Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Marriage of Equals

I recently heard that a girl from my old high school has separated from her husband and is currently living with her children overseas. I'm pretty sure at this point some of my readers will wonder what is so special about this news and others would be ablaze with questions.

Had I heard this news a few years ago, my first thought would be how could someone from my old high school be separated? I came from a very conservative, nun run Chinese school. And if you got married in the Philippines, you can't get a divorce. My first questions would be did they try to work things out first? Why did the wife take the kids away from the father?

But when I first heard it, I found myself asking the bearer of this news: Why did they separate? Answer: Because the husband was abusive. 2nd question: Is she happier now? Answer: Yes. Well good for her!

I remember the gossip mill going over time years ago when we heard one of our old high school classmate got divorced. The curiosity, the theories, the what if's. Today all I care about is whether each party is happier and wish them the best.

But unfortunately this isn't how many people think. I was told this girl wouldn't have left the marriage had they remained in Manila. It was through good luck that her family was able to migrate overseas. While overseas, the husband couldn't handle it and left without a word. Nothing was in her name, so she was left with no money and income. He calls a few months later demanding she go home to continue her wifely duties. It was at that point that she finally stood her ground. She told him she will do whatever it takes to survive without him and support herself and her kids. She is currently living just fine without him, with a full-time job, both kids in school and living in her own apartment. Had she remained in the Philippines, there was no way this would have happened. After all the dust had settled from her broken marriage, she saw how strong and capable she really is.

If she was in the Philippines, she would have had to endure the stigma behind leaving your spouse, especially when you have children. Somehow its always the wife's fault. I don't know why. She wouldn't be able to get much advice and I doubt much support from family and friends. And any support or advice would have veered towards the "going back to work things out" route and "endure the abuse". Or she might even have been asked what she could be doing wrong or that she should try harder to please him. And another serious question would be income. There is no way you can find a job in the Philippines straight away that would afford you an apartment, tuition for 2 kids and with no financial support from family.

I know of a married couple whom no one knows, as of the last time I asked, whether they are still a couple or not. The whispered questioning has been going on for a few years now and still hasn't stopped. What I don't get is what the big deal is with all the secrecy. Yes, its sad that they might be separated. But they don't have kids and everyone knows they haven't really been living in the same country for sustained periods of time. Although I'd like to think all my friends are open minded and non-judgmental, I guess it just shows there is still a huge stigma when it comes to separation.

I'm hoping there's someway I can return to my high school and give a talk on the realities of marriage. When we were in high school in addition to premarital sex and abortion as a no-no, no one even dared talk about divorce! If there was someway the nuns would miraculously allow this talk, I want to empower the young ladies there. I would give the example of this girl that also graduated from our school. There is no excuse when it comes to abuse. And sometimes separation might just be the only way out of a bad situation.

Although I respect the sanctity of marriage and am all for doing your best to work things out, I am now more open minded when it comes to these issues. I wonder if I'd still think this way today had I not moved away.

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