"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 foreign wife married to a Malaysian. I have lived in Malaysia for longer than I can remember.
My life is not as easy as it looks. I am currently working day and night just to support my family, especially with grocery expenses. My husband stopped working and all he does is lie on the couch. He doesn't bother about a single problem.
My problems increased since my husband's younger brother and his family had to move back with us because of debt problems. He may be forced to sell their house.
We have been living together for three years but things have not been as I expected. My husband, his younger brother and even his wife have been fighting like cats and dogs over the ownership of the house. Now even my daughter and I have become involved.
I have tried to fight back to protect my family, especially my daughter. I'm getting tired of this family and my husband is the main reason for it. He doesn't support our family. All he wants to do is go out with his friends and drink. He never thinks of how to solve this family situation.
Sometimes I get mad at him for not being a patient person. He talks nonsense and even uses harsh words when we argue. My husband and I often fight because I'm getting tired of his lazy attitude, and the terrible behaviour of his brother and his family. This is the first time I have encountered a family that is so selfish and mean.
I want my daughter to finish her college degree but no one is lending a hand and I don't have relatives here in Malaysia. Should I ask for help from a lawyer regarding my problem? The house we are staying in has six names as owners, including my husband, but his younger brother wants to have everything under his name only.
My husband is very poor and he doesn't have a house of his own. We have nowhere to go if they kick us out.
Please help me because I have no one to turn to. My family is worried for me and has advised me to return to my home country. Should I do that? - Foreign wife
Dear foreign wife
This situation with your husband and his siblings sounds so messy. And, it does not look like anyone is looking out for you. Hence, you will have to look out for yourself.
It sounds like you are at your wits' end with your husband. While it is understandable that you are angry with him, would you be able to talk to him about this situation without getting angry? It is necessary that you try and understand from him what his plans are and what he thought would happen. Why did he leave his job, and how does he plan to pay for your daughter's education?
Without him trying to explain to you why he is doing what he is doing, it will be hard for you to get a good idea on how to move forward. Surely, he must have you and your daughter in his plans?
Of course, you may have just hit your limit and decided that you do not want to discuss this with him at all. It sounds like this issue has been going on for a long time and surely you must have talked about all of this with him. You may have lost faith in him and are now seeing a side of him that you may not have known existed. You do not like what you see.
It is said that people's characters are truly tested in times of crisis. What does the family crisis tell you about your husband's character? Is this something you can live with?
If your answer is yes, you probably know what you have to do. You'd have to grit your teeth and hope for the situation to get better over time. You do not have any power within the family and will not be able to influence any decision making.
If your answer is no, then consulting a lawyer is definitely a worthy first step. You need to understand what the stakes are. As a foreign spouse, what are your rights with regard to your child who is a Malaysian citizen? Would you be able to continue living here? These are all things you need to figure out before you can make any decision with regard to leaving your husband.
A lot is now hinging on you getting legal advice. Apart from knowing what is involved, you should also try and get an estimate of the cost that will be involved. If you have to pay legal fees and the costs that come with any legal proceedings and support yourself and your daughter, you would have to think about how you will manage financially.
If your family has offered to help you, another option is to see if they can help provide a loan of sorts for your daughter's education. Depending on what the lawyer tells you about custody, this might be a backup plan for you and her.