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The Star / Asia News Network
Sunday, Jun 25, 2017
"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I got married in 2010 after my first child was born. When I was pregnant with my second child that same year, I came to know that my husband has another woman in his life.
I shall refer to her as K. And they have a 12-year-old son!
When I confronted my husband about K, he hit me. The next day, he promised not to hit me again.
I called K but she told me that she would not leave my husband. She added that if she were to complain to my husband that I have been harassing her, my husband would leave me instead.
My husband and I often fight because of K. I put up with all this because I love my husband and the kids.
Sometime ago, I saw a WhatsApp message from K, pestering my husband to marry her. We had a fight over this and I left home.
My husband came looking for me the next day, and he promised to break up with K. Things looked good for a few months.
Now the problem is, he hardly spends time with the family. The kids and I feel trapped inside the house. We do not get to go anywhere. When he is home early, he goes to bed by 9pm. More often than not, he comes home late.
My kids are now seven and eight years old. They often ask me why their father is never around. I do not know how to answer them. I suspect my husband is back with K. I am so confused. Should I confront him?
There are times when I think of leaving him but I have no place to stay and no job. What should I do?
– Helpless Wife
Dear Helpless Wife,
This is a problem that won’t be easy to resolve because it involves so many parties, and some of them are children.
The stark truth is that you married a man in good faith and later discovered that he has a secret family.
If it were simply a matter of an old flame, I’d say he would have to choose between the other woman and you – if you wanted to give him a second chance. But that is not your choice, is it?
Like it or not, your husband has another child – a 12-year-old boy. He is an innocent party in this. He doesn’t understand about marriages; all he knows is that his father comes and goes.
You feel you have the right to your man and this is understandable. You married him, and it must be an awful shock to discover he has a divided heart.
This is where you have to be very brave and discuss this like adults. You need to sit down with your husband to straighten this out. You have to leave all your emotions on the side.
First, your husband has a duty to his children – all his children from both relationships. As adults, you need to ensure that this duty is fulfilled. Children cannot be abandoned.
Then you have to decide what happens to the adults in these two relationships. There are several ways this can go: he and you stay together, he picks the other woman, or he leaves both of you.
From your letter, you walked away once, and then you went back to him. You also say you love him. However, with all these troubles, your husband has switched off. He comes home but he sleeps and your children miss their father. So your frustration comes from not having him truly present in your life.
What is he thinking? As your husband has come home, and has tried to give up the other woman, I think he may want to be with you. Reading between the lines, I think your husband is miserable and as lost as you are.
When you talk together, try and remember that you love each other. Swallow the hard words and be kind. Don’t expect to solve it in one conversation. Take your time.
If you decide after talking that you don’t want to stay married anymore, then both of you have to sort out an arrangement whereby he still gets to see the kids. You will need a lawyer, and I suggest you seek personal counselling to help you through the trauma.
For basic legal information and counselling, you can contact the All Women’s Action Society or the Women’s Aid Organisation. Give them a ring and make an appointment.
If you do decide to stay married, then you have to rebuild your relationship. But you will have to accept that he will have to be a father to the other little boy. This will be difficult as it will mean he will also have some contact with the other woman.
Whether you stay married or not, at some point your kids will discover they have a half-brother. Plus, your larger family and acquaintances will find out and there are bound to be some rather tricky questions coming your way.
This is something you’re going to need help with, and you may want to get a good marriage counsellor. You also need to build up a personal network of support, and your husband will have to build up his as well. No matter what you decide, this is going to be rough on all of you, and you all need support.
As for the violence, you say it was only one slap and it didn’t happen again. Perhaps in the heat of the moment and the shame of being discovered, your husband lost control. If that’s the end of it, and he’s kind, thoughtful and proper at other times, then forgive and forget.
But if he is abusive, then you have to think of your own safety and that of your kids. Violent men are dangerous. If he is violent again, seek shelter with your family, call a lawyer and take steps to keep yourself safe.
Finally, whether you mend your marriage or not, you have to become financially independent. You must empower yourself.
You did not mention if you have any training or not. You may want to look for part-time work, for example, ironing clothes or offering house-keeping services. Housework is simple and as a mother-of-two, you can do it easily.
As you have young kids, such part-time jobs allow you to be flexible so you can work when you want to. There is also a huge market for such work, so you can pick your clients. It’s quick, easy money and if you do contract work only, short stints of three hours can earn you decent money.
Once you have settled your personal life, you can focus on a proper career.