[Two Pronged] I was complacent and presumed he'd stay – until now
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 left my first husband and took my sons with me after I discovered he was still seeing his mistress whom he had promised to leave.
My youngest sister later introduced me to an American friend of hers online and we immediately hit it off. We would talk for hours on end (politics, life, love, banter, witticisms, metaphysics) 'til 3am, laugh and enjoy each other's company – so much so, that we fell in love with each other.
After 3 months, he proposed marriage. I said yes.
After a month, he flew here to meet me and my family – one whole week of being together. Soon enough, he made plans to move his life from 8300 miles away to be with me.
With whatever savings he had, he came and we moved in together. At the time, I worked with an international organization which meant working 12 hour days Monday to Saturday. He was unemployed, looking for work.
The first couple of years, everything was blissful. I was still married, so he would get his tourist visa renewed regularly, just so he could stay here. He also helped patch things between me and my son.
When his savings depleted, I became anxious about making sure I could financially sustain both of us. He couldn't work because he was still a tourist, I was frantic and became easily irritated.
He tried working online, which contributed to the finances, but things began to change for me. We talked less, I complained more. I would be asleep when he finished working online. Our saving grace was my son’s daughter, our first grandchild.
She was the glue that held us together. He showered her with love like I could never believe. He still showered me with gifts, and called me "beautiful," which no other man has ever, ever done for me.
My distance from him grew, and he noticed. We began quarrelling over trivial things, and he'd question why I always worked on Saturdays.
In my anger, I told him we were done. When I was ready to talk after a week, I discovered he had replaced me with someone online, using another FB account to connect with her. I begged him to give us another chance. He was hesitant, but he said I could try and be the same woman he knew from before. So, while he was in his other relationship, I was trying to win him back. After a couple of months, he broke off with the girl and we tried to start all over again.
After a couple of years, we decided to move to the South because living in Manila was getting too stressful. He secured an online teaching job that paid well. Moving did not make our relationship better.
While he was trying to get the marriage going, I still complained and had no interest in sex. He thought I was having an affair but I wasn't. I was downright tired, from work, from the commute, et.
This was very frustrating for him. He dropped hints, he was very verbal, but I just wouldn't budge. When my children or grandchildren needed help, I gave them priority every time.
He'd give me, my children, and the grandchildren gifts/treats whenever they visited. Every time, he'd say, "just remember this when I piss you off."
I have been like this for 6 years, and his frustration grew. There would be shouting matches every so often, making both of us very depressed. I'd threaten to leave, and initially he'd stop me; but as my words became more and more cutting and degrading, he stopped fighting for me to stay.
I was complacent, presuming he'd stay – until now.
After one fight, he broke up with me and said he was not budging until I change. He's said he was tired of not being number one in my life, because everything else came before him (not only my family, but my friends – including an online game).
I understand this was my own undoing. I didn't fight for him when we got back together. I became complacent. I just couldn't get the energy, nor the libido to be intimate anymore. I don't know if my partial hysterectomy in 2009 had something to do with it.
I think he's already looking for someone else (can't say I blame him). This past week, we have been talking non-stop. I have cried my heart out, begged him to stay and promised to change. He seems quite indifferent now. I realize that I wasn't giving him what he needed, while he was giving of himself. He couldn't give anymore because I have drained him.
It's my fault, but he says that I would have to try REALLY REALLY hard to win him back. Again.
I don't know how to fix me, and I don't know how to fix us.
Please help me.
Thank you for your email.
According to your account, the first years together with your boyfriend (let’s call him Bill) were blissful. However, when his savings ran out and he couldn’t work because he only had a tourist visa, things took a turn for the worse, your relationship deteriorated and he connected with another woman. Although you subsequently started over and he got a better job, things didn’t improve and now you are on the brink of a final rupture.
Relationships where one party is principally or solely responsible for the family’s wellbeing can easily be subject to tremendous stress, particularly if total income is barely sufficient and there is an element of uncertainty as to future cashflow.
This situation is often exacerbated if as seems to be your case one or both partners are uncomfortable that the woman is the primary earner (for example if they have been brought up to believe that it is the man’s role to be the breadwinner).
What can make matters worse is if the lower earner, in addition to being male, is also a foreigner. For good or for ill, a relationship with a foreigner is often considered equivalent to winning the jackpot, as they are stereotypically rich, and indeed there are endless examples of foreigners providing an improved lifestyle not only to their partners but also to their extended families.
If Bill did not conform to this pattern, that may also have led to additional strain on your relationship.
Yet despite all the detail you give about jobs and money and hours worked, what is striking is that you give almost no information about the emotional side of your relationship with Bill, limiting yourself to saying that you became irritable, tired, depressed but giving almost no reason why.
This makes it very difficult to suggest how you can win him back but obviously if you do not change your strategy radically, you will lose him. Please write again if you want to give us more information on which to base suggestions for the future.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. What struck me most about your letter was your seeming tendency to think in black and white – alas usually portraying yourself as the person in black.
Example: Understandably, you became anxious when his savings ran out and you felt yourself the sole breadwinner. However, you then characterize yourself as being ungrateful and cold (which you probably were) and he as supportive, loving your children as if their natural father, and doing things for you “no other man has ever, ever done for me.”
In other words, you're the cold hearted biotch and he the knight in shining armor.
Do you see how he is constantly the good guy and you the bad one? I realize that you don’t always behave as if that were the case.
This only happens when you fear he is about to leave you for another woman, like you do at the moment. It is only then — when he is indifferent or uncaring — that you stop being cold and ungrateful and start noticing how important he is in your life.
Even this current crisis is clearly not as frightening if you say “I would have to try REALLY REALLY hard to win him back.” Of course you will try, and of course you will win him back. This is the music you have both chosen to dance by.
Unless you both try to change, things will be ok for a while, then you will be what you characterize as your uncaring self, he will finally balk, and it will be back to beating yourself over the head for your faults which I imagine you have grossly exaggerated.
You will also (and again) beat yourself for not appreciating his strengths, which I presume to be also grossly exaggerated, because this is the way most people who think in black and white characterize themselves and others.
Example: “He was giving of himself (until) he couldn't give anymore because I have drained him.” And this (your impending breakup) “is all your fault.”
But you see, Ana, it never is.
And the sooner both of you realize this, the better it will be for your relationship. Otherwise, you will both be on your best behavior. Well, you will, and he will probably feel he has to remain emotionally unavailable (at least, to you; perhaps not to the woman he is pursuing).
If this is the only way he can really get you to sit up and take notice, then I don’t blame him for using this whenever he does... which he will unless.
Some of the unless’s include allowing yourselves to be vulnerable to each other once more. It is less painful to think in the extremes: It serves me right that he left me because I was heartless and he became tired of being selfless. Or I drove him away because he was never number 1 in my life. That is probably because it is easier to stop being heartless or stop making him the last priority. If you are the extreme bad wife, any change in the right direction is already a success.
It is more threatening to look at things as they really are — I have faults and some of them are easier to deal with than others. Alas, the faults I have to work on really hard (and sometimes I don’t want to) are the ones that drive him up the wall, so if I really love him, I better start asking him to help me. In the same way it would be a good idea if he also opened himself up to you once more.
It cannot always be a matter of your pursuing him since he is no longer interested. This has been the pattern in your relationship and it will continue to be even when it becomes patently obvious that a man in his seventies cannot pull a woman except with his money.
Something’s gotta give, Ana.
And it is better if that is you and him, coming together as real people, with faults and having made mistakes, but also with strengths and having hope enough in your relationship to have given it your best shot all those years ago.
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.