“My name is Ava, and I am 34 years old, living with my husband James. We both work for the company that my father-in-law founded, though my father-in-law has retired. He single-handedly grew a small construction company into a 250 billion dollar annual revenue enterprise. He even acquired rival construction companies, and while he may have been forceful at times, everyone admires his incredible business acumen.
James, who was chosen to follow in his father’s footsteps, was raised as a pampered child and has a gentle character that I fear doesn’t hold up in the harsh world of business. While gentle may sound nice, in reality, he’s incredibly indecisive, and I’ve started to feel he isn’t fit to be a husband, let alone a CEO. James has even admitted, ‘I’m not cut out to be a CEO. I’ll probably just be a figurehead if I become one. It’s easier for me that way,’ showing no real intention of seriously taking over the company.
We’ve been married for five years, and lately, I’ve grown frustrated with his lack of initiative. In contrast to James, I consider myself to be quite decisive, and it seems my father-in-law, during his active years, appreciated this about me and delegated various tasks to me.
Before marrying James, I worked at a bank, so I am used to managing finances and always have the numbers in mind while working. When I got married, I quit my job at the bank and planned to become a full-time homemaker. However, my father-in-law requested that I work for the construction company instead.
Shortly after I began working, my father-in-law started inviting me to participate in board meetings and sought my opinion on management matters. At first, the board members seemed skeptical about including the founder’s daughter-in-law in important meetings, but as I consistently provided relevant insights, they started listening to my suggestions. Although James was also a board member, he rarely attended meetings, and this was accepted by the other board members and my father-in-law as the norm.
When I returned home from a meeting one day, I found James nonchalantly watching TV. ‘Why didn’t you attend today’s meeting?’ I asked angrily. ‘You’re a key member; you should take it seriously.’ Without showing any remorse, he retorted, ‘Even if I attend, I don’t really understand the discussions. Besides, the board members prefer you, so there’s no problem, right?’
I wondered if he was irritated by my participation in board meetings. Though he made such remarks, my father-in-law has been teaching me the intricacies of running the business and seems to be grooming me as a successor. I’ve started enjoying being involved in management, and before I knew it, I was working hard to meet my father-in-law’s expectations.
About two years after I started attending meetings, my father-in-law retired completely. When there were major decisions to be made, the board members would consult me, while James was sidelined. I had hoped that being in such a situation would spur James to work harder, but instead, he became even more disengaged from his work. Although he would come to the office in the morning, he’d disappear somewhere by noon and just stay home for the rest of the day. When he saw me at home, he wouldn’t talk about work at all, seemingly indifferent to the company’s affairs.
Meanwhile, my workload at the company was increasing, and I was getting busier. After my father-in-law’s retirement, the board members relied on me more and more, and I was tasked with duties akin to a CEO’s. Given that we’re a large company with many employees, I’ve been committed to increasing sales and profit for the sake of our workers. With the hard work of our employees, our sales began to grow. I found running the company more interesting and became more engrossed in my work.
Conversely, my husband James seemed to be losing interest in his work, and his appearances at the company began to diminish. The conversation between us at home had lessened, and our relationship began to become tense. Around that time, I ran into your sister Megan today, and we had lunch together. James came home and casually mentioned, ‘My sister Megan is two years older than me and had just divorced about six months ago. The cause of her divorce was infidelity on her part, which led to a big commotion when her enraged husband stormed our parents’ home.’ So my husband James went to my parents’ house to calm down Megan’s husband in my place since I was busy with work.
James, who had a gentle upbringing and a calming personality, managed to convince Megan’s raging husband to leave for the time being. Later, Megan told me, ‘Your husband is really something. He handled my raging husband so effortlessly,’ she praised James. Megan’s husband, in his anger, must have been disarmed by James’s calm and easy-going demeanor. Megan was able to divorce her husband after paying alimony, but since this incident, she seemed to look at James differently.
Until then, she seemed to have thought of James, who was not particularly attractive and is indecisive, as just a rich pampered son. But after the incident, she seemed to believe he was a respectable business owner. Megan, now single after her divorce, probably saw James as a great catch as she always loved wealthy men. But I, who was engrossed in work, could not imagine such a thing. Of course, my sis wouldn’t have known that James is just a nominal executive who doesn’t actually manage the company.
Megan’s ex-husband was an elite employee of a foreign company and bragged to me at their wedding, ‘My husband is an excellent employee with a high salary, and on top of that, he’s handsome. You’re jealous, aren’t you?’ Her ex-husband was handsome, smart, and carried a stylish vibe. I couldn’t understand why she would cheat on such a wonderful husband.
