[Two Pronged] Should I leave the Philippines for my boyfriend?
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.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I’m 35 and turning 36 this October. I have a foreigner boyfriend who’s asking me to go to him for 6 months because a Visa for the UK will only give me 6 months.
We have been together for 2 years and 6 months. He visits me two times a year and I visited his family once in Italy for a month. Last year, he planned to come stay in the Philippines but he changed his mind. He wants me there so that we will discover if we are really compatible being together for six months and he told me after that we’ll see and we can start a family.
The thing is, if I leave, I’m gonna leave my business here and the opportunities may come, like offers from malls for spaces. I run a pharmacy business and a dry goods store.
My problem is I’m gonna leave my business and my opportunities and what I’m afraid of is my age. I want to have a kid and a family. The thing is, I have hydrosalpinx and the doctor told me before that I should be pregnant through IVF at 35 or else it will be harder for me — which is crucial because I need to be stress-free and need one year bed rest.
Right now, the offer is still pending because I can’t decide if I should go with him or if I have to stay here.
Thank you for your email.
You have framed your dilemma very much as an "either/or" situation but there are perhaps a number of aspects which make it rather more nuanced than that.
Firstly, when it comes to relationships with foreigners, there are always potentially difficult choices to be made when it comes to where to live: his country, your country, (occasionally) a third country, or a long distance relationship.
You say your boyfriend (let’s call him Luca) was going to move to the Philippines. This would have enabled you to pursue your business interests without problems. However, he then changed his mind and crucially, you do not reveal the reason.
While speculation as to the reason would not be helpful, what is important is whether you consider his reason to be valid in the context of your relationship.
If it related to his work, then it is relatively easy to weigh the merits of Luca moving to the Philippines or you going to the UK. If, however, it is for a reason that is less easily reduced to dollars and cents, it may be more difficult to evaluate but it should always be consonant with the love and respect that you expect, and hopefully he is expressing, in his relationship with you.
The complication is that this is apparently not a definitive move, only a short term compatibility test.
To leave your business for such a reason requires you to have considerable faith in this relationship and the likelihood that marriage will follow. On the other hand, IVF treatment does not require you to move to Italy — or indeed to get married ‚ and you can have Luca, the business, and try for a child if he moves here as he originally intended.
You, therefore, have to weigh the reason he changed his mind about coming here and the faith you have in the future of this relationship before deciding one way or the other.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter. Two things stand out in Mr Baer’s answer above: compatibility test and your considerable faith that marriage will follow.
It is a test because the results are not clear, and it could go several ways. To name a few: "You passed! Let’s get married" or — "You failed, let’s stop seeing each other" or even, "hmmmm, I’m not so sure, let’s do this again in 6 months time, shall we?"
I have a feeling going to the UK is what you really want to do, otherwise you would not be in such a quandary about making a decision that a more objective person would reject without a second thought.
But then, that is what love is, isn’t it? And that is what you have convinced yourself you feel for him.
Indeed, maybe you do — feel love for him or, at the very least, feel you are in love with him. But happily, you have not left reason by the wayside.
It makes perfect sense to worry about opportunities lost if you chuck everything at this stage because what knocks today may not be interested even if you beg them to come knocking again in six months time. And all for what? For a compatibility test that you have no idea what the outcome might be.
I doubt you would put as much faith, invest as much time and possible heartbreak if this were a business instead of what he is dangling: a happy family with a baby you feel you must have now or s/he may not come at all.
After all, one could say that the entire 2 years and 6 months, with two visits to the Philippines and one visit to Italy are all compatibility tests, and what makes you so sure his "we'll see" will lead to a final decision this time? He, after all, is the fellow who also said he was coming to the Philippines yet another time and changed his mind.
To bolster my “argument” that you should not go, I could readily give you research that shows how living together is not a good idea if what you want is a good marriage, rather than one destined for divorce.
The best among them is “Does Cohabitation Lead to More Divorces?” which unequivocally states that "The major reason supporting premarital cohabitation is that it enables the couple to get to know each better and to see whether they get along well enough to embark on marriage. However, counter-intuitively, many studies have found that premarital cohabitation is associated with increased risk of divorce, a lower quality of marriage, poorer marital communication, and higher levels of domestic violence."
True, there exists a much smaller number of studies that suggest otherwise, that say that living together does NOT necessarily lead to divorce, one being "Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution: An Examination of Recent Marriages" but the implication that marriage does NOT necessarily lead to divorce or "poor quality" marriages is found only if you control for certain factors like migration, fertility issues, etc.
But these two factors are particularly salient in your case.
But the major reason I am uncomfortable with your moving to the UK for your compatibility test is the second part of Mr Baer’s equation: "your considerable faith that marriage will follow."
Frankly, I cannot help hoping that marriage will not follow and part of me feels that part of you wants the same result as I do. Because: 1.) You wouldn’t have written us if you were sure of what you really and truly wanted; 2.) Being a businesswoman used to weighing the pros and cons of any possibility, you realize the cost of this move far outweighs its benefits and, finally, 3.) Deep down inside you, you realize that the fact that he still wants a compatibility test that only you will have to pass, not he, after all this time and all the love you’ve already shared, he isn’t a man worth marrying.
Part of you has convinced yourself that you are in a kapit patalalim situation. "Kapit sa patalim" is an expression in Filipino language, it literally means clutching a knife blade. This phrase is often used when someone is in a hazardous situation but that person doesn't have any choice but to live with it. I am not referring to marriage here :-)
I think it is time to let go of the blade, dust yourself off and walk towards a future you have built for yourself, beholden to no one — or, at least, not to some foreigner presumptuous enough to think he can snap his fingers and you’ll come running.
I can’t help feeling what the things you want — a baby of your own, a successful business, a happy family — will come much more easily — or, perhaps to be more accurate, with much less difficulty — if you are not saddled with Mr Compatibility Test.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.