October 27, 2007

Are you settling down or just settling?

THIS has been a really tumultuous few weeks.

Apart from the explosion in Glorietta 2, which happened a day after I had been roaming the area (I was using it as a shortcut to get from my hotel to a restaurant whose congee I desperately needed to eat only the night before), a friend of mine had a few explosive announcements herself.

Two weeks ago, V. had excitedly told me via Yahoo messenger that she was engaged. I caught her as she was waiting for her kids to come online. She couldn’t wait to announce it to them.

The only question I asked her then was, “Are you sure?” When she answered, “Yes,” I was happy for her. V. has made a lot of sacrifices, enduring a first husband she was only forced to marry, and bringing up two handsome kids while living apart from them. I thought it was about time she deserved some happiness of her own.

Besides, marrying the guy would give her some measure of security for her children as well. Without going into the details of V.’s situation, suffice it to say that marrying her beau would allow her and her kids to be together again. I asked her permission to announce the happy news to a few of our friends.

My boss, who was just in town recently, has met V.’s beau and said that she liked him. He was very amiable and easy to get along with. My boss said she usually sees V.’s beau taking photos at parties or events. I respect my boss’s opinion and was happy that V. was in good hands.

Then only a couple of days ago, as casually as she asked about the developments on the Glorietta 2 blast, V. dropped a bomb herself, saying that she probably would not be pushing through with a wedding anytime soon. She never got around to telling her kids about the engagement when she said she would –— and thank God for that, as this latest development would only confuse them. She said she was having second thoughts about taking the next step.

She listed some issues, foremost of which is their age gap –– he’s 29, while she just turned 40. V. said she sometimes had difficulty explaining matters to him because “he still hasn’t lived!” She feels that he still doesn’t know how the real world works. She thinks it’s the right time to settle down, but maybe he’s not the “right guy.”

And so as I tried to recover from this bit of news, I tried to console her by saying, “If you have doubts, then maybe you shouldn’t push through with it.” I told V. that she will know if the right guy comes along...that’s what everyone says anyway. I don’t know if there will be bells and whistles to herald that realization but I can only take my married friends’ word that “you will know.” So when you have doubts, then obviously things aren’t right, so why settle for a less-than-perfect situation?

I can understand V.’s confusion. Despite having come a long way from being mistresses of just our homes, we women still have to contend with a society that basically frowns on single women. Many still think a woman needs to be married to be considered a person. So we may sometimes use marriage as a security blanket to protect us from society’s blather, and also to escape a possible eternity of loneliness.

V. and I talk about this all the time. I admire her. She’s the type who is unafraid of putting herself out there, jumping from one relationship to the next, but she also has admitted of being quite tired of the whole dating routine. She just wants a solid relationship with a secure future. Don’t we all, ladies?

But be careful what you wish for. Now that V. has this gorgeous man in her life who has bonded with her kids and just wants to be with her forever, apparently she has realized that she isn’t a hundred percent sold on her guy. She thinks there will be some challenges because of the age gap. After all, not all marriages can be like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s.

I’ve never been married, and have not had a relationship with any man I’ve wanted to spend my entire life with. (Well, maybe just one, but that was when I was still young, stupid and in love with him. Now that I look back on that time in my life, I wonder, “What the f__?!”) So I will have to rely on my other married and separated friends’ experiences for guidance.

When do you know it’s the right time to get married?

It may sound corny but my happily married friends say that everything just “clicks into place.” You love each other and cannot imagine a lifetime without the other. You have such a great time together (and we’re not just talking about sex, sister), and you just want to extend that even further. For all eternity, if possible.

Knowing each other’s faults and failures, you still accept each other. You provide support to one another because, honey, you know it’s not going to be happy like this forever and ever. There will be times when both your patience will be tested, either because of situations you or he has created, or because of one’s inherent personality flaw. Despite all that, you can still hack it. (Abusive, co-dependent relationships aside, of course.) Above it all, there is mutual respect.

You feel it’s the logical step. It’s a natural progression that is somewhat like taking your next breath. You’re both committed to each other and want to take it one step further…and maybe start a family. By the way, in the course of the relationship, both of you ought to have discussed your expectations from a marriage. Like, you may want to have kids, but he may not. Or vice versa.

There are “life issues” that must be tackled beforehand. Apart from talking about whether or not to have kids, there are details on how and where you’re going to live (e.g., in your parent’s big house or in your own apartment), what kind of lifestyle you will maintain (partying every Friday or just staying at home?), handling each other’s friends and family (where are you going to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?), and, most important, financial matters (will you keep separate bank accounts or maintain a joint account?).

Some couples never gave a thought to dealing with these issues before they walked down the altar, and it’s not unlikely in the post-honeymoon days for one issue or another to just blow up in their faces. They’re unprepared to deal with the sometimes harsh everyday realities of marriage.

Why shouldn’t you marry?

You shouldn’t marry just because you got pregnant out of wedlock. Never compound a mistake with another mistake. Making the guy marry you may make him love your child, but that doesn’t guarantee that he will love you or love you more.

You shouldn’t marry because you’re afraid of being alone. Don’t equate being alone with loneliness. The latter means you don’t have friends, family and your God (or Goddess) to support you. Who was it that said it’s better to be left on the shelf than spend your entire life in the wrong cupboard?

You shouldn’t marry just because you want your relationship with your man to be secure. If it isn’t secure to begin with, how can it be more secure when you’re already married? If he wants to leave you, he will. It doesn’t matter whether you’re married to him or not.

I can only hope that V. will eventually find happiness with a man who truly deserves her. If and when she does decide to get married, whether it be with this man or another, it should be her way of settling down, and not just settling for the heck of it.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of BusinessMirror. Photo from BusinessMirror.)

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