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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Dear Thelma: Double standards for marital affairs

Posted: 17 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Dear Thelma,

I would like to pose a question. Hope you will bear with me. Recently, I was a little bit perplexed regarding relationships in a family. I am wondering how one action gives rise to another different set of reactions or results. Firstly, let me give a scenario of a family consisting of two parents with adult sons and daughters, and grandparents. If a husband or wife has an affair, obviously the spouse will be very unhappy and may even file for divorce.

But what happens when it is the grandparents or the adult children who are having the affairs? It appears there is not even a mention of divorce or disowning of anyone in the family. If a wife's father has extra-marital affairs, the wife might even feel proud because it's a sign that the father is virile. But, when it comes to the husband, it's always "no talk". The word "divorce" is always thrown about. What's your view on this?


Dear Relations,

This is a sticky situation indeed. The double standards could be due to expectations.

For instance, a wife would expect honesty and monogamy from a husband. This is not unusual. Marriages are, after all, built on that promise. So, when there is a breach of that expectation, there will be hurt and disappointment. A direct reaction from that place of hurt and disappointment would be a call to end the relationship once and for all.

Now, this can be different for different people. Some may eventually accept the cheating spouse's behaviour. They may see this as an error or mistake in behaviour, and seek to make amends and to try and move forward. The moderating factors in these decisions, perhaps, could be expectations of each other and the marriage, an understanding by both parties, or even personality factors.

When it comes to expectations of a filial figure – be it a father or grandfather – there could be expectations based on the notion that they are beyond reproach. Least of all, from an "outsider" like an in-law. Then, there would be the need to protect this person's "face". And, it doesn't matter that that comes at the cost of defending actions that you may not tolerate if you were on the receiving end.

Yes, it is dishonest and even deplorable. But, of course, "the father or grandfather has to be virile – that is why he is the most respected in the family". This kind of reasoning – as ridiculous as it sounds – is also coming from a place of hurt and disappointment.

It is disappointing that a father figure who was held in high regard has now shown himself to be capable of cheap and common behaviour. That this godly figure has shown himself to be human after all and is fallible.

But the notion then is that there must be some other reason to respect him and you should if you, as an in-law, know what's good for you.

The fact is, the point in both scenarios is the same. There is a lot of hurt and pain. And, whether it is asking for a divorce or justifying the act, it is just how the person who was hurt is trying to cope with the situation and salvage some self-respect while dealing with it.

Whenever cheating comes into discussion, people are just as likely to defend the cheating spouse as they are to vilify them. In trying to understand the impact of it, though, the discussion of this issue can be taken to another level. Every person involved in a situation of cheating will be hurt. There will be lies and deceit, and more lies. And when the cat eventually gets out of the bag, the ensuing emotional marathon that awaits all will be the real focus of cheating.

Marriages and families are usually torn apart. The impact is also felt in the next generation – children may either be weary of being in a relationship for fear of being cheated, or come to belief that this kind of behaviour is completely acceptable, thus repeating the destructive cycle.

There are others who would choose to remain in denial, either because this protects them from the actual impact of this kind of hurt, or for the sake of keeping up appearances. Some people, though, can find forgiveness and move forward, as they try to stay true to marriage vows.

Whatever the response, though, the bottom line is pain. And, when people react from pain, it is usually unpleasant to others around them. Like a game of dominoes, one falling tile will bring about the fall of another and so on until you have a chain reaction. Unlike a game of dominoes, though, the "falling tiles" in human situations are unpredictable and result in strong emotions, both positive and negative.

This is one way to understand the behaviours you have described. But, whether or not you accept it will have to depend on how you choose to react to this.

> 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: star2.thelma@thestar.com.my. 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, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

Heart & Soul: Thankful to be in Malaysia

Posted: 17 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

An expat waxes lyrical about his adopted land.

Expatriates, or expats, as we're commonly known, are a strange bunch. Some have left their countries of origin running away from something: a failed marriage or relationship, a business gone bust, a bad job, serious substance abuse, or even worse, running from the long arm of the law.

I'm extremely fortunate. When I landed in Malaysia a few years ago, I hadn't run away from anything. In fact, for me, I ran towards something: a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, and doing so in Asia.

While no one told me to my face, I'm sure many family members and friends back in the United States probably thought I was crazy to literally leave everyone and everything I had ever loved to set out on this new adventure in the Far East.

