Q: My husband has been taking the name of his ex-girlfriend in his sleep. He also did that during sex, and I was offended. Of late, he has also become very secretive with his phone. When I mentioned this to him, he laughed about it and asked me to deal with my insecurities. I hate playing detective, and I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I have seen his call history, and he has called a particular number at the oddest hours of the night. It is stored under random alphabets in his contacts. On calling that number from my phone, no one answered. I suspect it might be a hotline between him and his ex. He keeps his phone close to his chest and has also changed his password after I mentioned the call history. He is angry and aloof now, and keeps asking me to see a shrink. I think I’m being played for a fool. What should I do?
Ans. Fragments of our past usually haunt us either consciously or unconsciously. Memories, patterns and people from our yesteryears give us a sense of continuity in the way we act and see ourselves. Our past shapes our present and yet it does not need to control our lives if we are to make the best decisions based in fact and here-and-now circumstances.
Your husband has a past and it’s a past that was once his present and that meant a great deal to him. That past involves an ex-girlfriend with whom he once shared a close and intimate emotional and presumably sexual relationship. You will need to appreciate the fact that the version of your husband that you’re currently with is an iteration of the man he once was with that woman. People don’t usually change their core personality.
They adapt to new situations based on new information, optimal solutions and their changing goals for themselves. What goals most define your husband in his life currently? This is important for you to find out so you know what he wants from his life and from the relationship you will share. If he hesitates to be honest with you, little will get accomplished by way of transparent communication. Negotiation helps relationships evolve. A deeper understanding between partners can only stem from honesty, integrity, empathy and a will to grow.
We can’t always control how our partners see us but, we can control how we interface with them to influence how we are received by them. Perhaps your husband is convinced that you are unlikely to like ‘what you’ll hear’ from him if there is – in fact – another woman in his life. People stray from their partners when they feel like their needs are no longer being met.
These could be emotional needs, sexual needs, social needs and sometimes even a need for a jolly good time. Are there any needs of his that are not being met currently? I think you should write a letter to your husband stating your fears and honest wishes for their relationship. Try keeping the tone of this letter as neutral as possible.
It’s important for him to appreciate your point of view without you having to say it out to him which may come off as being ‘naggy’ or ‘paranoid’. The written medium is a powerful tool. You will also need to see a personal counsellor with an open mind so more about your history with your husband and with other significant individuals can be studied so that a bespoke solution can be worked out for the best way to proceed with this situation. This will help you eventually discover if you’re truly being played for a fool or if there is scope for some change in both of you will due to the mutual-lack of trust in the relationship.
(Aman Rajan Bhonsle is a Consulting Psychosocial Analyst and Youth Mentor)