I am a forty years old Lebanese man living in Dubai, UAE for the past twenty five years. I am married with two children. I got married at the age of thirty to my wife MA who was twenty five at the time. MA is a good woman and the decade that we have spent together has been one of happiness and contentment. She is a good wife to me and a good mother to our children. She is a housewife and takes really good care of our home and family. She has never given me any cause for complain. Although at times I felt our marriage had become a bit boring and monotonous over the years, I never gave it much thought believing that this happened as years go by, that the magic couldn’t last forever. That is until JL came in my life.
It all started a year ago. JL, who is twenty seven, joined our company as a PR executive where I have been working for the past five years and am now a director there. She was vivacious, outgoing, lively, good looking and very confident. Many men in our office tried hitting on her but she ignored everyone. Because of my senior position in the company and having a wife and children, I didn’t try to befriend her in the manner the other men tried to. I think this appealed to her and she started showing interest in me. At first I thought it was just out of professional duties as she knew I was married with kids but as time passed she made it quite clear how much she liked me and enjoyed my company. It was a big boost for my ego, to be approached by the most good looking young woman in our company. I didn’t decline her advances and we started going out together. One thing led to another and we soon started having an affair. This affair has been going on for more than six months now. I have fallen in love with her and want to spend the rest of my life with her. She too wants the same.
The problem is that she is unwilling to accept my wife. Being a Muslim, I can have two wives at the same time. Although JL is also a Muslim, she is against my having two wives at the same time. She has made it quite clear that she would only marry me if I were to divorce my wife, MA. She is willing to accept my children if I share their custody with their mother, MA.
I have thought a lot about it and though I don’t feel very good about divorcing MA, not least because she has been such a good wife but also because of not having my children with me all the time under the same roof, I have decided that I will still go ahead with it as I love JL too much to lose her.
I spoke to my wife MA about divorce and naturally she was devastated. It was very painful to see how much of a shock she got when I told her that I loved somebody else. She was completely shattered and kept on crying for days at end. Eventually she accepted the idea of another woman in my life and begged me not to divorce her and let her stay married to me. I am a rich man and can quite easily afford to keep two wives in two separate homes. But JL is adamant. She has threatened to walk out of my life if I don’t divorce MA within three months. I am in a quandary now. I love JL and don’t want to lose her. At the same time, I don’t feel happy divorcing MA because of no fault of her own. What should I do?
Let me start by saying that you are being quite selfish and self-centered in this whole episode. All you are thinking of is yourself, your love and your happiness. You are not giving much consideration to the other people involved who would be dramatically and negatively affected by this action of yours, meaning your wife and children.
MA has given you ten of the best years of her life. She has given you two children. She has been a good wife to you and a good mother to your children. Do you honestly believe she deserves what you are planning to do to her? What would be her future after that? What would she go through emotionally? How many suitors would she find being divorced and a mother of two? She is already shattered and heart-broken.
And what about your children? Right now they have a happy and complete family. They come home to loving and caring parents – parents that are in the same house. Imagine what would their reaction be when their parents split up and start living in separate homes? How would they feel alternating their days living with their mother and father separately? How would they take it? They are quite young and the divorce of their parents is no doubt going to have a devastating effect on them. Instantly they would go from a complete home to a broken home. It most probably would affect them for years to come, if not their entire life. Are you ready to make your children go through all that?
Has JL met your children? Have you seen how she is with them? What guarantee do you have that she would prove to be a good mother to them and a good influence on them when the kids are over at your place? What I have gathered from your letter is that JL seems to be a selfish person who is only interested in her happiness and well being without giving two hoots about anyone else. If she truly loves you, as she claims, then why is she not willing to be the other wife? Why does she want you to divorce your first wife when yours and her religion allow it? She seems like a manipulative woman who knows she’s got you wrapped around her little finger and based on that is making demands that are cruel, unjust and would negatively affect your entire family. And how do you know that she truly loves you and is not with you because of your position, status, money, etc? If she truly loves you as she claims then how can she find it in herself to leave you after three months if you don’t divorce your wife? That’s not true love. That’s manipulation and cold calculation.
