A Tale of Two Women

“Widow”. An ad for Kleenex by JWT Malaysia. This image captures the feeling of losing love or someone you love.

Love is a contradiction. It can make you very happy yet cause so much sorrow. It can give you so much yet take everything you’ve got.

This is a story of two women who found and lost love. Let’s call them Jade(d) and Hope. As you can tell from their nicknames, their stories are ‘same-same but different’.

Jade

She was a part of our group of five classmates in secondary school. Each was named after one of the New Kids on the Block (the ringleader was nuts over the boy group). Jade was Joey, the youngest. I think it’s because she was the most timid and slightly ‘slow’ in getting on with the programme. If we were the Golden Girls, she’d be Betty White.

After leaving school, we slowly drifted apart. Some of us remained in our hometown while others studied or worked elsewhere. Eventually, all of us made it to KL (except for one who went further to settle down in Europe).

I met Jade only once, when four of us got together. She had her two kids with her and while slightly frazzled (which mother isn’t?), seemed happy.

But she strongly advised us not to get married. I put that down to the stress of raising a family and lack of freedom due to family responsibilities.

Three of us were single then. One later got married too while the other… well, I heard from someone else that she came close to tying the knot but the wedding was called off at the last minute. My friend never mentioned it and I never asked.

When the love stops

As always with gatherings, we promised to keep in touch and meet again. I called Jade soon after and it was then that I discovered the truth behind her advice. From what she told me, it sounded like emotional abuse.

My friend is practically housebound. Her husband works outstation and comes home every two or three months. She gave up her career to be a full-time mum. She would rather work but leaving her kids in the care of strangers is not an option.

Jade’s husband doesn’t like her socialising with others, including us. In fact, she went through great difficulty to join us for that get-together. Even so, she had to be sent home before sunset and he probably grilled the kids for a report.

Jade doesn’t drive nor does she have the freedom to move around on her own. She stocks up on groceries at the hypermarket when her husband comes home. At other times, she makes her purchases from the neighbourhood shops or mobile traders. The money she gets from her husband is just enough for household necessities.

Jade’s daughter is old enough to sense that something is not quite right with my friend and the family dynamics. The daughter is even prohibited from writing letters to cousins she spent the school holidays with. When she asked why Mummy doesn’t go anywhere, my friend just said, “When you grow up and can go out on your own, take Mummy with you.”

More sadness

I promised Jade I would call again but never did. Months turned into years. During the recent Merdeka holidays, I thought more of her and finally made that call. Her husband wasn’t home and her children had gone out with the kids next door so we were free to have a long chat.

She shared that they were briefly separated and she suffered from depression for about a year or two. They now sleep in different rooms and she communicates with him through her kids unless the matter is too big. Her connection to the outside world is the TV and landline. Her handphone is used to just store phone numbers.

Husband and wife are still together for the kids. Jade plans to leave the house when they are old enough to do the same. Her youngest is only 7 years old. This means she would have to continue with the suffering for at least another 10 years. Can she wait that long? Or last that long? Can’t she go back to her family?

Jade’s mind is pretty much made up. She gave up her career, which she enjoyed, to care for her kids. It’s a sacrifice she is willing to make. She now has nothing. No job, no money, no independence. She doesn’t want any money from her husband but I urged her to just save whatever she could or get a job in case she reaches a point when she needs to walk out. I can only hope that her children will not forget her when they fly the nest.

One of our friends, SJ, is a social worker. I asked Jade to speak to her. Before this, Jade told me not to let SJ know of her situation. I’m glad to know that Jade has since shared her problems with SJ and found the support she needs.

Jade has accepted her fate and her experience has turned her off marriage for good. She advised me again, do not get married. Nobody around her has a happy marriage. Not a single one. Affairs are common. In Jade’s case, infidelity did not break up her marriage – her husband just changed after marriage.

Close one eye?

Every woman who marries must be prepared for her husband to cheat on her so that when it happens, she would be able to deal with it. Men are never satisfied with just one woman like how a woman could be with just one man. A man may love his family but he would still want to have flings on the side.

Jade continued; if a woman wants to keep her marriage, don’t let her husband know she knows of his infidelity. Should he know she knows, he would not bother going through the trouble of hiding the affair and would neglect the family.

So where does this leave us? Is the outlook for relationships so bleak? Doomed for failure no matter how happy and honest husband and wife are when they take their vows? What happened to ‘for better, for worse, until death do us part’? Could you enjoy the moment or even embark on a relationship when you know it’s just a matter of time before love dissipates?

And now we come to the story of Hope.

Hope is an older friend I met a few years back. We keep in touch mostly through Facebook and the occasional email. Knowing that she had been travelling a few months ago, I asked whether she’s back and how she was.

“How are you?” A question so simple and common we toss it out like “hi” and “bye”. An automatic greeting bereft of meaning.

To those who need a listening ear, who are in sorrow, this question carries a lot of weight and brings a wisp of relief, a call to unburden.

Hope replied: How are you? Good question. There is no easy way of putting it but I am in the process of going through a divorce.

