On one of Aaron’s* rare trips back home to Singapore from Thailand*, he and his wife, Vivienne*, got into a fight.
In the heat of the moment, Aaron accidentally called her by another woman’s name.
“If you call your wife by another woman’s name, it indicates that you have someone else in your life.”
“That’s when I felt: If you’re having a marital argument and call your wife by another woman’s name, it indicates that you have someone else in your life,” recalled Vivienne, who was then in her 30s, and pregnant with their second child.
“He denied it,” said Vivienne, who is now in her 60s.
Already, she knew that “something was not right in our marriage” when Aaron 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 1.5 years old at that time.
“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 Vivienne.
Overwhelmed with stress, she phoned Aaron with a proposal.
“I know that something is going on … I just need you to tell me that it’s going to stop.”
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 Vivienne: “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,” said Vivienne.
The incident was the deciding factor for Vivienne.
“I didn’t mind so much that he was a bad husband,” she said.
“But I minded that he was a bad father.”
“I didn’t mind so much that he was a bad husband. 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 will ever change?”
A private investigator also found evidence there was indeed someone else in Aaron’s life.
Vivienne and Aaron officially divorced in the late 1990s after being married for five years.
“It was very difficult to function as a person, as a parent, and as an employee because I was so hurt, so angry, so betrayed,” said Vivienne.
“Aaron had abandoned the kids and me, and did not stand by me, when I was trying to stand by him,” she said.
Vivienne’s hurt ran even deeper as she had seen “something special in Aaron and believed in him”.
“I was putting in all the effort, looking after the children despite working long hours, and saving to pay for our living expenses.
“Instead he was having a good time, living like a bachelor overseas with no responsibilities, spending money on goodness knows who and what.
“He had invested very little in the marriage.”
Vivienne’s hurt ran even deeper as she had seen “something special in Aaron and believed in him”. Which is why she married him after an intense one-year courtship, despite warnings from her friends that Aaron, though charming, was a rascal.
“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 Vivienne.
“You are resilient when you need to be. I had to get on with life.”
Every weekday morning, Vivienne 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 at the bank were crazy – from sunrise to sunset.”
Almost a year after Aaron walked out, Vivienne 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.”
This was a turning point for her.
Vivienne told herself, “The only person hurting and suffering is me. So why don’t I just stop suffering?”
“All this bitterness and anger is only hurting me. It’s not hurting him.”
Although Vivienne had walked away from the Christian faith at that stage in her life, she still recalled the sermons she had heard at church.
“I knew that the only way to stop the hurt was to forgive Aaron.”
But 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 do it on my own.”
And so Vivienne 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 said: “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”.
To replace the pain that once consumed her, Vivienne started opening herself to God’s love.
She found a small church and enrolled her children in its Sunday school.
Vivienne sat quietly in the back pews, and after the service, left quickly to avoid questions – and potential judgment – about her marital status.
“I told God that I wanted Him in my life … I asked him to be patient and gentle with me.”
“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.”
God was indeed patient and gentle with her.
Two decades later, Vivienne’s walk with God strengthened after she found the courage to join a small and loving group of people within her church to study the Bible.
Vivienne also noticed God’s care for her family during the toughest time in her life.
At first, she thought her daughter would be a harder child to raise because Vivienne had been crying a lot while pregnant with her.
“But she turned out to be the most beautiful, calm, easy baby,” said Vivienne.
The children were also 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, Vivienne’s children are well-adjusted adults.
Vivienne 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, 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 Vivienne.
It also started healing the rift between father and daughter. Vivienne recognised it as another of God’s blessings.
Despite forgiving Aaron, Vivienne was still very angry that he had abandoned his family and “didn’t care enough to find out how his children were, or to meet his financial obligations after the divorce”.
“It was more his attitude than actually getting the money that made me angry,” she said.
“It was more his attitude than actually getting the money that made me angry.”
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 Vivienne 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, until it’s convenient for you to come.”
Vivienne 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 particularly kind,” she said. “I think it was God’s strength.
“It was the first time I’d seen him since he walked out on us.”
“When Aaron came out, he was restrained.
“It was the first time I’d seen him since he walked out on us. My emotions were in turmoil. I had loved him very much and yet been so badly hurt by him.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m really so sorry.’
“Instinctively I went to hug him. And my anger faded.”
Under the threat of going to prison, Aaron promised to pay Vivienne, and was released.
But he confessed to her that he didn’t earn much and had little savings. 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.”
Vivienne prayed about it.
That’s when she realised: “It’s just money. 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 explained.
“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.”
In forgiving Aaron, she also discovered a new kind of love she never imagined possible.
In time, Vivienne 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.
“I could tell him things I wouldn’t tell others because I was afraid that they would judge me badly.”
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.”
This kickstarted regular long-distance phone calls between Vivienne and Aaron. Initially centring around updates about the children, their conversations grew deeper. And gradually, their friendship, which had become strained during their marriage, was restored.
What seemed impossible years ago became possible.
“He became like a best friend. He knew me so well. I could tell him things I wouldn’t tell others because I was afraid that they would judge me badly. But he wouldn’t.”
Two years after their younger child was born, Vivienne’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 angry that he had wronged me,” said Vivienne.
“But I stopped to think and pray, ‘Lord, what is the point of me hanging on to it?’”
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.
* Names and identifying details have been 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.
She returned his engagement ring and blocked him on FB. It took a miracle 11,000km from home to reunite them