Ask The Therapist: “My husband lives abroad…he made a lot of promises that he hasn’t fulfilled and I am not happy in this marriage. What do I do?”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“I’ve been married for a year but my husband lives abroad. My visa process is taking longer than expected and my husband hasn’t visited me in the last year – he only came at the time of marriage. I didn’t want to have a child this soon, but by the grace of Allah, I have had a beautiful son except I don’t feel attached to him. My husband made a lot of promises upon our baby’s birth, but he couldn’t manage to fulfil them. He promised to come on our baby’s birth, but he didn’t do that either. I’m not happy in this marriage, yet I don’t want it to end. Please help me – I’m very confused. What should I do?”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be apart from your husband. Marriage in itself can come with a whole lot of challenges – add long distance and a newborn, and that adds a lot of weight on any relationship. I know that it can be confusing, and as I say in most of my responses: there is no right or wrong decision. Let’s try to see what you can do in terms of clarity.

Connecting With Your Child: It’s Okay If It Takes Time

When it comes to new-born children, sometimes a mother may not be able to form that attachment with them right away. Sometimes it takes time – weeks, months, years – and that is more than okay. If this is something that is really affecting you, and something that continues to persist, there are counselling services you could choose to avail, where you explore the reasons behind that block of connection. In the end, whatever decision you make for yourself is okay – you’re doing your best.

Long Distance Marriages

Generally speaking, when we think of the idea of marriage, the image that often pops up is that of two individuals living together, possibly raising children and sharing in daily, routine tasks and activities. However, of course, some couples do operate from a distance, and might even need to be apart for a certain amount of time. Now, in the wake of the 21st century and the exponential progression of communication technology and social media, one could argue that it has become easier to maintain long-distance relationships, but of course, it’s not a replacement for physical human presence. You might be craving that face-to-face presence, intimacy, or even just having him be with you and your son. It’s frustrating, and even heartbreaking to be away from him. So, where does that leave you, Anon?

Feelings And Future Plans

In the midst of the pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult for people to go back and forth between countries, while others like you might have their visa process delayed. Whatever the case may be, there is a great deal of uncertainty at this time. So perhaps, while you may not be able to make a definitive timeline of what’s to come, it may help to come up with a tentative one; and perhaps it might help to a list of reasons as to what’s keeping you in the marriage, versus what is preventing you from leaving.

Some other things you can consider is asking yourself some reflective questions:

  • What do I need in order to feel fulfilled and grounded in this relationship?
  • Apart from the distance, are there any other things that are negatively impacting my relationship?
  • What does my husband do that helps me feel safe in this marriage?
  • What is the husband not doing in this marriage that leads to feelings of unhappiness and lack of safety?
  • Are the issues surrounding marriage something we can work on?

The Distance: Temporary Or Permanent?

From the message you sent, Anon, it seems like the distance is more or less central in terms of you feeling hurt and unhappy in this marriage. One thing to think about is how long this situation is going to last, and whether there’s a chance that you and your son will be reunited with your husband? If it’s only temporary, perhaps it might be best to wait? Of course, you may not want to wait around forever, so even giving yourself a tentative date on the matter might help, and then come back to this thought later on. 

Support For The Relationship

If you feel that you and your partner are really being affected by this, it might help to avail the services of a couple’s counsellor, who would be able to help both of you navigate your feelings in the context of the relationship in a safe, non-judgmental space.

Anon, I know being away from your husband can be extremely challenging, and I really hear your confusion and sadness on this matter. Take as much time as you need to come to a decision in terms of whether or not you would like to stay in this marriage. Again, there’s no right or wrong there – just whatever you feel is right for you. 

I hope you found some clarity from this article, Anon. Best of luck and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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