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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Staying In A Loveless Marriage and Its Effect on the Children

Picture of a Happy and Loving Family By God's Grace --  Daddy Dong and Mommy Nikka with Reuben, Andre, Therese and baby Isabelle -2013

"I am in a very unhappy marriage. I am just staying for the kids."

"If it weren't for the children, I would have left him a loooooong time ago."

"I really want to leave my husband, but I pity the children. I don't want them to grow up fatherless."

"I won't be the first to go out of this pathetic setup. I don't want to be blamed for a broken home, but if he leaves me/us, I will not beg him to stay."

These are just some of the sentiments that wives express when they feel seemingly trapped in a bad or loveless marriage. Most wives are extremely unhappy already and would leave in an instant were it not for the children. These are wives who despite their unhappiness and despair are actually very loving and selfless... when it comes to their children, that is.

In such a setup, are the children indeed benefiting from the parents staying in a marriage, just for them?

I do not know who it was among my teachers in high school who said it but it stuck with me that:

Partners and Best Friends
"Children gain a sense of self and security not just from parents loving them, but more so by seeing their own parents love one another. When Mommy and Daddy are loving towards each other, they are validated that they too are loved."

Coming from a family wherein my Mama and Papa almost never talked to each other, held hands, or did things together, I could attest that this was beneficial to me in some ways but was also devastating to my identity and self-esteem growing up in most ways.
Life of the Party Mama and Usually Grumpy Papa

On one hand, it showed me the value of staying it out through thick and thin (although there were some instances when Mama wanted to pack up and we actually did pack up once (!) because she got very jealous and enraged by my Papa's supposed extra-marital relations.). Having married and together parents, even though they almost never showed affection nor fondness towards each other, made me view marriage as a walang iwanan (nobody leaves) relationship. [Their relationship didn't start that way though. I unearthed some love letters of Papa to Mama wherein they were actually very much in love, way back in 1973, pre-marriage. I don't know what happened in the course of their relationship. :(  ] Because of this, even if sometimes Dong and I had misunderstandings, never did it cross my mind to get out of the marriage. I knew I was in it for the long haul.
With baby Nikka (me) in happier times, 1976

My complete family in my HS grad- 1992
On the other hand, growing up with parents who seemed to not like each other but only stayed because of us kids, made me feel so awkward! I grew up with my Mama. I hardly knew Papa. Mama even had to tell me, "Miss naman your  Papa, Nikka. He is out of the country." Uh, forced missing? I replied, "Ah, okay. But I don't really miss him. He's always out anyway. It doesn't feel any different from the usual days."  Family outings were awkward. Holidays were spent without Papa. Important school events were attended only by Mama. It was as though we had a father who was there but not really there.

My small family minus Mama - 2004
Mama, also in a moment of extreme sadness once asked 10 year old me, "Nikka, do you think your Papa loves me?" Imagine my shock at that question.! I thought to myself, "What? Why? You don't know that?!?! If you don't know that, how should I know?!" That was so worrisome to a child like myself. If my parents did not love each other, what would happen to me?!

Eventually, Mama's negative feelings regarding Papa, (although to her credit, she never told me about it but I felt it) made me view Papa differently. When she died then in 1993 when I was 17 and my sister was only 12, it was as though we were left under the care of a near stranger.

Staying in a loveless marriage seems very martyr-like. Pang-telenovela. (One for the soap operas.) It is a sad reality though that more and more Filipino marriages are trapped in this setup.

Should the husband and wife really stay in the marriage, even when they couldn't wait to leave it?

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

1 Corinto 7:10-11 

  10 Ito naman ang iniuutos sa mga may asawa, hindi mula sa akin kundi mula sa Panginoon: huwag makipaghiwalay ang babae sa kanyang asawa. 11 Ngunit kung siya'y hihiwalay, manatili siyang walang asawa, o kaya'y muling makipagkasundo sa kanyang asawa. At huwag rin namang palalayasin at hihiwalayan ng lalaki ang kanyang asawa.

(I am only addressing here "normal" problems of misunderstanding, miscommunication or giving up of both parties to make the marriage work. If the marriage has EXTREME SERIOUS PROBLEMS of abuse, one has to seek outside help. Staying in such a setup is not ideal. Physically removing oneself from it may be the best solution, till the problem is solved or addressed.) 

1 Corinthians 7:39 

Wedding Day, April 1975
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

1 Corinto 7:39
Visiting Papa's dead mother at Loyola

39 Ang babae ay nakatali sa kanyang asawa habang nabubuhay ito. Kapag namatay ang lalaki, ang babae ay malaya nang mag-asawa sa sinumang maibigan niya, ngunit dapat ay sa isa ring nananampalataya sa Panginoon.

It is believed that every family has its own "dysfunction", some more dysfunctional than the rest. Ours was a very odd, unusual and uncomfortable setup. Papa, Atty. Ruben "Butch" Cleofe, the hotshot corporate lawyer who won most of his cases in court, was seemingly mute at home. Mama, Thea Cleofe, the lively, funny, super charming TV executive who made everyone feel at home, was quiet and serious at her own home. This was NORMAL to us growing up. All fun and happiness happened outside the home. Only deafening silence and extreme seriousness prevailed in ours.
Lolo Senen, Papa, Mama, Nanay Mercedes and Tatay Gaudencio all with their Creator now. 1975.

I write all this not to deface or defame my parents, but to show that in spite of and despite what happened between them, they chose to stay it out. Whether it was because of us kids or other reasons, the good thing is that they stayed together till death did they part.

As a child of parents who fell out of love or whose love seemed trapped deep within because of layers of resentment and failed expectations, that was more than enough ACTION that spoke louder than mere WORDS for me. It showed me that no matter what happened/what happens, one has to remain married to one's spouse, and only DEATH would/will keep them apart. I just find it so heartbreaking though that they had to endure all that pain, sadness and disappointment in their short lives, simply because nobody made the first move to humble himself/herself sooner rather than later...

Last ditch attempt to live - faith healing in Baguio 1992
On Mama's death bed, Mama said, "If God will give me another chance, I will fix my marriage." Papa was able to show Mama that he loved her in those last few months of 1993. That was more than enough for Mama to have uttered, "Mahal pala ako ni Butch." ("Butch still loves me after all.")

The Lord willed to take Mama back to His Arms on November 25, 1993, just one day before my Papa's 44th birthday. 

My prayer for you precious sisters in Christ who are in difficult circumstances right now is to fix what needs fixing now and humble yourselves while you still have time, because no one knows the day or time when God will call you back Home. This will not be possible though to do alone! One could not rely on oneself. We need the Lord to change our hearts and humble our spirits and renew us. Hold on to the faith, sisters! God can and will change hearts, but you have to allow Him to enter your hearts first.

Revelation 21:14 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Pahayag 21:14

4 At papahirin niya ang bawat luha sa kanilang mga mata. Wala nang kamatayan, dalamhati, pag- tangis, at paghihirap sapagkat lumipas na ang dating mga bagay."

May we all be richly blessed!

Mama Thea Salvador Cleofe, writing my name on some sandy beach in Europe, 1978 (Jan 30, 1950-Nov 25, 1993) I love you so much Mama. Rest in God's Arms.


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