"All was good for the first three months of marriage. Then things took a wild turn."
When they first met
At first, it was like a dream come true.
Singaporean Sharani Khamis, 35, first met her husband Daniel on a dating website in October 2007. After chatting for 3 months, they finally met in January 2008. "And there he was.... this Italian with a bouquet of red roses, apologising for being late due to work", she reminisces.
"I was impressed by how attentive he was.
We clicked instantly after that and became closer and more intimate. I appreciated how open he was with his life. I felt we had a very good understanding of each other and that we could share and tell anything and everything to each other.
He also helped me to negotiate and garner my job that is now my career of 7 years. I looked up to him. He was focused, ambitious, driven and a leader in his job. He was also a very calm and patient man with insightful thoughts. My heart just said, 'He's the one'."
Initial days as husband and wife
"We had a very simple Muslim ceremony in January and another one by the beach in Adelaide on March 1st, 2014.
The first 3 months was bliss. We were very happy.
He had been on and off contract jobs since he lost his permanent job in 2012. So I had been paying most of the bills, and even bought our marital home on my own income.
Anyway, all was good for the first three months of the marriage. Then things took a wild turn."
The first signs of trouble
"His birthday was in April and I wanted to surprise him. I remembered how he had always wanted to visit Myanmar but didn't get a chance to. So, I thought I'd use his birthday as an opportunity to surprise him and also go for our honeymoon.
At first, I kept my plan as a surprise, but about 2 weeks before his birthday, he told me he didn't want any surprises for his birthday.
I thought he was joking but when I saw that he was serious, I had to tell him that I've already made bookings. His response was a shock to me.
He flared up and said I was wasting money. He was also mad that I hadn't asked him first. I was puzzled to see this sudden change of behaviour in someone so used to my surprises. He even accused me of disrespecting him.
I was shocked and hurt. Where did all this sudden rage come from? We had just got married. It was our first fight since we got married."
The honeymoon that went wrong
"During the trip, he was always on his mobile phone and kept his distance from me while on the phone.
I didn't feel like a newly-wed at all on my honeymoon. I felt like he didn't wish for my presence; as if the very sight of me was annoying to him. I tried to appease him by doing things I normally wouldn't. He took advantage of them, only to continue acting indifferent."
"It didn't take long for us to get into a fight again. It seemed like everything I did was wrong.
Then June came and my company was trying to raise funds to build a house in Pattaya. He seemed to be unusually interested in it, enquiring about the dates I'd be flying out and such. I suggested he join me in Bangkok over the weekend, but he declined, talking of plans to spend time with his friends instead.
I tried calling him from Bangkok many a time, but no one answered. Even my text messages only received belated one-word replies. I instinctively felt something was wrong.
I had a hunch to check his dropbox account. My heart sank. I saw pictures of another woman that was taken in real time and uploaded to his dropbox.
It dawned on me that this was why he hadn't wanted to come with me for the Thailand trip."
"When I got home, I confronted him about this mystery woman. He denied and said it was just some girl working at the bar.
He immediately accused me of not trusting him. He said he was hurt that I would think that way of him, especially since we had just got married. He said he had made his vow on me and all that was wasted because I still hadn't trusted him.
I was so confused and felt really bad. I thought he was right. Maybe I was just paranoid and wanted to see things the way I thought. I apologised, but he didn't accept it and even pushed me away."
Beginning of hell
"That was the start of my marital hell. From then on, nothing I did, said or thought, sounded right to him.
He kept saying I was useless. Then I came across something he wrote, that broke my heart into a million pieces-"Why I am not happy with my wife Sharani Khamis". I was shocked. Was he that unhappy that he would make a long list about it?
He never once mentioned anything about being unhappy. I went through each point and was shocked at how differently he saw everything. I felt disappointed that he had completely ignored how I had single-handedly supported us while he was still figuring out what to do with his job situation.
I wrote back about things his wife had done for him which had gone completely unnoticed. And when confronted about it, he said that whatever I had done for us was a given, and a part and parcel of being married. Apparently, he didn't need to thank me for that."
Depression and anxiety
"I was depressed. I felt useless. I felt like a terrible wife. I also had this nagging feeling that I had shared my marital home with another woman.
I suggested for us to go for counselling together, but he said I needed it more than him since I was the one with all the trust issues that was causing our marriage to break down.
I really started believing that I was the problem in our marriage. I went for counselling, defeated.
I also started praying, hoping to seek divine help to save my marriage.
On July 17, 2015 ,on our first Hari Raya morning, I sought forgiveness from my husband. I told him I would henceforth try to be the wife he wanted me to be. He looked at me as if I owed him a huge favour for forgiving me."
"I believe that when you truly repent, and seek God's help, He will come to you.
On 21st July 2015, a year after my company's Thailand trip, I came across a video recorded by my husband with another woman in our marital home on our marital bed. My whole body shook. I saw that all my clothes were missing from our open concept wardrobe, and my shoes were also gone from our doorless shoe cupboard.
