Stickman Readers' Submissions October 1st, 2009

You Gotta Know When To Hold ‘Em

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,

Know when to walk away and know when to run

– From “the Gambler,” popularized by Kenny Rogers.

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Writing this has been inspired by a few exchanges of mail with Stick, contributions such as the Sawadee2000's piece “luck of the draw, ”Breakingman's” story, and the near desperate situation I currently find myself in. I leave it to the reader to see the “red flags” I missed.

I met and fell for an Issan girl 6 years ago, in a faraway country, where there is a fairly large Thai ex-pat community. At that time I had just finished negotiating a divorce from my first wife, after a 23 year rollercoaster. Was I on the rebound? Not too sure about that. She was certainly far from the first woman I had “been” with since the break up of my first marriage. At the time I was a seasoned UK expat, working away from home; a thing I had been used to for about 6 years as a single-status expat. Despite the support of colleagues, deep inside, the failure of my fist marriage left me lonely inside and I had to find someone new.

At that time I thought She was the special one. After a few weeks' dating, she agreed to move-in with me. She's good looking, 20 years younger than me, and whilst the sex wasn't mind blowing, it was more than satisfactory. The relationship was working well.

About 6 months after she moved in, I first noticed a few odd things. Things like; not wearing the gold jewellery I had bought her; “lost” the top of the range mobile phone I bought for her; even her passport had
gone missing <I believe that these sorts of issues MUST be addressed in a relationship if you want it to succeed. You just cannot let such things slideStick>. She asked me to give her some extra money to send
home, to help her brother's car payments and I agreed. Very soon afterwards, after a few more “borrowings,” out came the truth. Whilst I was at work she had been playing cards. She had lost, and borrowed over USD 1,000 and was
paying interest to a Thai moneylender at a stupid rate. It was not easy for me to find that amount of cash (while paying for a divorce, alimony, maintenance for 2 teenagers) but I put it together, and gave it to her on the understanding she would
not play cards again. Off she went to the underground casino, whilst I went to the pub. After 2-3 hours she returned, passport in bag, gold around neck, and the fancy mobile back on show. Two days later, the goods disappeared again! Somehow I
felt responsible. It was painful, but after a while she convinced me she was finished with cards. The total cost of that little episode was about USD 10,000.

Once my assignment in that faraway land was complete, and with that card playing business 1 year behind us, she came to stay with me at my parents' home in the UK, whilst I waited for my next assignment to break. After about 6 weeks of delays to taking up my new post, she returned to Thailand. I gave her a healthy purse-full to keep her until I got my next assignment sorted out.

Well, that assignment fell through and I found myself employed on another project in a country that neighbours the land where we met, and lived together. She would not be able to get a visa to join me since we were not married. That job was very well paid. Well enough paid for me to get her into a flat in the place where we first met. That let us spend each weekend together, along with a few midweek evenings as well. During the first month or so, my visits to her were great. Soon the problem with her brother's car payments returned, the fancy mobile had been downgraded to something like Stick's (as I imagine it!) <The cheapest I could find 5 years ago and still going strong!Stick> not being there to meet me when I arrived on schedule at weekends, no phone calls answered. Once I got back to an empty flat and had a look around. It was empty indeed; no passport, no gold, etc. To cut a long story short, she was out playing cards again, and it cost me another USD 10,000. When the immediate air ticket back to Thailand was arranged I must have been the only person who worked in that place for 4 months and left less well off! Funny thing, when she was playing cards, the sex was sensational and I never wondered why. I stupidly thought it was true love.

After that escapade I found an offer of new employment in a place where we would not be able to co-habit, but a visa would be available for her if we became married. By that time my divorce had become final, and after a 1 week break in Bangkok, and in exchange for a few thousand baht, we had a genuine (?) piece of paper which said we were man and wife.

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The first year of marriage was fine. And then I got a shock. Despite all my bad and unhealthy habits, we had hit the jackpot. A little boy was growing inside her.

About 3 or 4 months into the pregnancy, I came across an opportunity to work in Bangkok. I jumped at it. Our son was born in Thailand just over 2 years ago, and very soon afterwards our family was happily living down Sukhumvit way, with Dad on a damn good deal at work. It seemed the ‘normal” lifestyle many of us crave.

2 months or so later I was told of a plot about 20×25 m, up north, near grandmother's home in Issan. At THB 750,000 it seemed a steal <An outrageous amount if we're talking a rural area, a plausible amount for prime real etsate in a provincial capitalStick>. I used some of my retirement savings to snap it up, (in her name of course.) At the time I made it clear, this land purchase was so that our baby son would always have somewhere to live, if anything happened to me.

Around the same time, I came home to another shock. Pregnant again! Another little boy was growing inside her. Especially with having to look after the first pregnancy was no easy time for us. No 2, another boy, was born just over a year ago.

