WHY WOMEN STAY IN BAD RELATIONSHIPS

Are they suck­ers for pun­ish­ment? We ask women who stuck it out.

Herworld (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

“My hus­band couldn’t hold downa job, and treated me like an ATM” – Kaye*, 33, pro­ject man­ager

“He was ma­nip­u­la­tive and I didn’t re­alise it” – Veron­ica*, 31, sales agent

“Here’s the thing about me: When I like some­one, the log­i­cal part of my brain shuts down, and I be­come blind to red flags. I think that’s why I stayed with my lazy, in­ef­fec­tual hus­band for as long as I did.

Kyle* and I met when I was just 21. He was charis­matic, con­fi­dent and good-look­ing, and I was at­tracted to him. But for a long time, our re­la­tion­ship stayed pla­tonic as he didn’t seem keen. To my sur­prise, he made the first move af­ter things didn’t work out with his then-girl­friend. We dated for three years, and got mar­ried when I was 27.

Kyle had big dreams of be­ing his own boss. He tried to open a com­pany, but things never took off. So he re­sorted to short­term projects to get by. His fi­nances were er­ratic, and bor­row­ing money from me be­came the norm. But I was so trust­ing, and loved him so much, that I be­lieved him when he said he would pay me back.

I ran the house­hold and cov­ered all our ex­penses and the mort­gage. He never made monthly con­tri­bu­tions, and when we got our flat, my in­put was vastly dis­pro­por­tion­ate (I paid $150,000, he put in just $17,000). When­ever money came in from his work stints, he would spend it freely. In fact, he spent money so freely that I had a $20,000 credit card debt at one point. Oc­ca­sion­ally, he would buy me gifts, but they were never any­thing that I truly liked or wanted.

And that was an­other ma­jor thing. Aside from his ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity with money, he didn’t put any ef­fort into our mar­riage. He never helped with the house­work even though he was at home all day, in­sisted we get a sec­ond dog de­spite my ob­jec­tions, and even the small things – like car­ry­ing gro­cery bags into the house – were too much ef­fort for him. He also showed no in­ter­est in re­mem­ber­ing the things I liked. Once, when I was ill, he bought me fish­ball noo­dles for break­fast, even though it was a dish I hated and would never order. I gen­tly cor­rected him and told him what I pre­ferred, but the next day, the same noo­dles ap­peared again. When I asked why he was so thought­less, he blamed the hawker in­stead, in­sist­ing that the lat­ter had got the order wrong.

I tried to tell my­self it didn’t matter that my hus­band didn’t know what I liked. There was plenty of time for us to get closer. But I re­alised how wrong I was when a friend whom I had only known for a cou­ple of months nailed a present she got me – a wal­let that was the ex­act brand, style and colour I liked, with­out me hav­ing to say a word. That made me re­alise it was not about the length of time you’ve known some­one, but how much ef­fort you put into un­der­stand­ing what makes them tick.

Af­ter six years of tol­er­at­ing his bad habits and with lit­tle hope of things get­ting bet­ter, I was at the end of my tether. I looked hag­gard, I cried every night, and felt so bur­dened. By Septem­ber 2016, I gave him an ul­ti­ma­tum: He had six months to clean up his act, and in that time, we would move into separate rooms. De­spite this, noth­ing changed. In fact, I dis­cov­ered that he had blocked my par­ents’ num­bers and changed my con­tact name in his phone to ‘Ex-Wife’ (we shared an iTunes ac­count, and changes in one phone book can be seen on the other per­son’s phone). Even so, I still made the ef­fort to take him out bowl­ing and for a meal on his birth­day. But when my birth­day came, not only did he not bother to plan any­thing, he even picked a fight with me in front of my mother.

Af­ter more fights over Christ­mas and Chi­nese New Year, it was clear that my ul­ti­ma­tum had had lit­tle im­pact on him. In May last year, I asked for a sep­a­ra­tion and for him to move out. I’m re­lieved that I made that decision. Since we sep­a­rated, I feel I’m back to the fun-lov­ing, out­go­ing per­son I once was. I go on solo trips and spend more time with my fam­ily. I’m now sav­ing up to open a cafe of my own – this dream was put on hold for years be­cause Kyle squan­dered all my sav­ings. I still hope to get mar­ried again and start a fam­ily.

I see now that I com­pletely let my­self down by staying with Kyle. It took me a long time, but now I un­der­stand that it’s okay to love your­self and put your needs first. It doesn’t make you a self­ish per­son.”