It’s perfectly normal to have feelings for two people at the same time. It happens. But what you need to ask yourself is that do you really love JL or is it just infatuation or lust? Do you really want to spend your whole life with her at the expense of breaking up your marriage and your children’s home? And what guarantee do you have that you won’t find being married to JL monotonous and boring after a few years?
I would advise you to seriously and impartially take stock of the whole situation. Weigh all the pros and cons. Consider the lives and happiness of all people involved. Do all this before taking any drastic measures.
I am a 45 years old, single, Polish woman living in Krakow. I am writing to you because I have this strong feeling in me that I am a failure, that I have failed in more or less in everything that I attempted in life, be it education, career, relationships or anything else. I don’t know why this has happened to me. I have worked hard and given it my best but it still never was good enough. I never achieved the success which others had. People I knew who were younger and junior than me have gone on to better positions in life and I am stuck in the same rut. In fact, if anything it feels as if I am going in the opposite direction, from bad to worse. I can’t cope with this feeling of being a failure anymore. I want to feel that I am a success, that I have achieved something in life but don’t know how. When I look at my past, all I see are my failures, nothing else. I don’t want to live with these regrets anymore. What should I do? How can I get rid of this feeling of being a failure in life?
Dear Alicja Jagoda,
First of all, you need to ease up on yourself. You are being very hard on yourself. Ask yourself if you are being honest with yourself when you do that. Granted that you might have failed in many things in life but that does not mean you are a failure. Not at all!
Punishing yourself is the least productive thing you can do. Learning from your choices is self empowering and exciting. At least you have a good story to tell. Beating yourself down can quickly make you ashamed and afraid. It’s hard to realise that you’re being self-destructive.
There are many people in life who are afraid to dream big or to attempt anything grand in life because they are afraid that it would fail. They are scared of failure. They get so used to this way of thinking that it prevents them from trying new experiences, no matter how easy or small they might. They are content (but not happy) living their lives in their comfort zone and are afraid to venture out of it.
You on the other hand are the opposite. You have the courage and willpower to try new things, which you have done throughout your life – Kudos for that! It doesn’t matter that you failed many times. What really matters is that you tried – that you got out of your comfort zone and gave it your best. It takes strength, character and confidence to do that. Be proud of yourself that you have these attributes. Not many people have them.
Try to get to the bottom of why you failed in most of your endeavours. It could be because of different reasons. Rather than blaming yourself or feeling self-pity, you need to find out why you failed, how you could have done things differently to achieve better results. You need to analyse this calmly, rationally and systematically. Ask yourself why you think you failed. It can help you realise your hopes and dreams.
Try again. Luckily, you have a failure under your belt with which to navigate the next adventure in your life.
I am a 55 years old businessman. My wife passed away a few months ago. We had been married for nearly 30 years. We had no children. We just had each other and now she’s gone. I miss her terribly. Life seems so meaningless and not worth living without her. I wake up each day and go through the motions of a typical life without being interested or experiencing joy in anything. When I am at home, everything reminds me of her. When I am out at work, I constantly keep on thinking about her. I try to keep myself busy in my business but it isn’t helping.
My siblings, who are all very close to me, are very worried about me. They have suggested that I remarry. I was shocked to hear this. I can’t imagine a life with any other woman after my wife. I have told them so. They say they understand but want me to have a complete home again with a life partner. I, on the other hand, can’t imagine being with any other woman. Even the thought makes me sick. It makes me feel as I would be cheating on my dear, departed wife. I know they mean well but how do I make them understand that that’s something I don’t want.
Dear Widowed Husband,
First of all, please accept my condolences on the demise of your wife. May God have mercy on her and bless her with a place in heaven. Amen!
It’s been a tragic loss for you and what you are feeling right now is completely natural. The feeling of life having no meaning and being uninterested towards everything is normal. This is how it will be for quite some time. Right now you are going through what is call the grieving period. This is the time when one is the saddest after losing someone, when everything seems unrealistic, when nothing in life holds any charm or happiness, when everything – even the normal everyday chores – seem like a burden.
With time, things will improve. This does not mean that you will forget your wife. What it means is that you will come to terms with the fact that she is no longer with you and that you have to move on with living a normal, emotionally healthy life. It will take some time – depending on you – but it will eventually happen. There will come a time when you will be able to think of your wife without feeling as much pain as you do now. There will be good days when everything would seem fine and then there would be bad days when you simply won’t be able to bear the loss of her. Hopefully, as time passes, there will be more good days than bad ones.
