April 29th, 2009

Counsellor’s Notebook: The Courage to Divorce

Over 300 women approach AWARE’s team of 9 counsellors every month. This puts our counsellors in the unique position of having an intimate knowledge of the troubles faced by women in Singapore. All details shared with our counsellors are strictly confidential. The following testimonials are reproduced with permission from clients who feel they can help other women by sharing their stories.

“I was married for 25 years and was a full time housewife to three children. My whole life was devoted to my kids. My ex husband was a businessman with investments in Malaysia and Thailand. As a result of that, he was often out of the country. From very early on, I knew that my husband was not faithful to me. In fact, even during the first few years of our marriage, he was quite bold in his flirting—to the extent that his friends would also bring their girl friends to our house and he would be physically intimate with them. But I never threatened to divorce or leave him because I knew he loved our children and so did I.

I don’t know how I managed to continue my life for 25 years. My husband was often verbally abusive towards me… he never hit me and he is not the sort who would. But when he got impatient with me sometimes, he woukld scold me: say I am ‘stupid’, or ‘silly’ or make negative remarks about me that would hurt me. But I often ignored these remarks. I guess it was because I was insecure and somehow admitted to myself then that he was right.

In the last few years of our marriage, I was suspicious of him…I knew he was seeing a woman but did not know who it was. I never told my children about this but I suspected they knew as well. I did not want to involve them because it was embarrassing and I felt it was important to keep the family together.

One day, when I was helping him to clean his car, I chanced upon a photograph of a woman and he had his arms around her. At first, I grew numb and didn’t know how to react. I knew this had been happening but to actually chance upon the evidence was another thing all together. I cried for days and called my friends and relatives. I was lost and didn’t know what to do. I blamed myself because this was something that I knew my ex husband was capable of doing but somehow always conveniently denied it.

My sister gave me the number of the AWARE helpline. I didn’t think it was acceptable for people to talk about their personal problems to strangers. I declined my sister’s suggestion to call them. But she told me that if I change my mind, I should and AWARE might be able to help. My friends were also giving me all kinds of suggestions—but I was confused about what to do. At that time, I didn’t want to see a lawyer as I did not know if I should divorce him.

I am thankful I decided to call the AWARE helpline in the end. Not only was the counsellor comforting and open, she gave me a lot of practical tips about what I could do and the options available to me. When I finally decided to divorce my husband, she even accompanied me to court and gave me the the moral and emotional support. I would really like to thank the volunteer at AWARE who helped me out during my period of crisis.”

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