When Anil’s* wife Shweta* wanted to join his organisation he took the initiative very enthusiastically. An IT engineer who ran his own company, he enrolled her in the finance department. Oblivious to the hidden agenda, all he could think of was the romantic ride with her, to and from work as a newly married couple. Romance found her in his cubicle every now and then, for no reason. Romance further bloomed into accompanying him to the food court and coffee shop, even if she was supposed to be at work. Romance extended into Shweta being part of Anil’s team dinners and parties. Romance had turned into a leash around Anil’s neck.
Initially Anil wasn’t defensive but when Shweta took to his social media and started stalking him, he felt intruded.
She patrolled his interactions on Facebook and that invariably led them to sleep on either side of the bed. Whenever he was around females or female colleagues, she would hold on to him tight, physically, questioning his interactions with them. She checked his phone in hiding and was suspicious of every call that came at night. She didn’t go to her parent’s home for fear of leaving him alone (with the ladies of the world). Anil was constantly goaded into answering if she was prettier than someone, if her figure was better than someone’s. His words and actions were under strict surveillance. He had to be more articulate with her, than with his manager.
Her paranoia reached a level that if she suspected him, she would humiliate him in public. She would yell and throw things at him, turning him into the culprit. His friends called him joru ka ghulam (henpecked husband) and tormented him all the time. He put up with it as he respected the institution of marriage.
She is asthmatic and he cannot express his anger, as any reaction from him causes her to hyperventilate. Two years passed in this marital prison and Anil lived in silent trauma.
Things came to a head when Anil’s niece moved to Pune to study and his sister wanted the teenager to stay with them. All hell broke loose as Shweta threatened death if the girl stayed with them. Anil was cornered. He had not disclosed about her acute suspicious nature to his family and didn’t know how to explain things to his sister at the last minute. During one of those heated conversations, Shweta inadvertently disclosed, “I don’t want anyone between us and that’s why I got that abortion done.”
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Around the 18 month of their marriage, Shweta had conceived but had opted for MTP (medical termination of pregnancy) on the pretext of her career and Anil had consented. When he heard the truth, he felt cheated and the wall of patience that he had constructed to protect their marriage crumbled as if an earthquake had struck. He was dealing with, putting up with and living with her paranoia, but the revelation of the abortion was too much for him and he couldn’t see love in his relationship anymore. Two years hence, he can’t seem to forgive her nor live with her. The anguish of living in a trust less marriage is choking Anil as he feels violated and emotionally abused.
What Shweta is suffering from is paranoid personality disorder. Wives suspecting husbands is not a flash news item as it’s an old story. A small element of cautiousness is considered normal among spouses. But when possessiveness becomes unhealthy, when a person has the tendency to want to completely own the other, it becomes paranoia.
“Paranoia is a mental condition, a personality disorder that leads to unwarranted jealousy, and delusion of persecution. It is an unrelenting mistrust and suspicion of others even without having any reason to mistrust. This personality disorder involves odd or eccentric way of thinking. Irrational thoughts and beliefs become so fixed in the person that nothing can convince them that their thoughts could be false.”
Shweta’s suspicious mind was always ill-at ease and looking for hidden meaning and messages for every action of Anil’s. It is devastating to live like that. Not only did Shweta drive herself crazy, she drew Anil to the edge of the cliff too. She loves him so much that she can’t imagine losing him and is doing exactly the opposite of what she should.
I am counselling Anil and he is composed after I’ve made him realise that Shweta’s behaviour has nothing to do with him. After the MTP incident, he has been indifferent to her. He has come to a point of emotional asphyxiation and he doesn’t want to stay on in the marriage for any other reason.
Everyone sympathises with the wife as she is verbal. But we do not give enough importance to traumatised husbands, who compromise and still stay in the relationship till they crumble under pressure.
Shweta isn’t aware that she has a deep-seated psychological problem. She may have had some childhood trauma that remains unaddressed and she needs help. But Anil cannot mention it because she is likely to suspect the motivation for the suggestion. Also, his dilemma is that he is consulting a female psychologist.
Postscript: They are living together under one roof. He wants to file divorce before which, he is counselling with me. She isn’t aware that he is planning a divorce and is already in counselling.
(*Only names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals)
Jaseena Backer is a consultant psychologist of human behavior and welfare, touching upon lives through relationship management. She is a training faculty, parenting strategist, writer, speaker, psychologist and a gender expert.