In my mind, there was no question that Desmond* was The One. When I met him in school, I was struck by how introspective, honest and logical he was. It didn’t take long for us to become fast friends.
Shortly after our A levels, Desmond told me that he had been carrying a torch for me. I was touched by his confession and accepted his love. After all, he was dependable, thrifty and filial. Definitely husband material, I thought.
The first couple of years were blissful. We would talk about our goals – he wanted to study business and I wanted to devote myself to non-profit work. We even found out that our parents had been old neighbours and that we’d probably played together as toddlers. Everything about our relationship felt right.
When he opted to pursue his university degree in Australia, I supported his decision even though I knew I’d really miss him. For the next three years, I coped with our long-distance relationship the best I could. I gave tuition to six kids and took on a part-time administrative job while juggling my own undergraduate studies – just to be able to afford the airfare to visit him during term breaks. I would lug packets of herbal tea and bak kut teh, as well as other readymade sauces to cook for him. I even cleaned up his dorm room when I visited.
When he returned to Singapore, I thought we could finally start planning for our future. By then, we were both 25 and had been dating for five years. His parents also hinted that we should consider settling down. When Desmond suggested that we ballot for a flat, I felt that my faithful wait had been rewarded.
Somehow, somewhere down that perfect path, something went wrong. And it all started when he joined an MNC. At that time, I was clocking in irregular hours as a social worker.
It was then that the disappearing acts started. At first, he would not reply to my SMSes for hours. Then, he would cancel our Friday dinner dates because he had to “work late”. Sometimes he would vanish for days.
Finally, he told me that he wanted a break. I was devastated as I did not know what I did wrong. I pleaded with him to tell me why but he remained tight-lipped. I blamed myself and even wrote him an e-mail to say how sorry I was for pressurising him to settle down. The emotional hurt and confusion was overwhelming.
Luckily, friends rallied around me. But as I was picking myself up, Desmond suddenly re-entered the picture after three months. He told me that he wanted me back in his life. Looking back, I should have been puzzled by this unexpected twist. But I was so relieved and happy, it didn’t occur to me to ask any questions.
Yet, the disappearing acts didn’t stop. Later, a friend told me he saw Desmond holding hands with a woman at the cinema. When I asked him about it, he couldn’t give me a satisfactory answer. So I decided to investigate on my own.
I checked his mobile phone and noticed that he had been exchanging flirty SMSes with a woman. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But I didn’t confront Desmond at first. I wanted to ascertain the identity of this woman so I snooped on his MSN. He was always online so it wasn’t difficult. I found a Yang Yan* and downloaded a year’s worth of conversation logs.
I also checked his e-mail inbox – he had given me his password in better times but I had never done this before. I found a long list of confirmation e-mails – movies, air tickets, even hotels! As I read those MSN logs and e-mails, it dawned upon me that he had been cheating on me for at least a year. Sometimes, he would watch one movie with me and then leave me to watch another movie with her in the same theatre.
He had even taken her to Tokyo for a week. Then, there was a long list of hotel bookings. They had been checking into five-star hotels here like the Sentosa Resort & Spa. I was horrified, but what really broke my heart was when I discovered that he had forwarded my pleading e-mail to Yang Yan. They had even mocked my cluelessness when I went back to him!
Later, I found out that Yang Yan, who was in her late 20s, was from Shanghai and she was Desmond’s colleague. It all started with a drunken one-night stand after their dinner-and-dance party. At that time, Yang Yan was actually dating another Singaporean man. Neither of them showed any guilt about lying to their partners. Instead, they were so hooked on each other sexually that all they talked about was where to go for their next rendezvous.
To keep Desmond sexually interested in her, Yang Yan would send him suggestive SMSes like “If only that night didn’t happen…” and “My boyfriend is sleeping on my bed now… but I miss you… you can come after he leaves.” And he would reciprocate with “Go shower now. I want you to smell nice for me…” and “We were naughty last night… have you washed your bedsheets yet?”
Where was the man I thought I knew and loved?
Then I read how they had discussed how to lie to me. He typed: “Option A: Let’s leave our partners and be together. Option B: Let’s keep our parents happy by sticking with them but continue to see each other. Option C: We forget about that wonderful night together.” I was disgusted when she typed “Hehe” and replied that Option B would allow them to have the best of both worlds.
