Love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Red hearts have taken the place of Christmas décor.
But as prelude to this mushy season, instead of lollipops and roses, we hear shocking news about relationships headed south.
Recent “exposes” and “tell-alls” have not been confined to the entertainment world. Those we have learned to take with a grain of salt.
Blinders and masks have come off in the posh villages. The lurid stories are told, uncensored and unedited.
Eyebrows have hit the ceiling and the audience has been left breathless, some perhaps vicariously enjoying the unraveling drama, wishing they too had the guts to spill it all.
From the days of “Ang Reyna ng Vicks” on radio, where the contestant with the saddest sob story was crowned “queen for the day,” women have needed a forum to ventilate their feelings; someone to listen and commiserate.
On television, there are shows that feature heartbroken wives coming face to face with their wayward spouses, tears flowing as they accuse them of infidelity and other domestic crimes. It is melodrama at its lowest; but at least, these couples get their day in court on national TV.
Mexican and Latin American networks have similar shows. Sick as it may seem to enjoy someone else’s misery and shame, these shows rake in millions.
What makes this form of entertainment so marketable? I can only guess that sponsors recognize the sick passion of a great many to see someone else’s entrails on display.
Our cause célèbre is not quite tri-media, not yet. But it has been out in the front pages. There are different reactions from the well-heeled set. At social functions and even in private messages on the net, we hear: Why? What for? Why now? Why not!
An otherwise quiet friend of mine sipping her calamansi soda after a dull tennis match texted me to ask: What makes a man treat a woman as his doormat?
My knee-jerk response was: because she is on the floor.
But that is too easy, too simple, and even a tad cheeky. It is almost like making light of a grave and painful situation.
There are many things to ponder.
What really goes wrong? What turns the sweet to sour? Is there one particular element that determines the success or failure of a relationship?
And when it fails, do you stay for more or, like when you were a child, do you just pick up your toys and go home? Neither choice is easy. There are too many victims.
What makes a man abusive? A psychologist will immediately ask: “Was he abused as a child? ” Different theories are offered. Some of them may even make sense.
Our double standard lifestyle too often gives an erring man all the leeway he may not deserve, and leaves no squeezing room for the woman who loses her way. He is presumed just macho, while she is marked, well perhaps not with a scarlet letter, but something akin to one.
Is that what makes a woman stay in a bad relationship?
I asked several women, between the ages of 35 and over 70.
Separated but not moving toward a divorce or legal separation, this 50ish (looking like 35) mother of 5 asks: “Why legalize things? He (her ex) gives me all I want, within his means, and takes care of his children’s needs. I am not about to jump into another relationship anyway.”
Another young matron says: “I think women who stay, no matter how bad things are at home, are afraid that life will be even worse out there.”
An attractive widow stayed until her philandering husband suddenly died. “For many, it is the fear of losing financial security. For others, it means keeping their social position. For me it was both.”
“I am afraid to be alone. I don’t want people to pity me. Besides I think I can still turn things around.” This woman’s husband has another family and she knows it.
“My mother always told me not to make trouble. She stayed with my father in spite of his abuse. I guess I take after her. At least my husband just fools around. He does not beat me up.” And she’s happy with that?
Yet another one said: “If I leave, what will people say? How about my children? I stay only for them.” She knows that this is the oldest reason ever.
But it weighs heavily on every mother.
The last lady I talked to admitted: “I know he is no good. I stay because I love him.” I suppose there is no better reason?
They say that women are emotionally driven creatures whose brains are wired to avoid pain. For some, it is easier to stay than to leave. Let me assure you that taking either path is an incredibly painful process.
When we are young and in love, we lose ourselves in the relationship. We invest all of our heart and soul. When it collapses, we fall apart. We blame ourselves. Our self-esteem drops to zero.
Someone once asked me “How does one fight for a man?” I couldn’t answer her then.
But today I would ask her: “Is he worth fighting for?”
What we are made of
As a very young girl, I saw a wife hysterically crying, hurling invectives and running down the street chasing after her husband. I thought, “no, that cannot be right.”
Then I heard about an aunt cutting her husband’s clothes in shreds and putting them on the sidewalk in a beat-up tampipi. And I thought that was ridiculous.
What do you do? What do you say when your man walks out on you? You do not rehearse how to behave like a “woman scorned.” I had never heard about the fury of hell.
Only when we are confronted with imminent loss can we find out what we are made of. Only then do we know how weak we are or how strong we can be.
Is it a measure of our strength to stay? Is it more courageous and respectable to leave?
I truly can’t answer that. But we do what we must.
In the remotest corner of our bleeding hearts we find fleeting solace in hoping that we have just dreamed this, knowing full well that we are indeed wide awake.
Some of us take action. Some of us lie down, roll over and die.