October 24, 2011

Happy ever after

WHEN intimate relationships fail, such as a significant love partnership or a marriage, the ones who bear the heaviest toll of the separation, and the attendant emotional suffering, will be the two people involved directly in the relationship.

Yet unknowingly to the uncouple, their friends and family also do suffer—although that may be too strong a word—some sort of grief when they see a formerly jovial coupling come unraveled. We all yearn for significant intimate relationships to last forever, as our stupid fairy tales have taught us in childhood, so we cannot help but mourn—yes, like someone died!—for that relationship that has given up the ghost as well.

We feel for the uncouple, and try not to take sides on the issues that had escalated and blown up in the former partners’ faces. We try to give each of them support, as they—and we mirons to the relationship—go through the pain and anxiety of coping with the loss.

We feel worse when there comes that point in the post-relationship period, when we, friends and family, are forced to let go of our objectivity and just have to stick by one ex or the other.

It sounds pathetic, I know, but when faced with such an issue, as has happened in the recent past, my friends and I go into some sort of a very analytical, post-relationship withdrawal mode.

You see, when one of us gets into some form of intimate relationship with another person, our tendency of course is to support our friend, whether we like his significant other. We “invest” in getting to know our friend’s partner to understand the latter better, and accommodate her in our get-togethers, dinners, parties and what not. We try not to judge, although out of our friend’s earshot, we will do just that probably, and be hypercritical of his newfound love.

It’s not because we don’t want our friend to be happy...it’s precisely because we cherish him so, and only want the best for him, which drives us to nitpick his partner’s character, trying to find some flaws. Seeing none, or maybe imagining a few, we probably would end up being close to our friend’s partner, as well. We start enjoying her company, too.

While the relationship is ongoing, we are witness to the couple’s highs and lows. The gang is hugely entertained and enthralled at the affection shared by the two. When our friends are in love, the entire gang is ecstatic. (Of course, our gangmate’s partner has become close to us as well, so we call her “friend” too.) The relationship is going strong, and we cheer for them. Who doesn’t love a happy couple, right?

But when their relationship hits a plateau and fights erupt between them, we gnash our teeth and hope each partner holds on. We try to offer solutions in the most dispassionate way so as not to be accused by either of taking sides. As much as possible, we want the couple to remain together. We can’t help but project our own desires for a “happily ever after” on them.

Unfortunately, there are times when we don’t get our wish, and the hapless couple goes their separate ways. Now comes the tricky part: What to do when that happens? Do we shun our friend’s ex and stick with him? As most barkadas will attest, this will happen whether we like it or not. But after trying to appease both sides, offering our sympathies and a firm helping hand to ensure a peaceful breakup, we come to that stage when we will eventually have to choose who to talk to, or be with every day.

In the last breakup involving another set of friends, I had to eventually side with whom I had always been chummy. I felt guilty about dropping my ties with my friend’s partner who I had become fond of as well, but there was really nothing I could do about it.

I already knew my friend had crossed the point of no return, that he no longer entertained the idea of getting back together with his ex, and just wanted to explore the big beautiful world of other partners-to-be out there.

Eventually, the rest of the gang, except for one or two, had to stop answering the text messages of our friend’s ex, and started increasing the privacy settings on our Facebook accounts so that the ex could no longer also see what our friend was up to via our comments.

I, for one, didn’t want any more dramas, so I had to “unfriend” my pal’s ex on the networking site. (I had to do this as I realized that my friend’s ex was mining my photo albums, continuing to pine for the days of yore, when they were still a couple, and we as a gang were coming along swimmingly.)

As friends, we are obligated to give as much support to whichever ex we are closest. And in so doing—that is, “unfriending” my pal’s ex—I felt this would ease the separation anxieties for both of them. I wanted to spare my friend from dealing with my commenting on his ex’s photos, status or whatnots.

I sometimes dread to see my friend’s ex now. I mean, what do I say, or what do we talk about when all we had in common was my friend? Other pals who have been put in similar situations tell me how awkward it can be, especially when they had become close to the other partner, as well. And they never get over that awkward feeling.

You end up talking about the ex just the same, and unwittingly give information about how the other is doing in their lives. Then, there is the struggle of whether to tell your pal about bumping into his ex. "Should I? Should I not? If I do tell him, what do I say? Do I edit out the part where I told his ex that he had gained weight since the breakup? Oof! Or should I tell him that his ex was with a hot new boyfriend or what? Ugh!" It isn’t easy being friends with uncouples.

Somehow in the post-relationship upheaval, we, the family and friends who became witness to a once glorious partnership gone bad, can only find peace when each of the ex-es finally manage to recover, and find new love and happiness again. And hopefully, the next relationship they embark on, will be the “happy ever after” for each of them.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on Oct. 21, 2011. Photo from the web.)

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