Marriage and Unhappiness
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2019 - 12:00am

You know how I’ve been reprinting responses to my column? There is one response I received on the day of my deadline and I knew it wasn’t finished. The gentleman who wrote it a pastor, a lay minister, he says has finally finished sending me his long response and pushed me into thinking about what’s been happening not too silently in the world.

I gather he was an American married to a Filipina. Among the many things he says, this stands out: Love does not really depend on the emotions but on the will. He claims to have talked to many women in their late 70s. One of them told him she was never really in love with her husband but they have five children, all married by the time she told her story. She told him she still loved someone she did not marry to this date. But her husband was a creature of habit. Every day he had a breakfast of coffee and boiled eggs and then he made love to her. Then he left for work. She simply willed herself to do her duties as a wife. So he recommends that I tell Anna (not her real name) to be a good wife to her husband, no matter what.

He suggests that maybe the husband has a defense mechanism because of a feeling of insecurity caused by a childhood trauma. Therefore, the pastor thinks Anna must set her feelings or lack of them aside and work to make her husband happy.

In olden days a woman was regarded as property. She cleaned the house, went to market, cooked food, opened her legs whenever her husband told her to, bore and raised his children without complaint. And women did that not necessarily with pleasure, but out of a sense of duty. She was told it was her role. As time marched on women began to realize they had feelings too and these needed an equal share of attention, as much as the feelings of the male, which, for the record, involved the ability to have affairs with their secretaries, beauty queens, and other women they desired that their wives just had to accept. That was not fair.

Of course, this need for equal attention to their feelings was not articulated so clearly until the late 1960s when Cosmopolitan magazine, which used to run mostly literary short stories and articles interesting to suburban American women, changed its tone. Helen Gurley Brown took over its editorship and Cosmopolitan took on a more liberal tone, encouraged women to enjoy life, which included sex, and led to the creation of “runaway wives” wives who walked out of their kitchens, never to return home again.

At around this time also the book The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published, the rock festival Woodstock happened and women burned their bras. They began to assert themselves. The women’s liberation movement and the feminist movement became famous in the US. I never saw myself as a feminist although I always believed in equality between men and women. It was only when I lived there from 1984 to 1988 that I fully understood why being a woman there was really a tough job. When you got married and decided to have a baby, you would probably have to quit your job and become a full-time housewife or who would take care of your baby? You probably lived miles away from your mother and your in-laws and maids are so expensive there. It’s different being in the Philippines where there is always someone to help you.

Up to the ’90s women still had not gotten equality. They did not become presidents of American companies. Business magazines wrote about the glass ceiling that stood above women’s heads preventing them from becoming presidents. Now in 2019 that is no longer true.

Here in the Philippines there are more and more women presidents. Here in the Philippines there are more and more younger men who are proud to be househusbands and more and more women who don’t mind supporting their families. Institutions have crumbled. But there is still no divorce in the Philippines. And today, when equal attention should be paid to women’s feelings and men’s feelings, men are still telling women that they should set aside how they feel to pay attention to their husbands who may be ignoring them.

How do you like that? I get offended when a man says a woman should set her feelings aside and consider her husband’s feelings. Why should she set her feelings aside? Should they not be working out their problem together? Should advisers not take the point of view that both have problems they should discuss and solve together because marriage is now an institution for two people with equal rights? We have to realize that God created men and women as equal. We must make sure that equal attention is always given equally to both.

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