"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 four years now, and do not have any children. My hubby loves to flirt with older women. He will spin a lot of lies and tell them that he is still a bachelor, and quite well to do.
The first time I caught him chatting up a woman, he claimed that it was his ex-girlfriend from college. The woman is eight years older than him. He told the woman that he is still single.
When I caught him, I took him to meet the woman and exposed all his lies. He was mad at me, but he continued to pursue the woman. He even told his mother of his intention to marry the woman. He never once thought about how I felt. Then quite unexpectedly, the woman left the country and things were quiet for a month or two.
Then he was back to his old ways, chatting up women on social media and going out with them without my knowledge. He even took one of them to a hotel room to spend time with her. When I caught him again through his messages to her, he begged for forgiveness and promised not to do it again.
Two days later, he was flirting on social media again. He is incorrigible. When confronted each time, he would say it was just a fling or he was stressed out and needed some diversion.
I can't take it anymore. I want to leave him but my in-laws won't allow it. What should I do? - Shattered
When your husband thought of taking the other woman as his wife, one wonders how he plans to go about it. The laws that govern civil marriages strictly prohibit polygamy. Polygamy is allowed only for marriages contracted under syariah law in this country.
There is ample evidence that your husband takes his marriage vows very lightly. He does not give much weight to apologies or promises to change his ways.
If he is stressed, there are plenty of ways to relieve that. It does not have to involve lying or cheating on you.
When he talked to his mother about marrying the other woman, while he is still married to you, what did she say? Why would she expect you to stay on with him when she knows that her son has no intention to honour his marriage vows?
What do your parents-in-law expect from you? It is obvious that your husband is not prepared to change his philandering ways. If he can consider marrying someone else, it shows how little he values you and your marriage.
People might try to convince you that having a child might change him. It doesn't seem likely. Besides, bringing a child into a situation like this may only make matters worse for you and the child. No one can blame you for wanting to leave him. You seem to have enough grounds for that.
The question now is: why are you not leaving? You say your parents-in-law would not allow it. Tell me, have they locked you in the house? Have they barred you from using the telephone? Exactly what have they done, or can do, to stop you?
Yes, they may voice their disapproval. They may even make it unpleasant for you. But the choice is yours. You can go against their wishes and do what you want, or you can cave in to their demands and remain quiet. It is your life and your future. You are the only person who has any say in this matter.
Perhaps you are staying on because you harbour hopes that your husband will change. Or perhaps you are afraid of the stigma of being a divorced woman. These are fears you have to deal with when you want to take a big step like this.
Just ponder for a moment: What is the worst that can happen? And are you ready to live with the consequences?
Seek the support of your family and friends. Do not be afraid to share your problems with them. You need not go through this alone. Perhaps if you have their support, it will be easier for you to make the decision that is necessary for you to live the kind of life that you want - one where you and your feelings are respected, and you can live with dignity. Otherwise, you will always be looking over your shoulder and checking on your husband.
Speak to lawyers or counsellors to find out the options available to you. Ask yourself: what do you want and what is the best way to get it?
Oftentimes, we allow others to have power over us. We often have to face our own fears to break that hold that others have over us. Your parents-in-law cannot stop you from doing what you want for your life. The decision is now yours. What will you do? - Thelma