"I met Paul* at work. He was nine years older but we hit it off immediately. I fell madly in love with him and we started dating before moving in together a year later.
Apart from sharing my interests in movies, music and seafood, he was encouraging, patient and romantic. He loved making grandiose gestures. For one of my birthdays, he whisked me away and surprised me with a gorgeous piece of jewellery. I was swept off my feet, especially since his friends had told me he wasn't the sort to splurge on women. So when he proposed after two years of dating bliss, I said yes.
Again, it was a dramatic affair: When we made plans to go to the cinema, I thought it was just going to be an ordinary movie date. But he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, to thunderous applause from the crowd. I was so shocked that I didn't say 'yes' at once – although I eventually did.
NOT HIS HIS USUAL SELF
Two months after Paul proposed, I noticed a change in his behaviour. He was always distracted at home. Our wedding was in four months but he didn't seem to show any interest in it. Our sex life had also come to a standstill – he told me he was tired and stressed from work. I decided to let things be, thinking it would get better after we were married. Not wanting to pressure him further, I told him to leave all the wedding details to me.
Shortly after that, I fell sick. I was resting at home but as I needed to reply to an urgent work e-mail, I logged on to Paul's laptop. The first thing that caught my eye was a series of chat messages between him and his colleague – he was telling her he was upset that Tessa*, a female co-worker he was 'wooing', wouldn't accept his presents even though he was so in love with her and prepared to sacrifice everything for her. I burst into tears. So this was the reason he was distracted all the time – he had become obsessed with his colleague!
When Paul returned home, I confronted him about Tessa: How could he fall in love with someone he'd only known for a few months? And just when we were about to get married? Paul said he felt they had a connection. But he then begged for my forgiveness, insisting that we still get married for the sake of my elderly mother, who was suffering from depression. She wouldn't be able to handle the news.
IT'S OFF... THEN ON
I moved back to my parents' place to clear my head. Out of anger, I slashed my wedding dress and cancelled our hotel reservations. I dreaded telling my relatives, friends and colleagues that the wedding was off. For one month, I couldn't eat or sleep properly, and lost a lot of weight.
During that time, Paul kept pleading with me to return to him. He promised to change, saying he would remain faithful and love me with all his heart. Even his best friend, Eddy*, stepped in to ask me to forgive Paul, saying that Paul wasn't in his right mind as he was going through a mid-life crisis. Tessa, Eddy explained, had only given Paul a shoulder to cry on when he needed to unload.
My heart melted. I wondered if I hadn't considered Paul's feelings and the stress he was facing in the lead-up to the wedding. I felt I should give him another chance. I really should have known better. But I loved him more than I loved myself, and went against my instincts that this was the wrong thing to do.
I moved back in with Paul and we worked on mending our broken relationship. However, I sensed that our bond wasn't as strong as before. I expected Paul to feel guilty and strive to make it up to me, but he didn't. No matter, I thought. As long as he still loved me and didn't cheat on me again, I could live with it. So I focused on enjoying his companionship before we finally got married early last year.
We had decided to start a family right away, and after trying for six months, I became pregnant. That was when Paul started acting up again. He didn't accompany me to any of my doctor's appointments, and even though I experienced severe bouts of morning sickness and cramps in my first trimester, not once did he comfort me.
Sometimes, he'd get calls in the wee hours, which he'd claim were from his boss, who was based overseas. But I suspected that he was lying. He started going for late-night drives, refusing to let me tag along, and only returning way past midnight. On one occasion, I experienced such bad cramps that I had to take a cab to the hospital on my own as I was unable to get hold of Paul. When he finally visited me, I shouted at him out of frustration and he simply walked out, leaving me crying alone in the ward.
ALONE IN GRIEF
Ten weeks into the pregnancy, I suffered a miscarriage. I was devastated. I had married late in life and felt I was too old to try for another child. The next few weeks were a nightmare. My doctor had put me on oral medication to help my womb flush out the dead foetus, which resulted in excruciating cramps and non-stop bleeding. Although Paul said he understood my pain, I didn't feel like he truly cared.
While I was recovering from the miscarriage, I stumbled upon Paul's flirty e-mails with someone named Karen*. He was telling her how he'd fallen for her and couldn't control himself whenever he was around her. Karen reminded him that his wife had just suffered a miscarriage, and that she didn't consider love a game. But that didn't deter him.
History was repeating itself. I could feel the room spinning. I collapsed on the floor and started bleeding. Paul came running and turned pale when he saw how bad a state I was in. I weakly asked him about Karen, and he retorted by telling me to stop prying. I screamed at him, half disbelieving that he was putting me through the same thing again, especially when I had just suffered a miscarriage.
NO LOOKING BACK
That same night, I moved out and returned to my parents' house. I told them that I needed someone to care for me as Paul didn't know how to nurse me back to health. I didn't dare tell my aged parents that my marriage was over – I didn't think they could handle the stress.
I sank into depression. I was so ashamed – I felt I couldn't tell anyone, not even my friends, about what had happened. When Paul had first strayed, they had advised me against returning to him and I could only imagine that they would simply say, 'I told you so'. The only person I told was my brother, who persuaded me to drop everything and spend some time with him overseas, to get a much-needed breather. I was at breaking point, so I packed my bags and left.
Paul texted me while I was away, but I ignored all his messages. When I returned to Singapore, I changed my mobile number, blocked his e-mails, and deactivated my Facebook account. I didn't want him to have any way of contacting me, as I was afraid I would fall for his sweet talk again. At the same time, I hired a lawyer to draw up my divorce papers. At first, Paul was reluctant to sign them, suggesting a three-year trial separation instead. But through Eddy, I begged Paul to agree to the divorce and give me the peace of mind I'd not had since his first indiscretion. I told him that I would never forgive him as my trust in him had been broken. Paul finally agreed to a divorce.
I'm a different person now. I have learnt that if you don't want to get hurt, it's better to love yourself more than the man you're with. I'm done with dating – I'm just going to leave everything to fate. If Mr Right comes along, I won't fight it. But I won't turn into a serial dater just to mend my broken heart. I don't want to hurt others the way I've been hurt."
* Names have been changed.
This article was originally published in Simply Her July 2013.