Your supervisor has assigned you the following case. This is your first marital case since you joined White Loft Family Service Centre, one year ago after your graduation.
The couple, Tommy and Laura were referred to your agency by their Church Pastor, Mr Anthony Yeo for marital counselling. According to Mr Yeo, he has known the couple since they were in primary school. Both are “God-fearing children who are very committed to their marriage.” Though they seem to want to make their marriage work, they are having great challenges.
Tommy and Laura, both 27 years old, married in January this year and moved into their condominium unit at Bukit Timah. They were sweethearts from junior college. Upon completion of their ‘A’ Levels, Laura decided to pursue a teaching degree locally. Tommy, on the other hand, completed his National Service and subsequently left to Australia to pursue his double degree in Computing and Law.
It was during this time that Laura’s dad, Mr Loh was diagnosed with lung cancer. Mr Loh, who used to be a taxi driver quit his job to fully focus on his treatment. Mrs. Loh, 63 years old, a homemaker, became the main support for her husband. As the older child, Laura assumed financial responsibility for the family. She decided to put on hold her degree plans to take on home-based tutoring on a full-time basis as she is very close to her dad.
Such an arrangement also gave Laura the flexibility to attend to her dad’s daily care needs. Laura’s younger brother, Lionel, 19, who has Down Syndrome, occasionally chips in with some simple household chores. Laura very quickly took on the new roles of managing the family finances as well as overseeing the daily running of the household. Though she felt overwhelmed having to
suddenly juggle all the various roles, she often kept her real feelings to herself. She did not want to bring unnecessary worry to the rest of her family members.
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Mr Loh had to dig into the family’s savings to finance his cancer treatment as Laura’s monthly salary of $4000 was insufficient. Lionel’s monthly salary of $800 working at the sheltered workshop was barely sufficient for his own meals and transportation. The family resides in a four-room Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat in Ang Mo Kio.
Tommy is the youngest and only son of five children. His father passed away when he was three years old. He is therefore very precious to his mother and sisters. They treat him like a prince and are always at his “beck and call” day and night. The family is financially very sound as Tommy’s late dad, Mr Tan was a successful businessman.
They reside in a semidetached house in Bukit Timah. It took Tommy a lot of effort to convince his family to allow him to pursue his degree overseas. They finally reluctantly agreed as a close relative living in Australia volunteered to attend to his food and lodging. Life was easy for Tommy as his family provided for his every need. They even presented him with a sports car in Australia.
The first year that Tommy was overseas was still an amicable period between the couple. They showered each other with gifts and much attention. However, Laura soon became very busy with her home affairs and the couple slowly started to drift apart. Tommy was getting impatient with Laura. He felt that she was not giving him sufficient attention. It was during his second year that Tommy met Kristy, a 25-year-old Vietnamese-Australian citizen.
The two started to date. Tommy felt that Kristy would be a better partner as his long-term plan was to settle down in Australia. He tried to keep this relationship a secret. However, Laura soon came to know about this through their mutual friends in Australia. She was very devastated and decided to end the relationship as her priority was her recovering dad. Six months later, Kristy broke off with Tommy.
This time, Tommy became overly emotional and threatened to end his life if Laura did not get back to him. Laura was overjoyed and decided to give him another chance as she still had strong feelings for him. The couple continued their courtship with frequent squabbles over Laura’s thriftiness and Tommy’s over-dependence on others. They mainly managed these tiffs with frequent cold wars. Meanwhile, Laura’s father’s health started to deteriorate late last year. The doctors gave him only four months to live. Laura’s family decided to go ahead with Laura’s marriage. The couple tied the knot this January. Mr Loh passed on 2 weeks after the wedding.
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