I divorced five years ago. Soon after, I met Z, who is from a different ethnic background and we have been in a relationship for the past three years. We are in the midst of discussing marriage.

I have a son and he is very close with my ex-wife and me. I meet him and take him out regularly. Once in a while, I also go for vacations with my ex-wife and son as I believe that will make him happy.

My confusion is, should I try to get back with my ex-wife for the sake of our son and family, or should I marry Z? Z and I love each other and are happy together. However, our marriage may cause uneasiness to my son, family and friends, especially due to our cultural differences.

I’m worried that over time, this may make both of us stressed out and unhappy. I have explained and discussed this with Z and she is ready to face all of that.

On the other hand, getting back with my ex may or may not make me happy. However, my son, family and friends will be happy and that’s what they prefer.

I want everyone to be happy, especially my son and Z. Please help.


It is nice to have your family and friends liking your spouse. However, whether their approval is essential depends on how you think and how you live.

The most important thing is that you can’t live your life based on what makes others happy. You know this because you are divorced. Think about it: when you split up with your wife, didn’t your son and family ask you to stay together? I bet they did. But you were too unhappy to stay in the marriage.

Clearly, you did something right, because you and your ex are able to talk nicely to each other, parent your son, and go on holidays. That’s great. But, don’t forget that you divorced your wife. Unless you and your ex have completely and utterly changed, I’d suggest that going back into that relationship is likely to be just as difficult as it was before. You would be miserable again. You cannot live your life for others; it just doesn’t work.

Next question, should you marry your girlfriend? Some families believe that marriage is personal, and they will get along with whoever you pick. Others believe that marriage is a group or clan issue, and they make decisions for other people.

The important thing to remember is a lesson you’ve already learned: if the couple is not compatible, the marriage falls apart. That is a thoroughly miserable experience for all involved.

My view is that you have a partner you love and she loves you. You can visualise a good relationship together. If you believe that marriage is personal, then you should marry. Love doesn’t guarantee lifelong happiness, but it’s a really great foundation.

But you suggest that your family is prejudiced against your current partner because of cultural differences. You imply they may bully you to the extent that they make you both unhappy. That is definitely a problem. Me, I wouldn’t tolerate that. I’d walk away. But you may not feel the same way.

I’d take a three-step approach.

First, list out the reasons they may have for objecting. Will your marriage cause legal issues of some kind? Or are they just disapproving of anyone who’s not exactly like them? Write it all down, and see point by point whether their unease has merit or not.

Second, consider how much their opinion matters to you. Ask yourself: how would I feel in five, 10 and 20 years if I didn’t marry? Would I regret it? Also ask, how much do I need my love in my life, and how much do I need my cousin/niece and so on?

Third, you need to talk to them to see if your gut feeling is right. Hopefully, they are nice people who are happy you’re finding love again. If they are not, don’t lose your temper, try and gather supporters, and take it step by step.

If it helps, this is my opinion. Your family is not marrying; you are. And as life is short, you deserve to take the best shot you have at a good and loving relationship. I’d say marry your love, and hope your ex, your son and the rest of the family are unselfish enough to be happy for you both.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.  E-mail star2.thelma@thestar.com.my or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.