“Bernard* and I have been married for 10 years. A little over two years ago, he started cheating on me. I didn’t know it then, but during the two-year affair, my cousin and a close friend had spotted him with a woman they didn’t recognise, and told me about it. ‘Maybe it’s just his colleague,’ I’d said then. But the sightings got more frequent, and people saw my husband and the woman holding hands and nuzzling on the MRT. I couldn’t ignore the reports any longer, so I decided to tail him.

That Saturday, Bernard told me he was accompanying a buddy to test-drive a new car. I left the flat with him on the pretext of going grocery shopping; instead, I followed him to the MRT station, a short walk from our block. What I saw next broke my heart. A young woman – probably in her 20s – walked up to him, and they kissed on the lips. Then Bernard put his arm around her and they left.

I walked home in a daze. Once I was behind closed doors, I felt the rage and hurt course through my body, yet I couldn’t cry because I was too stunned. I had a million questions: What would happen to our marriage and our young son? What if he was in love with this woman? Who was she? How could he do this to me?

I’m not one to mince words, so when Bernard returned that evening, I stated point-blank that I’d seen him at the station with another woman. I added that it would be futile for him to deny that he was having an affair, because their body language made it clear that they were more than friends.

He was taken aback and became defensive, calling me crazy for spying on him. I just sat there with a blank expression. My heart felt like a rock. Then the tears came. I cried like I’d never cried before. I was hysterical. Luckily, our son was at his grandparents’ place that weekend; I wouldn’t have wanted him to see me in such a state.

Bernard then admitted to the affair and told me that he and Sheryl* had clicked when they met at a work function two years ago. She was based in Hong Kong, but flew to Singapore every few months, and that was when they would get together. She knew he was married. He was ‘fond of her’, he said. He claimed he’d tried to end their relationship before, but she wasn’t willing to let him go.

When I asked him if he wanted a divorce, he said no, but added that there wasn’t much in our marriage that made him want to stay, either. I couldn’t believe my ears. I knew we didn’t always see eye-to-eye about issues concerning our son and the household, but I thought our bond was stable. We’d dated for a year before getting married, and had been very sure we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. So what had gone wrong?

Bernard said he still loved me, but felt that something was wrong with our marriage – he couldn’t say what, exactly. He told me that being with Sheryl made him feel good. I replied that if he didn’t want a divorce, he would have to end the affair, and we would have to work on our marriage, because he couldn’t have his cake and eat it, too.

My mother always told me never to fight with another woman over a man, but I really wanted my marriage to work. I might not have done so if he didn’t love me any more – but it seemed he was only with Sheryl because she boosted his ego.

He had trouble ending the affair, though. Over the two weeks following his admission, he tried to break it off, but she called and texted him constantly. A couple of times, he angered me by insisting he had to meet her personally to break it off. I was equally adamant that he had no more reason to see her.
In the end, he wrote her an e-mail, telling her the affair was over and to stop contacting him. He signed off from both of us. As far as I know, she stopped bothering him after that.

I didn’t tell my family and friends about what I’d seen. I also kept things stable for our child. My son had noticed immediately upon returning home from his grandparents’ that I’d been crying, and that his parents were distant, but I told him not to worry. I told him Mummy and Daddy were experiencing a few problems but reassured him that we’d be okay. As hurt, confused and angry as I was, I was determined to forge ahead and deal with my husband’s betrayal in a civilised manner. I’d cried enough already.

It’s been four months since the affair ended with the e-mail we sent Sheryl. Our pastor recommended us a marriage counsellor right after that, and we’ve been attending fortnightly therapy sessions. Bernard was initially reluctant to go, but I told him we needed professional guidance, and I wasn’t going to give up on us.

There were moments early on in counselling when I thought I was going to lose him for good, because he seemed so confused about us. I had to tell him I was willing to do whatever it took to keep us together, and I needed his cooperation. The love was there, but we had to get through layers of resentment, anger and fear to uncover it. I said he couldn’t lose faith in us. We reread our marriage vows together, and I reminded him that we couldn’t break the promises we’d made.

As counselling progressed, we accepted that our marriage had lost its spark. Bernard said I’d stopped being fun and adventurous. Sheryl had lavished attention on him, and seemed to understand him better. With her, he said, he could really be himself. He revealed that he didn’t feel our problems could be resolved because we’d both changed over the course of our marriage.

He shared that, over the years, I’d become a nag and had grown too preoccupied with work and family finances. He claimed he’d tried reaching out to me a few times, but gave up when I didn’t respond. He wanted to get back to the early days, when I seemed less bogged down and was more ‘into’ him, emotionally and physically.

I believe the breakdown in our marriage was as much Bernard’s fault as it was mine – yes, I would nag at him at times, and I know I can become moody, withdrawn and neglectful when I have too much on my mind – but he made the decision to cheat on me when he could have raised the alarm about feeling disheartened about our marriage instead.

Many tears have been shed in and out of therapy, and I’ve had to find it in my heart to really forgive Bernard. Sometimes, when the pain’s too much to bear, we spend a couple of days apart – something our counsellor says is normal. As part of our healing, we’ve had to learn to communicate more – and more honestly and respectfully. We’ve also set aside more couple time. And we don’t hide anything from each other any more.

Trusting him the way I used to hasn’t been easy. Healing takes time, but as long as we remain committed to repairing our marriage, I know we will get back on track. I’m not ready to have sex with Bernard yet, and he understands that, but I feel we’re communicating better now. We hug and kiss a lot, and are more attentive to each other. This is good enough for us right now, because we believe in taking things one step at a time.”

*Names have been changed.

This article was originally published in Simply Her April 2013.