[Two Pronged] When this lockdown ends, will my relationship end too?
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 Two Pronged,
Hopefully quarantine will end soon; we’ll all be able to go back to work carefully.
Our family is lucky not to have to worry about food paying bills. Home schooling young kids has been an interesting challenge. I've been bonding with them even more.
For my boyfriend, it has been a bit traumatic. He takes it very personally when they don’t obey him and they walk out mid-assignment. It’s probably best he leaves the homework to me. He’s very kind; the best person I’ve ever dated. We started going out 4 years ago; he had no problem dating someone with kids. Step-parenting has been a slow process for him, but he genuinely tries. He just gets easily discouraged when things aren’t smooth. He takes things personally sometimes. Otherwise, he is very patient, self-effacing, still encouraging the children to call him uncle because he’s not sure he deserves the label father.
The problem is me. Being stuck at home for 2 months, with neither of us being able to go out to work or hang out with our sets of friends. I find I enjoy the hours of homeschooling I give the children without him; also the few hours of work alone. I’m not used to having someone around all the time. I don’t resent him; I wonder if he feels the same about me. We enjoy most of our time together.
We cannot legally get married because of archaic laws in this country and maybe that’s a good thing for me. We have been in a committed relationship which could last forever, but I also feel I’d be happy being alone, especially since I have children who need another 10 or so good years of parenting. I wonder how many other people feel like I do? I wonder if I’m just one of those people that will probably not end up with one person for my entire life.
The grass is always greener (TGIAG)
Thank you for your email.
The most important points you raise seem to be that while an all-round great guy your boyfriend (let’s call him Tony) is easily discouraged when things don’t go smoothly (you give home schooling as an example but does this extend to Tony’s relationship with you?) and your feelings of claustrophobia which lead to questioning your commitment to Tony and indeed to any relationship.
When it comes to confronting one’s shortcomings, it seems that the two most favored approaches are to work around the problem area (you take over from Tony in the classroom) or actively try to fix the problem. Of course there are many nuances but the problem with the work around option is that the issue remains unresolved, merely swept under the carpet, and this may cause more problems down the road. Trying to fix the problem, on the other hand, is great if it works but has its own shortcomings if it fails.
As for your own reactions to the claustrophobia of lockdown, times of short term adversity are perhaps not the moment to consider long term changes to your domestic arrangements. They are ideal to test the strengths and weaknesses of those arrangements but always subject to the caveat that these tests are under abnormal conditions. When normality returns and claustrophobia is a thing of the past, these matters will require revisiting in the light of the new conditions.
In the meantime, by all means store up your thoughts and impressions but perhaps postpone action, or inaction, till more normal times are with us again. And take the long view — your children may need 10 more years of parenting but you probably have decades ahead of you. The best partnerships harness the strengths of both partners and minimize the weaknesses.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your email.
You bring up two major issues: One is that “I feel I’d be happy being alone,” but that is not really sufficient reason to not remain in a committed relationship. Even people in committed relationships living in same house have happily had their alone time, with neither begrudging the other because of it.
Since money doesn’t seem a problem, you could even go the Mia Farrow-Woody Allen route, committed but living in separate houses. And no, your relationship doesnlt need to end up the way Allen and Farrow ended theirs.
The second problem is Tony himself. He’s the best person you’ve ever dated and had no problem dating someone with kids (rare for a Filipino). In fact, the only problem with Tony seems to be that “step-parenting has been a slow process for him, but he genuinely tries." That he still encourages the children to call him uncle because he’s not sure he deserves the label father shows he respects your children’s feelings. Unlike others committed to people who have children, he did not try to fake or force relationships with or on them simply to impress you. Sounds like a keeper, TGIAG.
IN fact, the only suggestion I would give is, instead of “I wonder if he feels the same” about various aspects of your relationship, why not ask him? There are many banes that go with lockdown, so why not take advantage of one of its boons? Use the time and lack fo distraction it gives you to work on your relationship more deeply.
However, you, of course, are the bossing regarding aspects of the relationship you control; as is he regarding similar aspects. I am happy that your feels like an equal, and not a lopsided relationship.
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.