Not long after No 2 was born there were signs my work in Bangkok would be slowing and it looked like my job would be moved from Thailand to Philippines. I had to travel between the two countries extensively, requiring being away from my family several times of up to 2 weeks. In preparation for the move, we gave-up the flat in Bangkok, and I paid THB 5M to buy a handsome home in her hometown. (I put together THB 2M up front, and THB 3M on a 5-year mortgage.) All in her name, including the mortgage of course. Our arrangement was I would work in Bangkok and visit at weekends, then go to Philippines and get something like a long weekend each month or so. I was shattered a few short months afterwards when our Philippines client pulled the plug on the plan, and I was returned to Bangkok. Currently, I live in a cheap bedsit in Bangkok. Most weekends I visit my family up north.

About 8 months ago, while I was away on business, she told me she had won big style on the lottery. THB 1.25M and wanted to use it to extend the house. (Of course the work is still far from complete.) The next month she told me of another big win, another THB 1M or so. Yet more extension work. I asked what abut paying off the mortgage; the thought never entered her head. (I remember at that time, thinking about writing to Mrs. Stock for advise about why she didn't think about reducing the mortgage, but didn't.)

About 4 months ago, I noticed her starting to leave the boys with me on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, whilst she went shopping for 3 or 4 hours at a time; she usually returned from the shops without having bought anything and I thought she had gone to see a boyfriend. Around the same time I noticed large unexplained withdrawals from our joint account, like the THB80k in one same day, using her ATM card. When I asked her about it, she told me it was for building materials. Yes, that kind of money buys a lot of paint, but since I was only around at weekends, I went along with it and believed her!

A little more than 1 month ago she confessed to me about the boyfriend I thought she had. I was wrong, unless she had been seeing one of the kings or jacks. The unexplained ATM withdrawals were not made by her; she had given her ATM card for our joint account to someone she has borrowed from to play cards. And how big has she borrowed? Don't read this standing-up THB 1,500,000. The daily interest is mind-blowing. My monthly salary covers the interest for about 1 week! She has tried to sell the land I bought for our boys … and that's just to pay the interest!

She knows I have retirement savings that would cover her debt and asked me to bail her out. Oh and yes, she even promised to never play cards again. I have told her, “no,” I am giving her no help at all. Not 1 baht. I have told her she has lied to me, cheated me and even stolen from me. These things I could forgive, but selling (or even trying to sell) the land I bought as security for my little boys; that is something I will not forgive. How can I ever believe one more word that comes from her mouth? The trust I had in her has gone, and perhaps ironically, she just doesn't seem to understand that!

She has refused to tell me more about how she is going to repay the money she borrowed. The only thing that makes sense to me, my conclusion is she has pledged the house, (which I am still paying a mortgage for,) to her debtors once the loan has been repaid. I have thought about refusing to pay the mortgage unless she signs an agreement whereby the house will go into our boys' names once the loan has been repaid. Is such an arrangement realistic? (I doubt anything like that could be made to stick in Thailand. Anyone able to advise? my email address is below.)

Where are we now? There is no trust left. My mother thinks we get along well – she is not in great health, and loves her two little grandsons. She has been too ill to visit them and I am genuinely fearful if I divorce their mother, it may kill her.

My first thoughts are of course for our little boys. I will always stand by them, and always do what I think is best for them. I have thought about trying to take them to UK on holiday, and not bring them back. No, in their innocence they love their mother, and I couldn't and wouldn't break that.

What to do now?

  • Join the “flying club?” No chance. That's cowardice! The break-up of my first marriage was more difficult than what I'm going through just now. My self-respect has almost fully evaporated, and I'm
    confused about a few things … but still have some optimism about life.
  • Divorce her? With my mother's health, and 2 little boys who need me? Not an option.
  • Find a life elsewhere, and visit my boys during leaves? Maybe.

Have I realised “I Know when to walk away and know when to run” and this is the time!

In writing this I seek no sympathy. Whilst it would be understandable, would prefer not to hear calls of “you f**king idiot – run away.” But as written just above, “What to do now?” F**ked if I know.

Stickman's thoughts:

There were red flags all over the place and there's no need to highlight them and humiliate you. The one thing I will say though – and this does seem rather too common in Thailand – is this crazy phenomenon whereby Western guys seem relaxed about marrying a Thai girl they love, but with whom they will readily admit they are in a troubled relationship with. It seems that they believe that once they are married she will mend her ways up and everything will be just how "it should". But I that is almost never the case. You need to get your relationship as close to ideal as you can before you even consider marriage – and then fight to make sure it stays that way.

I also think it is a big mistake to let things slip. You don't want to be petty and raise every small issue, but things like jewellery and expensive mobile phones going missing IS a big deal.

As far as the future goes, I hate to say it, but it looks really, really grim. This woman has a massive gambling problem and she has the potential to ruin you, some would say she is well down that path already. That she allegedly owes such a huge amount of money to some no doubt very unsavoury people is a massive concern. I don't know how it can be resolved at this point and the scenarios the money lenders may come up with don't bear thinking about.

With all this in mind, my advice would be to do one of two things:

– take the kids back to the UK and not return. I don't see this woman as ever being much of a mother, let alone a great mother.

– divorce her and provide for the kids although you would have to manage this carefully. Giving money would not be ideal. Really, this second option is FAR from ideal.

There might be other plausible options but it seems to be things are so bad and have been for a very long time that it is hard to come back from this… I think you need to get the kids and take them to the UK. It is their future you need to be most concerned about. Good luck.

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