Humiliated, hurt and angry on so many levels, Vivienne* would go on to show kindness and grace to her ex-husband and his new family. Photo from Canva.

On one of Aaron’s* rare trips back home to Singapore from Thailand, he and his wife, Vivien*, got into a fight.

In the heat of the moment, Aaron had accidentally called her by another woman’s name.

Aaron had accidentally called her by another woman’s name.

“If you’re having a marital argument and you call your wife by another woman’s name, it indicates to me that you have someone else in your life,” said Vivien, who was then in her 30s and pregnant with their second child.

But Aaron denied it.

Already, Vivien knew that “something was not right in our marriage” when Aaron had stopped asking her to visit him in Thailand a few months after he moved there to work in the industrial sector.

Their older child was just one-and-a-half years old at that time.

Death blow to her heart

“I was very disturbed and upset. I was crying all the time. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t work. I lost a lot of weight.

“The mental and emotional agony was terrible,” said Vivien.

“I know that something is going on … I just need you to tell me that it’s going to stop and we’ll be a family together.”

Overwhelmed with stress, she phoned Aaron with a proposal.

She told him: “We have a son, and we have another child on the way. I know that something is going on, and I don’t need you to tell me what it is.

“I just need you to tell me that it’s going to stop, and that we’re going to be a family together.

“I won’t ask you about it. And I won’t mention it again.”

After a short pause, Aaron said: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Said Vivien: “That dealt a death blow to my heart, because I was offering him a new start and he was refusing it.”

A month after their daughter was born, Aaron returned to Singapore for a relative’s wedding.

“That night, Aaron drank a lot, and shouted at our son. It wasn’t the first time it had happened.”

Their son was under three years old at that time.

“We had a fight, and he stormed out. That was the last time we were together as a family,” recalled Vivien.

Lost cause

The incident was the deciding factor for Vivien.

“I didn’t mind so much that he was a bad husband. But I minded that he was a bad father.”

“I didn’t mind so much that he was a bad husband,” she said.

“But I minded that he was a bad father.”

She concluded: “To have a father who isn’t really there emotionally for the children is probably worse than having a father who is physically not there.

“So why put myself, and particularly my children, through more years of trauma when I thought he was a lost cause and didn’t believe there was any hope that he would ever change?”

A private investigator also found evidence there was indeed someone else in Aaron’s life.

Vivien and Aaron officially divorced in the late 1990s after being married for five years.

Hurt, angry, betrayed

“It was very difficult to function as a person, as a parent and as an employee at that time because I was so hurt, so angry, so betrayed,” said Vivien.

Vivien’s hurt ran even deeper as she had seen “something special in Aaron and believed in him”.

“Aaron had abandoned the kids and me, and did not stand by me when I was trying to stand by him,” she said.

“I was putting in all the effort, looking after the children despite working long hours, and saving to pay for our living expenses.

“On the other hand, he was living like a bachelor overseas with no responsibilities, spending money on goodness knows who and what.

“He had invested very little in the marriage.”

Vivien’s hurt ran even deeper as she had seen “something special in Aaron and believed in him”, which was why she had married him after an intense one-year courtship, despite warnings from her friends that Aaron, though charming, was a rascal.

“The only one suffering is me”

“It was so difficult to function because I had so much bitterness and anger towards Aaron. But I had to get out of bed and go to work because I had two children to support,” said Vivien.

“You are resilient when you need to be. I had to get on with life.”

Every weekday morning, Vivien drove her kids to her mother’s house before heading to the office. In the evening, she went to her mum’s place for dinner, then drove home with the children.

“I really didn’t have much time with the kids because the hours of my bank job were crazy – from sunrise to sunset.”

Almost a year after Aaron walked out, Vivien came to an important realisation.

“All this bitterness and anger is only hurting me. It’s not hurting him. He doesn’t feel it. He’s blissfully oblivious to my pain.”

“I don’t want to feel this anger, hurt and pain anymore. I just want to let go and forgive him.”

This was a turning point for her.

Vivien told herself: “The only person hurting and suffering is me.”

Although Vivien had walked away from the Christian faith at that time, she still recalled the sermons she had heard at church.

“I knew that the only way to stop the hurt was to forgive Aaron.”

This was easier said than done.

“It was difficult to forgive someone who was so unrepentant. If he had said he felt bad, it would have been easier.

“So the only way to forgive him was to ask God to help me. There was no way I could have done it on my own.”

And so Vivien cried out to God: “I don’t want to feel this anger, hurt and pain anymore. I just want to let go and forgive him.”

She admitted: “Letting go was a process. Each time something painful happened during the divorce process, I had to remind myself again that I had forgiven him.”

But over time, she started to “lose that pain and negative emotions”.

“Be gentle with me”

To replace the pain that consumed her, Vivien started opening herself up to God’s love.

She found a small church and enrolled her children in its Sunday school.

“I told God that I wanted Him in my life … I asked him to be patient and gentle with me.”

Vivien sat quietly in the back pews and left quickly after the service to avoid questions – and potential judgment – about her marital status.

“Initially, I went to church to find peace and comfort, and to seek God’s presence,” she said.

