Dear Thelma: My wife has repeatedly betrayed me, I'm fed up


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

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Dear Thelma,

I’ve been quite happily married for close to 15 years, and have two lovely kids. They are my life.

My wife was a very nice lady but has become irresponsible and lazy. I think she loves me but that’s just how she is – which was totally the opposite before we got married.

Anyway, despite our constant arguments over the house and kids' condition, I’ve tolerated it for the sake of the kids, and I do love my wife a lot.

The kids have been seeing us fighting.

She’s been there for me through thick and thin. I’ve also been very loyal to her over the years, and have done a lot within my financial capacity.

I totally trusted her, to the extent she knows all my banking details and exactly how much I earn. I consult her on every single thing I do. I’ve done everything she's wanted and never hid anything from her.

Family has always been my priority and I’ve always protected her in the sense that no one, even my mum, can say anything wrong to her.

My only problem is having a bad temper. I will shout when things are not right. I think that’s because she has not made any effort to change for years.

She is a housewife while I am always busy with work so all I expected from her was to take care of the home and the kids. I am not sure if she valued all that I did for her but, to me, love and relationship have to be mutual.

Lately, I came to know that my wife borrowed money from about 10 to 15 of my and her relatives and friends and also small amounts from Ah Longs. She also pawned every piece of jewellery that we had. Total losses amounted to RM80K. It is a significant amount of money for me but that’s not the whole issue. It’s the love and trust that she has betrayed.

Upon my asking her, she told me she invested in a scam about eight years back and lost RM20K. She was afraid to tell me so she then had to borrow that amount, with interest, from two friends.

She kept paying the interest until she stopped working. Then she couldn’t pay the interest so she started to pawn the jewellery without my knowledge despite knowing that I could have easily paid the RM20K. I had the money, which she knew very well. And yes, I would have scolded her for the mistake, but I would have given the money. I understand everyone makes mistakes so I would have definitely forgiven her.

But she said she was scared I would leave her if she told me and so she wanted to get the jewellery back. She started to try getting a loan. As she wasn’t working and didn’t have documents to apply for a bank loan, she applied through so-called money lenders on FB.

She got scammed in 2019 and Iost RM4K of my money that she withdrew from my account without my knowledge. I found out when I realised my ATM card was missing but she said she wanted the money to do business, so I forgave her and moved on.

But without me knowing, she continued to try getting a loan to retrieve the jewellery. She also had to pay interest for the pawned jewellery so she continued to pawn more jewellery. In the whole process, she got scammed another three or four times and lost another RM30K to scammers. So she lost all the jewellery and started borrowing from friends as the scammers promised to give her the loan but she had to make some advance payments. All this was happening over the last eight years without my knowledge until lately a friend called me and said my wife borrowed money but hasn’t paid back. That’s when I found out the whole thing after eight years of lies.

I’ve now withdrawn every cent of my savings to pay off the debts and retrieve the jewellery. I’m totally devastated, hurt, disappointed and also embarrassed and financially broke. I can’t believe that a woman I loved and trusted more than anyone else in this world had betrayed me. I feel cheated.

She didn’t value everything that I did. I tried forgiving her twice but the next day all of these memories came back. I feel betrayed that she lied to me for years.

I feel that she put my family in danger as she also borrowed from Ah Longs, whom I immediately paid when I got to know about it. She didn’t think about the family's dignity.

She knows how protective I am of the family and that I was saving for the kids' future. She knows I am a very honest person and don’t like doing anything illegal. She knows how much I advise people to be careful of scams. But despite all this, she did what she did.

I’ve now settled the debts.

Ah Longs continued to text her to borrow more so I blocked everyone on her phone. I think the problem is over, and we are possibly out of danger although maybe not 100% yet.

I can’t seem to forgive her. She is still in the house for the sake of the kids as the youngest is extremely close to her. I don’t want the kids to be without their mother. But now I don’t know what to do.

I know we are family and I should forgive but I don’t think she will change her character of irresponsibility and laziness. I think it’s best we stay separated and I move on from this toxic relationship.

I’m drinking frequently now. It’s been a month and I can’t get the hurt and disappointment out of my mind. I think I still love her a bit, maybe, but it’s pointless.

I want to get out of this marriage but my consideration is for the kids whom I love so much and, also, what will this lady do without me.

I’ve decided to stay separated but is this the right decision?

I have lost all trust in her, and I can't help thinking if there’s anything else she is hiding from me. She said she has now told me everything and all she did was only to get the jewellery back before I knew about it. She is not a materialistic person and never bugs me to spend on her.

