Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
I met him when I was single, independent and thriving – a foreigner working in Malaysia, which had come to be my home for more than a decade.
When they say that love comes to you at the most unexpected of times, they’re right. This one hit me like a truck.
Within the first week we both knew that this was something special
I like to joke about how I had invited him over during our first meet – and he never left. He’d stayed the weekend, and even on Monday, when we both had to clock into work, he came back to my place straight after.
After two weeks, we had ‘the talk.’ We were both on the same page, but I had a requirement: He would have to convert and become a practicing Muslim if he were to ever marry me. And, since I was in my mid-twenties at the time, I wasn’t looking to date someone without an end goal.
Not only did he agree, but he willingly offered to go for Islamic classes as well.
I was in seventh heaven in those days
During the first month, we barely went out on any dates. We were just too busy enjoying the comfort of my room, of each other.
Now, though, looking back on those days, that relationship is painful to think about. It always brings tears to my eyes. I had never imagined love to be that great. That comfortable, that enjoyable. We never got tired of one another, no matter how much time we spent together. It was easy, it was pure. I had never laughed in my entire life as much as I did with him.
Even when reality hit.
Within the first month of us dating, his bank card was swallowed. It was a foreign bank card – he didn’t have a Malaysian bank account. So he ordered one to be replaced and delivered to him.
I told him I’d help him out – only for a month or so, at first
I didn’t mind. When you care about and love someone, nothing else should matter…right?
It never came, though. At the same time, his housemates were moving out of their apartment. His mother had emailed him, telling him she would be visiting Malaysia and bringing his replacement bank card.
“Until you got your bank card and managed to find your own place, you could stay with me,” I’d offered.
Gratefully, he said yes.
By month three of our relationship, I myself was moving into a new apartment – So, I spoke to my own mother who agreed to help me out with the deposit for our apartment, and we moved in.
By the next month, I had assumed that he would pay me his share of the deposit and we would be splitting the rent. It was all very exciting, at that time.
The pressure was getting to me, though. Supporting two people entirely isn’t an easy feat at 25. Besides, I had to start saving up, creating a back-up plan in case I ever lost my job in Malaysia.
It became a lot worse when, three days after moving into our new apartment, I saw a police news report online, claiming that they were ‘looking’ for him, without stating why. Upon confronting him, he told me that his embassy had lost his passport.
A week after the police report, he was let go of his job.
I supported him in every manner I could. Consoling him, reassuring him that I was there for him, through thick and thin. And, eventually, things would work themselves out. He would liaise with his embassy and return home soon enough, or his mother would finally visit him and sort things out.
None of those things ever happened.
Months passed, my savings depleted – we were constantly broke
But he was it for me. So of course I wanted to be there for him, support him regardless of anything. I stopped meeting friends, buying things for myself or my family, sold the concert tickets I had bought months ago, ate Maggie hot cups during my lunch breaks. I couldn’t afford much after paying for both of our rent, accommodation and sustenance.
What made it worse was that no one knew. I never told anyone, if only because it wasn’t anyone’s business.
While I worked at my full-time job, freelanced, constantly asked my parents for money, even Airbnb’d our second bedroom, he stayed at home, slept, watched movies, drank, smoked and played video games; checking up with his embassy once a month or so.
I know I should’ve said something. I did leave hints, I allowed him to see how stressed I was due to his situation. I unintentionally developed a self-harming habit: scratching my back until it bled. I picked up smoking from him, along with several other unsavory habits.
There were days where I couldn’t handle the stress. Days where I felt so lost, so alone, even with him in the next room. But how could I push him more, tell him to get his life together and take responsibility when he was already feeling so low? How do you break someone’s heart when you know they’re in a horrible place?
Sure, he may not have been as proactive as I needed him to be, but it was hard on him, too. Being stagnant, wasting away two entire years of your life, always staying in, not being able to get in touch with your family, relying on someone else completely.
I’ve always been an empath. I care too much about others, more than myself at times. And this relationship was the best example of this.
I enabled him; I mothered him
I would sleep late most days, the sound of his football games disturbing my nights. Wake up early, go to a horribly toxic environment at work.
Come back home, cook for both of us if GrabFood or Foodpanda didn’t have any promo codes for delivery. Maintain the home, do our weekly groceries, make sure we both have what we need when it comes to clothes, etc. Lie to my parents, to everyone around me as to why I couldn’t afford most things – even though I had managed to score a higher-paying job at the beginning of our relationship.
I would visit my parents every few months at that time as well, since my mother was going through chemotherapy, providing an allowance for my boyfriend to live on while I was away.
He didn’t have any friends in town anymore; his family wasn’t responding to him, his embassy in Malaysia kept telling him to wait. I was all he had.
The (horribly) dark theory that his embassy story was all a huge lie has occurred to me, yes. Which is why I had gone to the embassy with him and spoke to them myself too, for clarification. Besides, the state he was in, I don’t think he would’ve willingly allowed his life to be that way.
How could I break up with him then, toss him out, knowing he had nowhere to go, no one to turn to? When my very conservative parents would come to visit me, I would book him an Airbnb during those days; my parents couldn’t know I had a boyfriend, let alone one who was living with me.
