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Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he enrolled in, and subsequently gave, workshops in work-life balance and gender sensitivity training. He has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years, as co-lecturer and occasionally as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives. Dr Holmes needs no further introduction.
Dear Dr Holmes and Jeremy:
My problem is that I am in love with a foreigner and he is in love with me. That’s what he says and I believe him. But we work in two fields that clash.
He works for a mining firm that has explorations in the Philippines. I am employed by an NGO that seeks to help indigenous people continue to live the way they do but with better health facilities.
I dare not tell my colleagues about this because they were the ones that joked that I should use pillow talk so that we could plan our activities better. Our relationship was getting so much attention that I decided to tell them we were no longer dating (even if we still are). After that, they stopped asking me about my love life, which was a relief.
My boyfriend doesn’t understand why I am lying to my colleagues about him. He offers to talk to them about mining and the benefits it can bring, not only to the mining corporation, but to the Filipinos who live close by. He is so sure that they will understand once they get all the facts.
But my colleagues will never listen. I tell him not to wish for the impossible. I just want us to live in our own private world. Is that too much to ask? -- Sara
Thank you for your message.
Mines are like brothels -- both answer a basic need, can be very rewarding for owners and management, offer good employment prospects yet often bring terrible consequences to the workers and the environment in which they operate.
As for your situation, it seems that in the short term your strategy is sounder than his. He is never going to convince your idealistic colleagues that his mine is the exception to the rule, especially when tragedies like Semirara are uppermost in people’s minds. If you can keep the relationship secret so that you avoid problems at work, your immediate future is secured.
Of course, such a strategy would not reflect terribly well on your integrity or your idealism but perhaps for you, unlike your colleagues, your job is just that -- a job -- and does not come with strings attached.
The longer term is less clear but includes at least 3 possible outcomes: your relationship withers, in which case your problem goes away; or it blossoms, in which case you and your boyfriend can go abroad and work there without these conflicts. More problematic would be if you both remain in the Philippines, in which case one of you will have to change jobs.
I will leave it to my psychologist wife to help you understand how to integrate the two major and seemingly conflicting strands of your life. -- Jeremy
Actually, Jeremy is wrong. If your relationship flourishes and you both remain here, neither of you will have to change jobs.
Your boyfriend (let’s call him Rob) can stay where he is since he feels no contradiction working in the mining industry, loving you, and even helping your fellow Filipinos. He is so full of goodwill that he thinks your NGO friends -- whom he already knows to be biased against mining -- will change their minds once they hear the pros and cons of the industry.
True, he doesn’t seem to give them much credit, not stopping to think that, surely, they too would’ve studied the issue as thoughtfully as he. At least he is hopeful that goodwill is possible between advocacy groups and mining industry, that open minds and hearts will lead to beneficial dialogue.
That takes care of your boyfriend as far as I’m concerned. I could be wrong, of course, in which case please tell me so.
Now let’s take care of you (in as much as a column can do that). You asked if your wanting to live in your own private world is too much to ask?
It depends on what you think is most important.
If you don’t mind living in a fool’s paradise, then it is possible to remain in this oh-so-romantic you-and-me-against-the-world scenario… but only for a while.
How do you see this happening, though? Rob would continue working, come home to a clean house, a gourmet meal, and a receptive gf who no longer needs to worry about anything else? Wouldn’t that grow old after a while, Sara? For Rob, if not for you?
Please consider the following while you decide what it is you want out of life, a life that includes work and people:
1. Do you need to earn a living?
If not, then hooray for you. You can spend your energy on something that really appeals to you.
If yes, did you choose to work at the NGO you are working with now? If not, then it’s better if you quit your job and look for something more attuned to your sensibilities.
If so, then what happened for you to change so drastically? Have you changed your mind about your NGO’s goals? Do you no longer think them lofty and worth fighting for? Perhaps this is merely a case of advocacy fatigue which will go away in time?
Think about the pros and cons of leaving and/or coming clean about your relationship. Coming clean doesn't mean telling them every detail, gory or glorious; it just means not lying and purposely giving them the wrong impression.
2. How important are your co-employees and boyfriend to you?
Right now, a casual observer may conclude that your boyfriend is the most important person in your life, but that is not necessarily the truth. How about your fellow NGO workers? Are they people you admire? Respect? Like? Even love? If you believe what you told Rob -- that they will “never listen” -- then it makes sense to change jobs.
However, if you consider them friends, you need to explore the reasons you are in such a difficult position now.
Is it that you are being untrue to your friends? Is it because there seems little congruence between what you do and say at work and what you feel? It's not necessary to have all the answers now. It would, in fact, be unreasonable to expect you to.
This is, after all, part of what being human is all about: situations that occasionally push you out of your comfort zone whether you’ve welcomed them or not, bringing anxiety due to unfamiliarity and insecurity.
Hopefully, you will discern the true pros and cons and, in time, resolve the issue in ways that sit well with you and your values. -- Margie
(Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED.)
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