Even if we live separate lives, she will still stay in the house for the kids' sake, and I will co-parent the kids with her. I have been staying out for three weeks, I just go back on weekends and mid-week to see the kids.

She is now looking for a job and wants to help me save money for the kids' future.

I hope you can advise me if I should forgive her or keep living separately.

Torn and hurt


I'm sorry you're having a rough time. I have some ideas and suggestions that I hope will get you started onto a better path.

Your wife originally got into debt because she was scammed. This happens. Scammers are clever.

From your description, it was an investment scam where the victim pays in, loses money, and is then hooked into settling debts by digging in even deeper with loan sharks.

As victims feel shame, and scammers often use threats too, it can be very difficult for victims to speak up and admit they've been trapped.

Your wife was so frightened you would leave her, that she'd rather humiliate herself by borrowing from friends and pawn her jewellery than talk to you.

Not only did your wife lie for eight years but your own family and friends knew she had money trouble. With over a dozen people in the know, why didn't someone speak up?

There is a worrying culture of silence and deception. So here are two common scenarios.

First, there are people who are lazy, immoral, and will pursue their own pleasure, not caring if they destroy others. They will lie when caught and keep lying. It's brazen and there is no curing them.

These are takers; people with no heart who only care for themselves.

Second, there are the people who are frightened of being wrong. They are typically from abusive families where they're beaten or humiliated as kids when they don't get As, if they don't have super model looks, and more.

As adults, they live in a permanent state of alert. When they do run into trouble, they cannot speak up. They're convinced that asking for help will result in punishment.

So they hide their head in the sand and little molehill problems grow until they're mountains.

From your letter, I suspect your wife may be the second kind. She's still partially in denial but she is desperate to make amends, and ashamed. She's not heartless.

I believe this problem comes from hidden needs and problem relationship dynamics.

You had a traditional marriage where you went to work and your wife stayed home and raised the kids. From your quarrels, you didn't think she was doing a good job.

I can't tell how your wife felt but it sounds unfulfilling. And if you were away working a lot, it may also have been isolating.

Although it doesn't excuse what followed, I wonder if she got scammed because she wanted work, independence and her own revenue stream? If so, it's a problem stemming from a desire for success, rather than laziness or irresponsibility.

What is clear is that money went missing and jewellery vanished. You had an opportunity to talk openly when you noticed the first big withdrawal.

What stopped you two from talking in-depth about what was going on? In general, how open was the communication in your marriage? Did you really talk together or were you more distant? What was your power dynamic like?

There is clearly a longstanding issue of lack of open communication.

As for her fear, where does it come from? If your wife avoids all confrontation, and has a history of abuse, then it's something she has to work on.

But there is your self-admitted temper and that silence from even your own relations. These items may be separate or connected.

Maybe you just snap sometimes when you're tired and your wife has never been particularly open. That combination would lead to low communication.

That silence from everyone else may be because you're somewhat disconnected. Too much time at work can do that to families.

However, it may also be that you have a temper which makes your loved ones afraid of you. I can't tell, so this is something you must judge.

What is clear is that you're desperately unhappy. You need help, and urgently.

Considering the potential issues, the sensible thing is to find a therapist and share the entire story in detail. Get support for your feelings. To be safe, be assessed for shock and depression too. Then figure out what may have happened.

In that process, should you discover personal traits you want to rethink, work on yourself.

Ask your wife to find someone to speak to as well. At the very least, she needs to learn to communicate without fear.

Once you both have an independent handle on events, decide what the next step is.

You have many years of co-parenting ahead. Maybe you want to try and connect properly and try to restart your relationship. Either way, you two need to make peace between you.

Also, your kids will be devastated. Make a pact with your wife to put them first. Reassure them, and make sure they have safe people to confide in who aren't mum and dad. Hopefully, there's a sensible cousin, uncle or aunt you can rope in.

As an extra step, it may be useful to talk to AKPK, the Bank Negara financial service, at akpk.org.my. Scams are very common and they may have some good advice on recovering your credit score - or if you're super lucky, recovering some of the money.

I appreciate you may have been hoping for a definitive answer. This is too complex for a snappy judgement. However, I do urge you not to rush into any decisions. Resolutions made when in turmoil, seldom work well.

You're angry and hurt now, which is understandable. The shock of losing all that money will impact you too.

I offer this assurance: You are a man with a history of success. That doesn't go away. You will rebuild your foundation. Never worry about that.

For now, take a break, reassure your kids, and take some time for yourself. This has been years in the making, take your time before committing yourself to the next step.

Good luck and know I'll be thinking of you.

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