I was quite saddened last night when I read an IG post by an old college friend. She was with her boyfriend whom she married over a year ago for a total of 9 years, only to find after they got married that he wasn’t who she thought him to be. As a result, their relationship in the last year has dissolved despite efforts on her side to try and work things out. To know that 2016 was a difficult year for her broke my heart even though we have lost touch mostly over the last 10 years, only keeping track of each others’ lives through Facebook and Instagram.

Not yet 30.

I heard that marriages are highly susceptible to breaking down when a couple reaches their late-20s and early-30s; that the adult brain fully matures around our mid to late-20s which also explains part of this phenomenon as each party realises they want different things out of life. Of course, I hope with all my heart that all my friends, my acquaintances from school days, will never have to go through any of this heartache – that the blissful smiles on their faces when they are with their partners will never be wiped off. And yet, I know that there will be couples I know of whose relationship might be tested -some will get through them, others might not.

When I read about my friend’s sharing, something echoed in my head saying “That could have been me”. I know that F hates when I talk about how my ex used to treat me, and I don’t understand why I allowed myself to fall into that kind of control and emotional abuse either. The irony of it all is knowing that I let myself be put through all that, all the while denying the fact that that was what J was doing. Even today, I find it tough to point it out as emotional abuse, and I know that when J once read this blog after we had broken up, he flared up and told me that what I was writing was completely false. Perhaps it’s all subjective.

Anyway, I don’t know yet whether I want to share the details of that relationship. Sometimes I think it’s over so there’s little need to harp on it, but I remember so much of how it made me feel and I hope for no one to ever have to be able to go through those feelings of inadequacy; being made to feel as if everything is always her/his fault; being made to feel so small. Maybe one day.

I guess that echo that came to me was also because at one point in time, J and I had applied for a flat. We got it and we paid for the first downpayment of $1k each. We were to commit another $18k altogether within 3 months of confirming the flat but that was the period when things became most rocky and it subsequently made me think a whole lot about the possible future ahead with him. The thing is, in Singapore, once your flat is up, you have to marry within 6 months of receiving the keys. And one evening, on our regular walk around our neighbourhood, Mum said to me that with things being the way they were, at least I always had them to run to. But if one day, J were to decide to return to his hometown, Kuala Lumpur, then who would I have? Where will I be able to go? I will have no one to protect me.

She was right.

And walking away from him was the best decision of my life. Within a week, aunties at church were commenting that I looked a lot happier and livelier even without knowing the issues I had been trying to tackle.

I realise now that it isn’t stupidity that made me stay with J those couple of years. Rather, it was being under the control of a master manipulator. I am smart. He just happens to be even smarter. And all that time, when I look back now, is covered in a shroud of haze as I let myself become a shadow of who I was before J. I thank God though, that somehow I had enough rationality left in me, as well as the guidance and advice of my friends and family, to see how destructive the relationship was becoming, and to have the strength and dignity to move on.

The phrase “That could have been me” flip-flopped repeatedly in my head throughout today and has since morphed into “That could be me” in the event that I were to one day marry. I guess that’s the jump we take. There is no guarantee in life – only two people in love who want to make that union between them work, is what holds a marriage together. If one lets go, that is it. It’s scary how easily that bond can break, but also amazing in how unbreakable that bond can become with layers of love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice built upon it.

Of course, I do not know that nitty-gritties of what happened in my friend’s marriage and a multitude of factors can contribute to any relationship breaking up. I hope the New Year brings to her renewed hope, renewed joy, and a bounty of blessings as she lets go of the burdens of the year gone by – this is my wish for all those newly single. As for those in relationships, I hope that you will appreciate each others’ qualities as well as little idiosyncracies; that 2017 will open you both to new experiences and memories together. But please also remember that there is no shame in walking away from a relationship that stunts your growth as a person, or threatens to break your spirit.

We all deserve better.

We are all made for more.

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