out for you – had you chosen the alternative path. The multiplicity of choices that face us can only worry us if we let them. So many of us want 100% guarantees about how our choices will play out for us – even before we’ve made those choices.
People lose their limbs, their minds and even their money in this world. Yet the only thing that they can protect a person through any crisis is their imagination, willingness to grow, learn and adapt – with a will to go on. Does this sound too philosophical to you? Let’s try something a little more realistic. Nobody exists on this planet to covet or serve us.
Neither of us is any more special than our neighbour. Just as you have certain needs that you’d like to have met, there are women out there who would also like to have their needs met. Just as you won’t be able to give every woman what she wants, every woman may not be able to give you everything that you want.
You can’t add ‘attributes’ to cart as you would if you were online shopping. If you start seeing people as flawed but filled with potential, you’ll start to respect the fact that there are no perfect matches just as there are no perfect paths and choices. What really matters is how you keep your torch on through the many dark alleyways of life as a couple. Friends who show up in social gatherings have also made choices that they are living with. These friends are in no way superior or inferior to you. They too have had to contend with re-adjusting to a new normal. So, what’s it gonna be?