Before I even start this thread, let me just say two things:
a. Because of TomHill and some other brave souls, and after very long deliberation I’ve decided to bear my soul on here in the hopes that someone will see the forest despite the trees…
b. I’m an idiot. I know this. But I am bearing my soul, so go gently if you please.
Before Taiwan: The First Marriage
I’m just going to start at the beginning.
Back in 1996 I was completing my honors year, the Springboks had just won the RWC and I’d been accepted for Officers Training in the Navy. For a bright eyed, just turned 21 year old the future looked bright and full of exciting possibilities. I remember having a chat with a good friend of mine and two things that I mentioned still comes to mind. I was excited by the prospects of having my own money which would afford me at least one new CD a month (I was young - that was a very exciting prospect), and the opportunity to sail around the world and see new places as part of my job. I had paid for my studies with money left to me in trust by my father after he died in 1981 (which wasn’t all that much, but it covered everything for four years with some to spare), which left me in the enviable position of having a degree, debt free, and a good solid job lined up. A rare thing for a white boy in SA in those days (not counting the lads from rich families with loads of contacts). Life looked good.
This is kind of where it all went wrong. This was around May 1996. Looking back I’m still confused as to how I could have let this shit happen. As part of my 21st birthday celebrations some friends and I went out. We would have gone to our normal drinking hole near the campus, but I thought it would be better to hit a night club for some dancing. It was there that I saw K. She was a fairly attractive girl that I had seen around town over the last two years or so, and apart from coy smiles I had never pursued the matter. Lack of confidence and the fact that we didn’t really run in the same circles being the main reasons. I was a student and all I new about her was that she was something of a party girl and not a student, although she was my age. That night we danced and started kissing and when the club closed she told her friends to leave; I would give her a lift home. To be clear, at this point I was still too niave to even register she had anything else in mind. Afterall, I was with friends. Everywhere else was closed so we went back to my place for coffee (a house I shared with three room mates). And that’s what we did. Had coffee and chatted about crap for two hours.
We were both tired so I offered her my bed and a change of clothes to sleep in. I even left the room for her to change. When I came back in she was already under the covers, turned out the lights and settled down on the floor. She said I could share the bed with her, which I did. She initiated everything and I couldn’t believe my “luck”. When I asked about a condom she said I didn’t need one because she was on the pill. I was too thick to even think of anything other than pregnancy…
To make a long story short, we saw each other a few times after and sort of started dating. Six weeks after the first time she called me and said we needed to talk. When I got to her place she dropped the bomb. She was pregnant. And here’s why I really was an idiot. Having created this mess for myself I still had a way out. She said we needn’t get married, but could share responsibility for the child. Her brother agreed that that would be best, as we were so young. My friends all warned me it was a bad idea to even consider anything else. My best friend (female) at the time even said, “She’s very pretty, but can you talk to her.” I just got angry. I think in my heart I knew they were right but I didn’t want to accept it. The combination of my parents divorcing when I was 5 and being raised by other people apart from my sisters made me want to give it a go.
I still joined the Navy, but instead of going combat (on ships) I transfered to intelligence so I could have a shore posting. I had massive financial responsibilities and found myself in a job I hadn’t really wanted to do. Although I tried hard I became increasingly unhappy and my friends’words became something of a prophecy. We had nothing in common (except our daughter), shared no common interests and even watching TV was a chore. She was very Afrikaans and couldn’t even understand the comedy of the most basic British fare we got on TV. I would be laughing my ass off and she would sit there looking confused and say she couldn’t understand what they were saying. Things steadily deteriorated until we got a divorce in 1999.
Divorce and Downward Spiral
Her parents and family (with the exception of her brother) turned on me like a pack of wolves and refused me all access to my daughter. I was very distraught and verged on depresssive. I began drinking and paid no attention to my financial situation. I was held responsible for everything whilst she left house and home with the child and skipped town after the divorce to live with her parents. By 2000 my house and car had been repossessed, I was living in the Officer’s Mess and almost my entire salary was going to lawyers, the banks and child support. I haven’t seen my daughter since 2001.
I got promoted in 2001 and my situation was such that I could at least save some money and fortunately I wasn’t drinking anymore. I was still deeply unhappy, but buried myself in my work, skrimped and saved and tried to dig myself out of the hole I was in. Although from my perspective back then I didn’t think I would ever get out of it.
By 2002 I was getting much better and had even had a casual relationship or two, although I had found that the loving, caring and passionate young man that I had once been was gone. I didn’t trust anyone anymore and hated where I was. I felt stuck. Trapped.
