Dear Thelma: We are in love but he is already in an arranged marriage

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Dear Thelma,

I've been in a relationship with someone of a different race for a few years now. He is an Indian while I'm a (non-Muslim) Kadazan Sabahan.

In the third year of our relationship, he planned a lot for our future. I do trust him a lot. Until one day when I found out that he was married to a girl whom his family had chosen for him. He hid it from me for a year. I found out everything myself.

I was shocked and mad at him because he hid it from me just so he would not lose me.

His family won't accept me because we're not of the same race.

My boyfriend is a successful person. His family is so afraid to lose him because he is the breadwinner of his family. He quit his job and got another good opportunity in another career, just to be near me.

He said with this kind of plan, he would be able to feel the freedom as long as he has already fulfilled what his family wanted.

I was blank for a little while because I didn't know what to do.

I love him but at the same time I'm afraid this will be the wrong choice for me.

I blamed him at first for keeping it a secret from me because he was afraid that I would leave him.

After listening to his story, I really felt pity for him.

He is also burdened by his siblings, being responsible for all their expenses.

What should I do? We love each other so much.

In Indian culture, arranged marriages are normal. I know the people around me will ask me to leave because I deserve better – but what about him? He will end up in an unhappy marriage and live together with his family who are using him for their own comfort.

I'm in a dilemma...


Dear JH,

He chose to date you, knowing his family did not approve. You knew this but you believed you had an open, honest relationship. You expected marriage, and a lifelong commitment.

Now you discover that you are in fact a mistress.

If you had a sister or girlfriend who was dating a man who lied about being single – for an entire year – would you be talking to her about her poor, lying ex and how much he was suffering? I don't think so.

This man is an adult, and he is responsible for the choices he makes. He chose to lie to you, he chose to commit adultery, and how he's been caught, he is playing the victim.

If you stay with him, you can expect him to be himself. That means constant lies. And it will never be his fault, because he is never accountable. Can you imagine another 40 or 50 years of this?

You say you're in a dilemma and it's worth working through why you are conflicted. There may be two issues at work here.

First, when we invest emotionally, we become attached. The more we invest, the more we attach, and the harder it is for us to let go.

This urge is so powerful that criminals use it to bind their victims to them. Take, for example, the parcel scam. A crook tells a victim there is a parcel waiting for them, but they have to pay a delivery fee.

They ask victims to pay in a little bit of money, then a bit more, and a bit more – and when the victim hesitates, they are so scared of losing out, that they keep paying.

You have spent years with this man, investing in the relationship, and so it's going to take a bit of effort to let go. Remind yourself that it's better to let go now, than to incur further losses.

Second, it can be very difficult to admit that we have misplaced our trust. When we learn that we have trusted a liar or a cheat, we feel as if we should have known better. We feel shame.

Frankly, it's not clear thinking. We haven't done anything wrong; they have. Blaming ourselves for someone else's bad actions is victim-blaming.

You will feel sad about this, and perhaps regretful, angry and other emotions. That's OK; just feel your emotions. But it's important you put the blame firmly where it belongs.

He is not a good person. He only thinks of himself, he hurts everyone around him, and he has no sense of right and wrong.

As for your decision: staying with him can only hurt you. My dear, leave. Don't walk, run. You deserve a decent partner who is open, honest and available.

To support you through this difficult time, talk to close friends and family. Or reach out to a mental health professional so you can talk out your emotions in a safe space without judgement.

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