I went through a recent loss too. Not a divorce or death, but intensely painful all the same. A 5-month relationship that ended cannot compare to 19 years of marriage but the wrecking ball is still lodged in my heart.

Despite being a rather private person, I had to share my situation with friends and even strangers because I couldn’t cope with all the emotions that I never even knew I had. My heart felt like it was going to explode and talking about the situation had somewhat eased that pressure cooker feeling.

The sisterhood of suffering friends

It is indeed in your time of grief that you know who your friends are. I told myself I’d be a better friend after this.

So I offered her my place to crash if needed, and a listening ear. She suggested we meet up on the weekend. I was ready to be super supportive, but the day didn’t turn out as I expected.

Before she went into what happened, she wanted to know how I was. I had mentioned in our emails that I recently had a breakup (few people knew about that relationship – I didn’t want to tell yet as I wasn’t sure where it was heading). In her case, just like mine, another woman is involved. But the difference is she is (still) married to him, has a child with him, built a life with him.

No matter how cheated or used I feel, how much I’ve lost, I’m not the one with 19 years of marriage down the drain.

So it should be her that is depressed, crying every night, losing all hope, having a jaded view of the world. Not I.

Yet it is Hope who has become my pillar of support. I am the one with tears in my eyes, not her. Oh yes, of course she cried, but Hope is dealing with her situation a lot better than I.

Stuck in a rut or moving on?

She is making conscious effort to deal with her situation. Keeping herself busy, taking care of her health, even going to the gym (and she’s thrilled she has already lost a few pounds). She counts her blessings – help that came her way, support from family (even her sisters-in-law) and friends, the wonderful weather as she traversed the city to seek legal counsel, child’s education taken care of…

There is no quarrel, no animosity. She’s just moving on with her life. The husband is not making any effort to reconcile or fight for her or the family, so there is no marriage to salvage.

I admire Hope for how she is dealing with her situation. She is strong, her head is held high and she refuses to feel sorry for herself.

They had good years together, before the other woman came into the picture disguised as a friend in need. Hope gave her husband the benefit of the doubt and he abused her trust.

The husband’s relationship with the other woman does not seem to be based on lust (as with most infidelities) but more of a sense of duty or obligation. So why is he willing to throw everything away? Till this day we do not fully understand the actions of the men in our lives and we probably never will.

Hang on to the good

For Hope, her stand is, she had a good life with her husband. He gave her a rich life. Brought out the best in her. Gave her the freedom to pursue her interests. And they have a wonderful child out of their union. So Hope chooses to remember the good times and move on.

She still cares for him. She just can’t be with him. She misses him but it was a different time and he was a different man.

Unlike Jade, Hope tells me to pursue love in life for life is that much richer when there is love. I must not think of all the bad things that could happen. She doesn’t regret her marriage.

My question is, is it worth the pain? What you don’t know, you don’t miss. If I can’t even cope with the hurt from a short relationship, how could I deal with a long-term relationship gone bust? It’s been four months and I’m still crying.

I went through so many phases of hurt and despair some that almost pushed me over the dark edge. All the feelings I never knew I had wreaked havoc with my emotional, physical and mental well being. I cannot go back to that place again.

For Jade, marriage took everything away from her. It is only her kids who are keeping her going. For Hope, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

What about you? Are you Jade or Hope?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi there,

    I read your post with great interest. I know how it feels when relationships end. I had many such ups and downs over the years. There were times when I felt i couldn’t carry on or even make it another day. My esteem was at its lowest point. And than, I gathered all my courage and decided to really look deep inside myself for what I really wanted. I read books, sought teachers, prayers, confided in friends, mulled over work, cried my heart out, thought perhaps i should just leave this planet for good, etc….

    And than doors of opportunities opened like a new job, a nice friend, interesting people, etc and the ray of light started shinning again. I promised that I would love myself so much that I was so filled to the brim and even overflow for others!!! I sought a great coach for my life and from there on its been nothing but total love and acceptance of myself!! Never would I ever let my beautiful self plunge into such despair for a man who never deserved the jewel of me on the very first place!!

    Love and accept yourself unconditionally and than, the person that comes along will too:). Of course, I do always have desires for a loving relationship. Shakespeare said true love is not romance, walking by the beach or moonlight, but respect, trust and friendship between two people…and that is the best thing ever I believe for me!! and you too…..

    Reply

    • It was great to meet you again. I’m happy that you’re loving yourself more now. You were always so selfless. You deserve more.

      He was never the romantic type. He gave me a book for Valentine’s Day, for ‘friendship’ – we met just weeks before. I was fine with that because it was his company I enjoyed and there were other ways that showed he cared. So I thought that was it, I liked him, he liked me, we cared for each other – that’s what love is, not the romance novels type but being with someone who makes you happy, someone you look forward to each day, someone you would do anything for. I may never know if that was all a farce, but damn, he made me so happy before he made me very, very sad.

      What I don’t know, I won’t miss. Now I know and I miss it so much. It scares me to think I may never fill that void. But a dear friend said, you can’t plan ahead anyway, so, good luck to us both.

      Reply

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