Married women live like single moms

By Pham Nga   July 1, 2023 | 05:32 am PT
No one helps Thu Hang raise her child or pay for their life expenses, despite the fact that she’s still married.

The 30-year-old woman from the northern province of Bac Giang took her child with her when she moved out of her husband’s family’s house due to conflicts with her in-laws.

Her husband refused to move with her and now won’t give her a thin dime to help with the child. He says he needs his money to invest in his business instead, according to Hang.

Disappointed with her husband, Hang said it would be more convenient for her if she brought the child to her own parents' house. She transferred the child to another school in the neighborhood where her parents were living, and has lived with them since then.

She brings her child to her in-laws’ house every weekend to avoid rumors of divorce. She and her husband never talk about the fact that she is paying all their child’s expenses herself. Some people looking at them from the outside even think they’re still a happy couple.

"People have been joking that we couldn’t be mad at each other for long and I may get pregnant soon," she says. "But it has been a long time since we last had an intimate moment."

Taking care of all aspects of their lives despite being legally married is increasingly popular among modern women. Photo illustration by VnExpress/Pham Nga

Taking care of all aspects of their own lives despite being legally married is increasingly popular among modern women. Photo illustration by VnExpress/Pham Nga

Minh Hanh, a 40-year-old clothing store owner in Hanoi, has been married to Quoc Tuan for over 10 years, but she’s currently living like a single mom. The only thing the couple share is the house in which they are living, they live their lives on their own, completely separately from one another.

Tuan has a mistress, but he doesn’t want to divorce Hanh, who is also resistant to the idea because she says it could "mess up" her family image.

Other people may think they are a happy couple who eat together, take their kid on outings every weekend together, but in fact, they have promised not to interfere in the other one’s businesses.

"I make enough money for my living, so I don’t need him to contribute," Hanh says.

The couple’s discord started because Tuan never offered to share the family’s expenses with Hanh. After a huge fight, Hanh decided that she would take care of the family herself.

Taking care of all aspects of their own lives despite being legally married is increasingly popular among modern women, according to psychologist Chu Thi Thanh Huong in Ho Chi Minh City.

Huong has met many women that say the same thing, along the lines of: "I take care of my family on my own despite having a husband."

Huong says there are many types of married women that live like a single moms. Some have husbands who don’t make enough money and they thus have no one to rely on but themselves.

Some are simply financially successful enough that they can easily raise their children on their own without help from their husbands. Others have irresponsible husbands, like Hanh.

Psychologist Tran Kim Thanh adds that there’s another group of women that also make this lifestyle choice: those who are more successful than their husbands in every aspect of life, making their husbands feel inferior and even jealous. This thought will make the husbands turn themselves away from their families over time.

Thanh warns that this lifestyle may put more pressure on women and may lead to them not having enough time to take care of themselves, which will wear on their physical and mental health. They may easily feel sad when they see other women taken care of by their husbands as well.

Hang is working as a government officer at the commune level, and her monthly income is below VND7 million (around $297).

She doesn’t live with her in-laws and also doesn’t want to rely on her own parents, so she borrowed money to purchase land in her father’s name. So now she’s in debt alongside her struggle to pay her child’s monthly living expenses.

She gets up at 2 a.m. to prepare her small eatery at the local market before getting to her workplace at 7:30 a.m. everyday.

"I lived like a princess before marriage since my parents took care of everything," she says. "Getting married turned my lifestyle into a street vendor’s, which means I have been saving every cent I make."

Tired of her life, she has thought about giving up sometimes. But thinking about her child and her parents has motivated her again.

Hang says the saddest thing about her life is how lonely she is despite having a husband. She has tried giving her husband chances to take care of her and their child, merely to get ignored.

It was the last night of the Lunar New Year when Hang and her son tested positive for Covid-19 and had to enroll in a quarantine center. Feeling lonely, she called her husband, asking him to encourage her and send food to the center for her.

She didn’t expect that her husband would respond the way he did.

"I will not come," he said. "I’m afraid of getting the virus."

And so she had to ask her parents to help instead. When she and her son were discharged from the center after testing negative a week later, her husband didn’t show up either.

Hang has asked herself hundreds of times why her husband treats her so coldly when she is considered good looking, hardworking, and they even had a son together.

"What is wrong with my wish to move out to live on my own and have total control of my life?" she wonders.

Hanh says even when she dolls up, she’s still unable to make up for the feeling of loneliness at the bottom of her heart. Every night her husband comes back home covered in the smell of another woman’s fragrances, she can't do anything other than cry and think she is not attractive enough.

Sometimes she thinks she wants her husband to disappear from their house, but then she is afraid of a scenario in which she and her son have to live on their own.

Experts warn that an unhappy marriage can suffocate people, and that such trauma can also negatively affect their children. Moreover, Thanh says: "Children [of unhappy couples] may find it hard to learn how to responsibly take care of their own families after growing up."

Experts suggest that women who have problems in their marriages discuss the problem with their husbands, make themselves understood, work on solutions together, and clearly divide each other’s responsibilities in caring for the family. This is especially recommended for those that have irresponsible husbands.

"Unless the relationship becomes unbearable and harms your physical and mental health," then you should consider filing for divorce or seeking legal support," Huong adds.

She also suggests that women should also share their concerns with people around them, spend time taking care of themselves and their children, strengthen their other relationships, learn new things to improve themselves, and find their own sources of happiness.

Thanh suggests that married men should always remind themselves that a family could only be complete when it’s nurtured by all of its members, including men themselves.

In the meantime, Hanh has become disillusioned.

Many have suggested that she should discuss her concerns with her husband in order to reach a mutual agreement or to end their marriage, so that she could find another partner. She turned all of them down, explaining: "I can’t hold the risk of leaving a terrible man for another one that may be even worse."

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