Dear Sahar,

I am 42 years old. Born, brought up my entire life in Dubai. I got married when I was 26, had my son when I was 28 – even though the doctors told me I couldn’t because of my various illnesses (I have severe asthma, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis). In 2009, my husband cheated on me while we were on holiday in India (the other woman is married with a son and resides there), but I chose to forgive him and work on our marriage. However, while I worked hard at it – even going to marriage counselling with him – he continued to stray.

Last year, after I came across some of his phone messages from the same women he had cheated on me in 2009, I left him. Having been separated for a few months now, I am contemplating a divorce. But, I am worried about my son.

He has been through so much since 2009. I feel that he has sadly grown up too much for his age. He is my rock and, I am very grateful for such a wonderful child. My husband is trying to get back with me firmly denying his recent bout of adultery. To him, occasional chatting and flirting via phone text is not cheating; especially since he has not physically met with that woman since 2009.

But how can I trust him? If not her, what if there are others in Dubai? He seems to have changed. He is trying to spend time with my son and me and wants to save whatever little is there of our marriage. I am a forgiving person. However, I am hurt by his ways and insensitivity. So much so that I am numb right now. Should I try one last time for the sake of my son – who is still very attached to his father? If yes, then how should I tread? If no, please advise me: how I can save my son from yet another dose of mental trauma?

Thank you,

A very hurt and confused mother


The Life Mentoring

Dear Hurt & Confused Mother (and wife),

Is this how you identify yourself? Because if it is, it could be the root of your problem? If you see yourself as a suffering mum and wife, your son is likely to be traumatised by all that is going on in your marriage; because you are. It doesn’t help any if you go around moping and bemoaning your luck.

Children absorb emotions and behaviours from their parents. Affirm to him, and he is a teenager now, that “mummy and daddy love you, they are friends, but cannot make each other happy (working on it, etc.)” he will understand that this can happen in life; and that both of you are both wonderful people although you may not be for each other. That is a realistic view of life.

Let’s put things into perspective. Whatever you decide, and whatever happens in your marriage, please understand that this is neither the end of your life nor of your son’s. It’s an experience and a valuable one at that. And, since it has repeated itself it shows that there’s something for you to learn – which you have not yet.

As an adult, you need to differentiate yourself from your husband by building a self-image and an identity that is independent of him; one which is your own, and part of which is that you are a mother and a wife the latter is NOT all you are.

By individuating, i.e. becoming an individual in your own right; you would continue to develop, learn new things, work on becoming financially independent, make friends, have hobbies, etc. independently of your husband’s so that you are a continuously an interesting individual, one who has an interesting life regardless of circumstance.

This will be your greatest support and insurance for a bright future. Recognise that your source of happiness or misery is not your husband or anyone else; but you, your attitudes and the choices you make on daily basis.

Often, there’s always an anomaly or a pattern to a failed relationship that one or both partners chose to conveniently keep a blind eye to, hoping that things will change with time. They don’t! Time only serves to bring any unresolved issues and problems to the surface.

Also, ask yourself, how did you contribute to this? What beliefs do you have about yourself and your life that have helped attract this experience twice? Unknowingly, we affirm our negative and unconscious beliefs and negative self-worth by co-authoring such experiences which end up making us feel more miserable than before.

Simply put: “if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”. Recognise your boundaries, and that you have a choice in not allowing your circumstance to dictate the way you react, impacting your son negatively. Your son will hurt if you do. He will learn how to put things into the right perspective, bounce back and grow if you do.

In my view, the point of life is to live it – and not to suffer. And to do so, we have to develop resilience: the ability to function, act appropriately, timely, and move forward without damaging ourselves and our lives beyond repair. We are not victims. We are the authors of our own lives, so chose to change the script.

Additionally, no matter how other people behave, it is no reflection on you! Your husband would have most likely behaved this way even if he was married to someone else. Yes, it is disappointing, but again it is not the end of your life unless you allow it to be.

He is not a horrible man, he still loves his son and desires to be with you, but his behaviour and perspective on love and relationships are distorted. He finds himself incapable of building a deeper connection with you, so strays because that is the level to which he can relate and connect to women. 

If you like, a committed relationship deepens as it rises, like a building, from the ground floor to the seventh. Often men who stray are incapable of evolving their behaviour, for whatever reason, so they repeat their initial success, a floor or two, and back down again to the ground floor.

Why do they do this? Again, convenience, allows them to continue to be in denial of their emotional immaturity, and straying convinces them that there is nothing wrong with them because other women find them attractive – until these women want more and deeper connection; and then they leave them and go back to the ground floor; etc.

How boring is that? And how boring is it to hang around and watch them do it over and over again?

The flip side if this is of course you. I truly believe that love is about nurturing a connection, not emotions (those fluctuate & dissipate). Did you try to deepen your connection with your husband? Did you listen to what is important for him in a partner, or did you lose yourself as a mother and ignore the father- your partner?

However, I am not giving up on you both yet. You both could benefit from seeing a counsellor (a new one since the previous one was not successful), and until you find the right one, may I suggest that you both read Passionate Marriage, by David Schnarch (see, and How to Love and be Loved, by Paul Hauck? They will teach you how to assert your needs and how to assess the marriage and how to cope.

Finally, why don’t you give the following Funeral Exercise a go?

“In the Funeral Exercise, couples play-act to confront the reality and emotional experience of breaking up. While this may seem awkward at first, it allows people to either stay in a relationship or have closure so that they can move on to a new relationship.

  1. One person lies down, eyes closed, and pretends to be dead. He or she must remain silent throughout the exercise.
  2. The other person stands over the “corpse” and states what he or she won’t miss about the dearly departed, such as the constant fighting, the guilt, the resentments, the feeling of being trapped, and so on.
  3. Next, the “mourner” tells the corpse specific details of what he or she will miss about that person. Some examples are, sharing the memories of raising children, taking hikes in the woods every autumn, or making pancakes on Sunday mornings. The more details the person remembers, the more vivid the memories will feel.
  4. Now the mourner must express sorrow to the corpse for all the hopes, dreams, and wishes that will never come to pass together. Use specific details, such as attending a daughter’s graduation, taking a cruise around the world, or buying that dream house.
  5. If the mourner has any regrets for his or her behaviour, now’s the time to express them. For example, say, “My affair made a mess out of our lives. It hurt you and the kids, and now you’re gone.”
  6. Finally, the mourner must kiss the corpse goodbye. The mourner must close his or her eyes and visualise the corpse as being gone forever. If any love remains, the mourner will likely be crying.

Wait a day to allow both of you to process the emotions that this exercise has stirred. Then reverse the roles. No matter how much anger or resentment you and your partner may have felt, this exercise can help you see if you still love each other. If so, then you both will recognise that you must work together. If not, then you’ll know it’s time to leave.”

Drop me a line, and let me know if you have tried it.


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