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One of my friends married one of the most popular guys in our high school a couple of years ago.
He was the whole package. He was tall and good-looking.
He even competed for the Mr. title at our high school (a male version of the beauty pageant).
He was smart and got a degree from overseas.
He had an entrepreneurial spirit and started a couple of thriving businesses (or so I heard) when he came back to Vietnam after graduation.
He also came from a wealthy and well-educated family. Everything about him just screamed “Perfect!” to an outsider.
And not surprisingly, a lot of girls went after him. But he chose my friend.
They maintained their long-distance relationship for a couple of years and later got married.
Everything seemed to have worked out perfectly for my friend.
Two years later, I met a mutual friend of ours who told me that they had gotten divorced. My friend was raising a kid all by herself.
I was shocked. How is that possible? She seemed to have it all.
I learned that the reason was his infidelity. He had many girls chasing after him, and he gave in to temptations.
I felt my heart aching for my friend. I have to admit that I was a bit jealous of her when I learned about the boyfriend.
But I was not happy that my friend’s marriage came to an end.
Could they have saved their marriage? Did she suspect infidelity when before they got married? How did that beautiful happy ending come to an end so abruptly? Those questions drove me crazy.
A familiar story
My friend’s story, unfortunately, is not unique. Growing up in a male-dominated society in Vietnam, I was often told that it is common and even normal for men to seek something “extra” outside of their marriage.
Even when a woman finds out that her husband is unfaithful, she should look the other way because it is just human nature for men: they just need some adventure and fun outside of their marriage.
Is it so? I never accepted all those things that people told me. Why should I marry someone and let them fool around behind my back and even in my face? It’s better being single than being married to a husband like that.
When I was single, I met many guys who were just willing to flirt with almost any girls they met. I was ok with them doing their thing, but I didn’t want any of that. They can flirt with whoever they want, but I don’t have time for that BS.
And I certainly didn’t think of them as boyfriend or marriage material. There’s a difference between being outgoing and being desperate/pathetic.
I have also had friends who tried to ask many girls out just to find the one and get married. I had no problem with that and even helped with the matchmaking.
But I also know guys who just go after whoever to get whatever it is that they can get. It’s their life, and I would like to stay out of that as much as I can.
People tend to think of such actions as normal. That’s what guys do. But if a girl does that, people will look at her differently. There’s an endless list of names and words that people will use to refer to her.
In other words, girls are not supposed to do what boys do. This is a widely accepted double-standard in many societies, even in America.
Related: When You Are Ashamed Of Being Poor
The double standards
What are the other double standards that you can think of? If a husband works hard all day, he’s seen as the man in the family. Even if he doesn’t do any housework or take care of the kids, it’s still ok.
His responsibility is to work hard and provide for the family financially. Everything else just needs to be taken care of by his wife.
But if a woman works late nights trying to advance in her career and provide for her family, she’s seen as irresponsible to her family. She’s described as bossy.
And in the worst case, if her husband cheats on her, people would even say that she deserves it. She should have spent more time pleasing her husband and given him the love that he needed.
If a wife cheats on her husband, who works hard all day, she’s portrayed as an ungrateful wife and a bad person. While her husband gets all the sympathy that he needs for being cheated on, she will be condemned.
How do I know all that? It’s because I am the one who has seen and heard so many comments about unfaithful wives and husbands.
If the husband cheats, it’s the wife’s fault for not being able to keep him. If the wife cheats, it’s her fault for betraying her husband.
It doesn’t matter if her husband has cheated on her repeatedly or abused her physically and/or mentally. The moment she fell into the arms of another man, she will be condemned. And her husband? It’s not that bad because men tend to cheat anyway, but women are not allowed to do the same.
Dealing with an unhappy ending
In the story above, my friend was fine financially since she had a great education and a high-paying job. Her parents are also better-off and supported her and her child.
But what if she relied on her husband financially? A separation would mean an emotional and financial world turned upside down for her.
Unfortunately, that happens more often than we think. Many women sacrifice their careers to take care of their family. That sacrifice can strengthen the love and finances of a family. But in many cases, infidelity happens.
The woman then is caught between a rock and a hard place. If she leaves, it will be a blow to her finances and stability. She wants to take care of the kids, but raising the kids alone without a well-paid job would mean hardships for her and her children.
If she stays, she has to accept her husband’s infidelity. The upside of that sacrifice is that everything will go on as usual maybe except for her feelings.
This is definitely not the case for all couples. But I don’t write about things that I don’t know. And trust me when I say that I have seen how this scenario is played out in real life.
Money doesn’t buy everything, but it means power. If you have money, you have the upper hand in making decisions, much more so than those who don’t have as much as you.
In the US, men are legally required to pay child support and even alimony per the family court’s decision.
In Vietnam, when a couple gets divorced, the wife is at the mercy of the husband when it comes to alimony and child support.
The husband can choose not to contribute financially to raising the kids, and no one can do anything about that. The wife is then left scrambling to rebuild her life and raise her children.
What does it mean for me?
In Vietnamese, there’s a folk song that talks about the life of a woman in the feudal society:
My life is like the rain,
Some drops fall into a well, and some fall into a beautiful garden.
My life is like the rain,
Some drops fall onto a castle, and some fall onto a rice field.
The folk song compares the life of a woman to rain drops. Some women are lucky and find a good husband who will take care of them for the rest of their lives. But some women are not so lucky and have to deal with a lot of hardships in their marriage.
The mechanism that determines these selections, unfortunately, is totally random. It means that whether a woman can have a happy life is beyond her control.
This folk song was written in the feudal society when women in Vietnam were not allowed to go to school or own property. They didn’t have the opportunity to have an education, pursue a career, and take control of their lives.
Although that is no longer the case, I still think that finding a good husband is sometimes a game of luck. My friend thought that she had found the perfect man in her life, who later turned out to be an unfaithful husband.
How many of you have heard stories about men who seem to be caring and loving when they’re dating but turn into a violent, abusive, and selfish husband once they get married?
People change, and in many cases, someone’s actions today cannot perfectly predict what they will do tomorrow.
When Mr. FAF and I got married, I thought about this possibility and was even starting to prepare myself for his change in behavior.
What would I do if he turned into an abusive husband? That question was in my mind before, during, and after our wedding.
We’ve been married for only four years, so it’s still early to tell what will happen in the future. I can’t control his behavior and how he might change in the future. But there’s one thing I can take control of and prepare right at this very moment: my finances.
If there’s one thing I have learned over the past 30 years of my existence, it’s this: the only person I can rely on for the rest of my life is myself and no one else.
Related: How To Find A Frugal Husband
Despite all the challenges I’ve faced, I feel incredibly lucky to have an education and the opportunity to live my life in America.
Women in developing countries face various hardships, biases, and obstacles. They are discriminated against the moment they are born just because of their gender.
Many women in rural areas have to stop going to school to make money so that their brothers can continue their education.
Many women have little to no education and do not own any property. They are at the mercy of their husband and society who are often biased against them.
Physically, women are not as strong as men. That’s why they succumb to domestic violence and abuse. Socially, they are discriminated against in terms of education, job opportunity, and advancement.
As a mom, I have always thought about what I would teach my future daughter. I would tell her that I am proud of her, that there’s no dream she can’t pursue just because she’s a woman, that no one has the right to treat her badly because of her gender, and that she should always stand up for herself when someone does her injustice.
I realized that those are the privileges many girls and women don’t have. But nothing will happen if we don’t do anything about it.
I can’t change what the world thinks about women. But I will tell my daughter that no matter whether she can win the husband lottery or not, she should be able to stand on her own feet and be prepared for whatever comes her way.