By Tina Arceo-Dumlao
Some popular movies, songs, and television shows would have us believe that marriage is a fate almost worse than death, often referred to as a trap, the end of the happy life or a one-way ticket to endless misery. But marriage can be the exact opposite, believe it or not.
Instead of a trap, marriage can free us to become better people. It may be the end of the carefree life but also the beginning of a more meaningful and fulfilling existence. If you decide to have children and become parents, it adds another dimension to your relationship. Instead of misery, marriage can indeed lead us to our real destiny on earth, the reason for our being.
Last Dec. 11, 2011, my husband and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary and we like to believe that we are as happy now as we were that day in 1993 when we became man and wife in the eyes of God, if not more.
And so the young and restless colleagues and friends who are about to get married ask me, how do you keep the marriage happy and fulfilling?
Here are a few tips based on what worked for me these past years.
Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting over just so you can say you’ve ‘won’ an argument. Fight for the big decisions you really believe in such as what kind of a parent you’d like to be or where you’d like your children to go to school, for instance, and just agree to disagree on others. You win some, you lose some. Compromise is at the heart of any working marriage.
Decide on money matters as early as possible. Assuming that both of you work, it is best to have separate individual accounts and then maybe a joint account for joint expenses. You’ve earned your money, so you’ve certainly earned the right to spend it the way you wish. But of course, agree to share in big expenses, just so you won’t end up paying for everything yourself while your spouse spends on luxuries.
Fix the schedule for the holidays. One of the major sources of heartaches is the holiday schedule. Talk about where you want the family to spend Christmas and New Year’s or even Sunday lunches or dinners. Once that’s fixed, there will be less haggling over where to spend these important dates, and less whining over “but we always go to your family.”
Respect ‘alone’ time. It’s not healthy for any relationship – even marriage – to be perpetually in each other’s pockets. We are individuals, after all, with needs and wants that cannot always be met by your spouse. So go out with friends, have a weekend alone, or just go somewhere you can recharge. It’s not a crime. Remember, there is a you, there is a he or she and there is an us.
Don’t try to change your spouse. We all have our quirks: some are annoying, some are cute. Don’t try to get rid of each and every one of them just to fit your notion of what a spouse should be. Nobody is perfect. Not even you, so don’t expect your spouse to be perfect. I always tell the romantics out there, if you were annoyed by one habit before you got married, chances are you will still be annoyed years later. So can you take it?
Lastly, share loads of laughter. There’s nothing like laughter to cure any ills in a relationship. I always say, if you can laugh about practically anything and everything with your husband or wife, then you’re on your way to a fulfilling journey together that will hopefully last as long as you both shall live.
Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash
By Gina Abuyuan
Many people find it strange—nay, downright unbelievable—that my ex-husband and I are on good terms. As I wrote in one of my old magazines, it’s almost impossible to salvage positive feelings about a person who has caused you unimaginable pain.
For a time, even my fiancé, believing that it would be in my best interest, thought I should cut off all ties with my ex-husband.
It’s impossible, of course, considering we have twin boys between us, and I’d like him to be a part of the twins’ lives and vice versa. Besides, there’s the practical stuff like tuition fees, medical expenses, and extra-curricular activities to discuss—so wouldn’t things be easier if everyone just got along nicely?
I quote Brooke Burke of ModernMom.com when she talks of her own relationship with her ex: “We decided to take the high road for the kids.”
Two years ago, I coined a term for this sort of relationship: “co-parenting.” Does everyone believe in this? No. Is it for everyone? No. But if you’d like to try and make things easier for you, your ex-spouse, and your kids, here are three jump off points:
Get third party help. Both of you should see a psychologist, therapist, counselor, or join a self-development workshop or seminar (don’t get addicted, though, or else the seminars will drive your life, and leave you dependent and disempowered). I recommend Bicbic Medez of the RCW Foundation (which also has short courses on re-grouping and getting clear on where you want to take your life). Call (2) 436-0710 or 426-6832or visit www.rcwfi.org for more details. Maribel Dionisio of The Love Institute (loveinstitute.multiply.com) can also help. As the organization’s name connotes, it helps couples and families heal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll try to get you and your ex back together. Just be honest and open about what kind of relationship you’d like to re-create.
Take charge of the transformation. The real change has to come from within you. My ex-husband and I had countless fights and misunderstandings before achieving this sense of harmony and peace. Those blow-ups began because we felt the other was over-stepping boundaries, assuming the worst of the other, and thinking the one “should’ve known” or “should’ve known better.” Remember, the issues you’re supposed to be focusing on now aren’t about the two of you: they’re about your kids. Let me be extreme about it: Talk like you’re talking business, but learn to negotiate nicely. Get sticky issues like expenses, schooling, schedules/holidays out of the way. But learn to be flexible too.
