[Two Pronged] Should I leave my husband?
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:
I've been married for 4 years now. Our marriage has its ups and downs like other couples. We fight with each other but are still able to patch things up.
Until last month.
We fought again. It was really the worst. He took the calendar from the wall and hammered it on my head.
He curses and that hurts me even more. I fight back verbally, but I cannot equal his cursing.
We had many problems even before our marriage. My husband belongs to the "alta sociedad." He does not have to work to support himself. He plays video games, goes to the gym, watches porn, and other useless things. Sometimes he likes to try things he sees. It shames me to do them. The worst is when I had to dress like a maid, carrying a vacuum cleaner, with an apron and hat, but nothing else.
He never looked for a job. I work as a freelance writer. It is not enough to support myself. But now I feel tired, especially after our last fight. It seems my love for him is gone. I am cold towards him. I'm planning to separate from him. Please advise me. I don't know what to do.
Now you say that your husband (let's call him Diego) does not need to work and consequently "wastes" his time playing video games, going to the gym, and watching porn. He likes to make you enact scenes from his porn – posing nude as a maid, for example – which you do not appreciate and generally you fight a lot.
While this appears to be a woeful situation, you also tell us that you had many problems before you got married. While you do not specify what these were, it seems reasonable to suppose that they included the ways in which Diego spent his time. The bottom line is that you knew about most if not all these issues before you married him and yet you went ahead anyway.
So now you need to ask yourself what has changed since that fateful day when you walked up the aisle knowing full well what sort of man you were marrying. You have told us about his faults but only you know what made you persevere and become his wife. Are these positive qualities still there, have they vanished or have they simply been overwhelmed by the negatives? Perhaps it's that he has now started physical abuse – if so, that is a game changer – but it is not clear from your account whether this is in fact a new development.
Whatever your evaluation, what you do next will also be influenced by your attitude to marriage and the sentiment of your family and friends. Some people are happy just to walk away from a bad marriage regardless of the opinion of others, some stick it out despite the fiercest adversities while most fall between the two. You seem to be all but decided to separate and I hope that everything works out well for you.
All the best,
Thank you for your letter above. Just one question: Is there anything else you did not tell us in your letter, kasi parang (because it seems that) something is missing. I could be wrong, of course, but I cannot help thinking that it was not only his physical abuse and his ratcheting up his verbal abuse that has made you determined to leave him. Was it something particularly harsh that he told you? Did he do more than hammer the calendar on your head?
Dear Dr Holmes:
Nothing else happened. The reason we fought was because I took a job that he did not think was befitting his family position. I now work as an executive secretary for a CEO in a company. It was when I refused to quit my job, after many curses, that he hammered the calendar on my head. I am sorry. No changes.
But there was a change! Don't you see, Emma? You took a job – perhaps without his knowing, perhaps without his "permission," and that is probably what made him so angry he crossed the line from verbal to physical abuse. Taking a job that pays, even not as much as the kind of job he would think befits his family, is still a strike for independence. Also, it gives you some regular income, something a freelance writer cannot count on.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me answer (mainly) your original letter:
Thank you very much for your letter. I cannot help thinking Mr Baer unfair for taking you to task for marrying Diego anyway despite "knowing full well what sort of man you were marrying." But you got to know him even better during your marriage and what you didn't realize before was that he was capable of physically hurting you. For many women, and you seem among them, that is a deal breaker.
But perhaps it is me who is unduly harsh with Mr Baer. Because he did not realize that the reason for your fight was your taking a regular paying job.
I do not know if what you now earn as an executive secretary is enough for you to leave him. But even if it isn't, all you need is either to get another job. It may be difficult, but you passed the biggest hurdle of all: refusing to quit the first "real job" you had despite your husband's asking you to do so. I imagine that was the first time you stood up to him.
Before, he could get you to "dress like a maid, carrying a vacuum cleaner, with an apron and hat, but nothing else" even if it shamed you. Having tasted the freedom to say no and the joy of standing up for yourself, you may get the strength to say no to other things that seem demeaning to you.
I think you will now voice even more strongly (if you haven't before) your dismay at his not having a job. You say: "He does not have to work to support himself. He plays video games…and other useless things." In a later paragraph you add: "He never looked for a job." Clearly this rankled. But now that you yourself have gotten a job, I imagine it rankles even more.
You are honest enough to say you "fight back verbally," but I think this last fight helped you realize that Diego's cussing was beyond how people usually fought verbally.
You seem determined to leave. I, personally, feel that is the best decision you could make. I cannot say it is a professional suggestion, conscious of the fact that the two letters you wrote are not sufficient knowledge on which to base such an important decision.
I see that our lawmakers are finally realizing that it is time to seriously consider a divorce bill. Even if such a bill is not law by the time you leave him (if you do leave him) it would be wise to seek legal counsel as to your rights (and responsibilities) if you separate physically.
You have a few things in your favor: No children to worry about, enough integrity to work and, I feel, enough courage to strike out on your own (or with your family's help – if only by giving you a place to stay). My feeling is that as long as it is not soul crushing, psychologically depleting, okay na okay (it is definitely okay) to look for another, higher-paying job should you want to.
I wish you well. Legal advice is what you sorely need, but I hope some of our insights have helped you, kahit konti lang (even a little).
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.