"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I am in deep despair with my boyfriend of five and a half years now. We were happy in the first two years of our relationship, however things turned sour during the third year when he cheated on me with our best friend's girlfriend.
When confronted, my boyfriend apologised and begged me to stay. I stayed because I loved him.
He still kept in touch with that girl and when confronted he gave excuses and apologised.
His career took a dive and he was in debt. I helped him out financially and emotionally.
I bought a new car not long ago and my career back then required me to work overseas for two years. At that time he had a new car business venture and he used my car in my absence.
In our fourth year he stopped doing anything special for me. I got bored of our bland relationship and stopped putting in any effort.
In our fifth year, his business grew, resulting in less time for me. We fought over his work life balance. After our parents mediated, he stopped working on Sundays but instead he works late every day, and I see him only once or twice a week. I have lost confidence in him as he has not returned what he owes me, and yet spends on the car.
The biggest problem is he is a really nice guy but now his words disgust me.
After a big fight I asked to break up because I'm tired of being treated poorly.
I demanded that he return my car and he said half of the car belongs to him because of the effort and modifications he has made.
I was told to either sell him the car or pay for removal of all modifications.
I can't believe what a monster he's become, demanding things he doesn't deserve.
We were planning our wedding and deep inside I still wanted to get this right. But now, it's all dark again.
Thelma, was I asking for too much? What should I do? I have thought of relationship counselling but does it work? - Insanely Lost
Dear Insanely Lost,
You became bored with your bland relationship, you find what he says disgusting, you fight over every little thing, and you think he's a monster. My dear, that sounds like it's over. But somehow you still want to marry him.
I think you need to ask yourself: if he's so horrible, why do you want to get stuck with him for the rest of your life? Do you still mean what you wrote, or were you venting?
When I put together a timeline, I see your relationship in two parts: the first happy part ended with his cheating. After this, you went abroad to work. Now you're back but you appear to have completely different needs.
Long distance love is extremely difficult so it may be that you have both gone your separate ways and not realised it.
Or you may think you've forgiven him, but find in your heart that you truly can't move past it. If either applies, then get legal advice to sort out what happens to your car, and move on.
If you decided you want to try again then you will have to work hard because what you have now is making you miserable.
First, you forgave him for cheating, and normally I'd say that is the end of it. However, I'm concerned because you say repeatedly that he doesn't listen to you. Also, he keeps you waiting all the time, and he doesn't seem to care that this upsets you very much. It adds up to a pattern of disrespect.
What are your other relationships like? Are you in the habit of letting others ignore and upset you? If yes, then it has to be addressed. This is a personal matter and I suggest you talk to a professional.
As for your relationship, you used to love each other, and so it may be possible to get back to that point. If you both think the foundation is still there, hidden under years of resentment and frustration, then you might want to try to get back there.
The first item to address is your clashing personal needs. He wants to grow his business and you want him to spend time with you. He's tried to accommodate you, but clearly it's not enough for you. As this is a major fount of frustration, you must find a deal you can both live with.
Unfortunately, neither of you communicates well. He deals with conflict by ignoring you, and you confront and fight. Also, you are both using money as a tool to hurt and control. He is repeatedly late making payments to you, knowing this upsets you while you deliberately stopped giving gifts on special days. The issue of the car is particularly revealing of this behaviour too.
This has to stop! You both need to learn healthy, respectful, effective ways to address and overcome difficulties. Talk to a therapist or look for a workshop in conflict management.
Whether you decide to work on your relationship is up to you. However, as communication and conflict management are fundamental life skills, I think both of you would benefit from attention to these areas no matter what you decide. - Thelma