“My hus­band pro­posed af­ter just three months of dat­ing. When we first met, I was 25 years old and had come off the back of a phys­i­cally abu­sive re­la­tion­ship. In con­trast, Dave* treated me like a princess. Fi­nally, here’s a good guy, I thought. Even so, the speed of the pro­posal shocked me, so I didn’t take it seriously at first. But it wasn’t a joke to him, and he be­gan to talk about us hav­ing a baby to­gether. Re­as­sur­ing me that our un­pro­tected sex was safe (I naively be­lieved him when he said he had cal­cu­lated my fer­til­ity pe­ri­ods – look­ing back, I ob­vi­ously trusted him more than I should have), I even­tu­ally be­came preg­nant. He was thrilled, but I was dev­as­tated. I come from a very tra­di­tional fam­ily, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to ex­plain this to my par­ents. De­spite his protests, I sched­uled an abor­tion, but be­fore the ap­point­ment could come around, I mis­car­ried.

The mis­car­riage was trau­matic. I lost so much blood that at one point, I started hal­lu­ci­nat­ing. Dave and his dad took me to the hos­pi­tal af­ter I fainted in the toi­let at his house, and when I woke up af­ter surgery, Dave pro­posed

again. I know it sounds crazy, but I ac­cepted. Even though he had got me preg­nant, I was touched by how de­voted he was dur­ing the mis­car­riage. He did not leave my side, and even helped to clean me up, with­out caring if he got his hands messy with blood.

While re­cov­er­ing af­ter I was dis­charged from hos­pi­tal, Dave and I started look­ing at homes. But he would pick prop­er­ties that were way out of our bud­get – while I’d lived in HDB flats my whole life, he was ac­cus­tomed to liv­ing com­fort­ably in landed prop­erty. He even made com­ments like: ‘If we have to stay in an HDB flat, then I’ll have to get a coun­try club mem­ber­ship.’ He said such things even though he was only hold­ing down a part-time sales job. In the end, we com­pro­mised. We chose an Executive Con­do­minium within our price range, and bought it in six months.

Even be­fore we got mar­ried, I sensed a change in him. In the be­gin­ning of the re­la­tion­ship, he was at­ten­tive and af­fec­tion­ate. We would sit on his porch and talk for hours about our hopes for the fu­ture. But af­ter the en­gage­ment, he started to be­come a different per­son. In­stead of spend­ing qual­ity time to­gether, he would take me fur­ni­ture shop­ping on my days off – which I found ridicu­lous as we hadn’t even moved into our home.

Though his be­hav­iour set off alarm bells, I still mar­ried him. I think it was partly down to the fact that we had bought a flat, and that I’m very loyal – al­most to a fault, ac­cord­ing to my friends. It also didn’t help that there was so much on my mind – re­cu­per­at­ing from the mis­car­riage, house-hunt­ing, and then plan­ning the wed­ding. Life was so hec­tic that I didn’t take the time to pay at­ten­tion to all the lit­tle ways he was chang­ing. I con­vinced my­self that things weren’t so bad, and I could still make it work. There was time for him to change.

But af­ter we got mar­ried, the prob­lems be­came clearer. In the three years of our mar­riage, I felt so lonely. At the time, I fre­quently trav­elled for work, so I would nor­mally look for­ward to com­ing home. But af­ter get­ting mar­ried, it was the op­po­site. I felt lonely in my own home even when he was there with me. When I tried to ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tion, he ig­nored me and turned his at­ten­tion to his lap­top in­stead. Our sex life was al­most non-ex­is­tent. The few times it did hap­pen, it was per­func­tory. This cost me my con­fi­dence. I couldn’t recog­nise the man who had been so de­voted to me when we’d started dat­ing.

We had many ar­gu­ments about our flat. He was in­cred­i­bly proud to be a home owner and con­stantly com­pared him­self to his wealthy friends. He had all these ma­te­rial wants, and spoke of buy­ing a Mercedes. Yet, he changed jobs six times in the three years we were mar­ried, which meant that I had to shoul­der most of the ex­penses. It be­came an ob­ses­sion, and he would make un­nec­es­sary cos­metic changes to our flat. I re­mem­ber that at one point, I had just $500 in my ac­count. Even then, he told me he had hired con­trac­tors to fix a mir­ror in our home – which I had to pay for. It was in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing.

To­wards the end of our mar­riage, my love for him dwin­dled. When he fi­nally got a sta­ble job and started trav­el­ling fre­quently for work, it crossed my mind that he might have a mis­tress, but it was telling that I didn’t even feel any jeal­ousy. The last straw came when we had an ar­gu­ment and he grabbed my arm in anger. My mum was there and wit­nessed for the first time how he was treat­ing me. She en­cour­aged me to leave him, say­ing she feared for my safety and that he wasn’t treat­ing me right.