“I told God that I wanted Him in my life. But I was just not ready to commit more. I asked him to be patient and gentle with me.

“I was sure I would be able to give more in time.”

Two decades later, Vivien’s faith was indeed strengthened after she joined a small and loving group of people within her church to study the Bible.

Two safety nets

Vivien also noticed God’s care for her family during the toughest time in her life.

At first, she worried about her daughter, as she had been crying a lot while pregnant with her.

“But she turned out to be the most beautiful, calm, easy baby,” recalled Vivien.

The children were very young when Aaron left, and didn’t seem to miss having a father.

“It was natural for them to have Mum and helper at home, and grandparents and relatives who were supportive and loving.”

“Having my father’s assurance was a big comfort.”

Today, her children are well-adjusted adults.

She also witnessed God’s provision for her family – not only through her banking job but also via her earthly father.

Their relationship had been challenging while she was growing up.

However, at her lowest point, her dad assured her: “Know that I am your safety net. If you or the kids need anything financially, you can come to me.”

They never needed to ask for anything.

“Having my father’s assurance was a big comfort,” said Vivien.

She recognised the healing of the rift between them as another of God’s blessings.

A crying baby

Two years after their younger child was born, Vivien’s phone rang.

It was Aaron.

The baby’s mother had the name that Aaron had blurted out during their fight.

“He had moved back to Singapore. And I heard a baby crying in the background.

“He asked for the divorce document. ‘I need to get married again,’ he told me.”

The baby’s mother had the same name that Aaron had blurted out during their fight.

“I instinctively didn’t want to give the document to him because I was still angry that he had wronged me,” admitted Vivien.

“But I stopped to think and pray, ‘Lord, what is the point of me hanging on to the document?’”

She prayed for peace and strength.

In the end, she handed the divorce document to Aaron, so that the new baby could be legitimate in the eyes of the law.

“We’ll keep him in lockup till Monday”

Despite forgiving Aaron, Vivien was still very angry that he had abandoned his family.

“It was more his attitude than the money that made me angry.”

“He didn’t even care enough to find out how his children were, or to meet his financial obligations after the divorce,” she said.

“It was more his attitude than the money that made me angry,” she said.

She sought enforcement of the Maintenance Order in Family Court. When Aaron failed to respond, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

One Friday morning, as Vivien lay ill in bed, she received a phone call. The caller informed her that her ex-husband had turned himself in and was in custody.

She was asked if she could attend Family Court that afternoon.

When she said that she was on medical leave, the caller responded: “That’s fine. We’ll keep him in lockup until Monday, when it’s convenient for you to come.”

“It was the first time I’d seen him since he walked out on us.”

Vivien didn’t feel it was right to leave Aaron locked up for the entire weekend. So she got out of bed, got dressed and headed to court.

Where did this compassion come from?

“I don’t think I was a particularly kind person,” she said. “I think it was God’s strength.

“When Aaron came out, he was restrained.

“It was the first time I’d seen him since he’d walked out on us. My emotions were in turmoil. I had loved him very much and had been so badly hurt by him.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m really so sorry.’

“Instinctively I went to hug him. My anger just faded.”

Clearing the debt

Under threat of going to prison, Aaron promised to pay Vivien the alimony he owed. He was released and returned to Thailand.

He didn’t earn much and had little savings, he told Vivien. He asked for time to repay her.

After a year, he still hadn’t given her a cent.

“It was such a relief to not hold this debt anymore. I felt so free.”

Vivien prayed about it.

That’s when she realised: “It’s just money. I have a job. I don’t really need it. I can cope.”

So she ripped up the sheet of paper on which she had tracked every month how much Aaron owed her.

“Physically opening my hands and letting go was the last step of forgiveness,” she said.

“It was such a relief to not hold this debt anymore. I felt so free. It was like a big weight had been taken from me.

“I was no longer disturbed and upset. I could be more present for my kids.”

A father who loves them

In time, Vivien was able to invite Aaron to visit his children.

“You should see your children, they should know that they have a father who loves them,” she told him.

“He became like a best friend. He knew me so well.”

Aaron initially felt nervous. He had not seen the children since the day he walked out. Their daughter was in kindergarten at that stage.

“But in the end, he and the kids were so thrilled to get to know each other. Their relationship blossomed,” said Vivien.

This kickstarted regular long-distance phone calls between Vivien and Aaron. Initially centring around updates about the children, their conversations grew deeper. And gradually, their friendship, which had become strained even during their marriage, was restored.

“He became like a best friend. He knew me so well,” said Vivien, now 60.

When she had cried out to God decades ago to help her “let go and forgive” – something she couldn’t do on her own strength – God had faithfully answered her prayer.

“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

This story first appeared on Stories of Hope.

* Names and identifying details have been changed for reasons of privacy.

Can a leopard change its spots? Check back soon for Part 2 of the story, in which Vivienne shares how her ex-husband underwent a transformation no one could have imagined.


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About the author

Gemma Koh

Gemma has written about everything from spas to scuba diving holidays. But has a soft spot for telling the stories of lives changed, and of people making a difference. She loves the colour green, especially on overgrown trees. Gemma is Senior Writer & Copy Editor at Salt&Light and its companion site, Stories of Hope.