Sex and the city: I was ‘caught’ by my daughter when she was 14

I got married as a ticket to freedom from a very conservative and dysfunctional home environment. We could never enjoy intimacy as I was never attracted to his simple and nerdy way of life. I had a daughter and as she grew up I started staying more out of the house and created a life of my own which included many sexual affairs. I was caught by my daughter when she was 14. She confronted me and my husband threatened to end the marriage with no access to my daughter. I pleaded as I had nowhere to go. I continue to stay with them, but my daughter is estranged from me and has become increasingly oppositional and is staying out late at nights. My husband continues to blame me for being such a poor role model as a woman to my daughter. I am in a mess and feel guilty for all my choices which have affected my daughter. How do I fix things with her and help her make better choices for her life?

g Your roles as a mother and a wife and your personal journey are a woman are on divergent paths. The short sighted thing to do would be to ‘blame yourself for everything’ and continue to feel miserable.

However, a long range solution would require you to first deal with the facts and then face the any oppositional ire that you’ve already come to expect. Your husband and daughter will challenge your choices based on what they may have perhaps chosen to see as a ‘transgression’ from the role of a loyal wife and model mother. However, you were and continue to be irrevocably human. Human beings are a flawed and needy species. We often chase after what we think will ‘fix everything’ and then find ourselves chasing after ‘another new goal’ that also promises to fix everything once again! Where does it begin or end? People have great potential for learning and an endless yearning for the ‘better way forward’.

When you decided to use marriage as a ticket to escape your parental home, you were searching for a better way forward. In most cultures marriage, is a one-way-ticket. To see your husband as merely as opportunity for ‘escape’ is to disregard his personal dreams and plans for you as a couple that stem from the culmination of his own life’s experiences and desires for love, family and companionship. Were you aware of what you are currently describing as your husband’s nerdyness and simple ways before you married him? If yes, then you chose to marry him despite of the fact that you both were likely to be a poor life-style fit for each other. Understandably, not all men may ride fancy motorcycles, go skydiving, bungee jump and be the life of the party! Excitement is subjective.

A greater part of our lives are spent in the mundane rituals of work, grocery shopping, watching a movie together at home, visiting family and friends and sometimes even being stuck in traffic together. This must be accepted at the outset so as to not have unrealistic expectations from a marriage or a partner. To be frustrated with the man you’ve landed up with is understandable but to expect that your ‘parallel life’ would not catch up with your family home would be to overlook the possibility that your desire to be a free sexual being and the roles you’re expected to fit into - may be at odds with each other.

An effective soldier cannot be a loving son on the battle field and call up his mum to ask her about her health or else he may risk getting shot! A gifted chef cannot be an expert at mindfulness meditation in the middle of the dinner service rush at a popular restaurant since he may need to raise his pitch to get orders moving and manage the kitchen rush. We must choose which role must be fulfilled with care and thought - in the moment. Frequently, the roles we find ourselves in may be very different from what we may desire for ourselves in the moment. This is where a compromise must be reached between what you want and what is required in a given situation. Your husband may have a fixed idea of what an ‘ideal woman’ is supposed to be like based on his own cultural values and based on the women he has grown up with. Your daughter may have a fixed idea of what a ‘great mother’ should be like based on the maternal figures she looks upto in her life.

A visit to a good family therapist or counsellor may do a world of good in opening up communication between you and your daughter but also be aware that you cannot control her disappointment in you nor can you force her to adhere to your plans for her since she may not see you as a credible role model as far ‘good choices’ are concerned.

While you are not obliged to fit into everyone’s definitions of who you should be, you need to be clear and honest with yourself on who you want to be. A free sexual being who lives without a care in the world about the weight of her actions VS the textbook family woman? If you can’t be honest with yourself, you may find it challenging to be honest with your family. Know that you can’t have both these lifestyles occur in a parallel way - without the consequences affecting the people around you.