"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I have been married for 16 years. My spouse works long hours in the IT field.
We moved out of my hubby's family home when friction set in between my mother-in-law and I, and I suffered health problems.
My hubby is short-tempered and easily irritated. He does not like to discuss problems with me because he does not see any solutions to the problems. So I ended up suppressing a lot of issues over the years. Both of us make compromises to keep peace in the family.
We are in our 40s, and we have two teenage boys. My hubby is financially responsible, faithful, and committed to the family.
Two years ago, K, a co-worker in her late 20s, joined his team. My hubby kept talking about how he admired her guts, liked her innocence, and her name cropped up in his daily conversations.
Suddenly, he started wearing jeans, and wanted to go for facials. When I asked him if there was anything between them, he said K was like a sister to him. He said she was suffering from depression, and her family had asked for his assistance. He told me she was getting married soon, so I waited patiently for K to get married and move on.
A year later, I saw a bill from the doctor which had K's name and my hubby's name. He had paid for it with his credit card. When I asked him about it, he said K was unwell and since he had a doctor's appointment that day, he took her along. He said it was concern for a teammate and nothing more.
K got married and moved to another job. My husband said he wanted her in his life as a sister and that I had to accept her or our marriage would have problems. I then came to know that he had hidden many things from me.
He sees a sister, daughter and mother in her, and she sees a father, brother and friend in him. He asked K to be a god-daughter to his mother, and she agreed. She gets along well with his mother.
My hubby says he can talk to K about anything as they are on the same wavelength. They help each other, and meet each other's needs. They text each other daily, and whenever she has any problems, he will rush to her aid.
I have been handling everything on the home front so that he can focus on his career, only to find that he is emotionally involved with another woman. I told him I felt betrayed. He says he won't force me to accept K, but he will be there for her whenever she needs him. I don't see why K needs my husband when she has the support of her hubby, parents and extended family.
Although there is no physical affair, I find the situation unacceptable. My hubby says he does not feel emotionally connected to me as I cannot get along with his mother whom he is very close to, and I do not fulfil his other needs.
We have tried marriage counselling but it did not work. My hubby has moved out, and l am now alone with the kids. He takes them out on weekends. His mother will move in with him soon, and she is supportive of her son's actions.
I told him we can work on our differences if he can get K out of our lives but he flatly refused to do so. I have accepted the current situation but the kids are taking it badly. Am I being unreasonable? Is there an alternative solution? - Depressed wife
Dear Depressed wife,
When there is an "affair" that is not physical but emotional, the other party feels just as betrayed and hurt. For all intents and purposes, it is cheating. It would be difficult for anyone to accept the situation you are in.
In deciding how you should move forward, it would help to take an honest look at your relationship with your husband. You seem to have issues in your marriage from the start. The situation with your mother-in-law must have been serious if the stress from that was giving you health problems. You moved out with your husband. That quelled domestic tension a little but it didn't solve matters, did it?
You have to admit that your relationship with your husband was never what you hoped it would be. The two of you have always been distant. Your husband did not find in you the emotional connection he was looking for. And you didn't find a connection with him, too.
In the past, there was someone to blame. But to place the blame now on K may be a bit unfair to her and your husband. Her coming into your husband's life did not mark the beginning of your problems. It simply highlighted it and brought it to the fore.
You expect K to leave to salvage your situation, but this is unrealistic. She can leave but your relationship with your husband may remain the same. The fact is, he does not find in you the kind of emotional connection he has found with K.
In deciding what it is you have to do now, it may be best for you to sit down and consider: what is it that you want? Do you want your husband in your life? Or do you want to enjoy the kind of emotional closeness that he has with K? For what purpose do you want K out of your husband's life?
If you just want your husband back in your life, chances are it is going to slip back to the way it used to be. Will you be happy with him playing just the role of father and provider?
If it is emotional closeness that you want, you may just have to accept that your husband cannot find everything he wants in his relationship with you. As we grow older, our needs change. Our partner may or may not change with us. If the change is not in sync, then one party cannot be the source of fulfilment of those new needs.
Also, many people find that when they were younger, they may not understand their wants and needs. Many people assume that marriage is about fulfilling a role. Not enough thought is given to things like needs, desires and compatibility. These things come to a head later in the marriage and issues such as the one you are facing crop up.
This does not excuse or justify philandering or cheating. One should be able to express what their needs are in a particular relationship. Not expressing them is deceitful. If, after expressing them, there is an acknowledgement from both parties that those needs cannot be met in the marriage, the next step can be taken. That acknowledgement and subsequent decisions must be respectful of each other's wants and wishes. There cannot be any coercion by either party.
What exactly is the issue here? Is it that your husband has an emotional connection with someone else other than you? Or, is it that he has this connection with K?
It is very hard to find someone who can fulfil all our needs. Women are known to rely on their circle of female friends for this kind of emotional connection. Men are expected to rely on their male friends for so-called male bonding activities. If these are acceptable, then what is wrong with what your husband is doing now?
You have to admit that the main issue here is that you are jealous. You want your husband to yourself and do not want to share him with anyone else, especially another woman. This is not healthy for any relationship. You cannot hold on to anyone. All you can do is have faith in your relationship and work on your own insecurities. This will ultimately strengthen your relationship.
The cornerstone of a relationship is communication. There should always be open channels of communication. Each partner should feel that they can be honest, and know that their thoughts and wants will be respected.
Communication is something that requires thoughtful awareness and a lot of work. If this has not been established in a relationship from the start, unhappiness brews.
If you want to enjoy the kind of emotional connection that your husband has with K, you will have to start from scratch. And, it is going to be a lot of work which takes time and commitment from both of you. You have to set realistic expectations, and put in a lot of effort. Sit down with your husband and discuss this with him. You need him to work with you on this; you cannot do it alone.
What is it that you want to gain from this emotional connection? Your expectations may be different from his. Bear in mind what you want that is different and see how both of you can accommodate that.
Set small goals. It can be a simple thing like sharing about your day with each other. You do not need a lot of time for this. A few minutes a day would suffice. It is not about quantity, but quality. Make sure your children are not around and that the two of you are alone. Put aside mobile phones and switch off the television.
When you are talking, face each other and make eye contact. Remember not to stare but to hold a gaze that is comfortable for both of you. If you are not used to it, it may be uncomfortable at first. Just keep at it.
It will not hurt to give marriage counselling a second shot. Counselling needs clear goals in order to work. What is it that you want to achieve? Is it better communication? What constitutes good communication for you? These are things you have to work out in order to make the most of your counselling experience.
You do not need K out of the picture for any of this. K can remain as your husband's friend, sister, daughter or whatever it is that he sees her as. It won't hurt for you to try to get to know her. If you want a meaningful relationship with your husband, you may have to accept K as part of his life.
A relationship has to be built and nurtured. The foundations must be strong. The only way to establish a strong foundation is to have open, clear and constant communication.
Communication must be honest, and both parties must be open and willing to listen to each other. Jealousy, anger and envy are a result of our insecurities. We have to take responsibility for them and address the root cause. - Thelma