A separation or an annulment process is never easy—for the person going through it, and for all the family members affected by it. No matter how progressive we have become, there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it, more so in Philippine society.
I remember as a student in an all-girls school that such things were never talked about. If we suspected that so and so’s parents had split up, we talked about it in hushed tones and never in her presence. I look back now and think about how difficult that must have been for my classmate, to live under the shroud of secrecy, to not be able to talk about what was going on in her home, and to carry the burden all by herself.
Nowadays, children take the cue from their parents. And how the matter is explained to the child really makes a difference in the child’s outlook and adjustment.
A few months ago, I met a precious six-year-old girl who very confidently told me that she had two homes—dad and mom’s—like it was the most natural thing in the world. Although I felt a little sad for her to have to go through that experience at such a young age, I couldn’t help but smile, too, at her genuinely happy outlook and disposition.
Separations and annulments, whether we like it or not, are now part and parcel of our society. It’s nothing to be happy about, but it’s a reality that we all need to face as parents, ex-spouses, and educators who have children of separated parents in our classrooms.
Taking a cue from a well-written article by Andrea Santiago in her blog My Daily Plate, on what not to say to friends who are undergoing a separation, here are some things we can bear in mind and practice around those who have opted to take a solo flight.
Let’s face it, Pinoys love to probe: “Bakit?” or “Ano’ng nangyari?” to “Whose fault is it?” to “Nambabae ba?” or “Binubugbog ka ba?” These are some of the frequently asked questions that pop once friends find out that you have separated or are seeking an annulment.
Santiago writes: “If you don’t already know what’s wrong in someone’s marriage, when they’re splitting up, you don’t need to know. Don’t ask, unless the questions are: “Are you okay?” and “Is there anything I can do to help?” In other words, it’s none of your business.
If you really want to help or be a friend, respect the boundaries and just listen to what is willingly shared. The parties involved aren’t celebrities and they aren’t in a talk show.
Mind your own business and do not insert yourself into the situation unless you are one of the two spouses involved, or their child. It is not helpful to act as a messenger or a spy for either party. Totally destructive and very unproductive. Santiago cites the following classic examples which really happen: “This includes but is not limited to: policing the marital residence (announcing all comings and goings of one spouse to the other spouse), taking screenshots of one spouse’s Facebook accounts and showing them to the other spouse, or any other communications that are… I repeat, none of your business.”
It’s not a teleserye so don’t fan negative energy or ignite the flames of animosity because that really isn’t necessary. Some very mature people are able to navigate an annulment with the least collateral damage. I remember a colleague told me that her ex got all their friends to his side, and all she was left with was the furniture. I thought that was terrible because it really need not be that way no matter the circumstances.
Equanimity is the operative word when going through a separation or annulment, and in the end, at some point in the road, everyone can remain friends. Maybe not the best of friends, but at the very least real friends.
In the beginning, people will have a tendency to take sides, but when you think about it, that really isn’t very mature either. Regardless of what has happened, or who your friend is, there are always several sides to a story, and it never truly is the fault of just one person (again, unless, of course, domestic violence is involved, or a serious pathology/addiction is present). So it would be kinder to show support and remain friends with both spouses.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Santiago says there are those who pretend nothing ever happened. When she was going through her own divorce, she felt somewhat ostracized. “They never even offered an ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Others wouldn’t make eye contact with me,” she recalls.
The best thing you can do for your friend who has separated or is in the process of an annulment is to be a nonintrusive friend. If he or she wants to talk, allow them the space to, and acknowledge the news without going overboard or probing too much. Listen with your heart, and listen without judging or offering unsolicited advice.
There are countless thoughts that go through the heart and mind of someone who is in a transition, and Christian singer Amy Grant—who went through a painful divorce 15 years ago—sums up the experience this way: “We always have a tendency to wonder, should I have done it differently?”
Grant said, “You never stop asking questions like, ‘I wonder if my adult child would’ve had this struggle had they not been through a divorce when they were six?’ Every situation is different, and there are no pat answers. I’ve heard a broken bone heals stronger than one never broken, and that gives me so much hope.”
Hope is the one thing we must never lose. I closed the workweek at the MTRCB by catching a wonderful TV feature on Nick Vujicic, world- renowned motivational speaker and best-selling Christian author, who says, “You always have two options—be angry at what you don’t have, or thankful for what you do.”
Good job, TV5, for airing “Unstoppable Nick” Sunday at 6 p.m. His life is an awesome testament to hope, unconditional love and our Father’s awesome grace.
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