Saturday, June 22, 2013

Love lost and lasting

AT its most obsessive, love can plunge the beloved into a scission, a cleavage between what’s real.

There is no other country as intoxicating, which sunders us open to await exploration, mapping, possession.

When the fever passes, love leaves no territory unmarked.

I met D., a survivor, scorched but unrepentant, at a UV Express terminal. For a living, he ferries commuters from Bicutan to Ayala and back. D.’s real work is in animation and photography.

Subcontracted by the Disney franchise, D. rode the crest of the animation industry in the 1980s-‘90s. In the year 2000, D. lost his contract, his cushioned existence, his family.

When I mentioned to D. that my husband was in Bicol, I saw his face visibly change. That’s my ex-wife’s place, he said.

D. plays the field but swears never to get involved again with anyone from Bicol. You cannot overgeneralize, I said. Never again, D. repeated.

More couples got hitched around the country from 2012 to 2013. There is also an overall nationwide drop in couples seeking annulment. Yet, in urban centers, like Metro Manila and Cebu, there’s a spike in unions being nullified.

A June 18, 2013 report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer quotes Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz about these current marital trends. He heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal.

Cruz explained that couples in cities are more exposed to Western influences that shake families, such as divorce and same-sex marriage. He’s not the first and only one to sound off the alarm that the dissolution of marriage foreshadows the demise of the family.

The traditional family—nuclear, headed by heterosexual spouses—perhaps. Yet, in the wake of failed or at risk marriages, families still thrive. Single parent-led; run remotely by a biological parent in absentia and held together by grandparents, close kin, even helpers; headed by homosexual partners; run by the eldest of siblings—many modern families defy convention, mend and refurbish, improvise, move along.

The flexibility of families makes me wonder if it is just the institution of marriage that has failed to adjust to the invisible but tectonic shifts in contemporary society. For one, the financial independence of women.

The recent CBCP finding does not compare the number of annulment cases filed by women and by men. Years back, while interviewing women who survived domestic abuse, I noted that the professionals were the ones who sought and received annulment. Even though not one of the 10 subjects contemplated marrying again, these financially independent women chose a drawn-out, expensive process to close this chapter in their lives.

Yet, these women did not stand in the way of their children and ex-spouses reconnecting, even after years of silence and little or no counterpart for child support.

For these abuse survivors, sustaining a mutation of family life was even part of healing and moving on. A failed marriage without closure, was not. If women in the past waited for death to release them from the domestic yoke, women with education and the means had more palatable options to exit with dignity and sanity intact.

Should men be threatened by such women? When I got married 20 years ago, a German godparent cautioned me from expecting “too much,” specially on the wedding night. An uncle, asked about the secret of the longevity of his marriage, simply said, “agwanta (endure)”.

When my older son recently introduced his best friend to the family, I skipped the advice on sex and sacrifice. I asked him if his mutual understanding (MU, meaning more than friends, not quite steadies) shared the same attitude towards money. If they didn’t, could they talk about it?

The wife who compulsively spends more than the conjugal earnings; the husband who holds office at the casino; the swinger who supports his families with bribes; the unprotected sex advocate who shirks from facing up to the consequences of unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections; the eternal baby who cannot accept his wife earning more than he does.

Love may be the mortal itch. Money comes close. But an inability to communicate is at the root of many a marital hitch.

( mayettetabada. 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s June 23, 2013 issue of the editorial page column, “Matamata”

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