Saturday, January 29, 2005

Keep the fun in love

Keep the fun in love

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, January 29, 2005 1:02 AM

Why is it that new love is so exciting? Why is it that new lovers always seem to be floating on air with hardly a care in the world?

For a number of reasons, I’m sure. One very obvious reason is their having so much fun. Because the relationship is so new, there are few obstacles that stand in the way.

The newness of it all, the lack of conflict, the thrill of falling in love and, what seems at first glance, to have unlimited potential for great happiness in the future: all this makes new love so much fun.

Which brings me to the point of this column. If you want to keep and cause your love to grow, you must be sure to keep the fun in it. When love isn’t fun anymore, it is because something is very wrong and it is perhaps dying. Those whose love has thrived over the years are people who continue to have fun. It might not be the same kind of fun, but it is nonetheless still a lot of fun.

Couples that cannot have fun together are couples in trouble. When you cannot laugh together anymore and enjoy each other, it is time to check out your relationship because something is wrong somewhere.

It was the great Jack Nicklaus who said: “I’m a firm believer in the theory that people only do their best at things they truly enjoy. It is difficult to excel at something you don’t enjoy.”

If this is true of a sport, a pastime, how much more is it so of relationships, when you have to spend a lifetime together. A lifetime can be very long indeed, especially when it isn’t fun anymore.

We all have our ups and downs in relationships, but the ups had better be fun. Otherwise, a marriage can become a real hell when there is no longer any hope of having a happy life.

When lovers no longer enjoy being together, they put less and less energy into the relationship, thereby condemning it to failure. It is precisely when the joy is going out of a relationship that the couple has to exert more effort to get it back on the track. And what better way to do that than to find ways of bringing back the joy that was lost?

The couple needs to address the problems, the issues that are getting in the way of their happiness. They need to be brave and courageous enough to risk getting hurt even more in the hope of stabilizing the situation and then setting the scene to put fun back into the relationship.

Lovers commit to each other because they fully expect to have an inexhaustible supply of joy in the future. Nobody will commit unless there is such a promise. It is the fun, the joy that makes the inevitable pain easier to bear.

The successful football coach, Joe Gibbs, said it well: “People who enjoy what they are doing invariably do it well.” True of football. True of love.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dwell on success, rather than failure

Dwell on success, rather than failure

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, January 27, 2005 11:30 PM

My big brother, Donald, is an instructor in Silva Mind Control, a method people use to better themselves. Whenever he hears anything negative from his students (“I can’t do it” or “I screwed it up again”), he would always say “cancel, cancel.” What he meant was cancel out those negative thoughts. Cancel out the negative words that affect your ability to succeed.

I can’t help addicts under treatment at Nazareth House as long as they keep thinking and behaving in negative ways. The new intake is a walking negative. He’s a loser, a guy who regularly feasts on failure. He’s a broken man who does not believe he can get well. As long as this negative thinking continues, it is most difficult to rehabilitate such a person.

The reason is that he keeps looking back while you are prodding him to look ahead at better times. The truth is all of us have our share of failures, of embarrassing moments we regret ever happened. These negative experiences have had an impact on our lives. We all have moments when we hear those voices of negativity talking to us in our head and telling us that we could very well fail, be laughed at or perhaps get embarrassed.

It is amazing how one mistake can cancel out the good feelings we get when we have 10 successes. Failure tends to shake us up more negatively than does success lift us.

Much of this is because of the past “programming.” We tend to better remember the hurt of the past than we do the good feeling of success. I remember one woman who got absolutely devastated because she graduated second in the class, even if she missed first place by the tiniest of margins. Instead of rejoicing over her success, she focused on her failure to come out on the very top.

Often we refuse to even try because we listen too much to those negative voices in our head that keep reminding us of our past mistakes. By doing so, we become our own worst enemy.

Sure, we should learn from our mistakes and failures. But we must also keep our successes in mind. They might not be great successes at this time, but they are nevertheless experiences we can look back on to gain a greater measure of self-confidence.

The great fighter Muhammad Ali was the guest speaker at a convention I attended in Montreal, Canada, years ago. He was very inspirational when he spoke to us who were involved in rehabilitating drug addicts. He told us to believe in ourselves, in our mission and in our abilities. Ali once said, “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” He surely did.

We all have dreams. Dreams that energize us and push us to rise to greater heights than we might ever have thought possible. We must not dwell on our mistakes. To do so, we run the risk of giving up before we even begin. We need to learn at least as much from our success as we do from our mistakes.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Marry to heal and to grow

Marry to heal and to grow

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 11:57 PM

Last of 4 parts

Another good-husband fantasy is the one that says he should always strive for more material wealth as his source of status and identity. He might not be very involved with the family, but if he continues to better the economics, if he can fatten the family bank accounts, he is seen as a successful husband. How often have I heard an unhappy wife say “but at least he is a good provider.” He believes that he will be judged by his peers by how well he provides for his family. Even the government plugs into this fantasy by painting as heroes those men who leave the country for work abroad. This, even if it means being an absentee father. Even if it means a weakening of marital bond. He must compete with other men in the race to give his family more. The more he gives them materially, the better husband and father he is.

