"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I am a 35-year-old working mum with two beautiful children. I have been married for six years. My hubby is a businessman and he is always busy with work. He is constantly on the handphone, texting and replying to messages even when he is spending time with me and the children. In fact, he is addicted to the phone and there is hardly any quality time for the family.
He likes to flirt with women who are his business contacts or customers. We have been quarrelling over this for the past six years. Recently, I found out that he has been seeing a particular woman secretly for the past four years. We had a big argument over this. He promised to break up with this woman. I am very upset with him, and have been crying myself to sleep every night.
He always begs for forgiveness when things go wrong. And I did forgive him many times for our children's sake. I have been working hard to contribute to the family income. I have devoted so much time and energy to take good care of the family. But what did I get in return for all my sacrifices? Another betrayal time and again over the past six years.
Am I just not good enough for him? Or did I choose the wrong guy? I cannot trust him anymore. He has deceived and disappointed me repeatedly. I am not sure how long I can put up with all his nonsense. Please advise. - Hoping For Love To Return
Dear Hoping For Love,
When something goes wrong in our lives, or it turns out differently from what we expected, it is natural to wonder if it happened because of something we did wrong. It is normal to have self-doubt, and to blame ourselves.
However, it doesn't always have to be our fault. You should not blame yourself.
In a relationship with a loved one, it is understandable that we want to be everything to the other person. However, this is not always the case. Perhaps your husband needed something you could not give him, and he sought it elsewhere.
There is also another reason why men sometimes seek the company of women who are not their wives. In many cultures, when wives become mothers, there is the assumption that they no longer want to be sexually active. They are not seen as people with sexual needs and desires of their own.
Instead, they are viewed as maternal figures whose duty it is to look after the children.
Finally, some men feel that after the birth of their children, they do not get attention from their wives. Women, understandably, end up focusing most of their attention on their children. The men feel neglected and look for attention elsewhere.
This does not mean that what he did is right. He is married to you and fidelity is part of his responsibility as a husband. You should not blame yourself.
If he had thought of any of the above, he should have discussed it with you. If he felt neglected, he could have shared some of the burden of housekeeping or looking after the children so that you have some time to spend with him. There are lots of things he could have done.
Having said all that, it may be unfair to assume that you married Mr Wrong. It is likely that he did not know how to talk to you about these issues. Perhaps, he did not even know that he could.
Despite all the developments in society, we are still conservative where some things are concerned. Some people do not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, even to their closest ones. Talking about sex becomes even more unpleasant.
Instead of facing the challenge of addressing the discomfort, people take the easy way out and avoid the issue. So they stray in their marriage and end up hurting everyone, including the "other woman".
It all boils down to what you want to do. You may want to sit down with your hubby and have an honest discussion with him about what he wants and where he sees you in the equation. It is important for you to tell him what you want as well. Think about it. Where do you see your relationship going? What changes would you like to see?
If you want him to spend quality time with you and the children, let him know. Tell him it means he has to give you his undivided attention. He can put his phone away for a while. Work out something realistic - he has to be available on the phone for business purposes. He has to have self-discipline when it comes to this. He has to invest in his relationship with you and the family.
You and your husband should have an honest discussion about sex and the role it plays in your relationship. He has to understand that you have desires, too. It is not just about him and his wants and desires. He has a conjugal duty to you.
It is understandable that you are angry and it is totally acceptable for you to express your anger. Just remember that it does not justify you hurting your husband or others in any way.
People will tell you that you have to forgive. This is true. But forgiveness will come only when you are ready. It takes time. It will take commitment from your husband. He has to show that he is committed for you to be able to forgive him. You should not feel pressured into forgiving him.
A marriage is not just about having a family and looking after the children. It is about individuals who have their own needs and desires, and having them met in the marriage. This is often forgotten or neglected.
Communication in a relationship is so important because a couple needs to talk about these things. If they are uncomfortable, there are ways to go around it - counsellors and even religious leaders are available to facilitate the process.
There should not be anything taboo between two people whose lives are intertwined. Overcoming that little bit of discomfort can help avert hurt and heartbreak in a marriage.