The most ridiculous thing my husband ever asked me was if I would buy a house for his mistress to live in. I believe he was trying to hurt me, and push me to go along with a plan that he had laid out: to agree to a divorce so he could marry his new girlfriend and get her permanent residency in Singapore.
But there was a catch – he still wanted me in his life. “You would still be the first wife to me”, he said. “Please consider this.”
I was so confused. Jason* and I had been happily married for a decade, when we decided it was time to start a family. Jason loved children, and was looking forward to being a father. Unfortunately after a failed pregnancy and two rounds of IVF that yielded nothing, it seemed having a baby was impossible for me. Jason did not blame me outright, but his disappointment was palpable.
A changed man
Slowly, his behaviour became unrecognisable to me. Jason gained a new group of friends and started to come home late. He openly spoke about meeting other women. There was one he seemed particularly infatuated with. I was so tied up with guilt and apologetic about my inability to give him a child that I didn’t know how to react. In all our years together, I never imagined Jason would ever be unfaithful.
Eventually, he started talking to me about divorce. His new girlfriend was on a work visa from abroad, and had been introduced to him by a friend. He wanted to be with her because she could give him children. But the strange thing was, he didn’t want to completely cut me out of his life. He said he still had feelings for me, and I was considered more ‘presentable’ to have on his arm at work events. I still recall his exact words were, “You can be shown, but she cannot”. I could not believe what I was hearing.
He stopped coming home every night, and started taking his girlfriend on overseas trips. He stopped answering my calls and replying my messages. What really rankled was that his mother – who lived with us – fully supported his actions, even going as far as to blame me for his straying. I was appalled by his behaviour, and deeply hurt because I still loved him. But I kept up the hope that things would work out and that he would eventually come to his senses. After all, he had said he did not want to give me up, and when our wedding anniversary came up, he even took me out to dinner.
Encouraged by my friends and family, I devoted my time to my career and kept myself as busy as possible. My friends advised me to take better care of myself emotionally and physically – you have to look and live better than them, they said. Determined, I started losing weight, putting on makeup, and making sure I got enough sleep. I did all this as a way of self-soothing, and to regain some of my crushed confidence. I believe these changes in me did not go unnoticed by him.
From what I could piece together, the whole affair lasted five months. During that time, I refused to leave our home, because I did not want to make it easy for his girlfriend to move in and replace me. Make him sweat for a bit and maintain the upper hand, my friends encouraged. Their take was that I should leave Jason, because I had a stable career, friends who cared about me, and a life outside my marriage. They urged me to move on emotionally, but advised me not to agree immediately to the divorce proceedings.
Finding a way to move past the betrayal
One day, Jason came home as I was on my way out. Minutes later, he texted to ask where I had kept our wedding photo. When I asked why it mattered, he couldn’t answer. That night, he told me that his mistress was no longer in the picture, and that he wanted to come back home. The catalyst was when she unwittingly described a conversation she had with her housemate (who was also from abroad) who was going through a bad patch with her Singaporean boyfriend. “Don’t leave him,” she told her friend. “Don’t forget what we came here for.” The impact of those words struck Jason, and he said it was like waking up from a dream.
I consider myself a strong person – unfortunately, not when it comes to Jason. Even from the early days of our relationship, I found it difficult to stay angry for longer than three days. Divorce was not an option for me – because of my religion, and I admit that a part of me was also unwilling to be labelled a divorcee. It would like by failing in my marriage, I had failed myself.
Forgiving him for his indiscretion was one thing. Learning to trust him again was harder. It was difficult for me as I was struggling with wanting to move forward, but still having that other woman at the back of my head. It didn't help that for the first three months after I took him back, he would broach the idea of staying friends with her. Of course I said no. It took three years for Jason to convince me that he would never make the same mistake again.
During that time, I constantly asked him about his whereabouts and what he was doing. When he got annoyed, I would throw up the affair, as a way to justify my actions. Jason was patient with me – staying at home as much as possible and severing ties with the friends he used to stay out late with. When he did hang out with friends, he would even take photos of the group and send them to me, so as to quell my unease.
I oscillated between wanting to move forward, but still feeling very insecure about what he did and obsessing over the mistress. She became the third person in our marriage. And it wasn’t just in my head – six months after Jason came back to me, she texted me asking how are things going between us, and that she was going to visit Singapore (she had returned to her home country) and wanted to see me. I stayed calm and told her that things were good with Jason, and if she wanted to see me, sure. I showed all the messages to my husband, who was impassive. And of course, the mistress never dared to meet me – she was probably just testing the waters.
Fighting for a marriage
It’s been 8 years since the affair happened, and even though our marriage still has its ups and downs, I believe his indiscretion made us a tighter unit. We don’t take our happiness for granted anymore, and we tend to our relationship more carefully. We spend time doing things together more than we used to – making the grocery run, attending family gatherings, and taking more holidays – even if it’s a short weekend getaway. We’ve even gone into business together and started an e-commerce platform. He takes the lead on this (as I have a full-time job), and I support him whenever I can on the weekends. .
We are still trying very hard to make this marriage work – it’s an ongoing process. But we are also more accepting of each other’s faults, and are more able to talk through our feelings after an argument. Jason also speaks up more so I can understand where he’s coming from, where previously whenever we had an argument, he would just keep quiet and walk away. This makes me believe that he is trying to bring us closer. We still don’t have children, but it’s something that both of us have accepted.
In fact, we’ve reached the point where we can openly talk and laugh about those five months when he was unfaithful. I realised that those few years I spent feeling bitter about what he had done was pointless – because there’s nothing I can do to change or erase the past. I tell myself that it must mean something that he’s never strayed since then, and I take it as evidence of his love and care for me. The way I see it, the affair was something that happened, and I just have to accept it and move on – if there is a hope of us having a happy marriage. That’s life. In the last few years, I’ve had close friends die at a young age. It’s a hard lesson and it’s taught me that you never know when your last day on earth is going to be. So, I prefer to focus on living my best life, and being happy.
ALSO READ: THE TIME I CHEATED ON MY HUSBAND FOR REVENGE
*Names have been changed.
This story was first published in the April 2018 issue of Her World magazine.