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 three 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, 25, survived an unexpected violent attack by my now ex-partner, 23, also female, before Valentines, during our Baguio City vacation. I am contemplating if I should be bisexual or straight because women-to-women (w2w) relationships have burnt me out.
Socially, I am somewhat masculine presenting; roles such as courting my partner and financially supporting her are what is expected of me. She was the “femme.” We met online and clicked. I pursued her; she was intelligent, practical, and firm.
After a year she said “yes,” but we only lasted five months because of what happened. I was left with bruises on my body, even a bruised eye. This was a red-flag for my healing post-op; I just had cataract surgery three months prior. She initially said “I can’t say sorry for something I don’t remember happening.”
She was drunk when it happened. After two weeks, she dumped me to “heal herself,” only to find out she started dating again afterwards. In time, she explained that she had her traumas: a broken family, abused, born out of wedlock, messy relationships.
This incident that happened to me where she lashed out was because she was afraid of her stepmom coming home from the States, as she anticipates being kicked out of the house once she does.
When I talk to her online, I didn’t know that her little “Netflix nights” involved her drinking a lot of alcohol, but she proudly insisted she was highly tolerant – could that even be true?
As the relationship ended, I was told by her siblings that both her parents were dealing with alcohol and temper problems. I don’t drink alcohol because of my allergies and have never attempted to be insanely drunk.
I knew I had to be mindful and conscientious of her healing. I was at my most resilient because I knew I was the only one who had her back most of the time. Sometimes I felt micro-aggressions: rough play and biting. Outbursts became the norm; breaking up was always her go-to when things became difficult. She was proud of her dominant personality and how submissive I seemed.
Maybe because I loved her and was a psych major, I had sit-downs with her from time to time. Yet, I felt like I was walking on eggshells. I was trying to be right for her, but not for me.
When the Baguio vacation happened, I never saw the woman I loved again. Either she had a 180-degree personality change or her true personality came out.
Now, I wonder about dating men or other queer people: trans, etc. I am contemplating if I should be bisexual or straight because w2w relationships have burnt me out. Should I believe there is goodness in the dating pool of women?
It seems that the end of this relationship has left you unanchored, uncertain of how to move forward, but it is not clear that the solution is to channel your sexual orientation in a new direction. Just because one relationship with a woman has turned out badly surely doesn’t warrant that you should make such a radical change, particularly when there are so many other women to choose from.
After all, if you buy a car and it turns out to be a lemon, you don’t then decide never to buy another and only use public transport. No, you learn how to make a more educated choice, learn from your experience, and use the new information when embarking on your next relationship(s).
This is not to say that you should eschew men or other queer people if you genuinely so desire. If that is where your sexual orientation takes you, so be it. If the size of the dating pool is anything to go by, you will have a better chance among straight men than queer people. However, it isn’t the size but the quality of the dating pool that counts, so having a clear idea of what you are looking for can only be helpful.
That said, the world is full of people who have met their soulmates not by rigorous analysis and application of carefully calculated criteria, but purely by chance, so you could equally bump into your next love while at the bakery or visiting your great grandmother’s grave.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter. I am so sorry you had to go through so much trauma with your last relationship. The trauma you underwent was not only physical – which is certainly bad enough – but worse, psychological, emotional, and like most trauma, guilt-inducing.
The guilt usually comes from two factors:
- Wondering if you could have done better; wondering if only you were understanding enough, more demanding, less demanding, things would’ve been different. Your being a psychologist could’ve made you even more guilt-ridden; as if psychologists were supposed to be better in their personal relationships. Not so. Berating yourself for not being the perfect partner may even make your relationship go south much faster.
Finally, if your partner has a tendency to be unconscionable or slightly delusional, she may have picked up on your vulnerability, and feel statements like “I can’t be sorry for something I don’t remember” is enough of an excuse to lie, cheat, and be violent.
- Wondering if loving her meant you should forgive her violence, her lying, etc. simply because she herself experienced tremendous trauma. It is tempting to do so, especially if your past together was so loving and so beautiful, but no trauma (yours or hers) is reason enough for all she did to you.
It is also possible that you may have experienced abuse yourself, which could be one reason you stayed in the relationship even as her violence escalated. Dr. Jonice Miller (with Christine Musello) wrote the 2019 book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, where she says that childhood emotional neglect is actually an absence of response. It’s not an action that your parents commit, it’s something your parents (often unknowingly) omit. Childhood emotional neglect does not happen to the child, like trauma. Instead, it’s what fails to happen for the child, such as emotional awareness, emotional validation, and emotional discussion. It is not within the column’s remit to expound on this but please write to us again should you want to explore this further.
In addition to Mr. Baer’s answer, I would like to add that, perhaps the best thing would be to pay attention to the people your heart and mind respond to and/or your soul recognizes and choose them as friends, as part of your tribe. If, among them, you are blessed enough to find someone who also stirs your loins, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, then they are the people to consider as partner/s.
All the best,
Please send any comments, questions, or requests for advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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