[Two Pronged] How to let go of long-distance love

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 am a 56-year-old separated woman. I filed for a nullification case in 2018; we parted in August 2019. I had legal reasons to do so — him hiding an earlier marriage, calling me a whore because of past relationships. I tried to stick to my wrong decision (of marrying him), but despite his trying to make amends, I couldn’t forget his name calling.

We only connected when we had sex and I could only enjoy it with a sex video or when fantasizing about another man... usually a foreigner of my own imagination.

In 2019, I went to an island resort on business with no intention of meeting anyone, simply wanting to finish and go home. But in my short stay there, I met and fell for a foreigner.

We did not have sex, but some kind of sexual intimacy. We connected and even when apart, we became online classmates where I coached him over a business course, spoke almost everyday and went has far as having phone sex.

With the coming of COVID, I heared from him less and less. Probably because of his own economic situation and possible unavailability of WiFi, something he warned me about.

I know I face the possibility of not seeing him again and that I must move on. The problem is, I find the idea of having an affair with any other man distasteful, although I am open to meeting others.

It’s just that I feel I might cheat with another man or hurt another man for as long as I have the mental image of my friend and me in bed, which still arouses me until now.

While I still feel very sad over the idea of cutting the connection, I also want to move on and love again.

Please help give me a perspective which may help me move on.

Island Trapped

Dear Island Trapped (IT),

Thank you for your email and for affirming that contrary to many young people’s notions, the older among us can also have an exciting sex life!

So you went to a resort, met a foreigner and had “some kind of sexual intimacy” short of actual sex, and after parting you continued the relationship to the extent of having phone sex. Contact has, however, dwindled since the coronavirus pandemic and so you want to move on.

Well, it seems a trifle premature to write this guy off after only a few months if you are still having arousing mental images of him. His finances may improve, WiFi may become more available, and the constraints of COVID will lessen, following which you can convert your mental images into reality.

Instead, you seem to want to rush the whole process while still psychologically involved with him. You have never slept with him, yet you think to sleep with another man is cheating on him. This is not the attitude of someone ready to put a relationship behind her.

Moving on requires closure, which in your case means a clearer understanding of why communication with your foreigner has lessened. Either he has moved on himself or practical difficulties (money, internet) stand in your way. Once you establish the truth, you can then either carry on with him or get on with your life, free from any burden of guilt since the relationship will be over.

All the best, 

JAF Baer

Dear Island Trapped (IT),

Thank you very much for your letter. I love your ability to be rational when expressing your emotional needs and sexual desires-a capability possessed by very few.

Mr Baer suggests you clarify things with the foreigner you fell for (let’s call him Frank) before embarking on a relationship with someone else. I disagree.

I disagree on two counts—when a relationship, in general, “requires” fidelity; and whether Frank “deserves” fidelity or not.

In my opinion, fidelity is warranted only when you unequivocally tell the other person (in this case, Frank) that you intend to be faithful. Since you haven’t told him there is no subterfuge should you get involved with someone else. Whatever you want to do with another person (whether you actually do it or not) is ok, provided you protect yourself and your partner/s from STD and unnecessary splintering of your souls.

If you still have arousing images of your time together, terrific! Delayed gratification will make your reunion all the sweeter! And, if you don’t meet again, they can actually still be enjoyed under many different circumstances, either as springboards for reality or other even more exciting images.

I disagree about remaining faithful to Frank because he hasn’t worked enough for you and thus doesn’t “deserve your fidelity.”

Some evolutionary psychologists might even say he didn’t deserve your sexual favors. I wouldn’t go that far (because you enjoyed everything you did, right?), but I will tell you why they think so.

My favorite author, Dr Donald Symons says (and provides evidence) in the Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979) that “everywhere sex is understood to be something females have that males want.” Because the man typically wants sex more than the woman, she has a power advantage; the person who desires something less has greater control and can demand that the other (more desirous) person sweeten the deal by offering additional incentives or concessions. 

Dr. Blau, in his book Exchange and Power in Social Life (1964) describes the economics of love in the US as a series of transactions between a M and F, in which the male exchanges evidence of “commitment” (OR “gifts”—MGH) to the female for sexual access to her.”

It is baliktad (opposite) in your case, IT. You gave the gifts—coaching him over a business course, phone sex—and now you are thinking of some sort of commitment to a guy you are not even sure will work hard enough to see you.

This sounds harsh, and perhaps I am being too “countie” (nagbibilang) and missing the whole picture and if so, I apologize profusely.

However, in terms of giving you perspectives which may help you “move on,” you’ve got to admit, it isn’t half bad ☺

All the best,

MG Holmes

– Rappler.com


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.