Each month, husband and wife team – renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes and Philippine columnist Jeremy Baer tackle issues on relationships, family, emotional, psychological and OF concerns through letters.
I am 32 years old and working as a senior corporate executive in the Middle East. I’ve just gotten engaged to Alan, my British boyfriend of 2 years, but I have kept my relationship a secret because I did not want to deal with all the prejudice I would be subjected to if they knew I was marrying a foreigner.
Can you believe that the ones who look down most on Filipinas going out with foreigners are Filipinos themselves? They accuse us of being after the money foreigners make. I want to tell them I make my own money and can support myself without anybody’s help. In fact, I earn enough to send all my nieces and nephews back home to LaSalle.
It becomes even worse when a Filipina marries a foreigner. They presume all she wants is a foreign passport.
Can you blame me for keeping this relationship a secret both here and in the Philippines? I didn’t want my family to worry so I didn’t tell them about my boyfriend. They are so protective and so far, have found no one good enough for me to marry.
Please help me. Alan insists we’ve waited long enough and now wants to get married. I don’t blame him and I, too, want the same thing. But I don’t know how to do this without the Filipino community here finding out about it and then telling my parents in the province.
Your letter outlines two problems. You worry that revealing your fiancé is British may upset your family and the Filipino community in which you live and that people will believe that you and your fiancé want to get married for the wrong reasons.
Of course, being British and a man myself, I find it incomprehensible that marrying a British man could possibly be considered anything less than a stellar choice (joke only). However your concern focuses on what Filipinos will think.
It seems to me that you have been putting the opinion of others ahead of your own happiness. As far as your immediate family and friends are concerned, they can judge for themselves because they know, or will have the opportunity to know, the two people involved in this relationship – you and Alan. They will know if he fits the stereotype of a foreigner wanting a woman who is obedient, feminine and good in bed or is actually a man who appreciates you, Marissa, for your own qualities, which I’m sure are transcend that.
They will also know whether you conform to the stereotype of wanting a foreigner for his money or a passport, or are instead happy with your own money and passport and are simply in love with a man who just happens to be a foreigner.
As for other Filipinos, they will either come to realize as they get to know the two of you that there are no grounds for having such a low opinion of you both, or they will be impervious to the truth in which case there is no way you can change their minds anyway.
The bottom line is that if you believe that Alan is the love of your life and you want to marry him, you should not put your future happiness at risk just because of the misguided views of others.
I acknowledge that you have an uphill task ahead of you because having hidden your relationship with Alan for 2 years makes you look furtive and implies something illicit or immoral. Perhaps the best way to deal with it is to admit the truth, that you originally thought people would disapprove of Alan and you as a couple, and then say that you have experienced an epiphany, realized your mistake and are so convinced that you have made the right choice that you are now going to marry him and want everyone to share your joy.
I leave it to Dr. Holmes to discuss managing people’s expectations and the broader aspects of the issues you have raised.
Best of luck – JAF Baer
Thank you very much for your letter. Mr. Baer has outlined what I will tackle in this column and I shall do as he asked. And no, this is not just because I am eager to misrepresent myself as an obedient wife (joke only).
On managing people’s expectations, first decide how important it is to fulfill the expectations of people. I hope that your basis for deciding is not how society may view you but rather how the people you love (yourself first and foremost) will feel. And even when it comes to that, I hope you learn to be more discerning between what the people you love want for you (and possibly for you alone) and what they may unconsciously, under the guise of merely being protective of you, want for themselves.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not necessarily saying that your family is selfish in finding no one good enough for you. I have never met them so I haven’t got a clue.
However, I have seen enough Filipino families where one member, usually female, is chosen to be the one who takes care of their parents when they get too old to take care of themselves. And if that family member earns a lot, well, it makes sense to also take care of her nieces and nephews in ways her siblings cannot. Since your siblings, the parents of your nieces and nephews, work in the Philippines, everyone takes for granted you earn more than they and so to them, it makes perfect sense that you pick up the slack. After all, the “designated caregiver” has no children of her own, so “sino pa ang makikinabang sa sueldo niya kundi pamilya niya”?
It’s possible your family didn’t purposely decide that you be the “designated caregiver”, but that doesn’t change the fact that you may have become the one. By virtue of being the only single child left and perhaps the only one “obedient” enough not to let anyone your family might disapprove of get close enough to be a serious suitor, they’ve come to rely on you to make life a lot easier for themselves.
I totally agree that Filipinas make wonderful daughters, sisters and aunts, but please, please, Marissa, learn to distinguish between an objective appraisal of your suitors’ qualities and an unconscious desire to keep you single.
Perhaps you already have. Might this be the reason you told no one about your boyfriend until you were sure he was THE one?
In realizing that your needs are not necessarily what your family thinks you need (or need themselves), you have taken an important step towards maturity. Is it not logical (albeit painful) that you now take the next? Panindigan mo ang desisyson mo.
Why do you quiver and quake about your family’s finding out about your getting married? Most people presume their families would be thrilled to bits!! And while it would be great if your family would feel as happy for you as you’d want them to, well, sometimes you can’t always get what you want.
Actually, you’ve had great practice at that. All these years abroad what you want has always taken second place to what your family expects. Time to unshackle those chains, Marissa. Free yourself from the expectations—even demands!—of people who think they know more about what will make you happy than you yourself do.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. I so hope your family comes around and supports your decision. I hope they realize that this is actually one of those clichés that can be made true; that in marriage, one is not losing a daughter/sister, but could is actually gaining a son/brother.
At first it will be difficult and even painful. At first you might even blame Alan, although you seem level-headed enough to realize that what may be more responsible for most of the pain is your past, rather than your present.
Wishing you the best of luck, happiness, courage, equanimity and humor – MG Holmes
P.S. Your letter also made us wonder:
Why is it only our women, and not our men, get criticized when we go out with foreigners?
Why is it mainly women get chosen to be the ones who will take care of parents in their old age—in other words, the tagasalo?
I have no doubt we could have a lively discussion trying to answer the above questions, but due to lack of space, I chose to focus on other aspects of your letter. My excuse: differences in gender relations underlie so many of our behaviors and problems that I am sure this issue will crop up in a future column.