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October 10, 2016
"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I have been married for 30 years. My married life was very happy. She was the perfect wife. Then a few years back, my wife and I had a big misunderstanding over some money issues. During an argument, she suddenly blurted out that she did not like to have sex with me. I was stunned. I didn't see any connection between money and sex.
From that day onwards, she refused to have sex with me. Our married life was never the same again. If she had mentioned health reasons for refusing sex, I can understand. But she didn't.
I know my wife has some health problems, so I always help out with housework.
I love my wife very much. She means the world to me. I have treated her very well from Day One of our marriage.
Ours was an arranged marriage. The day both our families agreed to the marriage, my wife and I exchanged photos. Until today her photo is still in my wallet as I love her dearly. But she has removed my photo from her handbag. My photos are all over the house. One day, I even found my photos next to the dustbin.
My wife handles all the family finances, including my salary. I get my daily allowance from her.
I noticed my wife has changed over the past few years. Now she wears a lot of branded clothes and jewellery. She claimed that she bought those clothes at sales. She received a set of bangles as a gift, but she refused to tell me who gave her the bangles.
She is very close to N, one of our relatives. N visits the family often and my wife talks highly of him. She hangs around him a lot during family gatherings. Any secret between husband and wife, she will reveal to N.
A few months ago, she told me she was going out for grocery shopping. But she was away for almost six hours, and returned home with just a few items. She said she was too tired to cook, and asked me to buy my own lunch. When I requested for money to do so, she told me to take it from her handbag. I opened her handbag and got a shock. I found a used towel and her panties inside.
Nowadays, she prefers to go shopping alone and refuses to allow me to accompany her.
I sensed something more than friendship between my wife and N. During family functions, they are always together. They like to touch each other, too. I noticed that many times.
I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with my wife about this matter but she refuses to entertain me. Whenever I raise the subject, she would get very angry and start shouting at me. I have sent many text messages to her handphone but she did not bother to reply to any of them. Instead, I found a lot of text exchanges between N and my wife, in her handphone.
Nowadays, I just keep to myself. I did not tell my three children about our marital problems. I do not want my sons to know about their mother's behaviour.
I am dying a slow death because I can't take this anymore. I am willing to give up everything for her happiness. I want her to be happy. What should I do? - Unloved Hubby
Dear Unloved Hubby,
It can be very difficult when, after so many years of being with someone, you suddenly see that she has changed and you do not recognise her anymore. It is even more painful when you realise that the person you are in love with may not feel the same way about you anymore, and reserves her affection for someone else.
You have been a good husband by the look of it. You took your oath of fidelity seriously, and it hurts when your partner seems to take it lightly.
The way you lay out the facts, it seems likely that your wife is having an affair with N. However, as suspicious as it may look, the only way to know for sure is to ask her about it.
The confrontation with her should not be an indirect one - on whether or not she loves you, or how much you love her. You should lay out the evidence that you have and ask her to clarify.
Then, you should be able to communicate with her what you want. Nobody can tell you what to do in this situation. You have to think for yourself and decide on what course of action you want to take.
You love her very much. You must bear in mind, though, that this does not mean the relationship has to continue. You can continue to love her even if you are not married to her.
The pain you are experiencing now is due to the fact that you hold so much love for her, but all that she does seems to hurt you. Pent-up issues from long ago that were left unaddressed, are raised now to hurt. The fact that you are attracted to her - and have remained loyal - but she rejects you, hurts.
This is how you feel. How does your wife feel? What does she want?
You may want to hang on to the relationship. That is fine. But it will take a lot of work from both of you. You will have to be prepared to leave the past behind - everything you thought you knew about her - and build a relationship again. She will have to regain your trust. You will have to find the intimacy in your relationship. The sexual attraction must come from a place of real longing and not conjugal duty.
There is a lot of work involved. Can you do that? Can your wife? You will essentially be rebuilding your relationship.
You say you are willing to do anything for her happiness. Just what are you willing to do? How far are you willing to go? How much of yourself are you willing to give up?
What about your happiness? Putting her happiness first is commendable but if you don't consider what you want, you will be a martyr and that would bring about resentment. Resentment will make you feel like you are owed something and that will bring about anger. Besides ruining your relationship, bitterness will consume you.
You may want to consult a lawyer to understand your options. You need to know your rights, as well as what would happen should you choose to end your marriage. You have children, and therefore, need to have a clear idea of what your obligations are.
Your hurt is very understandable. Your anger is also justified. This, however, is not the time for hasty decisions. And it is not a decision you can make alone.
You have little choice but to confront N with the information you have and your suspicions. You are going to have to thrash it out with your wife. If she doesn't want to talk, then you may want to explore marriage counselling. A safe space may allow both of you to discuss the matter, identify the real problem, and make the right decision.
You have been married for a very long time. It is important to look at the situation rationally, and not with sentiments. The fear of being alone, or of the unknown, may hold you back. You have to find the courage to see past that and decide what is good for you and not just what is good for your wife. This is not the time to sit back and speculate and torture yourself with negative thoughts.
Confronting your wife may cause temporary discomfort. That is better than a lifetime of doubt and pain. You owe it to yourself and the life that you want to build with her, to know the truth and make an informed decision from there. - Thelma