[Two Pronged] My husband wants to be an OFW, I don’t

'He wants to apply for a job abroad but the problem is, I don't. I'm content with working here in our country but he is not.'

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 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.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

My husband and I got married last year. Everything seemed fine until we both lost our jobs last month due to recession. We’re now surviving on our very little savings.

He wants to apply for a job abroad but the problem is, I don’t. I’m content with working here in our country but he is not. He dreams of working in different countries and he wants me to go with him. I’m fine with him going, but not me.

I feel like I’m hindering him from reaching his goals for us. I know I’m being selfish because we’re already husband and wife and we should make sacrifices. But I also know for myself that I won’t give in.

This is causing a strain in our newly married life. Is it wrong for me to be this stubborn and selfish? Thank you. 

Alma 

——————–

Dear Alma, 

Thank you for your email.

Money, children, in-laws, work are just some of the potentially significant external issues that can end up derailing a marriage and we all have to find our own ways to deal with them. That said, the key to success involves developing a collaborative process in which both spouses work together to resolve possible differences of approach and opinion.

Faced with poor employment prospects, you and your husband (let’s call him Al) have diametrically opposed solutions – he wants to go abroad while you want to stay. His choice is understandable since there are 10 million plus OFWs currently deployed around the world already sending tens of billions of dollars back home. Yours is also understandable since if there are jobs at home, not everyone wants to leave and try their luck elsewhere.

Of course, whether your job prospects are truly rosy is unclear; you are after all unemployed at present and you have not told us what sort of job you hope to secure. 

However, the essence of your problem is not the extent to which there are job prospects at home and abroad but rather how to handle marital discord at this early stage of your marriage. Before addressing that though, let’s just summarize your main options: 

  • You both go abroad: this would go down well with Al but not with you;
  • You both stay at home: good for you but not for Al;
  • Al goes abroad and you stay at home: you say you are fine with this but not whether Al is. 

In the light of these options, how should you proceed? A sound marriage will rest, among other things, on good communication and reasonable compromise, particularly when adverse circumstances intervene. You and Al therefore need to discuss how all the options available might impact on such areas as income generation, building a successful marriage, raising a family, etc. 

As a general rule, living apart, particularly long-term, does not make a positive impact on a relationship, but many people are not fortunate enough to be given a genuine choice and simply have to manage as well as they can.

You mention that marriage requires sacrifices and you are concerned about being stubborn and selfish. Just consider that these apply as much to Al as to you. 

Sure, marriage requires compromise but it is not a one-way street. It is as stubborn to insist on going abroad as it is to insist on staying home. So approach your discussions of your future with this in mind; don’t concede the moral high ground unnecessarily! Wishing you every success.

JAF Baer

  

Thank you very much for your letter.  On the one hand, it contains a seemingly reasonable request for validation – “(My husband) dreams of working in different countries and he wants me to go with him. I’m fine with him going but …But I also know for myself that I won’t give in. Is it wrong for me to be this stubborn and selfish? “ – leading us to reassure you that “Of course not” because, as Mr Baer says: “If you look at it that way, he too has the responsibility to not insist on his way alone.”

In truth, however, your request opens a minefield of expectations, realistic and unrealistic, about how to deal with differences between spouses. While happy you asked for our opinion about your current situation, I also know that the one you should be asking, discussing, agreeing, disagreeing with is your husband.

You do not want to be like Laura Pritchett who, when she broke up with her husband after 20 years of marriage realized that:

Dr John Gottman, renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce, co authored a book with journalist Nan Silver, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work : A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert – where he mentions two myths about conflict, which relates to what is going on in your lives right now.

MYTH 1: Conflict is a sign that you’re in a bad relationship.” 

Wrong. In fact, no conflict is the thing to worry about. Conflicts are inevitable when one lives closely and honestly with one’s spouse. Ignoring them will only make them fester.

Where you will both work for the time being will not be the only conflict that rocks your marriage. It can, however, be a template on how best to deal with conflicts – with honesty, humility, an acknowledgment that there rarely is a permanent “solution” to something and we can agree to change course/decisions/negotiate when circumstances change, and have a grudging acceptance that this, after all, is the best way to deal with things.  

Good luck in dealing with this conflict. No matter how you decide to settle this particular issue at this particular point in space and time, remember that none of this has to be set in stone forever. 

Each of your desires and thus, preferred ways of dealing with new situations may not be 100% compatible, but that is no surprise for people with minds of their own. The challenge is not to have the same desires, but to navigate these so that each person feels listened to and validated. 

All the best,

MG Holmes 

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED.Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

 

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