I was furious. What did Desmond see in her? From her photos on Facebook, she looked like an unattractive “auntie”. She was pale and plump – probably a size 12. She wasn’t very tall either. She didn’t even dress well, preferring shapeless dresses and leopard-print tops.
But I noticed that she was outwardly subservient to Desmond. While I used to nag at him to take me out for a nice meal, she would give him plenty of personal space and pander to his ego. She would sweet-talk him with lines like “I know you men want to read your newspapers… go read. I will wait till you finish, then maybe we can go to a movie?”
She would also tell him how she couldn’t stop thinking about him. She would e-mail him sexy photos of other women through the day to keep him sexed up. He would reciprocate by sending her photos of hotel rooms. These were the very hotels they checked into for their rendezvous.
I hit the roof. I didn’t want another innocent party to be cheated so I sent a Facebook message to Yang Yan’s boyfriend. I wrote to tell him that his girlfriend was cheating on him. It was only then that Desmond knew that I was aware of their goings-on. Yet he showed no remorse at all.
He even questioned me about it and told me how his darling Yang Yan had been utterly embarrassed when her boyfriend confronted them at their office. Desmond seemed more concerned about her reputation and how she felt! He was thoroughly besotted with Yang Yan. I still couldn’t believe how he never said sorry. Not once.
During that fight, he even told me harshly that our application for a flat had been successful but that he had rejected it because he did not want a future with me. That was the last straw for me. I knew it was over.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
About three months later, I decided that I had to leave Singapore to take my mind off the unhappiness. Pursuing my master’s degree in social work had been on my to-do list for the longest time, so I applied for a place in an Australian university. Desmond didn’t seem to care that I was leaving. There was still no sense of remorse, no outward indication that he knew he had hurt me. I could accept that he no longer loved me, but I couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t acknowledge that he had wronged me. I was gutted – he had morphed from a soulmate into someone without a shred of human decency.
I hated her. I hated how they had deceived me. At times, I was so consumed by rage I couldn’t think clearly. I mulled over the series of events again and again, trying to find out how everything went so wrong. I wondered why Desmond hadn’t just come clean with me and told me he wanted to break up – but I realised that he’d been facing a lot of pressure from his parents, who liked me and wanted him to marry me.
I slowly started to withdraw from my friends and family – it was painful for me to see mutual friends and I wasn’t ready to face questions about what had happened between us. In a way, that was why I was so desperate to leave Singapore. I was determined to start anew in Perth and I hoped that the distance would heal my wounds.
Just two months after I arrived in Perth, I heard from our mutual friends that Desmond had married Yang Yan. It had been a “shotgun” wedding – she’d been three months pregnant at the time, which meant that they’d never stopped sleeping together – even after I found out about them. He didn’t even tell me about the wedding. I was shattered but yet felt strangely numbed. I told myself that it was definitely time to move on.
I refused to mope, so I forced myself to meet new people and have fun. I went on road trips in Australia and even holidayed in South Africa. But there were times when I would be overcome with sadness. Even though I started to date again, I couldn’t commit to any relationship. I was still carrying too many past hurts. Luckily, I was doing a module on counselling, so I applied the same techniques on myself. I forced myself to think positively and to let go of any guilt and anger. It helped that I had a strong support network in my sister and friends.
At first, I was fearful about returning to Singapore when I completed my master’s a year later. I didn’t know how I would cope – what if I bumped into them on the streets? But I knew that I couldn’t live life trying to avoid them. It was time to face my fears. Back home, I quickly established a whole new routine. I joined a new non-profit organisation. I took up new hobbies like wakeboarding and yoga. I also started meeting long-lost friends for dinners and drinks.
It’s been two years since I returned. I’m still not ready to be in a relationship – I definitely have trust issues – but I feel happier with my life. I’ve stopped hating Desmond. I still think fondly about the good times we had, but I know that I’m glad to be finally free of him – and the cycle of rage and hatred I had been trapped in for so long. At the very least, I can say that what happened has made me a stronger woman.
*Names and recognisable details have been changed
This story was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Her World.