Here’s the thing about me: When I like someone, the logical part of my brain shuts down, and I become blind to red flags. I think that’s why I stayed with my lazy, ineffectual husband for as long as I did.

Kyle* and I met when I was just 21. He was charismatic, confident and good-looking, and I was attracted to him. But for a long time, our relationship stayed platonic as he didn’t seem keen. To my surprise, he made the first move after things didn’t work out with his then-girlfriend. We dated for three years, and got married when I was 27. 

Kyle had big dreams of being his own boss. He tried to open a company, but things never took off. So he resorted to short-term projects to get by. His finances were erratic, and borrowing money from me became the norm. But I was so trusting and loved him so much, that I believed him when he said he would pay me back. 

I ran the household and covered all our expenses and the mortgage. He never made monthly contributions, and when we got our flat, my input was vastly disproportionate (I paid $150,000, he put in just $17,000). Whenever money came from his work stints, he would spend it freely.

In fact, he spent money so freely that I had a $20,000 credit card debt at one point.

Occasionally, he would buy me gifts, but they were never anything that I truly liked or wanted. 

Credit: @mygina/Twenty20

Aside from his irresponsibility with money, he didn’t put any effort into our marriage. He never helped with the housework even though he was at home all day, and even the small things – like carrying grocery bags into the house – were too much effort for him.

He also showed no interest in remembering the things I liked. Once, when I was ill, he bought me fishball noodles for breakfast, even though it was a dish I hated and would never order. I gently corrected him and told him what I preferred, but the next day, the same noodles appeared again. When I asked why he was so thoughtless, he blamed the hawker instead, insisting that the latter had got the order wrong. 

I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter that my husband didn’t know what I liked. There was plenty of time for us to get closer. But I realised how wrong I was when a friend whom I had only know for a couple of months nailed a present she got me – a wallet that was the exact brand, style and colour I liked, without me having to say a word.

That made me realise it was not about the length of time you’ve known someone, but how much effort you put into understanding what makes them tick. 

After six years of tolerating his bad habits and with little hope of things getting better, I was at the end of my tether. I looked haggard, I cried every night, and felt so burdened.

By September 2016, I gave him an ultimatum: He had six months to clean up his act, and in that time, we would move into separate rooms. Despite this, nothing changed. In fact, I discovered that he had blocked my parents’ numbers and changed my contact name in his phone to ‘Ex-Wife’ (we shared an iTunes account, and changes in one phone book can be seen on the other person’s phone). Even then, I still made the effort to take him out bowling and for a meal on his birthday. But when my birthday came, not only did he not bother to plan anything, he even picked a fight with me in front of my mother. 

After more fights over Christmas and Chinese New Year, it was clear that my ultimatum had had little impact on him. In May 2017, I asked for a separation and for him to move out.

Credit: @hanngho via Twenty20

I’m relieved that I made that decision. Since we separated, I feel I’m back to the fun-loving, outgoing person I once was. I go on solo trips and spend more time with my family. I’m now saving up to open a cafe of my own – this dream was put on hold for years because Kyle squandered all my savings. I still hope to get married again and start a family. 

I see now that I completely let myself down by staying with Kyle. It took me a long time, but now I understand that it’s okay to love yourself and put your needs first. It doesn’t make you a selfish person.

*Name has been changed

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Text: Clara How/Her World