"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I'm 27 years old, married and blessed with a beautiful three-month-old baby boy. I have been married for more than a year. My family is well-off, while my husband comes from a poor background.
His is still living with his family in a rented house. Initially, that wasn't a problem for me because I was naive enough to think that it was not an issue. My family dislikes him and he does not bond with my family at all.
It's killing me everyday. Not only is he poor and he ignores my family which I love very much, he also has a drinking problem. Everytime I want to talk things out, he will ignore the whole issue and drink, then pretend nothing ever happened the next morning. He will sulk for reasons I don't know and I'm too tired to find out. I'm miserable in this marriage and I'm struggling every day. Though I put on a brave front and try to count my blessings, I feel I can no longer be truly happy anymore. I'm depressed. I married someone whom I know nothing about and when I learn more about him, he is not even close to what I consider husband material.
I only have myself to blame. I had no choice but to marry back then because I was pregnant, although I have no regrets about having my baby boy. And now I have to live with the consequences. Every day I feel like I'm living with my own mistakes and I am reminded of how low my life has dipped.
I once told myself, so what if he is not wealthy, as long as he is a good man and treats me right, but now I have a totally different mindset. I have sacrificed so much for him and yet he is not grateful at all. I don't need him to support me financially and I'm independent in most areas.
After marrying him, I feel like I have lost everything I used to have. I have contemplated divorce but backed out when I thought of my baby. I am afraid he may take custody of my son. Every day I am reminded of my own mistakes and I cry as I head home to my mother-in-law's house after work. What should I do?
Dear Dream catcher,
You are unhappy. That is the most important thing to keep in mind. The goal, of course, would be to get you to be happy again. Finding your happiness, though, would require some hard decisions. And it is your reluctance to make these decisions that is now adding to your unhappiness.
It is not uncommon for people to realise after they have married that they have made the wrong decision. Most often, people feel this way because they realise that they did not know their partner as well as they thought they did. Some of them, like you, had to rush into the decision for a shotgun wedding.
But there is another aspect that affected your decision-making. You thought love would conquer all. You thought that material aspects did not matter. This does not make you a fool. You are right. Material aspects do not matter. What matters is the commitment to build a good life together. You have to reflect on whether or not your husband has that.
Your husband seems to be rather complacent about this. And this is what you should be concerned about. Leave your family's material wealth aside. You should not have that as a comparison for you and your husband. What are the basics that you and your child need? Is your husband on board with that? Will he be able to work towards that goal? It should not be just him, of course. Both of you have to work together as a team.
Aside from material wealth, you say that he is not good husband material. Ignore any preconceived notions about what a husband should be. Does he have admirable qualities that he brings to your relationship and life together? It is not good to compare people to some unattainable standard. To be fair, people should be judged for who they are.
All this aside, there is a more pressing matter. You say your husband has a drinking problem. This is serious. Does he have an alcohol dependence issue? Is his drinking affecting his ability to provide for you, or does he become hurtful when he drinks?
These are serious questions to consider. If he is not willing to talk about it, and he gets caught in a repetitive cycle, it will affect you and your child in the long run. It is not your responsibility to get help for him. He should recognise this as a problem in your relationship and work to address it.
You feel like you have sacrificed a lot for him and he is ungrateful. It does sound like you put up with a lot, and have given up quite a bit to be with him. You do not expect him to be thankful all the time, but you would expect him to at least be kind to you in return. It does not sound like he can do this, either. Neither is he willing to be respectful to your family. This puts you in an awkward situation.
To answer your question, you should do what makes you happy. It is rather clear what you have to do. You have already considered divorce. What is holding you back now is, firstly, fear. You have to overcome your fear. Part of your fear is due to there being so much uncertainty.
What you need to do to address these uncertainties is to speak to lawyers and find out what your rights are. Be honest and tell them the situation with your husband.
The second reason for your reluctance to move out of this marriage that is not working is self-blame. You are caught in these thoughts in which you have convinced yourself that you are reaping what you have sown. Well, it is not your fault. You did what you thought was best at the time. Situations change. People change. Perspectives change, and therefore, what you have to do also changes.
This is not something you brought on yourself. It takes two to tango, and your husband has his fair share of faults in this. If he wants to make it work, he has to be willing to put in the effort. It does not seem like he is doing that. So it is only natural for you to question his commitment to the marriage.
This is not just about you anymore. You have a son to consider. Many people think that the effects of divorce on a child are worse than being in an unhappy marriage. This is not always true. No child can be happy seeing a parent cry every day, or knowing that a beloved parent remains in an unhappy marriage because of them. It is not fair to the child.
Divorces become bitter because people make it so. There are many amicable divorces where people are able to deal with the situation in a mature manner. This is more important.
You know what you have to do. All you need now is the courage and conviction to go ahead with your decision.
There is nothing wrong with what you have decided. It does not make you a bad person. And, more importantly, it is not your fault.