My name is Olivia. I’m a bank executive and living in a small apartment with my partner, Rita. We were school mates and had been very close since our university days. Rita is a domineering person but that was what I liked about her. We used to spend our time together in my parent’s home. She would sleep over and Mom had been very kind to her. Mom treated her like her own daughter. Rita is a confident person who will always know what to say and what to do to win the heart of my family members.
Mom had always thought that she was my best friend. But truth be told, we were much more than that. She is my intimate partner. Still is. Mom had probably suspected that we are romantic partners. But being from a conservative family, we have this “don’t ask and don’t tell” attitude. Mom used to ask us both if we are dating men and if I was ever getting married. She would hint that she would like to have grandchildren. But I kept dismissing her questions and said that I wanted to concentrate on my career. Mom must have given up her hopes on me getting married. She no longer asks these questions.
Rita and I were happy together despite having to keep our relationship a secret. But now, I have another secret that lies buried in our relationship. I did not know the violent side of Rita until three years ago. That was when both of us crossed the 35-year mark of our age. We had longed to get our own home. And three years ago, we could – under the single’s scheme for HDB homeownership. I moved in with Rita, much to my family’s chagrin.
Rita was a different person when we lived under the same roof. I soon realised that she’s a control freak. She demanded that I spend every moment of my time outside work, to be with her. At first, it was alright for me. We went for movies, shopping or lazing by the beach like what normal couples do in their free time. But soon, I felt that it was too much. I need some breathing space. I wanted to go out with my other friends. But she won’t let me. I know that Rita loved me too much to let me go. Maybe because she felt that I am her world and she will not be able to meet someone new if I were to leave her. So, she kept me like a bird in her gilded cage.
I became a submissive person under her control. Rita even took away my bank cards and passport. Although I earn my own income, I had to surrender all of them to her and she would give me only one-third of it for my personal expenses. Once, I rebelled and searched high and low for my ATM card. I did not find it. But when Rita found out, she became physically violent towards me. I was slapped and my hair was tugged as she threatened to go and tell my family about our “forbidden” and “sinful” relationship. “Please don’t,” I would beg her. I know that if she does that, I would lose both: Rita and my family. Where am I going to live? I could not get my own house. My savings are in Rita’s hand. And the house we are living is under her name. I felt trapped.
I had no one to turn to. Rita became unreasonable and violent as time goes by. She would throw tantrums in the house and smash plates and bowls. There was one time where she got jealous because I went out with my female office colleague for lunch. It was just lunch. But she thought that I was having an affair behind her back. My colleague is not even gay! But Rita would not have any of this and she slapped me and humiliated me in the house. I was prevented from leaving the house on weekends and she would lock me up in the house. My handphone was taken away and hidden by her. I was helpless.
Who could I turn to? I could not tell my family members – they would disown me for bringing disgrace to them. I am cohabiting with my partner, in sin! I felt that I could not tell my colleagues or other friends too. I don’t think they will understand. They may even disapprove of my “lifestyle” and stay away from me. Often, I would think that this is due to my own fault. I am angry, but at who? Why am I in this torturous relationship? Is it because I am a sinner and God is telling me to mend my ways? But did I choose this life? Perhaps, I did. I choose to be with Rita. But I did not choose to be attracted to women. What should I do?
I’ve learnt to accept my fate. I know, I should leave Rita. But circumstances prevented me. I longed to be free from her shackles. But I don’t know who to turn to or how to seek help. I am queer and society will not be accepting of people like me. Hence, I choose to be with Rita despite the abuse. As people would say, “better the devil you know”. I will hold on to this relationship as long as I can.
I see no other option. Unless you can tell me one.