Then, one Sunday I saw an ad in the paper looking for teachers in Taiwan. Degree - Check. Native English speaker - Check. I thought, what the hell, so I applied. I had an old school friend who had done this and he always raved about the three years he’d spent in Asia, the money he’d saved and the places he’d seen. From my point of view, it seemed like heaven.
Taiwan: A New Beginning
February 2003 found me at Chiang Kai Shek International. I was as excited as a child at an all you can eat candy buffet. Even though I was teaching at a bushiban out in Cishan (Kaohsuing county) and it wasn’t exactly what I had expected, I was surprisingly happy for the first time in many years. I had a good boss, good working conditions, four weeks paid vacation, paid accommodation, loads of money and free time. I felt like a man who had been released from prison. I kid you not. I spent weekends in Tainan and met some great friends, and when I realised my boss lived in Tainan and drived through to Cishan everyday I opted to do the same. Weekends became even better. For the first time in my adult life I was truly free (financially and otherwise), could travel to new (and what seemed like) and exotic places in my free time and plan vacations to places like Thailand and Japan. Places that I had only read about or dreamed about before. Life was awesome.
When I first came to Taiwan I didn’t find the local lasses particularly attractive. Could have been dress, culture, language or a combination of the three. I still thought South African girls were the most beautiful women on earth. Then eight months into my first year I met Rita. She was a nurse living in Kaohsuing, two years older than me, workable English, well dressed, busy with a masters degree and besides being gorgeous, she was the sexiest woman I had ever laid eyes on. It was over. I would never look at Taiwanese/Chinese women the same again. She was also divorced and liked going out into the mountains or the beach as much as I did and would even accompany me to watch my beloved Springboks play. She was the kind of woman that could fit in with any crowd and seem at home. She didn’t drink but you’d never notice because she always seemed at home in any environment. I truly loved her and, to tell the truth, I still do. She was and is the one true love of my life. We were together for slightly less than two years, I had met her family and spent Chinese New Year with them. They accepted me as part of the family and never made me feel anything but welcome. I had become my old self again.
But as things became more serious I became skittish and doubts began to surface. Due to no fault of hers I thought the same thing would happen as what happend to my failed marriage. I broke up with her. She was devastated andkept trying to get me back for about a year until she gave up. We’re still good friends and she still calls me sometimes.
The Second Marriage
Not long after we broke up I posted an ad on tealit for an LE partner. As this post is becoming excessivley long I’ll summarise:
a. Met but she never had time. Busy at work.
b. Hadn’t seen head or tail of her for 6 months when she called out of the blue. I had another (male) LE partner at that stage and suggested a date.
c. 2006 we really started dating seriously.
d. In May she was in Kenting with friends so I decided to drive through for the day to surprise her. She was with a really rough crowd at the beach and I felt very uncomfortable. She also didn’t seem all that happy to see me. Returned home and decided to break it off.
e. When she came back she suggested we could be friends with “benefits”. Dumbass that I was I went along with it.
f. She went to Japan with her mom and I didn’t see her for a while. When she came back things just carried on as normal. By now we had been seeing each other off and on for six months or so.
g. A married friend wanted to go to Kenting for the weekend so I suggested we all go together. While there I got a little rat arsed with my friend, and the gf and I got it on in the shower with no condom.
h. Few weeks later she told me she was pregnant and wanted to get an abortion. I could have left it there and probably would never have seen her again. I convinced her she would be sorry for the rest of her life and that we should get married and have the child (anyone see a moronic self destructive pattern here?).
i. October 2006 she moved in with me. Problems arose very early when I went out to watch rugby and came home late.
j. February 2007 we got married, after which I came to realise that she’s eight years younger than me (not 4, as I was originally led to believe). Things seemed to settle down and she seemed less suspicious of me going out to watch rugby with mates. I had taken her along once or twice to show her we didn’t get up to anything untoward, but she never seemed at ease with my friends.
k. May 2007 my son is born. I didn’t go out as often anymore and even stopped completely. I should clarify that going out to watch rugby usually only entailed three to four hours of one or two games at a mates house, and sometimes at a pub if the games weren’t available on the internet.
l. Between getting married and September 2007 she had threatened divorce and leaving me several times. This happened everytime we had a falling out. These arguments could be about something as innane as checking e-mail, chatting on msn (things she also did) or her not having her own money. She lost her job at her father’s company when she became pregnant, partly because of him wanting to “save face” and partly because he was having problems with his partners and other legal stuff I don’t want to divulge here. In any event, since Oct 06 I have been financially supporting her; which I’m sure she isn’t really happy with and also led to arguments. It seemd to me, that I could never do enough to make her happy. I should say, though, I have a good relationship with her brother and mother and they never meddle.
m. A big watershed came in September 2007 with the onset of the rugby World Cup. I had an almanac on the kitchen wall highlighting all the days that important games were being played (usually involving Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) that I wanted to see, with a complete roster of all games and my “must sees” highlighted. I went over it all with her to avoid friction and tried to explain to her how important it all was to me.