Three months after hearing from James that he had lunch with Megan, I returned home to find James unusually serious. ‘Ava, I have something to discuss,’ it was the first time I had heard such words from him, and I had a bad premonition. With my heart pounding, I waited for him to speak. ‘Actually, Megan is pregnant with my child, and I want a divorce,’ I was shocked by the request for a divorce, but even more surprised to hear that Megan was pregnant.
At a loss for words, James continued, ‘Megan is planning to come over on our next day off to discuss this, so I’m counting on you,’ he said, stunned. I asked him, ‘So you want to marry my sis?’ With a troubled look, James responded, ‘It’s not that I want to marry her, but if she’s having my baby, I guess I have no choice.’ I sighed at James’s typical indecisiveness and replied, ‘Well, if she’s carrying your baby, I suppose it can’t be helped. Let’s discuss this when she comes over.’
It seemed like my husband and I couldn’t make any decisions together, so I decided to meet directly with my sister to figure things out. Even though I had already made up my mind to divorce in my heart, I thought I needed to consult my father-in-law about the company’s situation. As the daughter-in-law of the founder, I was involved in running the business, but if I divorced, I would become a stranger.
The next day, I went to my in-laws’ house and told my father-in-law exactly what my husband had said. My mother-in-law, who was present, was thrilled that her son had a child, but she quieted down when glared at by my father-in-law. For my mother-in-law, she seemed to be more concerned about her grandchild than the company’s management.
After some thought, my father-in-law said with a smile, ‘Ava, I want you to continue to be involved in the company’s management as you have been. I don’t care about James; I’ll take the responsibility, so let him do what he likes.’ It seemed that my father-in-law valued the management of the company more than his son or grandchild, even though he has retired. My father-in-law, as the founder, still has a strong voice in the company, and most of the company’s shares are held by him, so there are no executives who go against his will.
I was also getting interested in my work, though I was reluctant to give up now. Now that my job was settled, it was time to discuss the future with my sister. On my day off, my sister came to my house with a big smile and said, ‘Ava, it’s a pity you couldn’t have a baby. I’ll give you plenty of consolation money. Please leave this house immediately,’ she said it with a triumphant air.
My husband, who was just silently listening to our sister’s conversation without saying anything, despite being the one who caused the problem, I was appalled at my husband’s indifferent face and I said, ‘It’s okay to get divorced, but there’s also the issue of alimony and division of property, so let’s bring in a lawyer and decide properly.’ I never thought of you, my sister would fall for a man like James.
I retorted to my sister with irony. My sister glared at me with a stern face for a moment but quickly regained her composure. ‘I finally realized that it’s not about looks and men; it’s about the inside.’ It was funny to hear my sister talk as if she fully understood my husband’s inner self, and I said, holding back my laughter, ‘That’s great, isn’t it? From now on, live happily with James.’
The inner self my sister was talking about might be money. She seemed to have been under the impression that my husband was the president of my father-in-law’s company, but it didn’t seem like she had heard anything from him. When the discussion was over, my sister said she would start living here and brought a moving company. Though I only took out the necessary items, knowing my quick-tempered sister, I had already arranged for a new apartment. I also hired a lawyer and had documents prepared for the division of property and claims for alimony.
The next day, after moving out my belongings, I started negotiations for alimony and division of property with my husband and sister, accompanied by my lawyer. My husband was still present that day, sitting with an indifferent face, and only my sister was speaking. As I said before, ‘I’m willing to pay as much alimony as you want, so please decide at your convenience.’ Hearing my sister’s words, my lawyer decided to also claim alimony against my sister, in addition to my husband.
My sister is still paying alimony in installments to her ex-husband, so my lawyer had said in advance that it might be impossible to claim alimony from her. But since she said she would pay me as much as she wanted, I decided to make a claim.
When it came to negotiations about the division of property, my sister excitedly said, ‘This mansion is originally James’s family’s, so it shouldn’t be part of the division of property, right?’ The lawyer answered my sister emotionlessly, ‘This building and the land belonged to the company, so it’s up to the company to decide.’ It seemed like even my husband thought this house belonged to his father. ‘Is that so? I thought this house was Dad’s,’ he casually asked. My sister, on the other hand, was taken aback and attacked the lawyer, ‘Wait a minute! So does that mean I can’t live in this house?’
