My dream wedding would be a fuss-free affair. My fiance and I would say “I do” with the ocean behind us, surrounded by family and friends.
And until several months ago, I imagined that the man in that picture would be 31-year-old Nick. He was everything I looked for in a man. He was well-read and opinionated, with a witty sense of humour. At the same time, he was down-to-earth and unpretentious.
But what I really admired about him was that he knew the value of hard work. His parents were blue-collar workers and life hadn’t been easy for him. But he knew he wanted a good life and studied hard so that he could get into a top junior college. He even worked part-time to pay his way through university. His determination to break out of poverty really impressed me.
I counted myself lucky to find the man I wanted to marry at 22 though how we met was rather cliched. We work for the same airline and while he was a cargo pilot and not a commercial one, our paths crossed last July while we had both been in the same European city on a stopover. We became fast friends after I found out he knew my older brother. I’m very close to my brother and trusted that he formed friendships with good people.
A rocky start to a whirlwind romance
Barely a few weeks after hanging out, I used my free plane ticket (a yearly entitlement I had) to visit him in Los Angeles when he was there for work. It was clear that both of us really liked each other so when he pulled me close and kissed me one night, I knew we were a couple.
One night during this trip, I happened to glance at his phone while he was in the shower because a text message had popped up. It was from a girl called E* and it read “happy 11 months baby”. I burst into tears and confronted him. He said that they were nothing more than “friends with benefits” and that he had been planning to end their arrangement now that we were officially together. Since our relationship was so new, I accepted everything he said. After all, it wasn’t like he’d been cheating on me.
When we got back to Singapore, Nick went all out to woo me. He wined and dined me, among other things. But what really made me believe that he was sincere was when he introduced me to his mum about three months into our relationship.
He had told me before that the next girl he brought home would be the one he was going to marry. No wonder I felt special. After that day, I never questioned his commitment again. I grew quite close to his mum and even ran errands for her when he travelled. He got to know my family too and was always at our gatherings.
To trust or not to trust
But our happy days were short-lived. When we were holidaying in Perth after Christmas last year, something else happened to make me doubt him again.
His phone started ringing very often and one day when he was in the shower, I looked over and saw three messages from someone called “S. Lim*”. I didn’t read them and the last thing I wanted to do was fight when we were overseas so I asked him calmly who she was. He explained that they were primary school friends and were in charge of planning a New Year party.
I wasn’t sure whether to believe him but then he was really nice to me during the trip, and took me to a special place – the flying college where he trained to become a pilot – and so I let it slide because I was touched by that gesture.
Our relationship went on quite smoothly for the next two months till his birthday in February this year. I arranged a special trip to Nanjing so that we could spend a week there to celebrate it. I thought he’d be excited about it but when I surprised him with the plan, he scolded me instead. He said that it was selfish of me not to ask him what he wanted to do for his birthday. He wanted to have a quiet celebration in his apartment instead. Confused at his reaction, I ended up apologising.
Things spiralled down from then on. We quarrelled very often as he’d get upset with me over the smallest of things. From the start he had set a rule – we couldn’t see each other for more than two days in a row because he needed space. I had thought it was a little weird but I respected it since everyone needs personal space. With hindsight, it should have been a red flag that something wasn’t right.
There were also times just before longhaul flights when I would want to see him before I left – and he’d get mad at me for insisting on meeting him. He said I was clingy. One day in March, I reached my breaking point and blurted out: “Why must everything be at your convenience?” I had tolerated so much that I couldn’t take it anymore.
The truth unravels
Shortly after we broke up, I received a message via Facebook from an “S. Lim” – the same woman who had been calling him in Perth. She had recently found a photo album I had made for Nick in his apartment when she was looking for a towel and realised that he was two-timing her. She was, in fact, a flight attendant too and she worked for the same airline as we did! I felt a strange sense of relief when we spoke over the phone because all my suspicions about him were true. I hadn’t been paranoid about him being unfaithful at all.
We decided to confront him at his apartment together. He was shocked beyond words. S bombarded him with questions and I stepped in when he came up with ridiculous explanations for his behaviour. He couldn’t deny he was seeing the both of us at the same time and finally admitted his guilt. He had started dating S just before his birthday, in February – the period for which I had planned the Nanjing trip.
S and I were enraged by his duplicity. When he went into his room to give us some time to cool off, we rummaged around, found a pair of scissors and cut up his clothes. We also emptied out the bottles of liquor at his bar and snipped the television cord (I had paid for his 42-inch plasma television, damn it!) We then ran out of his house, taking his precious plane models with us, which we smashed at the poolside.
Little did I know that there were even more women in the picture. A friend of mine, also an air stewardess, did some digging and three other girls came out of the woodwork – all cabin crew from the same airline we worked for. There was E* (recall the LA incident) – he ended it soon after we met. There was V*, who got pregnant (she aborted his child). Then there was Y*, who he hooked up with just before we broke up.
I couldn’t believe that he had been seeing four different girls during the time he was with me. There had never been even the slightest whisper of his numerous affairs even though we all worked for the same company but I still felt very ashamed that I had not discovered all this earlier.
S and I went to confront him a second time at his place. But this time, I let S do all the talking – I was emotionally exhausted. He said he wanted to be with S again one day but that Y was the girl he needed to be with for now because she understood his need to cheat. What kind of man says something like that?
Everything makes sense to me now. When we had been together, we’d only go out in the evenings because he’d either be sleeping or claim to have errands to run or golf. He probably needed the time for other women. When we went out, he’d choose the more deserted places, saying he hated crowds.
He’d take an awfully long time to reply to text messages and his mobile phone was always switched off when he was with me. Now I know it was because he didn’t want me to catch the other women trying to call or text him. He also insisted on having my duty roster, claiming that he needed it so that he could pick me up from the airport. Now I know it’s because he needed my schedule and those of the four other women so he could plan when to meet us.
Looking back, it was one very exhausting relationship. I went out of my way for him, specially switching my flights and arranging my leave so our schedules would match. I splurged on him – other than the television, I bought him designer stuff like a Bottega wallet, an iPhone 3GS, countless shirts and pants and even changed money for him every time before he travelled without asking him to pay me back. He earns more than twice my salary on a good month, mind you.
But money can always be earned and I don’t regret buying those things for him. It was the emotional investment that was harder to deal with. I really loved him. In a way, he led me on. He’d play along when I talked about a future together and even said he’d marry me one day. Heck, we even discussed what we wanted to name our kids.
The entire time I thought I was happy but I realised now that I wasn’t. It’s funny how I convinced myself to believe in something that wasn’t real. Perhaps I romanticised the idea of being with him. I thought it was cute that I was an air stewardess and he was a pilot – we could have taken our wedding photos in our uniforms.
After all the drama, I wanted to resign but my friends told me not to be impulsive. Thankfully, Nick and I haven’t bumped into each other since and I have no idea what he’s been up to. If we ever meet again, I’ll ignore him. He’s never sincerely apologised for the pain he caused me. I don’t even think he believes what he did was wrong or feels any kind of remorse. That’s kind of scary – I guess I never really knew him.
I find it difficult to trust men now. I just started dating someone new but we’re taking things slow. It’ll take me a long time to trust him but he’s very understanding about what I’ve been through. He takes calls in front of me and tells me about the crew he flies with – all these things help ease my worries. The good thing that has come out of this is that I’ve learnt to trust my own feelings. I won’t doubt my intuition again.
*Names have been changed and abbreviations have been used
This story was first published in the November 2010 issue of Her World.