I feel guilty for having been intimate with my husband’s colleague via sexting. This was during a particularly bad phase in our married life. I am not justifying my act and I also confessed the same to my husband who was obviously very troubled. It took quite a while for both of us to connect again as a couple. While we today live a relatively normal life with dinners and family outings, yet the dark cloud of that phase is still looming over me, and many old issues between me and my husband have just been pushed under the carpet and remained unresolved. The fear that I may get into the same behaviour again with someone else as I am not really fulfilled as a woman in my marriage. What should I do?
Ans: It would be wise for you to seek out marriage counselling at this stage of your relationship. Perhaps you were looking for some excitement or attention on the side? Pretending that everything is normal is NOT the same as actually going back to the way things were. You feel bad for what you did but the guilt you are experiencing indicates the poor light in which you currently see yourself.
Guilt is a double-edged sword. Understand that - we all make mistakes and sometimes we make certain mistakes knowing fully well that they may lead to an onset of new problems that we may not know how to handle. Having said that, guilt is still a harmful and unhelpful emotion. Guilt flies in the face of logic, forgiveness, empathy and self-care. Guilt is brutal and cruel at its very core. It involves reprimanding and condemning yourself internally for doing something off key and reprehensible.
Guilt is like a bag full of rocks that you carry on your back only to punish yourself for forgetting your bag at home – those couple of times when you really to have a bag to carry something important! Neither are those rocks in the bag helping you remember to carry your bag nor are they contributing to your well-being in any particularly creative manner. You end up feeling tired, jaded and burdened by the bag of rocks you are carrying and start hating yourself for it over time! This is pretty much how guilt works. Guilt won’t solve your problems.
Punishing yourself internally for the realisations you’re having is the way in which guilt typically operates. I always encourage my clients to replace their guilt with a sense of remorse so they can go back to the drawing board and come up with better and smarter ways to work on what challenges them. You will be challenged again when you least expect it. A common misperception is that our emotions control their lives but a psychologist will counter argue that our core dysfunctional philosophies and thus thinking is what brings out certain emotions - in the first place.
You may need to revisit the manner in which you appraise yourself with a fresh mindset if you wish to feel some relief from this bag of rocks you’re carrying around! The other day, I saw a quote on Instagram saying - ‘Don’t blame the person.. blame the deed’ and another one that said ‘acceptance is the key as people are a mixed bag’. Yet, I wondered if those quotes may feel superficial to so many people out there.
How do we internalise this message? I do agree with those quotes but they will not become a part of anybody’s core functional philosophies - if a few basic issues aren’t addressed here. A major issue is that you chose to confess matters to your husband without effectively managing any follow-through that such a confession may require. The reconciliation process can be complicated. It’s whats needed to give closure to certain matters.
This closure is extremely important in helping individuals and couples deal with the problematic emotional debris that is being carried around. Like with all debris… proper disposal methods need to be invoked. The longer you carry these hurt or mixed feelings with you, the more of an interpersonal crisis you are living with and living through.
In such scenarios, old mistakes may be repeated and that defeats the purpose of the earlier realisations too. This kind of pain is unnecessary. Amends were made but the communication between you’ll was not consolidated fully. So much goes unsaid at such times. You may have partially internalised your lessons but some parts of your inner realisations may not have been communicated or presented appropriately to help you and your husband realise that there is perhaps still hope in your relationship.
Steady declines in emotional and physical health can catch even the smartest people off guard. We’ve got so much that plays on our minds. Very few popular quotes address the lack of interest that negatively calcifies so many marriages after some time has lapsed.
You’ve waited long enough. Now is time to act! Your husband is probably reeling from this episode in a way that’s different from the way in which you are coping. Only if you invest the time and interest in getting through this with him (with some professional help from a trained marriage counsellor) – would there be the possibility of a respectful and enduring reconciliation, renegotiation of the relationship and recovery from the pain and sense of betrayal. There are no guarantees through this process but you’ll know which way the wind is blowing – over time.
