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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Dear Thelma: He refuses to erase the past

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

I discovered my husband's infidelity with a young Vietnamese woman more than a year ago. I tried very hard to salvage our marriage though the idea of divorce kept cropping up.

I've tried to forgive my husband's infidelity as I still love him, though I feel much resentment. I've gone through tears and sleepless nights for the past year and have tried to move on.

The crux of the problem is my husband's reluctance to delete hundreds of photos of his many "pleasure trips" with his mistress though I've talked to him about it countless times.

He has deleted the photos with his mistress in them, but not the scenery photos. I told him that the photos with the labelling of the places and dates stored in the computer evoked painful memories for me.

He replied that I was being "too sensitive" as they were only scenery. I told him that even without opening the photo folder, seeing the labels and dates taken for the trips were enough to cause me much heartache.

Is it wrong for me to ask him to delete them or at least keep them in a folder for his private use instead of the common computer which everybody has access to?

He knows that the photos are tormenting me and yet he still wants to keep them. In fact, I can easily delete them on my own, but I want him to do it himself.

To him, it is trivial and I'm making too much of a fuss over it. Is my husband being selfish for not considering my feelings? Why is he still adamant in keeping the photos when he stopped the affair ages ago?

Are they more important than my well-being? I don't understand why he still wants to keep those memories although he knows that they hurt me.

Feeling much resentment

The issue is not whether the photos are more important than your well-being, but its effect on your relationship. It looks like he's using it as a psychological tool to impress upon you who the dominant one in your relationship is. He seems to be saying that he can do whatever he wants because he can and will.

Obviously, the photos are going to act as a reminder of his affair. And, if he says you are being too sensitive, it is a blatant example of him being not only dismissive of your feelings but also laying the blame on you for any discord that may arise because of these photos.

Your husband is the one who cheated on you and your marriage. It is his responsibility to return trust into the relationship. If he is serious about it, he should be willing to do pretty much anything reasonable and within his means to ensure that the relationship becomes one based on trust again.

Many men think that they can be unfaithful in their marriage as they believe that it is a man's right and also because men's sexual needs are a priority. This may sound chauvinistic and it is. So is the attitude of wanting to assert power and dominance over you, reminding you of your place when he leaves in plain sight the reminders of his infidelity.

Chances are, this kind of behaviour and attitude has been present in your marriage for a long time. Take a hard and honest look at your relationship.

Has it been fair and have you been treated as an equal?

Most likely, you accepted all these things in your marriage because you probably believed that this is acceptable behaviour. True enough, our culture teaches women that they have to regard and treat their husbands like little gods and that women have to endure. It is better to be with an unfaithful husband than not be with one at all, women are taught.

It is now up to you to assert yourself in your relationship. Demand the respect you deserve – not because you are married to your husband but because it is your right as a human being.

And perhaps you have to be honest about where you see this marriage going and where you want it to head. Are they one and the same? If not, do you think this will change?

You do have some big decisions to make. His indiscretions are something to think about. But the bigger question is, how much respect do you think is your due?

Write in

IS something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma
is here to help . Write to Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor or e-mail: Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained . The
Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefu lness, fi tness for a ny particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this   column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered d irectly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

Celeb vocabulary: 'Conscious uncoupling'

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are getting a divorce but saying theirs is different, more evolved.

EVERY once in a while, something comes along that is so jaw-droppingly awesome that it changes everything. Last week, we got exactly that in the separation of former People's Magazine most beautiful woman in the world Gwyneth Paltrow and brooding rock star Chris Martin of Coldplay.

Celebrity marriages ending are something we have all seen before and have, honestly, become a little blasé about.

These days, we give celebrity break-ups approximately the same attention as celebrities gaining or losing weight. That means women have now condensed their opinions on such matters down to about 10 seconds ("Oh, what a pity" or "I knew it would never last"), while men have maintained their interest in this topic at a steady zero ("They were together?").

It is often more shocking to learn that a celebrity couple have been together for a long time. Women are able to sustain a conversation on this for way longer, dissecting whether there are any trends to be gleaned from it ("It feels like comedians seem to have longer marriages"), while men may be able to rouse a little interest depending on how attractive the woman is ("She is together with who?").

Paltrow and Martin's break-up changed all that because they didn't get a divorce like everyone else. They engaged in a "conscious uncoupling".

What is that, you ask? And does it imply it is possible to unconsciously uncouple as well as consciously or unconsciously couple? If I have a drunken one night stand, can I tell my friends the next day that I unconsciously coupled?

Nobody knows the answer.

That is why when the two posted an announcement of their "conscious uncoupling" online, they accompanied it with a post from a pair of New Age-type therapists explaining what it was. They also included a loving picture of them together, which really gave the whole divorce announcement the feel of a wedding invite.

Most of the time, the explanations for divorce are fairly brief – "the scumbag cheated on me with my best friend's sister", "We just hated each other's guts and could no longer tolerate to be in the same room" or "the smell was very strong".

This one had hundreds and hundreds of words that included statistics about human lifespan.

I am going to quote just a few bits of it to you because if you attempt to read the whole thing, you might gouge your eyes out.

It starts with the classic words everyone expects when about to read an explanation for divorce: "During the upper Paleolithic period of human history (roughly 50,000BC to 10,000BC) the average human life expectancy at birth was 33".

The unsaid implication being that it is unnatural to stay committed to someone beyond your early 30s.

It should come as no surprise that this explanation includes footnotes.

Several hundred words later, we get to the part where the therapists get down to the business of explaining conscious uncoupling: "A conscious uncoupling is the ability to understand that every irritation and argument was a signal to look inside ourselves and identify a negative internal object that needed healing. Because present events always trigger pain from a past event, it's never the current situation that needs the real fixing."

Everyone clear now? No, OK, let me try and decode the jargon for you.

Basically, the message Paltrow and Martin are trying to convey in about 2,000 words is this: "We did not do anything wrong. We are still better than you."

Like it or not, society has sort of attached the stigma of failure on the end of a marriage. Most people look at it as either as a couple having given up or having made some very bad decisions over the course of marriage.

It is a painful, messy affair that often leaves the parties involved scarred in some profound ways.

Paltrow and Martin, however, are determined not to have any of that fallout. It's almost certain that the reason they are getting divorced is no different from the reasons other normal people get divorced, but they are determined to justify to someone, perhaps themselves, that this is different.

They are more self-actualised and evolved. They are better and more wholesome than that. Divorce is for little souls.

The operative word here is "conscious". What they are trying to say is: "We could stay married if we wanted to and be perfectly happy. We still love each other very much. But we realised that if we were to separate it would be more in line with our human auras and global feng shui so we went ahead and did that.

"But let us be clear that this is not like one of your lousy civilian divorces where it is just two idiots who couldn't make it work. We can, we simply consciously chose to take the enlightened path and fulfil our biological destinies. If two beautiful, successful people cannot make this work, it must mean that there is something wrong with marriage and not us. Anyone still married is not fully self-actualised or living in a loveless union."

In other words, you know how when you screw up massively, you try and tell yourself that it really was not your fault. The circumstances at the time meant that this was the best decision for you to make and it will be better in the long run. And if you lost something you wanted, you try and convince yourself that you are better off without it and then try and convince everyone else that they shouldn't want it either.

But maybe they have done a big favour to the institution of marriage, despite all attempts to suggest that it is flawed. With the idea now getting criticised and mocked by all and sundry, maybe more couples will be determined to stay together, lest they too get accused of consciously uncoupling. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network


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