I looked at the time and date of the video. It was the time I had called him from Bangkok, that had gone unanswered. The very same day I had seen the picture of the woman in his dropbox. And it was the same woman in the video. I was shattered. I was mad.
Everything suddenly made sense to me. Why he was so angry with me, why he didn't want to come to Thailand with me. Why he wrote the list of things he was unhappy about.
How he manipulated me for a whole year thinking I was the only problem in our marriage.
At that moment I realised that the fault wasn't mine. My hunch and instincts of a wife had been right all along."
Informed the police
"That night I called up the police, as I was afraid he would get violent when I confronted him. It drove me mad he was still blaming me and accusing me of not trusting him.
He ended up being held by the police until the following day. I left my filthy marital home to my friends place the following day, Wednesday, 22nd of July.
Fate had something else in store...
"Strangely my friend asked me when my last period was, because I looked different. I thought it was probably because I was a mess. She advised that I take a pregnancy test since I had missed my period that month.
I laughed it off; it was almost impossible for me to get pregnant; I had had some health issues earlier. But my friend was insistent.
At 7 am on Friday, 24th July 2016, exactly three days after I found out that my husband had cheated on me just months after our marriage, I discovered that I was pregnant. Pregnant with the baby of the man who had psychologically manipulated me for a whole year.
It was a mixed feeling of happiness, confusion, fear and anger. I was a bundle of f****d up emotions."
Husband's reaction to the news
"That night my friend asked Daniel to come over to their place. When I told him I was pregnant, the first thing he said was, "Great! But how do I know it's mine?" Please note, this came from a man who had cheated on me just three months after our marriage."
Continued to forgive
"I deluded myself into thinking that the pregnancy might actually save my marriage. So I actually went back home.
He only came to the gynaecologist with me twice in the first trimester. On both visits, he asked the doctor when he could get a paternal DNA test done. I just couldn't believe the guts of this man.
I continued to ignore it, as I knew we would get into another fight. I just didn't want anything to hurt my pregnancy."
"I knew I would have a complicated pregnancy due to the health issues I had earlier on. I was fighting cervical cancer in 2013. As a prevention, half of my cervix had to be surgically removed, back in 2013.
So, when I got pregnant, I had to get a cervical cerclage done before I got into my 2nd trimester. I was alone for the cerclage procedure. I feared if the procedure would hurt my baby. And my 'husband' was not there for me, yet again."
Birth of my angel
I was stupid to believe that the baby would save my marriage. When Daniel's mother came in the second week after I gave birth, he went to the gym and picked up a girl.
I found out that he had lied to the girl, about being single and available. So basically, this man who had just brought his daughter home in his arms, denied to the hot woman that he was married.
I lost all hope of reconciliation then. My stitches hadn't healed, but I was hurting more from his behaviour. I went through post pregnancy hell.
A month after his mum left, I decided that enough was enough, and left him for good."
Life as a single parent
"Financially, it's a little tight, but we are surviving. Emotionally, though, I haven't felt this good for the longest time. I feel free. I feel like I can finally breathe again.
I don't have to always worry if he's lying to me, or torture myself thinking about what he's doing behind my back. I am happy.
Over the years, I have lost a lot of confidence and self-esteem, because of the way he treated me. I'm now more determined to get my life back and be the best I can, for my daughter.
I have since continued with the counselling session, but with a different approach.
I have also decided to fight for my rights. I am currently in a battle to fight for child support from Daniel, who has been ignoring both my maintenance and contribution for his daughter."
Friends and family
I want to especially thank Vive and Nas, Jay, Natasha, Neeraj, Gynn, Madeleine, Felicia, Lisa, Sarah, Pedro, Mummy Alzarina, Surina, Julie, Sis Dyanna, Aunty Salbiah and anyone else I've missed, for helping me through this troubled period of my life."
"Abuse can come in many different forms. I was abused in all forms: physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. While my tiny body was able to take the occasional physical abuse, it was the mental and emotional abuse that really crumpled me.
So much so that, even when I knew something wasn't right, I held myself responsible for it and I believed him when he put the blame on me.
While it may seem that I was pregnant at the worst time, it was actually a blessing and a God-sent miracle. Had I not been pregnant, I would've gone on a course of self-destruction. Had I not given birth to my angel Sofia, I wouldn't have gathered the courage to let go of this toxic relationship with this very abusive, manipulative, compulsive liar."
Advice from experience
"I have only this to say to anybody dealing with a similar mess:
- Do not keep silent.
- Do not accept what you know is wrong.
- Trust your gut and instincts when they alert you.
- Trust your friends because they can see what you can't.
- Exit a toxic relationship as soon as you can.
- Acknowledge your weaknesses and be quick to seek help. Organisations like AWARE, PAVE and PPIS help empower women with counselling and courses.
- And lastly, if you believe in any faith, pray and ask Him for help and guidance. The veil between God and a person who's been wronged is removed. Therefore your prayers will be answered. He listens and He will guide and help you."
Here's hoping Sharani and baby Sofia find the peace and happiness they so deserve.