Another fantasy is that the husband needs to assert his authority in the family so that nobody thinks that he is “under the saya.” He cannot afford to give the wife too much leeway for fear that he would be judged as a henpecked husband.

All these good-wife and good-husband fantasies cause lots of pain in a marriage and weaken its foundation. When men and women try to live up to these fantasies and fail to do so, they believe that their marriage is a failure. Trying to be supermen and superwomen is a tall order. Besides, many of these expectations do not address the real needs of a meaningful relationship, which calls for equality and close cooperation in helping each other in whatever ways needed.

If it so happens (as it often does in this country) that the wife earns more than the husband and is the primary provider, this should not distress the man. If a couple plays by the same rules and does not subscribe to the double standard, then, that is good for their love.

One of the major complaints of wives is that their husbands do not share enough about what happens outside the home. They complain that their husbands try too hard to keep up with their peers and that the emotional costs to the marriage are too high.

Men are not as strong as society makes them out to be. They, too, have their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. In their sometimes desperate efforts to hide, men stress themselves to the breaking point, and the negative consequences are felt in the marriage.

When two people marry, they do so in order to heal and to grow in every way possible. It should not be a one-sided matter but equally beneficial to both partners. Unless this happens, discontent, resentment and anger set in, followed by regret. All this spells trouble, big trouble.

If a couple is to make it in marriage and find the happiness they dreamed of, they will have to disregard these many fantasies and do what is best for them. They will need to look past those unrealistic expectations that society has placed on married couples and have the courage to be different. Their happiness and success at keeping their marriage vibrant and strong depend on it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

‘Good husband’ fantasies

‘Good husband’ fantasies

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 12:52 AM

Third of 4 parts

Just as there are good-wife fantasies, so too have we been raised in the midst of good-husband fantasies. Husbands also are pressured into roles and scripts that society has given them.

For example, there is the fantasy which requires that the husband should not appear vulnerable or weak. He must not show emotions like weeping or choking up. He needs to be “strong” and the strength we refer to is one that shows no signs of weakness. This “macho” image must be maintained so that the wife (the weak one) feels safe and secure. Men who show emotions, who reveal their vulnerabilities are weak and not good husbands.

The truth is that men have just as many intense emotions as do the women. It’s just that their role does not allow them the freedom to express them as they would like to. This is perhaps why there are a whole lot more men in mental hospitals in this country than there are women. It is also why men have such a tough time expressing even feelings of love to the women they court and marry. It is as if the culture works against them in this regard.

Another good-husband fantasy is that he should keep his work and his home life separate. He must not talk about his problems at work, nor should the wife ask. He is strong enough to deal with all the pressures and tensions without having to share them with the woman he loves. He must not be allowed to lean on her since she is the weak one.

It is so sad that these men keep so much of their lives from the woman they love. So sad that countless opportunities to share and bond even more are missed.

A third good-husband fantasy is the one that says he must not be dependent on anyone including his wife. He must be self-reliant and independent, otherwise the wife will lose respect for him. It’s no problem if the wife is financially and emotionally dependent on him. After all, he’s the strong guy. He must take care of the whole family and be the rock, the anchor.

When things don’t work out this way and the roles are reversed, the man feels humiliated and devastated. He believes he has failed and starts to resent the wife for her leadership role that he feels should be his. And should he willingly concede this role to her, he feels inferior and resentful. When this happens, trouble is just around the corner.

Fantasy number four: The good husband must handle everything except the domestic part of the family. The woman should take care of the house, but the rest is his. There is a very strict line between both roles.

Another fantasy: The good husband must have the final say in all the decision-making in the family. Everyone should bow to him when it concerns major and even minor decisions in the family. When this does not happen, he feels insulted and demeaned. And if his decision was the wrong one, he isn’t expected to apologize. In short, he’s the boss.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

‘Good wife’ isn’t happy within

‘Good wife’ isn’t happy within

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, January 24, 2005 11:50 PM

Part 2 of 4 parts

The sixth good-wife fantasy is the one that says that the wife should be her husband’s emotional support. She is responsible for taking care of his emotional needs. She has to make sure that his ego does not get wounded and his self-image stays in good shape. She must, in short, dedicate herself to his emotional well-being regardless of the costs to her.