Agree on the non-negotiables. Here are some things you can let slide: what foods they’ll eat, what they wear, what sports they take up. Here are some of the things my ex-husband and I will not budge on: a holistic, exceptional education and life experiences, their freedom to explore their spirituality later on, addressing immediately any circumstance or individual that hurts them (e.g., on two occasions, I let go of two drivers, on the spot, within minutes of learning they made my kids cry—the first, by driving too fast and the second, by cracking a cruel joke. I didn’t even allow them back in the house or subdivision to pack up their things). Harsh? Maybe. But we want to reassure them that though Mommy and Tatay are no longer married, we’re still part of the same team when it comes to them.
By Jing Lejano
The other week, I had dinner at my friend Janice’s house. I’ve known Janice and her husband Gary for years. And I’ve always looked up at them as an ideal couple. They not only love each other to bits, they also work very well together.
Janice and I were at the living area talking when Gary said an inviting “Kain na.” When nobody seemed to pay him any attention, he barked a more commanding “Kain na!” And, as if on reflex, I stood up straight and realized that there was a man in the house. It was kind of disconcerting.
I’ve been a single parent for years and years now. There is no man in my house. I’m the boss of the house. I spend time with my kids and take care of them when they get sick. I pay the bills and run the household. If something needs to be done–paint the walls, change the light bulb, tile the bathroom floor, whatever–I do it. If I can’t do it, I pay someone else to do it for me.
I admit that it’s not the most ideal of situations but I make the best of it because I have to. I just have to.
Sometimes, I feel guilty about the whole thing. When they were younger, I noticed how my boys got so easily attached to my sisters’ boyfriends. I knew they were just hungry for a father figure, and unfortunately, that’s something I couldn’t order online.
But when I see my boys today, taking care of their niece Sophie, going out with their barkada, laughing at reruns of How I Met Your Mother, washing the dishes no matter how reluctantly, and occasionally, fighting over the computer, I tell myself, “We’re doing fine.”
Photo by Aswin on Unsplash
By Gina Abuyuan
A friend and I got into a pretty huge argument a couple of years ago when she kept on insisting that I was a solo parent, while I felt the total opposite. Well, technically, I was—I was recently annulled and living alone–but the support group I had from family, my partner (who at that time was working abroad), loyal househelp, and friends made me more equipped at parenting from all fronts than most moms who were married.
Perhaps what irked me most was how she categorized or described kids of solo parents. They had issues, she said. Special issues that needed special attention. And that I, being a solo parent, would not be able to best handle such issues.
Not to say I’m turning a blind eye towards situations that may indeed need intervention, or that I’m in total denial about issues kids raised by one parent may have (believe me, I’ve seen and heard quite a few), but the scenario isn’t as bleak as she wanted to paint it to be.
In fact, kids of solo parents can be intrapersonally healthier than kids of partnered parents. Of course it depends on the environment in which the child is brought up. It goes without saying that if a child is brought up with respect, attention, and a fair amount of discipline, he or she will turn out ok.
Here are other things single parents may be doing that help in producing more well-grounded kids:
* Single parents have a more solid view of reality. It may sting at first, but there comes a point when every solo parent realizes that they’ve “missed the bus” in the fairy tale life department. Therefore, solo moms and dads are more conscious of bringing up their kids with a more balanced and sober view of disappointment and unmet expectations. Whether one turns bitter and cynical, or hopeful—but not naïve and psycho—is up to him or her. What every single parent should watch out for though is the syndrome called “parent-child,” wherein the child takes the role of the parent. The child may feel he or she should take upon the role of an adult, or even take care of mom or dad.
* Without meaning to, single parents teach their kids to be more understanding and responsible. Those family weekend trips to the mall, the church, the on-the-dot family dinners? Sure, a two-parent unit can fulfill those easily most of the time, but when taken up by a solo parent, schedules tend to get moved around. There’s work to be done, errands to be run, tasks that have to be completed that would be much easier if mom/dad had a partner. Kids of solo parents learn to deal with unexpected glitches early in life, and therefore become more understanding. If you’re lucky, your kids will also take it upon themselves to bring to the table—whether it be a particular behavior, or duty—something uniquely his or hers, in order to make the family function better.
* Kids of single parents communicate more and better. Again, provided he or she has no deep emotional or mental issues, single parents seem to make more efforts in communication and keeping connected with their kids. Heck, who else do they have to talk to anyway? Likewise, who else can you turn to to learn about what they’re going through? You don’t have a spouse, and a yaya isn’t exactly the best source of information. I may be wrong, but observation has shown me that kids of solo parents are more bonded with their mom/dad on deeper levels.
And, oh, in case you’re wondering, my friend doesn’t have kids. Neither is she married.
Photo by Randy Rooibaatjie on Unsplash