Dear Thelma: Neglected financially and emotionally, I have no love left


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Dear Thelma,

I am in my 40s and a housewife.

I had a love marriage. It’s been 18 years now and we have three kids.

I have been suffering emotionally for many years but it’s becoming more intense nowadays.

My husband is earning well. He keeps me at minimum cost – I rarely buy clothes. I had never bought new clothes for any annual festival celebration. He never spends money on clothes for me or the kids. All my needs are always pushed to my parents. I am always empty-handed when I return to my hometown for festivals.

He always ignores all my needs. If I express any need, he just changes the subject. During the lockdown, with borders closed, he did not return home. This has made me rethink my relationship with him.

So far, he has taken out all my savings and my jewels.

In recent years, I had no idea how he ended up with a lot of debts. He came to me one day and confessed that he can’t take it because he had too many loans. He told me that he had only invested in one business but later it turned like this. I was shocked to find out that he had been hiding this from me. Finally I borrowed from my family to settle the debt. He has not bothered to repay them.

All these years, my parents have been observing my condition and noted something is not right. He has been earning well but keeps me and my kids at very minimal cost.

Till today my children have no bed frames to sleep on, even though we stay in a luxury apartment. They have been using broken study tables. I’m tired of asking him to buy proper tables for them because it’s falling on deaf ears. They struggle to study online. My family came to the rescue and bought them laptops. He never thanked them.

He just takes me back to my hometown where my parents end up buying things for me and the kids.

Even before the lockdown, he never spent time with me and the children. He was always out meeting friends. He only spent one or two hours at home. If I tried to convince him to be with us, it would end up in a fight.

He has taken up all my jewellery, including my wedding chain, and pawned it. Now the time to pay back has lapsed but he said to just forget it. Thinking of what I’m going through has made me really depressed. He puts on a good act in front of his family, as though he's keeping us well, but when it comes to my side they have to meet my needs.

He won't let me get a job, saying that the children still need me. Two of them are in secondary school while another is at preschool. He never sent them for tuition but instead asked me to teach them. It’s really difficult with their subjects yet I've got no help. Just last month, my parents helped to pay for my elder child’s online tuition. My kids are school toppers. Nobody believes that they managed without tuition.

His mum didn’t like me from the beginning because my religion is different from theirs. They too exclude me in everything. Sometimes they gang up and bully me but he feigns ignorance. When I’m alone, I have started thinking that I don’t deserve to be treated this way. I have discussed this with him but he just hangs up the phone sometimes.

I’m really sad thinking about him. My heart is empty for him. I have no love left for him. I really don’t understand why he treats me this way. Where is my position?

Please advise me.

Brokenhearted


Dear Brokenhearted,

I'm so sorry, this has to be devastating. Your husband has vanished your money, says he is loaded with debt, neglects you and the kids, doesn't even spend time with you all, and shuts his eyes when his family abuse you.

To assess your position, I think you need to think from two positions: financial and happiness. Let's do the practical money first, because that will impact on how you work the rest of this.

You think your husband earns a good salary but he tells you that he has a lot of debt. That doesn't sound right because you still live in a luxury apartment. I think you need to get hard facts on exactly what his and your financial positions are. And from your description of this man, I don't think asking him will be useful.

I suggest you collect all your bills, loans, mortgages, income slips, bank statements and your tax numbers and declarations. Then go and talk to Bank Negara's free service – Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK). You can find your local office through their website (akpk.org.my).

They will help you figure out what your financial position is. For an overview, you need to know what assets you have, what debts there are, and in who's name they are.

Next, I think you need to speak to a lawyer, and urgently. If your husband has debts, you may be responsible for some of it. Also, if he has taken loans from your family and pawned your jewellery, he may owe you for those too.

The AKPK will advise you too but I think it's valuable to get a lawyer's input, simply because they may have a different approach – not about the legalities but about practical matters.

As you say you have no funds, you can talk to the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre (03-2691 1121) or the Legal Aid Department (03-8885 1827 [Civil]/ 03-8885 1826 [Syariah]/ website: jbg.gov.my). They will give you free legal advice. If you do end up in court, they may be able to help you with free or discounted representation too.

Once you understand your financial position, you have to figure out what you want from your relationship. Frankly, your husband is controlling, abusive and deeply disrespectful of you. My advice would be to leave him.

Please consider all the options. You may want to divorce, stay married but have him move out, get a judicial separation where you are legally separated but agree formally on custody, finances and so on, or other variations. Talk to lawyers to see what suits you best.

Whatever you do, you cannot rely on this man. As you are 40 years old and broke, you need a job. You don't mention your qualifications, so hopefully, you can get back into the workforce and earn a salary that will help support you, contribute to your share of the kids' maintenance, and provide for your old age.

Make a plan that will get you back on your feet and independent. This will take time and effort, so expect it to take a year or more.

As for the reset, may I give one base rule? Don't look at what other people have or want. Simply look to cover your needs. For example, tuition is not a basic necessity. Your kids have shown they are doing fine without it. So don't spend on that; spend your money on decent food and to maintain your kids' health and happiness.

My dear, this will not be easy. Please lean in on family and friends. Create a support network and don't be shy to ask for help. Also, call the numbers above if you need to unburden yourself in a safe space.

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