The lawyer responded in a business-like manner, ‘Since it’s company property, you can continue to live here if the company allows it.’ At this comment, my sister seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. ‘Oh, you should have said that earlier. It’ll be fine since James, the president, will be living here.’ The lawyer looked surprised for a moment, then burst into laughter. ‘What are you talking about? Ava is the president, not James,’ looking at my sister, who was planning to remarry my husband and yet didn’t even know that fact, made me laugh.
My sister immediately turned to my husband and yelled, ‘Huh? James, you’re not the president?’ I stepped in for my husband, who looked troubled, and explained to my sister, ‘James is merely an advisor without any executive rights. I’m an executive director, but I was also made president. Our father-in-law, the founder, had always been the president, but when he retired, he made me an executive director and even the president. The other executives also appreciated my performance, and there was no opposition.’
On the other hand, my husband, thanks to his father’s arrangement, was receiving an executive salary as an advisor without executive rights, which is more of a pity than a mere employee. Even though it’s called an executive salary, since he wasn’t really doing any work, it was less than what an ordinary employee would get.
So I was bearing all the living expenses. My husband, who didn’t care about our household finances, didn’t even care whether the house he was living in was company-owned or belonged to his father. Although our home was company-owned, my responsible father-in-law had always charged me rent. Though I thought of it as a normal rental property, the lawyer is still laughing. He asked me, ‘Can we continue to rent this house to James?’
My sister reacted to the rent part of the lawyer’s question, ‘What do you mean by rent? Are you suggesting that I take rent from James? Isn’t it the company’s property? Just make it free.’ The lawyer presented the rent amount, laughing heartily at her words. She was shocked to see the figure, and so was her husband James, who seemed to be hearing about it for the first time.
‘Guess a house this big does have a high rent,’ he commented. ‘I can’t afford that with my salary,’ his executive compensation would barely leave any money behind. If he had to pay that rent, their living expenses would be hard to cover. During the five years of their marriage, James had used up all his modest executive compensation. My salary also disappeared in high rent and living expenses; there were hardly any assets left, and splitting the savings was the only way for asset division.
After the lawyer left, my sister, who now knew that the mansion she had been hoping for was actually rented, seemed utterly deflated, staring blankly. James was grinning as usual. I suggested, ‘Why don’t we vacate this place and go back to your parents’ house? Your mother was so happy about the pregnancy news.’ James agreed, but I laughed at the thought of why I had to consider this man who was about to be my ex this much.
I started worrying whether this unreliable man could raise a child, but I decided to leave it as it was, none of my business. I asked my sister, who seemed to have forgotten about her own alimony, ‘Are you okay with the alimony payment, sis? You seemed pretty confident, but you’re also paying your ex-husband, right?’ She was stunned to hear this; her face suddenly snapping back to reality. ‘Alimony? I have to pay it too?’ she was astonished, seemingly having heard nothing of the discussion earlier in the day. ‘You said, ‘I’ll give plenty of alimony,’ but you weren’t expecting me to pay it, right? My salary is really low.’ James and my sister exchanged surprised glances, though not a lawyer. Watching these two made me want to burst into laughter.
I had already obtained signatures on the divorce papers and alimony request documents, though it didn’t matter to me. But seeing James and my sister like this was pathetic. My ex-husband, who had remarried my sister, had returned to his parents’ home, just as I had warned, but there seemed to be constant quarrels between my sister and my in-laws. The main cause of the conflict was the lie about my sister being pregnant with my ex-husband’s child. His mother, who was hoping for an heir, was extremely angry.
My father-in-law, who had disliked my sister for stealing his son from me from the very beginning, hadn’t even spoken to her. He fronted the alimony for James, and I was paid in full, but my sister is seeing this, pleaded with him, ‘Dad, could you please pay my alimony as well?’ To this, the father-in-law responded, ‘I have no reason to be called Dad by you,’ he was fuming.
Not being able to obtain anything she had hoped for, my sister ran away from my ex-husband’s family home without a word and went missing. She had practically remarried the ex-husband just to bear the burden of alimony, which was utterly foolish. My ex-husband seemed to consider getting back with me, but his father scolded him, ‘You’re the kind of man who should never even think about having a family.
You can’t even take care of yourself properly.’ I wouldn’t get back with my ex-husband, even if he begged me. I had stopped believing in him when he cheated on me with my sister, and I was disgusted by his indifferent attitude during our discussions.
He was dismissed from his executive position and is now working as a temporary employee. I’ve continued being the CEO, which is the core thing in my life. I don’t even think about remarrying someone after the breakup. I’ve kept in touch with my father-in-law, receiving advice when needed. For now, I want to focus on the company, thinking of it as being married to it for the sake of my employees.