[Two Pronged] Part 2: Twice bitten, now shy
Thank you for your emails.
After two marriages that ended unsatisfactorily, it is of course quite understandable that you should adopt a cautious attitude to any further relationship, particularly one that is both cross-cultural and cross-continental. After all, we are supposed to learn from history, our personal experiences and the knowledge we have acquired from others.
Your account of your two previous marriages is however singularly devoid of any self-reflection.
Your first wife left you apparently because you were unable to provide for her to live in the manner to which she aspired, a decision she took 7 and 1/2 years to reach. I do not think I will be alone in wondering whether this story is rather threadbare, painting the woman of your dreams as nothing but a money-grubbing materialist, and you, implicitly, as the typical working stiff, content with your place in life.
Then you met Angela. Despite the differences – age, culture, extended family obligations – you felt everything seemed normal, which as it turned out was a very serious misjudgment on your part.
It was so 'not normal' that you felt betrayed when a) she worked hard all the time to send money back to her family, leaving no time for you and b) after you refused to have a child with her, she had one with someone else.
Don't get me wrong. Viewed in isolation, these were of course prima facie betrayals. But what lay behind them was a complete failure to communicate the needs and expectations that the two of you were taking into your marriage. It seems as though you were blind-sided by how things developed, which suggests that during your courtship you had not established a realistic understanding of what Angela wanted from marriage to you.
Moving on to your current relationship (let’s call her Cynthia), this time you seem to have a much more grounded approach. You now have the advantage of experience of the pitfalls of courtship and marriage. You need to reflect seriously on what went wrong in the past to ensure that you do not make the same mistakes again. Ask yourself how you could have missed the signs of impending doom and employ all this self-knowledge to ensure a better outcome this time.
Just two examples of potential pitfalls:
1. Although the issue of children was the reason for the demise of your last marriage, you do not even mention having discussed it this time around. At the very least, it is something that should have been addressed when asking us for advice.
2. You say that "she does not want a relationship that may fail" (few people do) yet also that "we have no expectations from each other" – very unlikely.
While these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, there is plenty of room for misunderstanding and a definite need to clarify, even if it is only in your own mind.
Ultimately, while there are no guarantees a marriage will be successful, you can only ask a finite number of questions before you decide whether to take the plunge. The Latin proverb sums it up: Fortune favors the brave. Best of luck – Jeremy
Thank you very much for both your letters. Actually, I think Jeremy has been a bit harsh with you, telling you that “your account of your two previous marriages is however singularly devoid of any self-reflection.”
The fact that you asked for our help shows some reflection on your part. Not to mention courage.
Many people have the knee-jerk reaction that the mere fact of seeing someone (for therapy) or, in this case, asking someone for any help rather than medical, means you’re nuts.
But your statement: “She is a good woman, but do you have any suggestions as to things I need to look into, questions I need to ask, to make sure I am making the right choice?” confirms you are not looking to be told what to do, but just to be guided about things you should look out for. An example of this, perhaps, is what we educators like to remind ourselves: "We don’t teach you what to think, but how to do so.”
I am thankful for your immediate reply to our questions (your second letter in answer to our first, all of which were published last week). I also admire your giving answers as straightforwardly as you could. Jeremy has criticized your unwillingness to take any responsibility for the results of your two previous marriages. I might agree if you had been in therapy for at least half a year. This is your first time to write a letter asking for advice (er, isn't it?) but whether it is or isn’t, the fact that you are open to learning more is a good sign.
You said: “I know there are not guarantees, but I do not want to miss out on someone that will complete my life. We have discussed the age difference, and she is open to it, and as she puts it, she want to have a marriage with true love and respect.”
I understand completely. Thus while others may mock you for being more optimistic than you have any right to be, what do they know? It is your life and while you can do something to find a love reciprocated to keep you both safe and, hopefully happy, you will (and must ) go for broke. But go for broke intelligently so that if things don't work out exactly as you’d planned, you need not be devastated, fighting for oxygen to just keep on living.
Actually, the only advice I can give you is to have more face time together. Spend real time together, at least a month in the Philippines, and another month in the US.
Yes, I am aware that Skype, email and SMS are good ways to stay in touch, but they are nothing compared to spending actual time together.
People tend to put their best foot forward. It is not because they are born hypocrites, it is just because that is human nature.
Maya Angelou, author of that wonderful book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings once wrote: "I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he / she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
You will not know how Cynthia handles any of the above three situations if all you do is Skype, email, SMS. You need to see her experiencing these situations as they happen, not how it is relayed to you the day or even hours after.
I can foresee two possible counter arguments:
Q. What will two months give us than two weeks cannot?
A. A lot, actually.
Q. But isn’t two weeks enough? After all, merely adding 6+ more weeks to make it two months won’t tell me as much a year together or even only half a year!
- You’re right. But it still is a whole lot better than a mere two weeks. Plus, if either of you can stay longer in either (or both!) countries, please try.
Q. Finally, it will be too expensive in time, money, etc. for either of us to stay away that long.
A. Believe me, Hank, whatever you and Cynthia spend in time, money, resources to get to know each other better before the marriage will be a lot cheaper than getting a divorce after in case you skip this step.
All the very best and good luck –Margie
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