Although your siblings mean well, as they want to see you happy and settled, I believe it’s too early – in the state that you are in – to be attached to someone else. You are still very much living in the past with the memories of your wife. Right now, it must be unfathomable for you to think of any other woman. And rightly so. Please tell your siblings that at present you don’t even want to think of any other woman, let alone contemplate marriage. Try to make them understand that you need time – as much time as you want, not as much as they want to give you. Talk to them politely but firmly so they don’t keep on pressurising you constantly. The condition you are in, pressure is the last thing you want. Tell them that when they talk about you marrying again, it pains you and makes you sad. Being the loving siblings that they are, I am sure they would understand eventually.
Lastly, give yourself time. Time to think, time to feel, time to assess your situation and your feelings as they evolve over the coming months and years. This would allow you to plan what would be best for you in your given circumstances.
Also don’t close any possibilities. You don’t know how you would be feeling in the future. Therefore, don’t make any decisions in favour of or against remarriage right now.
Also don’t rush into anything. Time is a great healer. Give it a few months, even years if you want. If and when you feel you are emotionally ready to move on then think about getting married again. Not before that. Otherwise it won’t be fair to you and the new woman who comes in your life.
All the best!
I am a 35 years old man living in UK for the past 10 years. I am originally from Pakistan where my parents are settled. I have two siblings, both of whom are married and settled outside Pakistan. My parents are quite old and live alone in Karachi, Pakistan. They visit me or my siblings once a year for a month or so. My siblings and I have asked them repeatedly to permanently shift with us and leave Pakistan but they don’t agree to that. They don’t want to leave Pakistan for good. They reason they give is that Pakistan is their country; it’s where they have their roots, relatives, friends, acquaintances, etc. It’s where they were born, grew up and always lived. They say they simply can’t imagine living outside Pakistan permanently and that too at this age.
As you can understand this has led to a lot of consternation for me and my siblings. The increasing crime rate in Karachi, the poor infrastructure, the disintegration of basic services and many other problems associated with that city makes us worry all the more for the safety and well-being of our parents. We are all constantly thinking of them and worrying about how they are coping there all alone in their old age. We have kept maids and servants to look after them but are constantly worried about the reliability of these domestic staff as they are often shocking stories in the media of the crimes that these people sometimes commit.
I earn quite handsomely in UK and have a good life here. As I am still a bachelor, I am thinking of now returning to Karachi and live with my parents there. I know I will be able to find a good job there. But I like UK very much and I have gotten used to the high standard of life here. I feel shifting back to Karachi would be a stressful and chaotic experience for me as nothing over there is going right at the moment.
Dear Worried Son,
I get many letters from people who are settled abroad and have old-aged parents living alone in their home countries who do not want to leave their motherland for one reason or the other. Therefore I can well understand your predicament. The way things are going on in Pakistan these days, especially Karachi, it becomes very stressful for people who live abroad to regularly come across news that highlights that their loved ones are not safe back home. Add to this the fact that your parents live completely alone without having any of their children with them.
I also understand their point of view. It really is quite difficult at their age to leave their country for good and settle abroad. The feeling of uprooting from their birth place and settling in a foreign country at their age would be a highly stressful and even traumatic experience for them, no matter how good the quality of life would be for them abroad.
You and your siblings are doing well that you have tried to make their life easy by keeping servants and maids for them. This must be helpful for them to an extent as they have someone to look after their needs. But I am sure you would agree, servants can’t ever take the place of one’s own children.
You mentioned that you would be able to find a good job in Pakistan quite easily. And as you have also mentioned that you are still a bachelor, this means you have no familial ties in UK. Thus I would urge you to seriously consider moving back to Karachi for your parents sake. You owe them that much. They won’t obviously ask you to do that because all parents want their children to have a bright future and be successful and happy in life, even if it means living away from them. But deep down inside, mostly all such parents yearn for their children and miss them terribly and would rather have them live with them than be alone.
I agree that life for you won’t be as comfortable and stress-free in Pakistan as it is in UK but think of the happiness and joy that you would be bringing in your parent’s life. They will be very happy to have you back with them. Think about it.
