[Two Pronged] My flighty flight attendant
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
Call me New, a public servant. I have a girlfriend. She's a beauty. A flight attendant (don't know if the article on people being in an aviation service being cheaters are true). She tells me her family is beyond average in terms of net worth. Tells me I'm lucky to have her. Tells me she loves me. Of course she's had past relationships. The one before me was worse to the point that her ex-BF physically attacked her (and I am outraged, as public servant). Of course I did have my own stories of failed relationships, the one before her was also bad.
So in short, we both do not want to get hurt any further. So to make it simple, I am very open to her. I'm being myself before her to the point that I let her open my phone and read all my messages and convos to make her think that I'm sincere (well I really am). But the thing is, when I attempt to open hers, she disagrees to the point that when I force her, she gets really angry. Every time I talk about it, she gets angrier (paulit-ulit daw ako (she says I keep saying the same thing over and over)). The heck? She wants me to be open to her but she doesn't let me? How unfair could that be?
She told me she was a playgirl (paasa) to some past guys she's been talking to for revenge (which I still don't know who they are up until now). Since we became a couple, she has this habit of texting or chatting really really often that I don't know if she considers me her lover. I don't know if she's been or still is talking to other guys. I just can't fully trust her, you know? Telling her that how could I love her fully while she's doing things like that? I'm hurt. I'm confused. Just that.
Thank you for your email.
Your account of your relationship with your girlfriend (let's call her Cora) makes it sound a little out of kilter. On the one hand, she is beautiful, richer than you, happy to tell you how lucky you are to have her as a girlfriend and has a penchant for secrecy and possibly revenge on her ex-boyfriends. On the other, you are a humble public servant, sincere, happy to let her see your phone and want an open and honest relationship.
A good relationship is defined principally by the two people in that relationship. A foundation stone must surely be that you share a common understanding as to what constitutes "good" in this context. Whether it is opposites can attract or shared interests, whether you have similar socio-economic and educational backgrounds or believe that rich and poor can be happy together etc. etc., in the final analysis it helps to agree from the outset.
Equally, there are negatives which if ignored will erode a relationship until it collapses. Dr John Gottman, co-founder of the Gottman Institute, has spent over 40 years researching couples and their relationships. He has identified what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are communication styles that can predict the end of relationships. These are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
Based on your account of your relationship with Cora, you do not share the same goals and most if not all the horsemen are present. Dr Gottman prescribes specific antidotes and these are briefly:
- for criticism (which attacks a person), complaint (without blame) which focuses on behavior
- for defensiveness, acceptance of at least some of the blame
- for contempt, a culture of appreciation and respect
- for stonewalling, physiological self-soothing
For more detail click here.
Try applying these to see if Cora is amenable to searching for a solution to your joint problems, though frankly I would be surprised if she is even willing to recognize that she has a role to play in these issues.
If she does, there's hope for a future together; if she doesn't, it's time to move on separately.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. In truth, I am so, so happy that Mr Baer wrote the answer he did above, mainly because all he said was factual and just as importantly, like a good psychologist (which all of us can be, even if we don’t have a degree in it) he did not prescribe/strongly suggest you do something. What he did was present the options to you and asked you to decide.
Thus, I feel I can be a little more directive/prescriptive than that.
First, if you want this relationship to continue, I feel you must insist on couples therapy. It is likely that she will refuse. After all, a woman who feels her boyfriend is “lucky to have her” usually also has the view that there are more men like you waiting in the wings.
Why should she waste her time and energy doing something for a relationship she may not put as much value in as you do? Better to switch to someone else who will not ask for things she is unwilling to do.
I could, of course, be wrong. But even if she does agree, a part of me feels she would be doing this as a lark and/or out of curiosity and/or because she’s bored, etc. In other words, she may not be invested in this as much as you are.
Caveat: My answer is based on the belief that everything you have told us is accurate, okay? That, while “there are always two sides to every story,” what you relayed in your letter about what you and she are willing to share in your relationship is true.
You are willing to be honest and open, not only about your past relationships, but also about any interactions you may have with others. She, on the other hand, is secretive about any other relationships she may have at the moment.
Two days ago, I wrote a Clinical Notes column that talks about not just the danger, but the certainty that relationships where even one party (like Cora) has secrets about things she’s done or said since the relationship started would affect said relationship terribly.
Cora does one thing more. She not only has secrets, but doesn’t hide the fact that she is keeping things from you. She not only keeps things from you, but seems to revel in making you feel bad that she does, A-N-D that there is nothing you can do about it.
But there is, isn’t there? You can up and leave her… and I must admit this is what I wish you would do.
One chooses relationships that validate one's partner, and make them feel someone has their back when things are tough. Cora gives me the impression she is not in your corner. In truth, she seems to be exactly the sort of person someone in your corner would protect you from.
SO... perhaps instead of couples therapy, it would be better if you went to therapy for yourself, exploring, among other things, the reasons you would allow anyone to treat you the way Cora has.
All the best