[Clinical Notes] Are first marriages really better?
In this edition of Clinical Notes, clinical psychologist Margarita Holmes delves deeper into an issue raised by a Two-Pronged reader whose children do not get along with his second wife. He asks what he can do to make his children see that his second wife is not who their mother portrays her to be. Dr Holmes takes a look into why kids might see their father's second wives negatively and delves into divorce and annulment in the Philippines.
Our Two Pronged column was published on February 12, 2017 and titled “My Kids Don’t Like my Second Wife.”
The letter writer, Robert, was having some difficulty getting his children to accept his second wife.
I said in my answer then that getting the children of an “original marriage” to accept the realities of a second marriage is a problem many Filipinos have, partly because divorce is still illegal in this country.
Because we are the only country which has still not legalized divorce, there is very little to guarantee second partnerships (which would be called marriages in any other country but this one) the full protection of the law.
Not having the law’s protection – or even recognition – encourages others with less-than-independent minds to look at this second relationship (a remarriage if that were allowed) as a second class one.
“Hindi talaga sila kasal” – No matter what you say, no matter how great they are as a couple, they are not truly married.
Add just one word – but oh, what this one word can do! – and this becomes “Hindi kasi sila talagang kasal” – that’s because they’re not really married. Any difficulty this couple has, even if it is far less painful or damaging than the difficulties spouses have, is attributed to their not being legally married... with the unspoken prediction that the relationship will be doomed to failure in time.
The non-legalization of divorce has an insidious, almost hypnotic effect, with many non-free thinkers presuming that if remarriage is not possible (forgetting this is merely because of man-made laws by legislators with their own personal and usually selfish biases and concerns), then there must be something wrong with their relationship.
It encourages this very clear, albeit unfortunate, premise that the first marriage is always better than any relationship that follows, however happy and soul nourishing it is. In addition, there is a subliminal message that many, for their own reasons, are quick to accept whether consciously or unconsciously: his first wife is his legal wife. Until he marries his second partner, she cannot be considered equal to someone recognized by all and sundry.
Some people are more ready than others to embrace this bias against second partnerships.
These usually include the first wife (“Lucy”), the children of the original marriage, and sometimes even the husband (Robert) of the first wife and now the husband of his second partner (“Anna”).
It is usually the psychological needs of the Lucys in this world that make them relish the idea of her husband’s new relationship not being a real marriage.
It is usually the children’s loyalty to their mother that makes them accept their mother’s characterization of Robert, their father, and his Anna. Usually (but not always) the father is characterized as a misguided soul who mistakes lust for love, and Anna is the wily slut and slattern who has lured him away from their happy family. If the children are incapable of independent thought, and thus take everything their mother says as gospel truth, how can they be anything else but cruel to Anna? To be otherwise would be disloyal to, and most likely hurt, their mother (and the subtext is: God knows she’s been hurt enough by their easily-led-by-the-nose-father and “that bitch”).
Ideally, once the children get older, they become more and more able to think for themselves, though alas – age is no guarantee of independent thought.
The ex-wife (mother) and the children feel they have a fighting chance when they force the ex-husband, Robert, especially if the children have been cruel subtly enough for Richard to convince himself Anna is imagining things or asking him to take sides when it is not necessary.
In addition, you see, Lucy and the children have the back up of the church and the state (thus giving him a chance to repent and become a lawful member of society once more). In my clinical experience doing therapy in both the US and the Philippines, many Filipino men are loath to be considered “bad” by their children, no matter how unreasonable the demands of the children are before he can be considered “good.”
True, issues surrounding the legalization of divorce should also be discussed on the national level and also from a philosophical, historical, and/or geopolitical perspective. If discussed in the social sciences, usually it is under the paradigm of anthropological or sociological comparisons between the Philippines and more realistic and more human-rights based societies.
If there is anyone who disagrees with me, please let me know. Anthropology and geopolitics are not my area of expertise and I would love to hear alternative views (but no alternative facts, okay?).
For the avoidance of doubt, most psychologists respect relationships and do not encourage permanent separations willy nilly. However, neither do we behave like the Office of the Solicitor General which seems to be tasked “to try to convince the couple not to go through the civil annulment, making sure the couple has exhausted all means to make the marriage work, perhaps even biding their time to make the couple reconsider and hope that time will make them realize that giving it another try might work.”
Oh no, psychologists are trained to respect their clients and do not suffer from illusions that they know better than their clients. All they hope to do is help the client realize where their hearts truly are and what they truly need, despite all the “should have’s” and “could have’s” they have been subjected to all their lives. – Rappler.com