I am a 37 years old widow with four kids, living in Dubai. My late husband passed away around seven years ago. He had a heart attack while watching TV one evening with my eldest son who was nine years old. He died on the spot – in front of my son. Obviously this was a tremendous loss for us all and we were devastated. But my son, who witnessed his father die in front of his eyes, took it the hardest. To date he has not recovered from the shock. He acts and behaves normally but has acquired serious behavioural issues, both at school and home. He has become extremely aggressive towards his younger siblings and shouts at them and beats them up regularly. This in turn has led to his siblings being afraid of him now. When he is in the house they try to stay away from him. Their fear of him is now beginning to negatively affect their behavior too. They have become stressed and fearful. They don’t want to be near him at all. They hover around me when I am at home with them and don’t want to be left alone with their elder brother.
In school, it’s even worse. He has lost all interest in studies. He has become unruly and aggressive there too. He gets in trouble daily at school and I often am called to his school because of his troublesome behavior. He is disrespectful to his teachers and tries to bully other kids. This more often than not leads to fights between him and other students, many of whose parents have rightfully lodged strict complaints against him. As he has been studying at this school since kindergarten, they know about the passing away of his father and how he was traumatised by experiencing his father’s death. They have been very caring and supportive but now even they have grown exasperated and have given a final warning that he would be expelled if he got into any more trouble.
I simply don’t know what to do with him now. I have tried everything. I have tried talking to him lovingly, I have tried being strict, I have involved his grandparents, I also involved his teachers but nothing has worked. I now have been advised by a very close friend that it might help if I take him for professional counseling to a psychologist but I am not comfortable with that. Considering taking my son to a psychologist makes me feel as if he’s mad or something. He is not mad. He is just disturbed. I really don’t want to take him to a psychologist but my friend advises it very strongly. What do you suggest? What should I do? Will taking him to a psychologist help? And what about the stigma associated going to a psychologist in our society? I really am confused. I don’t know what to do.
Dear Confused Mother,
You definitely must have had and still must be going through a tough time after the passing away of your husband. I am sorry to hear about how your eldest son witnessed the death of his father at such a young age. No doubt, it has traumatised him exceedingly. It seems, by your description of his behaviour and actions, that he has been unable to overcome that experience. It’s still very much inside him and most probably will always remain there. But what needs to be done is to find a way for him to deal with it and try to overcome it so he could move on with his life without feeling traumatised.
I totally agree with the suggestion of your friend about taking your son to a psychologist. That would hopefully be good for him. A psychologist would be able to help your son in ways that you or anyone else has so far not been able to do so. Psychologists are educated and trained to deal with issues like this. They have greatly benefited people who have been traumatised in one way or the other after a tragedy, something which your son is going through. Psychologists help people in letting go and moving on with their lives in a positive manner.
As for your reservations about the social stigma associated with psychologists, I don’t agree with that. That might have been true a couple of decades ago, and that too in a few narrow-minded societies, but it no longer holds true. It’s only your thinking that makes you believe that. I would urge you, as a mother, to rise above that and help out your son by taking him to a psychologist.
Besides, what’s more important to you? That your son recovers completely from the tragic experience of seeing his father pass away before his life and live a normal life? Or the fact that you believe it’s a matter of shame or mental illness that one visits a psychologist? Do him and yourself a favour and take him to a psychologist.
All the best!
I am a twenty six years old married woman with two kids, living in Delhi. I got married when I was 21. It was an arranged marriage. My in-laws have a joint family system and my husband’s parents, his elder brother and wife, we all live together. My brother-in-law, my husband’s elder brother, had been married for five years but doesn’t have any children as his wife can’t conceive.
Everyone in the house wanted to hear the patter of tiny feet in the house. Thus despite my not wanting to have children so soon after marriage, I was left with no choice. Within the first year of my marriage, I had a son and then a year later a daughter followed. Everyone at home was ecstatic except me. Not because I was not happy to have children but because the day my first child was born, he was handed over to my sister-in-law to look after as she didn’t have any child and everyone felt sympathetic towards her. Other than feeding him, which obviously I had to do, she took over all the responsibilities of my baby. From day one, she took him to sleep with her in her bedroom and cared for her as if she was her mother.
