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 have been married for 8 yrs. All those times I was never happy neither was he.
We are constantly fighting over small things. Every year, we try to separate. We’ve talked about making things work, but we still end up arguing and it’s not healthy anymore.
We weren’t ready when we got married. I got pregnant. Our religion forced us to get married. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to get back in our church.
He doesn’t like going to work, so I provided for all our financial for 5 years.
Late 2019, we separated ways. He left my place. It felt so good. I didn’t have any burden or guilt feelings, and I was actually happy.
He’s not giving financial support to our child, even now.
A person came along, a real man. He made me feel special, taught me things about life that my ex husband didn’t teach me.
There’s special connection between us. I wasn’t looking for love when I met him. I tried to avoid it, but it still gets in the way.
But I decided that we should part ways.
How can we be together if I am still married?
We all know that Philippines and Vatican are the only countries without divorce. I can’t afford an annulment. I’d rather spend my money for my child’s needs.
Is there any chances for me to be happy and be loved again? Or I just go back to my narcissistic lazy husband and try to patch things up again?
I really don’t know what to do and right now I’m still hurting over the decision I made.
Thank you for your message.
Religion and love sometimes make poor bedfellows and this certainly seems the case for you, Eva.
First, you and your husband (let’s call him Ron) got pregnant. Faced with this unexpected development you decided getting married and remaining in your church was a better option than any other at the time.
However, it has meant that you have been yoked ever since to a man with a deep-seated aversion to work and an affinity for arguing, qualities unlikely to enhance the marital experience.
After eight years of misery, you decided that separation would be a better option than even one day more with Ron.
So you and Ron parted, without any guilt and probably considerable relief. Then you had the great good fortune, and misfortune, to meet a man with whom you fell in love and began to experience all the good things that a true relationship should offer.
You do not say how your separation is viewed by your church but often the attitude taken is “love the sinner but not the sin,” meaning you can leave Ron but not replace him since you are still married and adultery is frowned upon.
This does not seem to have been your philosophy initially.
After all, you formed a new relationship with a “real man” despite the fact that you were still married to Ron. But it seems your conscience prevented you from continuing with him because you are still married to work-shy Ron.
Given the virtually total inaccessibility of divorce or annulment, you and Ron will remain married until “death do you part.” Your choices are principally to go with your faith or go with your heart. If you choose the former, it can be with or without Ron.
If the latter, your “real man” awaits. The choice is yours.
All the best,
I am not sure whether it will be Jeremy or I who has read your needs right. If it is him, then I agree with everything he says. If it is, however, me, then I disagree.
He thinks it is religion that is holding you back. I think it is your current frustration in the Philippines’ inability to provide realistic options for many in unhappy marriages.
I read you as a woman who trapped herself in a false dichotomy, thinking the only current choices she has are staying married to the wastrel Ron or remaining alone until you can get legally divorced/annulled.
There are so many other choices: learning to love not having a man around or, realizing you probably shouldn’t have followed your church’s insensitive insistence 8 years ago… which hopefully leads you to the greater realization that institutions can often be wrong – not just your church, but also our government that still makes divorce illegal, and has antediluvian and oftentimes capricious judges deciding whether you can legally separate or not.
My reading of you is that you feel badly done by (and you are) because you happen to be a Filipina and thus unable to divorce, or have a legal separation, without being saddled with a huge bill.
Dearest Eva, you do not have to contend with a host of societal, religious, political and cultural norms that shape how you should practice your relationships UNLESS you find it will be difficult to live without one or more of these institutions’ acceptance.
Please remember that institutions are there to serve/help/protect US, as are cultural mores, not the other way around.
It is not in our remit to give financial and/or legal advice. However, if we can add a little more light to the gloomy, dim future you seem to think is your only choice, then I feel we have done an adequate job.
Please, pleeeease tell us if there’ anything else we can do to help you, as we would love to.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.