Meg, in her 40s and a homemaker, was married to Heng. He was with a large UK multinational company, and had been in working Singapore for the last five years. They had two teenage boys living with them. Once every couple of months, Meg returned to Penang, in Malaysia, with her sons, to be with their families. A long stay was usually over the weeks covering the Christmas and New Years’ festivities. When she returned from one of these long trips, she intuitively sensed that Heng’s attitude to her had somewhat changed, but she was unable to put a finger on what the issue was. He was drinking more whiskey than usual, and was less intimate with her. One day, Heng absent-mindedly left his mobile at home as he left for the office. A call came through at midday, and Meg picked it up. It was her best friend Joyce, a fellow Malaysian, who lived a block away. Joyce seemed surprised that Meg answered her call; as she was not due back in Singapore another couple of days. Meg enquired whether she could pass on a message to Heng for her, but Joyce ended the call rather abruptly, declining to chitchat as they used to do in the past. Meg’s suspicions were aroused. She checked Heng’s mobile. With the incriminating evidence in his mobile, the subsequent confrontation with Heng elicited a confession of his adulterous relationship with Joyce during Meg’s absence. Subsequently, Heng broke off his liaison with Joyce.
Three months later, Meg turned up in my office as a result of a referral. She still loved Heng and wanted to save their marriage. However, her shock at her best friend and husband’s betrayals took its toll on her mental and emotional stability. Whenever we addressed the adulterous relationship, she went into an uncontrollable tremor, her whole frame just shook with tension, and she became conversationally incoherent. Meg was not willing to see a doctor for her anxiety, so it took several weeks for her to learn to calm herself. She had mild depression, and her anxiety level was in the severe range.
The traumatising factor for Meg was to realise that their matrimonial bed had been desecrated by her Heng, and her home violated by her best friend. She could not bring herself to sleep in the same bed and room as her husband, and from time-to-time, she broke out into a panic attack thinking how her best friend was in her home and used its facilities as though she was the mistress of the home. Meg spent most of her days away from the home, when Heng left for the office and the boys were in school. Her home was no longer a safe domain for her. In fact, she talked incessantly of returning to Penang with the children after their completion of their current school year. Heng remained adamant that he did not need counselling together with his wife. He could not understand nor empathise with his wife’s anxieties. Their relationship remained estranged.
We worked towards stabilising Meg’s trauma resulting from her husband’s adultery. Once the children’s school year concluded, Meg returned to Penang.