However, from the moment I stepped foot on this land of enchantment called Malaysia, a few things struck me, and have stayed embedded in my mind ever since. The insane amount of tangled highways going every which way possible, the amount of construction everywhere (which continues to mushroom), and more importantly, the very human and humane way in which all Malaysian people have treated this particular expat from day one. Everyone has treated me with enough warmth and caring concern to wash away any trepidation I might have had about moving 16,000km away from home.

My kampung in the United States is Louisville, Kentucky, a nice, relatively quiet city of about a million people, best known worldwide as the home of KFC, where all the streets lead somewhere, development is ongoing at a minimal rate and folks are friendly in a Midwestern/Southern American kind of way.

Imagine my wonder, moving from the fully developed country that is America, to a developing country like Malaysia, where everything, and I do mean everything, is in a constant state of flux. It's where you're liable to spot a new road or a new high-rise virtually appear before your very eyes almost overnight.

Kuala Lumpur, this megalopolis of millions, which for me and everyone who lives within its reaches, is a maze of roads and highways, seemingly going both everywhere, and nowhere all at once.

It's where edifices of astronomical proportions spring up from where none existed before, or even replacing a previous structure that was itself astronomical.

Kuala Lumpur is the very type of place that, for some, causes headaches and heartaches, but for me is like a wildly coloured batik shirt: beautiful in its own funky way and cool in its make-up. Just by experiencing KL on a daily basis, this never- ending weave of roads, gigantic, everlasting construction zone, gives me energy, amplifies my imagination and allows me to believe I can be anything I want to be and accomplish anything I want.

The city's magnetic pulse is incredible; its pulse has become mine, one that I feel deep inside me every day, one that keeps me going on all days, especially those occasional times when I need a bit of extra motivation. It's something that's hard for me to explain, how a city that is so alive, that is ever changing, can energise me like no other place on earth ever has.

Sure, the roads have no rhyme or reason, and that suits me just fine, because that just makes life more interesting. It's been one of the many ways in which I've been able to discover neighbourhoods and treasures I never knew existed.

I will let someone else write, talk and worry about the problems this city, just like in any other country naturally experiences, goes through while enduring growing pains. For me, my focus has always been, and will always be, on what makes Kuala Lumpur one of the great cities of the world. Malaysia is truly a magnificent place to be, and its people have been my greatest energising force!

It has been written that the melting pot that is the United States is the greatest social experiment in human history. If that is the case, then Malaysia is the second greatest experiment. Malaysia is like a blender, where people of all races, nationalities and religions are mixed together.

While America is a multi-racial society, where assimilation is the norm, not the exception, Malaysia is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society.

Here is where traditions and ideas are kept, and ultimately built upon, and where those differences are celebrated to the fullest. It's where no matter your race, creed, colour or dress, you can be accepted and you can succeed.

Historically in United States, as generations meld into society, their original culture is largely forgotten, with the exception of an occasional parade or street festival to remind everyone of all that was lost.

In Malaysia, it's just the opposite – everyone not only celebrates their culture, they live it and share it! Not in an "in-your-face" kind of way, but in a mellow, "I am proud of where I came from and where I am today" kind of way.

The people of Malaysia are what make this place so great, so amazing. In a place with such unique diversity, a nation strives to find its purpose, strengths and even map out its promising future. The blend of peoples and their cultures are 100% unique to Malaysia.

Whether it's celebrating Hari Raya in Kedah, Chinese New Year in Johor, Deepavali in Brickfields, or Christmas in KL, there is nowhere else on earth where one can celebrate such things, all in one place.

Whether it's the puzzle of Malaysia's streets and highways, the cornucopia of its ever-changing man-made horizons, or the warm hearted smiles from the people who inhabit the country, the positive energy that makes up this great country is a gift to all.

Why do mums kill their children?

Posted: 17 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

IN Raijon Daniels' short eight years of life, his Richmond mother, Teresa Moses, beat, starved and washed him with household chemicals and high-pressure hoses.

In 2009, Judith Williams drove her 16-year-old son to the top of Mount Diablo State Park, shot him in the back and head, and then turned the .357 revolver on herself.

And last month, Ashley Newton, a young San Jose mother, was arrested on suspicion of fatally stabbing her seven-month-old son with a pocket knife in a Livermore park.

