My husband Sachin runs the family business of iron hardware. He is 32 years old and we have been married for 9 years now. We have 2 children aged 7 and 4 respectively. I work as a sales executive in a car dealership office. I have noticed that my husband does not have many friends and likes to be by himself. He is also suspicious about me right from marriage although he does not show it in an overt manner. He would repeatedly ask me about my schedule, my office colleagues and my friends. He often checks the telephone by dialing the last number dialed to check as to whom I have been talking. He often gets angry if I am late from my work or if I have to go to a conference or a launch of a new vehicle. Initially I had attributed it to his insecurity of a new relationship, but now I feel it might be a problem from before marriage. From the talks that I had with his parents and his sister, I feel that he has been a loner and has a suspicious nature right from childhood. How should I tackle this problem and help him?
Your husband Sachin appears to have a paranoid personality problem. In such cases, there is a tendency to have recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding the sexual fidelity of the spouse. There is an excessive sensitivity to setbacks and rebuffs. There is a tendency to bear grudges persistently, refusal to forgive insults, injuries or slights. The suspicious nature makes him distort experiences by misconstruing your neutral or friendly actions as hostile or contemptuous. There is a persistent self-referential attitude associated with self-importance. Sometimes there is a lot of preoccupation with unsubstantiated “conspiratorial” explanations of events either immediate or in the world at large. Most events are perceived as malevolent and he suspects, without sufficient basis, that you or others are exploiting him, harming or deceiving him. He has unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates. He is reluctant to confide in you because of an unwarranted fear that it might be used maliciously against him. He also reads demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events. He often perceives attacks on his character that are not apparent to you and is quick to react angrily to counterattack. There may be a lot of social discomfort that does not diminish with familiarity and tends to be associated with fears rather than negative judgments about him. Sometimes this may give rise to odd and peculiar behavior. He neither desires, nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of the family. He rarely has pleasurable activities and shows emotional coldness, detachment or flattened affections. The worst part is that he feels his life is normal and this often creates unbearable marital and family circumstances.
How can you help?
Sachin needs behavioral correction. He has to change the internalized self-concepts. He has to adapt to the environment by modulating the salience of perceptions and primary emotions, thereby reducing the extreme temperaments. You have to use confrontation with care. The central theme is to do something with Sachin rather than something to him. This gives him a sense of control. You may be flexible in your approach but have firmness in the basic values with creativity and readiness to step away from the framework to get out of the frustrating situations when essential. You have to direct the interactions towards cooperativeness. As the character matures and new concepts develop, they neutralize the suspicious traits and the emotions of fear and anger. You almost have to act like a parent, sometimes educating him, sometimes helping him deal with real-life problems and encouraging him. You need to try simple behaviors at first like more time with friends and relatives and then move on to complex behaviors like being able to love. Do not be ambitious to change everything or expect a dramatic change in a very short time. You have to set the target of his being able to achieve maturity. The discussion of areas of everyday life like friendships, marital relationships, work-related progress and religion increase their chances of maturation. Often the emergent changes are sudden and associated with a new perspective on life and new goals and values, which cannot be achieved by earlier logic. Initially, there will be a lot of restructuring Sachin’s life; not to bring about the personality change but only to improve behavior control. He will also resist any efforts made by you by putting conditions to follow your guidance. He will even deny serious problems and such a blind spot reflects the facts that Sachin has developed efficient mechanisms to avoid disturbing feelings and insights. Hence, he feels much less distress than you do. Here confrontations help to increase his discomfort with his problems and helps him to recognize his problems and brings about motivation to change the behavior pattern. He will tolerate the confrontations if you can build enough trust; a difficult task anyway when he has a sense of distrust all around from the beginning. You might need to be careful in your judgment about the fragility of his coping strengths. Sometimes the social avoidance is a compensatory behavior in order to create a façade; it is maladaptive but stable. He may break down initially when you take away the façade, but then develop more mature relationships. Therefore, you might see a deterioration sometime but do not panic. It is a decreased adaptation that later gives way to better adaptation later.