Before I put up that section that Sam wants, the family conversations “too hilarious not to be shared with the entire world,” I want to say something about Speedy. And I want to say it now because once the section that Sam wants is up (it’s mostly about her father’s booboos), Speedy might not talk to me again so I better butter him up now. Suck up real hard, in fact.
I’m kidding. I want to write this but not to suck up. I just want to show my appreciation. At the time when I was getting very little sleep and was spending most of my waking hours struggling to keep the blogs online (it was an elimination process trying to find where the problem was), Speedy took over the house management. Our house helper has left us last week, like I said in the previous post, and Speedy kept everything afloat. He cleaned the house, did the laundry, cut the lawn, fed and cleaned the pets and, during times when I couldn’t, he cooked. I helped whenever I could but, over the past seven days, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to do so.
I don’t know a lot of Filipino husbands who would do all that without grumbling. I don’t know a lot of Filipino husbands who wouldn’t feel emasculated. I don’t know many who could have managed. Most Filipino husbands I know are pretty useless in the house. They wouldn’t even be able to locate the broom, the floor mop, the laundry detergent or the dish washing liquid. Maybe you’d like to read this.
In a country where the home is still largely considered the responsibility of the wife, daughter, sister and mother, it takes a very secure man not to feel small when obliged to do household chores. I’m glad that Speedy is not one of those insecure males. I congratulate myself for not marrying a pussy. Speedy isn’t a perfect husband (who is, anyway?) but I am not unmindful of his good qualities. If he were one of those with convoluted beliefs about how the husband is lord and master by natural rights, our marriage would have been over a long time ago. Speedy knows I don’t tolerate malformed male egos.
It was such a coincidence that all of that was going on when I was interviewed for last night’s Journo episode. I just had to contextualize divorce amid today’s realities and the reasons why marriages fail.
I mused about the seemingly higher number of marital splits in my generation compared to, say, my grandmother’s generation. To my mind, that is not necessarily because there were more successful and happier marriages back then. At least, from one perspective. During my grandmother’s time, women were financially dependent on their husbands and separation would have meant losing financial support. At a time when there weren’t too many women equipped with the education and training to start real careers, staying in a hellish marriage was preferable over starvation.
But that started to change probably as early as my mother’s generation. My mother was among the few women in law school during her time but, at least, there were already women in law school at that time. A generation or two earlier, only sons were sent off to college.
The thing about the law is how much slower it is than social change. Family dynamics were changing radically but the law remained the same.
It wasn’t until the Family Code came in the 1980s when Filipinos started to take another look at marriage. What is marriage? Why did the Family Code include “psychological incapacity” among the grounds for annulment? Did that mean that marriage was no longer an inviolable social institution?
In the first place, I don’t know which stupid lawmaker used that word inviolable. Where does it say that it is forever? Where does it say that once married, one has to stay in it “for better or for worse”? Nowhere in the law does it say that. The vows about “for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health” is found in religious marriages. In civil law, it is enough that a couple declare that they take each other as husband and wife. No religious fluff is required at all.
And even under the old Civil Code, that commitment toward marriage is surrounded by requirements and conditions that, if not observed, made the marriage void or voidable. Both parties to the marriage must give their consent freely, they must be of age, there must be a marriage license, the parties must not be related within the fourth civil degree, there must be no fraud… the list is pretty long. So, for the word “inviolable” to appear in the law is, at best, a contradiction and, at worst, a fallacy.
The thing about most Filipinos (we’re a predominantly Catholic country, after all) is how they can’t separate the concept of marriage as a legal relationship from marriage as a religious concept. That’s why even when there is ground for annulment, as provided by civil law, what prevails is the idea that it is inherently wrong to end a marriage because of the “for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health” vows. What they don’t realize is that even if they exchange the “for better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health” vows in ten churches but the parties to the marriage are, say, first cousins, the law says there is no marriage, period. Which should prevail, the law or the “bond” created by the multiple exchange of vows?
And even if there were no impediment at the time of marriage, impediments can sprout during the marriage. The truth is, people change. They grow. It’s nature. And when a couple can’t share the growth of one or both, the marriage becomes strained. Consider all the men, initially ideal husbands, who have turned to drugs and womanizing because they couldn’t come to grips with the fact that their wives were earning much, much more than they were. Consider all the husbands who couldn’t find work during all these decades of economic hardship and who are obliged to live on their wives’ earnings while struggling with their egos. Consider the wives who think less of their husbands, and belittle them, because they can’t find work or don’t make as much money as they do. You think those people are in happy marriages? Sure, counseling helps. But counseling can only achieve so much. It is simply next to impossible to change cultural norms and influences.
What about the children? My goodness, only the fool believes that children thrive in unhappy homes. Only the very stupid thinks that it is better for a child to watch his parents fight day and night rather than live without one parent.
While the antagonists of the divorce bill debate like zealots who insist that they have a monopoly on the definition of good, bad, right and wrong, I think about people. Real people in failed marriages. And how they are punished, day in and day out, because they cannot close a bad chapter of their lives. I think about how much happier and productive they would be if they had a second chance. Or even a third chance.