I was shocked to see all this, especially as no one, including my husband, bothered to ask me for my opinion or my wishes. I spoke to my husband about it but he felt I was making a big thing out of nothing. To him it didn’t matter who looked after our baby as long as he is being cared for in the same house. I was shocked by his casual attitude towards this arrangement. I then approached my parents to ask them to intervene but they were not willing to interfere in this matter. Their advice was to be patient as they felt things would get better with time, especially when I had more kids.
I was left with no choice other than to be patient and let things go on as they were. A year later I had my daughter. I thought that finally I would be allowed to enjoy motherhood completely and was quite excited and happy when my daughter was born. My happiness was short lived though as she was also handed over to my sister-in-law as soon as I came back home from the hospital with my baby. Again the same reason was given by my in-laws, that poor she can’t have a baby and as she’s the eldest daughter-in-law of the family, she has the right to adopt my children and besides they are in the same house. You simply can’t imagine how shocked and useless I felt. I felt that I was just good enough for giving birth but not good enough for raising my own children. I again tried discussing this issue with my husband but he casually brushed it off by saying that I was over-reacting. I again reached out to my parents for help but they again dismissed my pleas by saying that things like this happen in joint-family set-ups and I should by now learn to accept them; that things would get better with time. In fact, they haven’t.
My sister-in-law has taken charge of all matters related to my kids. She is the one who decides what they eat, what they wear, where they go, etc. She has also taken on the responsibility of their education and is busy these days scouting schools to see which ones would be appropriate to enroll them into. I haven’t been asked for my opinion or wishes in this matter at all.
I feel like a complete outsider. No one asks me about what I want for my own kids. I feel incomplete as a woman and as a mother. I feel I am just good for giving birth and nothing else. I have lost nearly all self-esteem. I suffer from depression now and have started taking pills for that. Whenever I approach my husband about this, he accuses me of over-reacting and being a nag. My own parents don’t understand and support me. They feel I should learn to live with it. They feel that just because I have a comfortable life, a decent husband and financial security, I shouldn’t rock the boat by going against the wishes of my husband and his family. They give me examples of how much more difficult life is for many married women in our society.
They might be right about it but I simply can’t go on like this. I am going mad. This issue is eating me from inside. I have started taking sleeping pills to numb myself as I fell very stressed and tense when I am awake. I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I feel it would be best for all if I were to die. I am seriously contemplating suicide. I don’t see any other way. I am writing to you with the hope that you would able to guide me and help me. Please help me….I need it.
Dear Wannabe Mum,
It’s quite sad what you are going through. I completely sympathise with you. To be a mother and not be able to look after your own kids and bring them up according to your wishes must be very painful for you, and rightly so.
What your in-laws are doing is not justified. True, they may love your kids very much and want the best for them but that does not give them the right to take away your kids and give them to your sister-in-law for raising them. The excuse that your sister-in-law can’t have kids so she must get priority over you to raise your kids is wrong.
The most disturbing part is that your husband doesn’t support you in your rights over your own kids. Equally disturbing is the fact that your parents are also unwilling to interfere in this matter. This leaves you totally alone in resolving this issue.
As far as I have understood your situation, you have two ways to deal with it. One, you could try to confront your family and let them know that the current situation is totally unacceptable to you and you want the complete responsibility of your kids and wish to raise them as you please. You could tell them that you would be open to their suggestions and wishes but the final word regarding your kids would be yours. This is not going to be easy as you very well know otherwise you would have tried it long ago. Your own husband and parents are unwilling to support you. It would become very difficult for you to take on your in-laws and go against their wishes. In fact, you would end up being considered the villain of the family.
The other alternative could be to try a subtler approach. Don’t just give up hope and leave everything on your in-laws as you have been doing so far. Become as much involved with your in-laws as you can in raising your kids. Be there for each and every decision, no matter how big or small. For example, if these days your sister-in-law is scouting schools for your kids, go with her. Visit every place with her. Express your opinion and wishes in every matter. Also try suggesting that your kids take turns in sleeping with you and your sister-in-law. Set a day each week when you take your kids to your parents house for the whole day or to stay overnight. Your sister-in-law won’t follow you there. This way you could have time alone with your kids.
You will have to be creative and resourceful in figuring how you can spend more and more time with your kids and slowly and steadily take steps to ensure that ultimately you be the one who has control over them.
All the best in this!