Dear Thelma: My husband has another wife overseas and doesn't love me anymore


Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

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Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935/ 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999/ 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929/ email sam@befrienders.org.my/ befrienders centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

I am a 49-year-old woman, married for the past 19 years. We have two teenagers.

I have come to know that my husband has married another woman overseas.

Lately, we had a fight and he told me he doesn't want me anymore but he is still around as he's waiting for the children to grow up. Since then we have been sleeping in separate rooms which doesn't seem to bother him at all.

I am financially tight since I'm paying the housing loan and relying on him to cover a number of expenses. At the moment, he pays for some of the expenditures.

It will take at least two years for me to be a little secure financially. Even then I won't be able to finance my children's education.

Now my question is: Should I divorce him, stay on and hope he leaves her soon, or continue living without any attachment like this because of my financial circumstances? But living like this feels painful, getting no love at all from him and knowing they are together.

Confused


I'm so sorry. What an awful thing to happen. First, let's be practical. There are two things you must do as soon as possible.

Talk to a lawyer so you know your legal rights. I would ask if this other marriage is legal or not, and what kind of rights you have over your kids, your home, and any loans or debts you may have.

I am not a lawyer, but from personal experience, pursuing any kind of legal issue overseas is too expensive and too complicated for ordinary people.

So also ask what would happen to your rights if your husband decides to move abroad without telling you. And, can he take the kids overseas without your knowledge or permission? If so, is there any kind of paperwork you can do to prevent that?

Next, work out your finances. As you're tight for money, go and talk to Bank Negara's free AKPK Financial Advisory services near you. Details are at https://www.akpk.org.my.

Kick off by asking them about a proper credit check. As your husband cheated on you, it's possible he's abusing your name financially too. So make sure he's not racking up debts in your name without your knowledge.

Second, ask them to help you figure out your cash flow. They can give good practical personal advice to help you set goals for your housing loan, kids' schooling and so on. Maybe there are grants or easy loans if you need them?

Normally, I work from the perspective that people benefit from open communication. However, your husband's actions show he is dishonest. Therefore, protecting yourself is vital. Get legal and financial advice without telling him.

Once you know where you stand in practical terms, consult your heart.

Your letter implies you discovered your situation by accident. That has to be an awful blow. I urge you not to do anything too quickly because decisions taken when you're in shock may not be the most sensible.

You have listed some options. My view is that your husband has left you already. He has another wife and life lined up. He just wants to hang about and act like a family man for a short while. When the window-dressing of kids disappears, so will he. Frankly, he may disappear at any time. He is not a moral person.

However, making decisions quickly and on the basis of a short letter is not sensible. Please note you are not helpless! You have several options, that include divorce, legal separation and waiting it out. Each has pros and cons, and there will be legal implications because of the kids.

Once you have your legal and financial information, rank how you feel about each of these options. That should give you an idea of what you can live with and what you can't.

Then book yourself some therapy sessions with a professional and talk it over thoroughly in a safe space. For this, I think you ought to go straight to an NGO that deals with women's issues, simply because they will be familiar with this situation.

Talk to AWAM (ph: 03-7877 4221, helplines: 016-237 4221/ 016-228 4221, website: awam.org.my) or WAO (ph: 03-7957 5636/ 0636, hotline: 03-3000 8858, SMS/WhatsApp Tina: 018-988 8058, website: wao.org.my).

You have been cheated on and lied to, so it's natural to feel anger and fear. Just have a good vent, and get it all out. You may also feel guilt and shame. Talk that out but know they're irrational emotions. You didn't cheat and lie; he did.

Once you've vented, talk out what you want to do next, how you want to talk to your kids, and figure out the best situation for all of you.

Should you become depressed, talk to your doctor and get a referral to a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specialises in mental health.

Finally, you can shield the kids from this a little but they will know something is wrong. And very soon they'll learn what their father is.

Therefore, I think you should call the numbers above, and arrange for some help for them too. You may not need it immediately, but reach out now so you're prepared.

This is not easy, and there are no quick fixes. But you do have access to help so reach out, OK? And please know that I am thinking of you.

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