"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I am married and have two wonderful boys, aged three and seven. I found out about my husband's affair a year ago. It was like a knife had cut through my heart when I first learnt about it. I confronted my husband but he denied it. When I told him I saw them together, he accused me of having another man.
He said I did not love him as I often rejected his request for sex. And that's the reason why he is seeing another woman. He said it's all my fault. I have a low sex drive and by the time I put the children to bed, I'm exhausted.
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I have been working hard to contribute to the family income. I have devoted much time and energy to take good care of my two sons. But what did I get in return for all my sacrifices? Most of the household expenses are borne by me as I earn more than him. I didn't mind then as I loved him and did not want to burden him unnecessarily. Now he is spending money on that woman instead of his family.
At first, I tried my best to save this marriage for the sake of my sons. We've argued over this, and my sons witnessed the arguments. He talked about divorce on a few occasions, and even chased me out of the house.
I tried to hold on to the marriage but later I realised he is not going to let go of the woman.
I can't forget the harsh words he said to me. He told me the other woman is better than me. Now I am adamant about divorcing him.
However, lately he seems to have changed. He stays home on weekends and spends time with the boys. He buys them toys and takes them out. My boys are now quite attached to him, especially my youngest son.
On weekdays, he spends time with the woman and usually comes home late. I know because I saw his car at the woman's house. My husband is not aware that I know where the woman stays.
Now I am in a dilemma. I pity the boys - if I go ahead with the divorce, the boys only have weekends with their father. I do not know how badly the divorce will effect my boys.
I have been spending sleepless nights since I learnt about my husband's affair. I can't stay in this relationship anymore as I don't trust by husband. I am hanging on because of my boys. But I don't want them to see me crying every night. - Broken Trust
Dear Broken Trust,
There are a few issues here. Some of them are interconnected, so you have to consider them together. Some of the issues are not linked; keep them apart so you wouldn't be confused.
It is common for women to feel too tired for sex. This does affect the relationship between a woman and her husband. However, it does not justify cheating on a spouse.
If your husband empathised with you, he could have pitched in to help with the housework to lighten your burden, thus making you more receptive to having sex with him. Or, he could have given you a break every now and then, and taken you for a weekend getaway where you could concentrate on each other without having to divert attention to the children. There is nothing wrong in doing things like this. You are not abandoning the children. Instead, you are investing time and energy in the relationship.
This is part of what it means when people talk about working on the relationship. If you want something to work well, you have to invest time and energy in it. You have to be mindful of the other person's wants, desires and feelings.
Yes, this requires a lot of effort. And, people get lazy about it and start taking each other for granted. That is why it is easier to blame each other when the relationship goes awry. This kind of blaming is childish behaviour. It was childish of him to accuse you of seeing someone else. He should take responsibility for his actions as there were things he could have done to save the relationship. It is important for you to keep this as the focus.
You feel cheated because your sacrifices seem to have gone unappreciated. You must bear in mind that the decision to contribute to the family financially, was one that you made. You cannot hold that against your hubby no matter how cheated you feel.
The time and energy invested in your sons will help them grow into good and happy individuals. You cannot expect anything else. It is not a bargaining chip to get a good relationship with your husband.
You took your marriage vows seriously. Your husband, on the other hand, seemed to have found loopholes and blamed you for it.
There is nothing wrong in considering divorce. No one can judge you on this matter. Of course, you want to provide the best environment for your children to feel loved. For many, this means having two parents raise them together.
But imagine what it would be like for them to continue living in a home where both the adults whom they trust to look after them and provide them with a safe home, are unhappy and fight all the time.
Because you want to provide the best for your children and you know how much their father means to them, you are now confused when your husband makes an effort to spend time with them.
You should see it for what it is - he is making an effort to spend time with his children. That is his role as a father. It is not how much time parents spend with their children that matter. Instead, it is the quality. So even if he has them just for the weekend, it is all right.
Divorce is hard on everyone involved. There is hurt, pain, sorrow and grief. Children suffer even more because they don't quite understand what it all means. However, the effects on them can be mitigated by how the adults - the parents - behave over the divorce.
If the adults behave in an ugly manner - one bad-mouths the other - this makes it worse for the children. If adults vent their anger on one another or through the children, it is the children who suffer the consequences.
Initially it may be confusing for the children to be shuttled between two homes. But if the adults explain things to them well, in time they will come to understand. A fair amount of acting out can be expected; they need time and patience from both parents.
When it comes to situations like this, feelings like guilt often add to the confusion. You already know what you want, and what you have to do. So it is necessary to separate the issues and see things for what they are. Separate feelings from fact. This will make things clearer and it will be easier to come to a decision and stick to it.