[Two Pronged] Should I marry him?
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 Mr Baer:
I'm 30 years old already and I'm getting married next year. I'm having second thoughts about the wedding and am seriously considering backing out.
I've been with my fiancé for almost 4 years now. During our first 3 years together, we just went out on Saturdays for dinner, movies, and badminton. During those 3 years, he always complained about driving just to pick me up. He always made a comment about how I look, dress, put on make up, have a pimple, gain weight, etc.
I feel we're drifting apart. We start to argue, I get irked by his little mistakes. He shows his different scary side. Maybe mine too. My parents are against the wedding, especially when he gave me a prenup agreement to sign, stating complete separation of properties. He is 10 years older. We grew up in different environments.
I know I love him because I put his well-being before mine. He's really important to me. He's a good man, goal-oriented, doesn't drink, smoke, or gamble. I admire his intelligence, which sometimes makes him arrogant, but I got used to it. Our present personalities are clashing now, making our situation more difficult.
I'm hesitant to break it off with him because I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing or just having cold feet. Secondly, we've already paid the suppliers. Third, I'm afraid of what people might say. Fourth, he instilled in my mind the fact that girls lose their value when they hit 30. I'm afraid I might not find another great guy like him.
I've asked for signs. I pray every night and before going to bed. I've gone to fortune tellers. In my desperation for a sign, I've even tried iPad apps. My mom tells me that she's scared for me. I don't know if she's saying that as a mom or she's really just paranoid. She suggested that I take a break from wedding planning and not talk to him for a week. If he runs after me, then I will know if he loves me.
Our wedding is 5 months away yet I'm still really confused. I'm not really good with breakups. My heart gets crushed every time I think about leaving him. I already tried talking to him but he refuses to compromise.
I don't know why I have all these doubts, why I'm scared. I've been under my parents' care 30 years of my life and this is a big change for me. I want to make sure I'm doing the right thing.
Thank you for your message.
According to your account, these are the pros and cons of marrying your fiancé:
In favor of going ahead are:
1. You think your fiancé (let's call him Jim) is a "good man," defined by you as goal-oriented, doesn't drink, smoke, or gamble.
2. You admire his intelligence.
3. You've already paid the suppliers.
4. You're afraid of what people might say.
5. You believe him when he says that girls lose their value when they hit 30.
6. You're afraid you might not find another "great" guy like him.
On the other hand, you are worried because:
1. He is always making adverse comments about your looks, etc.
2. He complains about doing things for you like picking you up.
3. He’s shown his “different scary side.”
4. He made you sign a prenup.
5. He's 10 years older.
6. He is arrogant.
7. He refuses to compromise.
8. Your parents are against the wedding.
There does not appear to be a great deal of romance or love involved here. That may be because of the "unusual" definitions of love that you and your mother have given:
According to you, "I know I love him because I put his well-being before mine."
According to her, if he runs after you, then you will know he loves you.
I would suggest that these definitions are at best inadequate and likely to lead to a serious mistake.
The real issue here is that you have invested the last 4 years of your life putting Jim's interests before yours and he has taken full advantage of this by treating you extremely badly. He denigrates you constantly, he won't compromise, everything has to be his way, and so on. Even his virtues are totally neutral, in that they have nothing specifically to do with you, and negative, i.e., this is simply a list of things he doesn't do.
Where is the love, affection, and tenderness that couples are supposed to enjoy and share? Where is the meeting of minds? Where is the mutual respect? Where is the sense of standing together to face the worst that the world may throw at the two of you?
Instead of seeing this reality, you have concentrated on the pain of breaking up. But isn’t it time to consider another sort of pain? That of being shackled to this man by marriage for the rest of your life, the butt of decades of more unpleasant comments about your looks, more refusal to compromise, more arguing, and the rest of it. All this in exchange for no smoking, drinking, and gambling?
Frankly, the cost/benefit analysis simply does not stack up. Marriage is too high a price to pay for a life of access to such poor benefits. Disengage as soon as possible and hopefully you will find someone who appreciates you for who you truly are.
All the best - Jeremy
Thank you very much for your letter. For once, I agree with Jeremy 100%. I have no compunctions telling you this because you agree with him 100% too. In fact, I get the feeling that the only difference is that you are still holding out for a “sign,” a smidgeon of hope, that marrying him might be the better decision.
In fact, dearest Carmelita, this is what you wrote yourself: “I've gone to fortune tellers. In my desperation for a sign, I've even tried iPad apps.”
In truth, you have had many signs telling you this guy isn’t for you, yet you refuse to accept them. What you want is THE sign – a definitive reason for leaving him, like Cinderella’s foot being the only one to fit the glass slipper or the Prince’s kiss to be the only one to wake up Snow White.
But, alas, true life isn’t usually like that, Carmelita. At best, we make hypotheses about each man we meet, and decide whether he is marriage material or not. Sometimes it’s easy; e.g., he might be okay if he weren’t (as obvious as) a “conman,” or (as babaw as) “6 inches shorter,” or, most heartbreakingly for some, “already married.”
But in your case, Carmelita, it isn’t all that easy, especially if you buy into the claptrap that unmarried women in their 30s are doomed to a life of loneliness or a coward’s mantra: “better to be an object of pity ('Kawawa naman, wala pang asawa') than an object of indignation or anger (Who does she think she is?!!? Doing everything she wants to without worrying about her reputation!).”
Plus, you seem to feel not marrying this guy will leave you with one of only two possibilities: remain a child in your parents’ house forever or, because you haven’t had any previous experience, fail miserably at having a home of your own. I suspect you are worried that refusing this man will be like the silly fish who jumped from the “frying pan into the fire,” and then where would that leave you?
But it doesn’t have to be that way, Carmelita. You need not live in an either-or world.
For example, it would be terrifying if you had to move out of your parents’ house on Day 1 and then be a successful homemaker (for yourself) on Day 2. However, if you had plenty of time before Day 1 to find the right apartment with lots of light and with cabinets, curtains, etc., the color of your choice, and if, on Day 2, all you expected of yourself was to sleep over — not alone but with your yaya (maid) who took care of you from the time you were 5 years old — it wouldn’t be so bad. On Day 3, you could go back and sleep at your parents, on Day 4 (and maybe even 5) sleep over as you did on Day 2, etc. It might not be as terrifying.
No one is expecting you to become a fearless, independent man-eater the day after you leave your fiancé, Carmelita. In truth, you need not be a man eater ever! With a little planning and patience, terror is not the only outcome. In fact, joy and enthusiasm are distinct possibilities.
Psychologists (especially those trained in applied behavioral analysis) call it “successive approximation,” i.e., taking little and systematic steps toward the final goal so that finally achieving it is possible.
It won’t be easy, but, it need not be that difficult either. Plus, the possibilities open to you once you decide to take on the challenge are so endlessly attractive.
If you’re interested, Carmelita, Jeremy and I will be very happy to help you with the whys and wherefores of behavior analysis.
All the best - MG Holmes
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