The Person I Married Has Changed.
James was the CFO of a multinational company before he was transferred to Singapore as the CEO of the company’s lucrative East Asian business. He brought his family with him: Connie, his wife, and two boys in their pre-teens. Connie had been reluctant to relocate, but she relented, as this was James’ first major overseas posting. Six months into his new assignment, Connie presented with symptoms of moderate depression.
Connie was forthcoming as to the possible cause of her depression; it surfaced a little more than a year after her marriage to James. James was in his early 20s and had just begun working for this global firm. He rose very quickly in the company, but his personality changed until Connie said she seemed to not recognise him at times, and that was when her depression began. She elaborated that James was hardworking, and often left the office at 10.00pm. When he got home, he wanted to know how her day had gone, whom she was with, and the topics of conversation she engaged in. He invariably questioned all her friends’ trustworthiness, and warned her against sharing any family matters with them. With new friends she had met, the interrogation would go on for an hour or so. Eventually, he encouraged her to curtail her social life, due to his fears that the family may be exploited or harmed by Connie’s acquaintances. And if she did fill him in on some belated information, his suspicions that she had been keeping other bits of info from him made him very angry; it proved to him that she did not trust him as head of the house. Over weekends, James subjected his family to incessant news of his brilliant accomplishments at the company at meal times, and expected their admiration and compliments forthrightly. He was the final arbiter of anything that had to do with the family, and he did not take lightly any differences of opinions; a possible indication that his ability to empathise was low and his self-esteem was somewhat fragile.
Even the two kids found their father’s control and paranoia over their school and neighbourhood friendships frustrating, and they were beginning to openly rebel. However, they soon learnt that that was not an ideal approach to James, as his anger descended into disciplinary actions. Soon, they internalised their opposition to tolerate James’ wrath. On several occasions, James would accuse Connie of infidelity, if she had lunch or tea with a friend, whose husband was present. This pervasive distrust and suspicion of others spilled over into the office environment as James complained incessantly about everyone who worked closely with him. This had resulted in several replacements of his personal secretary over the months. At a few of the company functions that Connie attended, she noticed that her husband was openly arrogant and haughty in his attitude with his staff, and basically, they only interacted with him on a need to basis.
Throughout several sessions, Connie kept saying that the present James was not the one she had married in their late teens, when they were very much in love. However, her description of her husband’s personality changes provided us with some indications how we could work together to help her understand and cope with James’ psychopathology. It was certainly challenging for a spouse, with children, on a visit pass, with no extended family support, to manage on her own. Many times, Connie expressed that she felt trapped in this marriage, but would hang in there until the boys had finished schooling.