I am 22 and have been in a relationship with a man who is 22 years older than me for the past three years. Life was a bed of roses initially, and then the nightmares began. The man whom I thought was my "knight" turned out to be a scumbag.
Four months into our relationship, I sensed something fishy about this guy. I checked his phone during his absence and saw love messages from home, and some of which he referred to himself as "daddy".
My heart broke. I had disobeyed my parents and quarrelled with them because of him. I had sneaked out of the house at every opportunity to be with him. I had given him everything - my heart and my body, only to find that he had cheated on me. Despite the pain he caused me, I was desperate for him.
More of his dirty secrets surfaced over time. I found that there was another woman in his life. Each time he sensed my suspicion, he would take me to a hotel and tell me how much he loved me, and that I was the only woman in his life. And we always ended up having sex.
I did make a brave attempt to break up with him, but my resolve melted at the critical moment.
Later we moved into a rented room because he told me he was in the midst of a divorce. Life wasn't good. We had instant noodles every day. When we could no longer pay rent, we moved into his parents' house. His three children are under the care of his parents.
Love had blinded me and I thought he would change for the better. I thought he was the man I could spend the rest of my life with.
But things have changed. He uses the foulest language on me, and hurls curses at my parents and siblings. It took me two years to realise that I am in an emotionally abusive relationship. How can I save myself and this relationship?
- Bruised and Shaken
Dear Bruised and shaken,
You are right in saying that you are in an abusive relationship. However, you are wrong in thinking that it started with his insulting you and your family. It started from the moment he lied to you about his marital status.
It is not your fault that you ended up in this extramarital affair. He lied and sweet-talked you into a relationship. Yes, he is so much older than you. That kind of attention can be overwhelming. He probably played on your naivety, and knew you would never suspect him.
But then, he made mistakes and got caught. Now he is trapped in his own web of lies.
From his lies, he drew power. He had power over his wife and over you. Now, he doesn't have that power anymore. So he finds that power from throwing insults at you.
Humiliating someone actually provides a deep sense of control. This is especially true when the person doing the humiliating knows that the other party will not retaliate. In your case, he knows that you won't leave him. That doubles his sense of power over you.
He has always had power over you - only before, it was pleasant. It was through the attention he gave you. He managed to get you to do things that he wanted you to do. For example, you wanted to break off with him and he had you change your mind. Your partner is highly manipulative; you do not even realise he is using you to his advantage. He probably has you convinced that it was what you wanted.
He won't stop and will continue to find ways to exercise control over you. The insults will probably continue and may even develop into something more serious.
Think about this: will he do to you what he did to his wife? Is that a fate you want for yourself?
Ultimately, he has disrespected you. He is selfish and thinks only of himself and his pleasure.
You are not married to him. You do not have to go through an expensive and lengthy divorce process. You just need the courage to leave him. It will seem like you cannot live without him. He has made you dependent on him. That is his continued exertion of power over you.
The truth is you can do without him. You have a family you can turn to for help. Do not be ashamed to do so. They love and care for you, and want the best for you. You can go back to them and start life anew.
It will be hard at first. You will miss him. You will be angry at him, his wife and yourself. You may be tempted to yell at him or confront him. You must resist and cut yourself off from him completely. Ignore his phone calls and change your phone number if you have to. If you have to move to a friend's house or a relative's house outstation for a while, do it. These are temporary inconveniences with positive outcome.
You are young. It is not too late to start over. Go to university. You can still graduate in three years' time. Find a job. Discover yourself and the world. There are boundless opportunities out there.
Do not waste your life with this man. It is better to go through a shorter period of pain when you end the relationship, than be tormented for the rest of your life.
If you need someone to talk to, you may contact the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) at 03-7956 3488. Or, you can contact the All Women's Action Society (Awam) at 03-7877 4221.
Find that courage in yourself. Care for and love yourself enough to decide that you have had enough of him. It is not too late. - Thelma