Maternal filicide – mothers killing their own children – is rare, experts say, but each time it occurs, the horrific crime raises the question: How could it happen?

"Mothers don't kill their children unless they are seriously disturbed," said Dr Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology in Washington.

"I think it gets attention because, one, it's unfathomable, and two, it's sensational, and obviously, the media reports on that. But it should be noted that this is not common. It is very rare."

Rare as it is, there's clearly something about the mother-child relationship that can go badly wrong.

According to the United States Department of Justice, women commit only 14% of all violent crimes in the US. But a recent study on filicide shows they commit nearly half of all parental murders.

A 2014 Brown University study analysing 32 years of filicide arrests found there are about 3,000 instances annually in the US where a parent kills a child.

Investigators have not released a suspected motive for Newton, only saying it was not a murder-suicide attempt. She was arraigned recently at John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro, where she was being held for an undisclosed "medical issue". She did not enter a plea.

Evidence at the scene suggested Newton may have been depressed, police said, and one witness who rendered aid to the mortally-wounded infant said he could tell the mother, caked in blood, was in "a really bad place".

"If there is indeed no suicidal behaviour on her part, then typically, it's homicidal behaviour associated with a psychotic break or postpartum depression," Dr Berman said.

Studies and experts agree on one common factor when mothers commit such an unthinkable crime: extreme mental illness.

Dr Phillip Resnick, an expert in maternal filicide and a co-author of a 2007 World Psychiatry study, reviewed psychiatric studies on mothers killing their children and found most had depression, psychosis and suicidal thoughts.

He identified five motives:

·"Altruistic filicide", the most common motive, where a mother rationalizes that killing her child is in the child's best interest.

·"Acutely psychotic filicide", where a mother kills without an understandable motive, possibly hearing voices.

·"Fatal maltreatment filicide", where a mother does not necessarily mean to kill her child, but the death occurs after cumulative abuse.

·"Unwanted child filicide", where a mother believes her child is a hindrance in her life.

·"Spouse revenge filicide", the rarest for mothers, where she kills her child to emotionally strike out against the father.

Recognising the special nature of the crime, other countries have infanticide laws that reduce the penalty for mothers who kill their children.

British law allows mothers to be charged with manslaughter, rather than murder, if they have a mental disorder. Women who are convicted of infanticide there often receive probation and mental health treatment referrals, rather than incarceration, according to Dr Resnick's report.

On Oct 19, 2005, Lashaun Harris, who, the week before, told family members she was going to feed her three small children to sharks, travelled with her kids to San Francisco, walked to the end of Pier 7, and threw her children into the Bay.

The 23-year-old homeless Oakland mother with a history of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses told police she heard voices telling her to throw her children into the water so they could reunite with God in heaven.

"What I learned with Lashaun Harris was she was a good mother, and she wouldn't have killed her children without her mental illness," said Teresa Caffese, the former San Francisco public defender who represented Harris. "Heaven to her was a concrete place with basketball courts, buses, you name it."

"The system sometimes does not sufficiently help the mentally ill," she said.

A jury acquitted Harris of first-degree murder, but found her guilty of three counts of second-degree murder. A judge declared her criminally insane and sentenced her to a psychiatric hospital, where she will remain unless she regains her sanity.

Last year, Teresa Moses was released from Napa State Hospital after doctors determined she was no longer a risk to society.

According to a 2011 report by the US Department of Justice that studied homicide trends from 1980 to 2008, 63% of all murdered children under age five were killed by a parent; 33% by fathers and 30% by mothers.

The US has the highest rates of child homicide, and when a young child is murdered, it is most likely a parent who did it, according to Dr Resnick's research.

In the case of infanticides – children killed under the age of one – such as the Livermore case, Dr Resnick's study found women perpetrators were often unemployed mothers in their early 20s. Newton has no job and is 23, police said.

Dr Resnick also found that those rates increased with economic stress and social isolation, and offenders also experienced psychiatric disorders.

Newton is originally from North Carolina, but has lived in Fremont and San Jose with no other family in the immediate area, police said.

"Unless there's a really unusual circumstance, a mother doesn't kill her children," Caffese said of the Newton case.

"I bet there were signs all along that were just missed." – Contra Costa Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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