Can't sustain a strong woman
I like, admire and get attracted to strong and independent women but also feel inadequate, insecure and uncertain around them. This has caused a huge dating issue for me. I allow the women to take the upper hand and I regress into feeling like an anxious child needy of their approval, attention and validation all the time. This leads to needy behaviour on my part and the women get annoyed. Eventually they disrespect me and push me away. Then I react in anger and the relationship ends. This is an oft repeated pattern and I am tired of my own neediness. What should I do to sustain a mutually respectful and relationship? I believe it is me who sets the stage for inequality at the outset. How do I have a healthy adult-adult relationship? Please help.
Ans: You would benefit a great deal from some tone setting in any significant relationship that you find yourself in with a woman – in the future. What does this mean? Allow me to give you an analogy. Have you ever seen a musician tuning his guitar? You can Youtube if you haven’t. A guitar is tuned to avoid going off note and so that every intentioned musical note plays out as per the melody desired.
When I was in a college band back in 2005, we would spend the first few minutes always making sure our musical instruments were in perfect synch so that we could play the desired song at the appropriate scale and hit similar / complementary chords - so as to not go off-tune. Tone setting is as important in the world of music as its important in the world of relationships.
To be in perfect harmony with each other, you’re going to (at the very outset) have to let your partner know what kind of person you are. How is this done? You will need to be a combination of both authentic and diplomatic - since good acting can only take you so far. There are no awards given out to happy couples so you’re going to have to be very clear about the goals you have for your relationship regardless of the validation you get for it.
Neediness is a huge turn off in any relationship. It usually indicates a lack of self-esteem and burdens the partner to now behave and operate like a care-taker towards his/her partner. The ‘I didn’t sign up for this’ alarm bells eventually ring. You could compare this feeling to the one that you have when you have to write an examination paper that you have not prepared for. There’s fear and anger but there’s also that feeling of betrayal that’s difficult to shake off.
As a relationship matures, the onus is on you to gradually clarify and pitch your expectations without making any ‘demands’. This is tricky since you could risk coming off as an extremely needy rule buff! Don’t be rigid about what you expect and yet you must be honest with what you’re after. It’s not as paradoxical as it sounds. A few worthwhile expectations that you could internally be aware of could include – Mutual respect, honesty, creativity, compassion, trust & patience.
However, don’t go out handing handbooks and scrolls of the same to women you date! You may end up intimidating your partner and you’ve seen how that plays out in the situations where you mention you ‘reacted in anger’. People aren’t obliged to give us what we want in this world. This is why so many people talk about luck, the supernatural and the power of intent as this is an extremely radical idea for many to accept. “How can the world not want to understand how special we are?” Well, it doesn’t.
People usually perk their ears up when we have something novel to offer and when we’re good at advertising what we’re all about or about to offer. Think about what makes you different from other people and you’ll suddenly realise that you need not be so needy after all. You owe yourself a responsibility to survive with dignity and clarity.
Remember that it’s up to us to extract and supply the exact socio-psycho-behavioural ingredients that define and fortify our significant relationships and many life endeavours. Nobody can gift you a happy relationship. Neediness is a contaminant in relationships.
Ask yourself what is it about these strong and independent women that you’re initially drawn towards that begins to make you feel intimidated over time. This is a crucial question you must answer? Could you be rebelling against a perceived authority figure in your partner? How is your relationship with other significant women in your life – mother, sister, aunties? You speak about women taking the upper hand and yet, I must remind you that you’re not playing a round of poker!
If you speak assertively and are clear in the way that you communicate without being apologetic for who you are, you’ll show the woman that you are comfortable in your skin and are happy to talk to her whenever the stability of the relationship is challenged by various factors.
If a woman doesn’t see you are sure of yourself and clear about things, she will naturally assume a leadership role in the relationship which will further make you return to your ‘anxious child’ archetype which will lead you down the same loop / path. In order to break out of this pattern, you’re going to have to change certain things about yourself regardless of whom you date or don’t date. This is for you to grow as a person and to learn to trust your ability to take better care of your own needs.