Unfortunately, besides the first weekend’s games, everytime after she would heckle me when I came home, make me feel guilty and try and push all my buttons to provoke a fight. In the last weekend of pool matches we had a huge fight and she moved to her mother’s house with threats of divorce following in her wake. That week her grandfather also died and she and her mother went to Pingtung for the funeral (a week or more sojourn, for those not acquainted with Taiwanese funerals).
During this time I spoke to her several times on the phone and along with a written contract that I would just stay at home and all the other things she wanted and complained about. Her mother is currently in possession of this “contract”. She came home and I was forced to watch the semi-finals and the final (which the Springboks won) at home alone on the computer. I stopped drinking completely (not even a solitary beer), never went out and didn’t see my friends at all for months.
I wish I could say things were much better in this period, but that simply wouldn’t be the truth. Whe she would argue with me I try to remain calm, but she always seems to leave a problem (as perceived by her - real or imagined) seething under the surface. Then she picks the worse time to argue about it. Usually late at night when she knows full well I need to wake up early the next day, despite the fact that she is fully taken care of and has no committment during the day besides looking after our son (which I know is a tough job, but at least she can sleep when he sleeps, which at that time was most of the time). I began to realise when something was bothering her because she would get quiet, not answer questions and walk around the house with a long face. when asked what’s wrong the same response would be forthcoming, “Nothing.” Until the most inconvenient time imaginable when she would offload for hours keeping me from sleep.
Whenever she has a complaint I would try and work it out. You go out with your friends too much - I stop. You don’t give me enough money - I give her more. You don’t spend enough time with us - I spend more time with them. And so on and so on. But there is always something new brewing on the horizon. Always a new slight.
Until February this year. I simply told her, I will watch all the Bulls and Sharks games during the Super 14, but I’ll just drink cooldrink. It’s simply not fair that she can see her friends and family and all I’m allowed to do is go to work and come straight back home. God forbid I go to the bookstore, because a minute after my expected arrival I’d get a call, "Where are you? She relented and let me go. It wasn’t long before this became a theme for an argument again. At one point she stormed out with my son, threatened divorce and left. She threatened to cancel ADSL, cable and everything that was on her name.
I decided, fuck it! With much effort I managed to find a lawyer that could speak English (as I had been informed she already had one and I wasn’t going to be screwed over), did damage control with everything she wanted to cancel; which meant enlisting the help of my boss and informing her of this latest twist, much to my embarrassment, as I really don’t like my professional life and private life mixing whatsoever.
With her being unemployed and living with her mother two things happened. My son contracted the dreaded intestinal virus that has claimed more than a few children’s lives this year and she needed support. I told her to come home and despite the divorce I would still look after them both until my son is old enough to go to kindergarten and she can go work again. There’s no one to look after my son because her mother is still young and still works. Having realised I had taken her threats seriously and that I wasn’t taking that shit anymore she slowly worked her wiles on me (being a niave dumbass) and decided to give it another go.
Things went ok for about a month, but we’re right back where we started. As I write this she’s in the living room with a long face brooding over something that’s sure to cause a fracas at some stage. With the arguments I’ve decided to move out, but now she thinks it’s unfair to leave her with the burden of our son. It seems I can’t stay and make her or me happy, and I can’t move out either. I’ve even suggested a short seperation so we can both have some time off (without her having to live with her mother), at my expense. But this doesn’t seem to sit well with her either. In fact it’s causing even more friction.
I feel like a rat in a cage. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. The guilt of leaving my son eats at me more than anything, but this marriage isn’t making any of us happy. I know I’m not happy. I long for companionship, friendship, anything… To be sure, when she tries, she’s a sweet angel of a woman and we have periods of happiness, but they seem to be more than overshadowed by the arguments and ill feeling. I also don’t want to give the impression that she’s this terrible witch making my life a living hell, because this is just my side of the story. I’m sure she’ll have gripes about me and would call me inconsiderate or selfish or worse. I do feel better having had a rant, but I truly don’t know where to go from here. I feel trapped in an impossible situation from which there is no honorable way out, no happy ending.
When I broke up with Rita, she once wrote an e-mail to me where she said, One day you’ll see I am not an ugly stone, but a beautiful diamond." She was right. I see that now.
Sorry for the long post. Thanks for the opportunity to rant.