Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a 61-year-old teacher. I have been married for 35 years and have three daughters. My daughters are married and are in different cities of Pakistan. My husband, an engineer, retired three years back. My problem is that he is home all the time and he wants me to bear him company. Initially, I thought this phase would pass and he would adjust to his new routine, but that did not happen.
I love him a lot but this constant need for attention has been wearing me down. I don’t have a moment to myself anymore. I can’t read a book or watch TV because my husband gets bored when I do that and accuses me of ignoring him. I feel I am going crazy. Even when he goes out, he wants me to accompany him. I can’t even visit my sisters without him, as he always finds some excuse or the other to tag along. I thought I would do my reading once he went to sleep and did it for a few days. The thing is that my husband doesn’t go to bed before 11:30, and I have to get up early for prayers and then prepare for work. Online classes were more difficult than regular school, and although I was working from home, I still had to follow school timings. So I had no respite. Now that the schools have re-opened, thank God, I can at least breathe a little, but the moment I return from school, every minute of the day he breathes down my neck. Once I asked him to give me some space, and he got very upset. He says he wants to spend all his time with me because he loves me, but I don’t love him because I want to spend time away from him.
I discussed this problem with a cousin and she told me I am ungrateful. God has given me a loving husband and instead of appreciating my good luck I am complaining. Is something wrong with me? Do I need to see a psychiatrist? Please tell me what to do to preserve my sanity.
Dear Going Insane,
In developed countries, people actually plan for their retirement. In our country, people yearn for the time when they would not have to work anymore, but don’t give a thought to how they would pass their time. People think it would be great not having to get up early to get ready for the day. However, reality is that for a person who spends a busy life, usually working from nine to five and sometimes even beyond normal working hours, retirement is not easy to come to terms with. The novelty of not having to get up early vanishes in no time, and the prospect of spending the entire day at home, doing nothing becomes daunting. This is what’s happening to your husband. He needs your support to go through this problematic time. It seems your husband has no interests or hobbies; he needs a pastime. Help him identify what may be of interest to him. Does he watch TV? Could fitness interest him? Does he have friends he can visit or call at home? If he is religious, encourage him to go to mosque. If he can be interested in looking after his physical health, ask him to join a gym or go for a walk daily. Going for a walk with your husband will also do you good. Sitting idle is tough for someone, and your husband needs an activity. And no, you are not going insane. You are a working woman and a housewife, and you need some ‘me time’, doing whatever you want, to unwind. You see, housewives work very hard, too, but can have some time to themselves – if they are organised and are good with time management - when their husbands go to work and children to school. But, a working woman’s time is governed by the clock. Here is another suggestion: start thinking of how you will spend your time once you stop working!
Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a 34-year-old engineer. My parents want me to marry my maternal aunt’s daughter, R. I told them I don’t want to marry her, but they are not listening to me. R is a very beautiful girl, but she is just intermediate. Also, she is a lot younger than me and very immature. She can only talk about fashion and clothes. There is no mental compatibility between us, but my parents think once we are married everything will be alright. I asked R if she was interested in further studies and she flatly refused. I have tried to convince my parents many times, but they are adamant. They think their terms with other family members will suffer if I don’t agree to marry R. The only thing keeping them from talking to R’s parents is that my elder sister is expecting her baby early next year and her case is complicated. My parents want her to be with them when they go to R’s house. Let me make one thing clear: I am not in love with any other girl. I just want a life partner I can talk to, and share my thoughts with. Is it too much to ask for? How can I convince my parents without being disrespectful to forget R?
Dear Wretched Engineer,
It seems your parents have set their heart on this proposal and will not change their mind. You have already tried to convince them, and failed. They probably are not aware that compatibility in a relationship makes it a strong and happy one. Is there an elder in the family your parents respect? If yes, you can request them to intercede for you. Have you discussed this matter with your sister? Parents often listen to their married daughters’ opinions, so try to get your sister on your side.
If your sister and family members cannot convince your parents, you should be prepared to stand your ground in the face of their displeasure and tell them you will not marry someone who is not mentally compatible with you. My dear, there is no easy way of getting out of it for you. It’s good that you don’t want to be disrespectful, but in the end you will hurt your parents. However, in the long run, it’s better to hurt them for a short time now than to spend your whole life in misery.