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 10 years. It was an arranged marriage. He insisted on marrying me, and I'm still wondering what was his motive for doing so. We do not have any kids yet. My husband was loving and caring in the beginning. But now his love for me is fading fast.
He is very fixed in his mindset, and seems to think that I am too close to my parents and family members.
After marriage, I found out that he loves to chat with women from different races.
When I asked him about it, he confessed that he loves to chat up girls. Now that he is on Facebook, he has a wider circle of girlfriends. Some of them are single, some are married.
Recently, he has grown wilder. He goes out with some of these girls, buys them gifts, and sends them flowers.
I know because I checked his phone. We had a big fight over this, and he promised to scale down his activities.
But he has not changed one bit. He uses WhatsApp and deletes his chats to evade detection. Recently I saw a message from one of the girls, requesting for a particular gift.
We are not rich people; we have a lot of commitments and debts. My hubby is spending too much time and money on his women friends.
I do not know what kind of future we have together. Should I put up with his nonsense or should I leave him?
I'm confused. Sometimes I wonder if I still love him. Please advise me. - Disappointed wife
Dear Disappointed wife,
Before deciding what it is you have to do, you have to decide what exactly the problem is. Is it the fact that he is chatting with other women? Or, is it that he continues to do it despite knowing that you know about it. Or, is it that he is spending money on these women, and this is money you think is better spent on your home and family?
Ponder on these questions and try to see exactly what is bothering you. Also, it has been 10 years. Why is it that you are deciding to do something now? At this point, what do you want to achieve?
You say you wonder why your husband wanted to marry you. Have you ever asked him? Perhaps you should ask yourself this question as well. Why did you marry him? Why did you stick it out all these years even when you knew he was chatting up other women?
See also: I spy on my cheating husband
Obviously, children, or the lack of them, are not a factor. So what is it that you gain from being married to your husband?
You must admit, however, that your husband's continued and growing communication with other women is not the only problem in your marriage. You say that he started off being very loving and caring but he has changed now. What has changed? Do you feel any less loved, or has the mode in which he expresses these changed? Or, do you feel lonely and neglected?
It is important to make a distinction between these questions. After 10 years, one cannot expect the same kind of treatment or "love" as when a couple first got together. People change; relationships also change. What is more important is whether the two people in a relationship can feel intimate with each other, or find opportunities to be so.
Intimacy is not about sex. Instead, it is the feeling of being close to each other. It could be through conversations with each other about things that are important to them and to the relationship. It could be a touch or a look. It is the ability for each person to be vulnerable in the relationship and trust that they will not be hurt. It is different for each person and relationship. Do you have this in your relationship?
Why does your husband feel that you spend too much time with your family? Have you done anything to resolve the situation? Have the two of you discussed the issue and decided on a middle point - one where you can spend adequate time with your family, and still give your husband enough time and attention?
Communication is not just about explanations. It is also about coming up with solutions. It may take a few tries, and has to be recognised as a work in progress. Each person must be willing to make compromises and changes. If not, the couple and the relationship are bound to be stuck and it becomes very difficult to move it when it gets into this spot.
Often, a relationship that is in a rut, will find itself in similar patterns, especially when there is a lot of anxiety concerning an issue that may not be related. So, it will be good for you to look at your relationship with your husband and identify any sources of anxiety that have not been addressed.
None of this, however, implies that the current situation is your fault. You have told your husband that you do not like his chatting with other women. Also, someone in a committed relationship should understand that part of this commitment includes monogamy, unless there is an agreement between the couple otherwise.
Your husband may not see his behaviour as infidelity, but you may. So, it is important to ascertain what it is he gains from these chats with other women. Does he feel good about himself? Does he enjoy the thrill? What can you do as a couple to have this excitement and thrill in your marriage? Is he willing to explore this with you?
Are you willing to try something new? Would you be able to maybe become a little more playful in your relationship and explore this kind of chatting? It will allow you to discover a different side of you, and also add a new dimension to your marriage. That excitement and newness may invigorate the two of you. You may even find yourselves getting closer through this.
If he is not willing to do any of this, and wants to continue chatting with other women, then you will have to reconsider your options. For this, you must be able to seek answers for the questions asked earlier. This is not an easy decision to make, and you want to be sure.
Whatever decision you take, change is inevitable for you and your husband. Your relationship will change. Actually, your relationship has already changed but you carried on without noticing. You cannot stop change. Change or get left behind, as the saying goes. So, what are you going to do about it? - Thelma