A year and a half of this later, I visited Thailand with some friends. I needed a break, a week to just be selfish, have fun, not worry about him or our finances.
During that trip, my resolve crumbled and I slept with a stranger
My first day in Thailand felt like a breath of fresh air. I felt free, as if a burden had been lifted off my shoulders — if only temporarily. This trip was the first time I was doing something for myself instead of for myself and him over the past one and a half years. That coupled with my pent-up frustration, I decided to download Tinder, and went from there.
Did it not occur to me that this might hurt him? It did. But, as I’d come to see it, I was still continuing to sustain him and his lifestyle. I just wanted to do something for myself — just this once. Even if it hurt him.
It was only after that trip that I realized how completely lost I felt in my life — in my relationship with him. I wasn’t this person. I would never intentionally hurt the person I claim to be the love of my life. The man I hoped to marry.
But here I was, doing so. Over and over again.
After the trip, I made a decision. So far, I had been prioritizing his sustenance over my faithfulness to him. I didn’t see a choice in it. I knew I wouldn’t stop being unfaithful; it felt too good, being released from the burden of him, if only for a few hours. I decided to ask him for an open relationship, at least.
I would continue to support him, because I really did love him with everything I had.
When the breakup came, we were both devastated
It isn’t easy to go about life, never being able to rely on your partner. Never having had them take you out on a single date in two years. Always giving, never receiving. Always waiting for things to get better, and the uncertainty of it all.
That night didn’t go down so well. After breaking the news to him, I was in the washroom, crying. He took this time to go through my phone, my personal messages with friends. I had asked one or two close friends for advice on this matter. Here, he found messages where I told my friends I was unfaithful to him.
He was heartbroken. I tried to explain myself to him, how hard the past one and a half years had been for me. How helpless and lost I felt. Obviously, nothing I had said mattered.
He couldn’t leave our apartment even if he wanted to; he had nowhere to go. So, he stayed. We had our good days, and our bad days. During one of those bad days he tried to choke me, out of anger. For ‘ruining what we had,’ he said.
That was the day I knew I couldn’t end up with this man. As shocked as he had been by my unfaithfulness, I was shocked at his capacity for physical violence.
By then, neither of us knew what to do. We both knew we loved each other, but our relationship may have become too messy to ever be recovered by this point.
Eventually, a month later, COVID-19 gave us a resolution
When Covid-19 hit, I was informed that I was being let go. I was told to move back to my home country within two months. I had to say goodbye to Malaysia, my home for a decade; my friends; him; my entire life as I knew it. I was distraught.
What made it worse was that, even at this crucial time for me, when I should’ve been able to have the time to process my emotions and say my proper goodbyes, I still had to concentrate on and help him out with his plans for after I left, and push aside my own despair.
So, we reconciled and decided to spend the last two months I had in Malaysia, together. He accompanied me to the airport on my last day in Malaysia; I even had to pay for his RM180 Grab rides just to have him there. We both cried and said our goodbyes.
I moved back home last summer; he was stuck in Malaysia for two months after I left. The little freelance money I had left and my tax rebates paid for his accommodation, food and transport until he managed to return home, leaving my once flourishing bank account at a nice RM57 – a bank account which would’ve been exceeding RM50,000 if I had never met him.
Once home, I began undergoing therapy; it was only then that I got the reassurance I’d needed all along; that I am not to blame for everything that transpired in my relationship. That my feelings are valid; that it really is possible to love and hate someone at the same time. That he should have never put me in a position where I was solely responsible for him.
It’s been eight months now since we said our goodbyes
I still miss him every single day, while he barely texts me once a month. He says he’s busy. He’s working back home now, spending time with his family and friends.
Meanwhile, I’m residing in a country I’m barely familiar with; unemployed with zero prospects, unable to further my studies or anything of the like because all my savings went into him. Indulging in bad habits everyday just to get by.
Despite my unfaithfulness to him; despite my holding him responsible for this low point of my life – I still believe I love him. I don’t think I would’ve gone to the lengths I did for him, for anyone else.
Like Charles Dickens said, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I couldn’t put it any better.
My relationship with my ex may have drained me of my savings, my finances, my integrity, my friends, my independence, my relationship with my parents – but he also gave me the best two years of my life.
Even on the darkest of days, he made me smile & laugh
He made me feel a level of love I never even thought was possible. He was my person; the love of my life, through and through.
Yes, I’m currently worried about my next step in life; a lot feels hopeless these days. But what feels even worse is knowing that I will never love like I did with him. That no one will ever measure up – that I might be 40 and married to another man, with children, and still miss him.
But, as my therapist says – live in the present for now. No one will ever be him, and you must accept that. Focus on rebuilding yourself, and start being selfish – so that you’re not caught in a situation like that every again.
And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, right now.
For more stories like this, read: I’ve Been a Foreigner in Malaysia for a Decade — Here’s Why I’m Leaving and I’m A Rohingya Who Lived In Malaysia For 20 Years — Here’s What We Really Want From Malaysia
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