SINGAPORE - Every day, a mountain of legal letters and overdue bills sits on the living room table of her three-room flat.
Amanda, 32, sighs each time she receives a new payment reminder in her letter box.
It is not even her fault to begin with. It is her husband's fault.
As a result of John's former online gambling habit, they have accumulated $250,000 in debt.
So bad was his gambling addiction that it even drove Amanda into a psychotic fit, landing her in a psychiatric ward for a week.
We are not using their real names to protect the identity of their three-year-old son.
Yet, despite the mental hell and financial turmoil, Amanda has stuck to the marriage vows they exchanged in 2010.
"For richer or for poorer," they had promised each other then.
But each day is a struggle, says Amanda, a part-time therapist who makes about $900 a month. "It's really difficult to pay off everything."
John, who works in a maritime company, earns more than twice that.
Still, they have to pay back the loans from banks, moneylenders and friends - one pay cheque at a time.
"To help with the debts, I don't ask for any money (from John). I settle the rest; each month, I pay my son's $500 pre-school fees and the $200 utilities bill," says Amanda in a phone interview.
There's hardly any savings left, she adds.
The couple fell in love during their secondary school days 13 years ago, when Amanda was introduced to John through a relative.
He was the perfect gentleman to her - he was kind, romantic, good-looking and treated her well, she recalls.
But even then, she knew that he gambled incessantly on football matches.
He had picked up the habit from a classmate who played the role of his bookie, and became addicted when he made his first dollar betting on a football match.
The money he won paid for their dates, but Amanda was adamant that he quit his habit for good.
When he started losing money and couldn't pay for it, he would ask for Amanda's help.
She relented because she has "a soft spot for him".
"He came from a bad background and I could understand why he couldn't let go of gambling, but I thought he would quit when we got married," says Amanda. But John did not quit.
The first time his wife found out he was still gambling after they got married, she went into a psychotic fit.
He found her sitting in the bedroom, laughing and talking to herself while holding a library book about addictions.
Debt collectors also came in waves to their flat, angrily rattling the door grilles and shouting John's name.
"I hid in my room and held on to my baby. I was simply terrified," she says.
Still, Amanda stayed by her husband's side. "I have given him many, many chances. I kept forgiving him because I still had a glimmer of hope that he would change."
RESOLVED TO STOP
To her relief and delight, John finally made a serious effort to stop gambling last June.
He contacted this reporter because he wanted to face up his mistakes and commit to his addiction recovery by making it public.
Said John in an interview then: "I was overwhelmed with guilt every time I saw my wife and newborn son huddled in a cramped room."
He wants to be a "good father to my son". "I don't think I can find another wife like her," said John.
He has not gambled since June, but the staggering debt still remains.
It has strained the relationship and their intimacy with each other, confesses Amanda, who admits the future between the two is uncertain.
She says: "There were many times in the past when I thought I should have left, but I didn't.
"I chose to be with him for richer or poorer. I've kept on going for the sake of our son, though I don't know what the future holds."
This article was first published on Feb 15, 2015.
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