October 05, 2007


Something Like Life
Oct. 5, 2007

THE first two years of any relationship—be it at work or with your significant other—is a period of discovery.

Sometimes these discoveries can be pleasant and exciting, making you feel thrilled to have uncovered them, and hoping for the best that the relationship flows smoothly on and forever.

But relationships, like Manila’s highways, are never free of potholes. In those two years, you will find out certain truths about your husband/wife, your lover, or your boss and colleagues that are well, troubling, and perhaps even annoying, leaving you wondering, “What the hell am I doing here?!”

No matter how you try to prepare yourself for the big plunge in your personal or professional life, there is no perfect relationship that promises a stress-free, bump-less drive. How you learn to navigate around or through those potholes on the relationship highway will eventually determine if it is worthwhile to valiantly drive on, or maybe better to just park the car and throw away the keys.

In a new job, the first year usually passes by quickly as you go about getting a handle on your work. Your tasks are assigned, you try to get used to your boss’s management style and his demands for professional excellence. Then you get to know how your colleagues behave and work. (Just don’t forget to always flash your whitest and tingliest closeup smile to everyone.)

Adjusting to your new surroundings and the inner rattle and hum of the office, you come up with your own routine. You find out the key people you need to suck up to and those you must avoid at all cost. You discover who among your officemates are great to hang around with during lunch and coffee break.

But as excited as you were with receiving your first few paychecks, you notice soon enough that there are some distressing procedures at the office or annoying demands that your boss makes on you, all of which may not make your employment all too encouraging. But you keep your eye on the prize and either get used to these uncomfortable situations, learn to deal with them, or turn your back.

Two years is an adequate period for acclimatizing yourself to your new job, and by then you should know whether staying in that company will help you achieve your career goals or not.

As it is at work, in love and romance, the first two years may also be the toughest for couples, although it may not seem so at first. During the honeymoon phase, couples will tend to overlook each other’s faults and inconsistencies. Everything is just bright and beautiful, and each partner just can’t wait to go home and get into bed. There is never a minute too soon to be with your beloved as your every waking moment is filled with thoughts of him/her. A whiff of his cologne or that musky after-sports smell, her permeating scents of loveliness and grace...his burning touch, her shivering skin. When a couple is in love, they just can’t get enough of each other and the feelings can be intensely maddening.

These are years where each partner tries to accustom himself/herself to the other’s habits, emotions and, perhaps, eccentricities. Living together on a daily basis can change your perspective about your spouse as you get to watch each other up close.

After the glow of the honeymoon months has passed, the perpetual high one gets at the beginning of the marriage eventually dissolves. Each one lets his or her guard drop, secure in the knowledge that by being married, everything can just hang loose and your spouse won’t reject you despite your farting in bed.

Levity aside, there are studies which show that how spouses deal with each other in the first two years of marriage can spell the difference between a long-lasting partnership or a relationship filled with regret. In the US, for example, divorces usually occur in the first two to four years of marriage.

Dr. Ted Huston of the University of Texas and one of the key researchers in the 2001 study entitled “The Connubial Crucible: Newlywed Years as Predictors of Marital Delight, Distress and Divorce,” said results “showed that couples’ newlywed marriages and changes in their union over the first two years foreshadow their long-term marital fate after 13 years...disillusionment—as reflected in an abatement of love, a decline in overt affection, a lessening of the conviction that one’s spouse is responsive, and an increase in ambivalence—distinguishes couples headed for divorce from those who establish a stable marital bond.” The results of the study, likewise, indicated that “differences between the happily married and unhappily married groups were apparent right after they tied the knot.”

For sure, spouses will realize that they got more than they bargained for when they married their partner. But the 13-year study of 156 couples newlywed in 1981 showed that in those first two years, spouses who became disillusioned with their partner called their divorce lawyers in to clean up the mess.

But other couples, despite their differences and petty annoyances, who managed to have overall positive feelings for their partner in those first two years, stayed together and appeared to be in for the longer haul.

That is not to say that all hope is lost. It is vital that spouses use the first two years of their two-getherness to build a strong foundation for their union. Any unpleasantness may be fixed with some serious consideration and discussion. It is important to be honest, keep an open mind, and not be hypercritical of your spouse. Listen to what he/she has to say, digest, before reacting. Long-married couples will tell you it is all a matter of give and take, and lots of compromising.

The first two years of any relationship may always be the toughest, but they need not be the roughest. Given the right attitude toward negative situations that crop up from time to time between you and your spouse, the first two years can also be the most memorable and rewarding of all.

(Yay! BusinessMirror is two years old today! Happy anniversary to my colleagues in the paper...it is an extreme privilege to be working with such a talented and brilliant set of journalists. My column Something Like Life is published every Friday in the Life section – edited by the super fab Gerard Ramos – of this great paper.)

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