When I told my hus­band I was di­vorc­ing him, his first re­ac­tion was to look around the flat for a long time. It was clear that his im­me­di­ate con­cern was los­ing the prop­erty that he loved and was so proud of. He cried when I moved out, but I could tell they were croc­o­dile tears. I’d stayed in the mar­riage be­cause I had thought that as a wife, I should try to do my best by him. With hind­sight, I was too giv­ing. I tried my hard­est to sup­port him, but it only en­abled his be­hav­iour.

It’s been four years since we split, and I’m count­ing down till we reach the Min­i­mum Oc­cu­pa­tion Pe­riod of five years so that we can sell the flat. I be­lieve that a cou­ple needs to help each other be­come bet­ter peo­ple. But my ex taught me only about ma­te­rial de­sires. Be­fore I met him, I’d led a sim­ple life and didn’t think of the cars and watches he was ob­sessed with. The sil­ver lin­ing is that I’ve be­come more re­silient, and more fi­nan­cially re­spon­si­ble.

I’ve left my pre­vi­ous job and now work in re­tail, in an area I al­ways wanted to go into. When we were mar­ried, Dave had de­terred me from this be­cause it would mean an un­sta­ble in­come. Now that I’m call­ing the shots in my life, my self-es­teem is back, and I’m more in­de­pen­dent. I don’t need to de­pend on any­one else.”

“I can’t leave my boyfriend – even though he’s been to jail twice” – Jasmine*, 26, ad­min as­sis­tant

“My boyfriend is the only man I’ve ever been in a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship with. We met when I was 16 and he was 17, and we’ve been to­gether for nine years. It sounds romantic, but our story is far from a fairy tale.

As a teenager, Ron* was al­ways in trou­ble. He drank, smoked, and got into fights. Four years into our re­la­tion­ship, things be­tween us were strained. Ron spent a lot of time with his friends, and I was tired of never be­ing first in his life. When he was ar­rested and sen­tenced to jail for his gang ac­tiv­i­ties, I thought that was it. It was time for me to move on and see other peo­ple, and that’s what I did.

But when Ron was re­leased af­ter five months, he fought hard to get me back, con­stantly reach­ing out to me and promis­ing that he would treat me right this time round. In the end, I broke things off with an­other guy I was see­ing at the time. Dur­ing the year that I took to get over the re­la­tion­ship, Ron con­tin­ued to con­tact me. I was even­tu­ally won over by his ef­fort and pa­tience, so I agreed to give things an­other go. I fig­ured that I’d reached the point where I would never be as com­fort­able with any­one else as I was with him. Things were far from smooth sail­ing, and we con­tin­ued to have fights and mis­un­der­stand­ings, but we al­ways found our way back to each other. Ron of­ten told me that he would never find some­one bet­ter than me.

When Ron was ar­rested again last year for a drug of­fence, I was shocked and dis­ap­pointed. I had no idea that he had been us­ing drugs. He was in prison for six months, and is cur­rently in a half­way house, where he will have to stay for an­other six months. My friends and fam­ily have been telling me that I need to leave him, but I feel that I can’t aban­don him. Af­ter all, Ron’s par­ents di­vorced while he was in prison, sold the house, and now his mother lives in a shel­ter. That means he won’t even have a home to go to when he leaves the half­way house. His friends have de­serted him. He has noth­ing and no one left, ex­cept me.

I’m hop­ing this will be a turn­ing point for him, and he will un­der­stand that he has to be a re­spon­si­ble adult, get a sta­ble job to sup­port his frac­tured fam­ily, and stop tak­ing things for granted. I know he is de­ter­mined to turn his life around, and I truly be­lieve the new Ron is worth the wait. I’ve also told him that he needs to prove that he can pro­vide for us – if not, there’s no fu­ture for us. I ad­mit that I’d rather be with a man who is mo­ti­vated by my love, rather than some­one who is al­ready rich and suc­cess­ful.

Of course I am aware that my re­la­tion­ship with Ron is far from ideal. And there’s no guar­an­tee that he will not lapse into his old ways. But I’ve made the decision to stick it out with him. I can’t ex­plain it other than to say that I love him, and I’m cer­tain he loves me too. And at the end of the day I be­lieve if there’s a hope that you can work things out to­gether, then you should.”

*Names have been changed.

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