I have seen over the years women try to live these fantasies and have watched as misery ensued. I do not for one minute intend to suggest that the wife should not be dedicated to her husband and support him and her family in every way. Nor do I suggest that she should turn upside down all these wonderful values that we see in the Filipino family.

What I am saying is that there has been, for too long, a lopsidedness in marriage in this country that is to the great disadvantage of the woman.

The double standard is one, for starters. Men who even openly womanize expect the wife to take it, even if she doesn’t like it. The wife is expected to grin and bear infidelity “for the sake of the family.” If, however, she gets involved in an affair, there is no way that the husband is expected to stand idly by. We half expect him to beat her up, leave her or perhaps even kill her.

The husband who controls the wife and insists that she remains at home is looked up to, even if he does so because he is jealous and fears that, should she be allowed chances to become successful, she would most surely surpass him.

Even if women have their ways of fighting back within the marriage, the truth is that often the cards are stacked against them. It is quite rare to find a man who is willing to live by the same rules he imposes on his wife. Most insist on privileges and advantages that they are not willing to give to the wife.

No small wonder that so many women eventually become disillusioned with their marriage and a sense of dread comes over them as they feel trapped in a relationship that is becoming increasingly unhappy. No wonder that the level of love that was gained during courtship falls steadily.

Resentment, confusion and depression are not uncommon followed by feelings of guilt and discomfort. The more she feels trapped in her unbalanced relationship, the more she senses the need to fight back. So the sniping begins followed by increasing levels of conflict and decreasing levels of respect for her husband.

She may remain in her marriage till the day she dies. Long before her death, however, she has died a thousand emotional deaths. Instead of growing as a person, she feels cheated and sees herself as a lot less than she could be if only she had not married. Though she cherishes her children, she has strong feelings of disappointment when it concerns her husband.

The fantasies have died. Reality has set in.

Next: Good husband fantasies

Monday, January 24, 2005

‘Good wife’ fantasies

‘Good wife’ fantasies

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, January 23, 2005 11:01 PM

First of 4 parts

A major reason for unhappiness in marriage is unfulfilled expectations. Because of the good feelings generated in courtship, there is an unrealistic expectation that the wedding will bring on even more happiness and thrills. The problem is that courtship isn’t marriage. Marriage is a whole lot more complicated. It’s supposed to last a lifetime. The children, careers, in-laws, health problems, etc., the list of potential problems is as long as your arm. Things that courting couples rarely have to deal with seriously.

Another problem related to unfulfilled expectations is fantasy. Couples have a lot of fantasy notions about marriage. Take the “good wife” fantasy. We have some packaged ideas about what it means to be a good wife that so many couples accept hook, line and sinker.

The first is that the good wife should not think of herself. She must be totally unselfish and put her husband and family ahead of all else. It doesn’t matter if the husband is a drunkard and a womanizer. She must be the strong one. Even if he beats her and makes life miserable, she is expected to remain strong (even if wounded and full of scars) while the guy is totally irresponsible. She has to remain attractive even if he lets himself go.

Another fantasy is that the good wife should try to please her husband even if it means she herself is miserable. She must be subservient to her husband. Of course the wife should try to please her husband, but she cannot be responsible for his happiness. It isn’t fair that the woman is treated as a second-class citizen in the home. Some women feel that things have become one-sided in the home, with her carrying a disproportionate part of the load.

A third fantasy is the expectation that the wife should do nothing to threaten her husband’s leadership position in the family. Let’s face it, when men marry, they expect to call the shots. My brother who is still single said it well. “When I want to do something or go somewhere, I don’t have to consult a woman.” Many men who marry feel the same way. They cannot handle a more successful, a more intelligent woman who gets more attention. The woman is expected to play second fiddle to her husband. The idea that the man shines less goes against conventional thinking. The result is often misery, conflict and separation.

A fourth fantasy is that the wife should take care of the house and be the one responsible for the children. The husband is the one who goes off to work and provides for the material needs of the family. Meanwhile, the wife takes full responsibility. The husband, for his part, is mostly freed from having to care for the children because that is “woman’s work.”

Another fantasy is that the wife should tolerate anything and everything to keep the family together for the sake of the children. The holding together of the family is her primary concern and the weight of the responsibility for doing so rests mostly on her shoulder. In our society, this is such a very strong fantasy that the idea of the husband holding the family together is foreign, and when it does happen, the man is seen as an extraordinary hero.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Why hurt our beloved more than we should?

Why hurt our beloved more than we should?

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, January 22, 2005 12:42 AM

When Rose and Jimmy were courting, they knew that they were made for each other. They never doubted that they would one day end up exchanging vows at the altar. And that is exactly what happened. It was hard to find a happier couple on their wedding day.

A few years later, the two were still happy. Now they had three kids and were settled in their careers. Jimmy felt that he was still the luckiest man in the world. He loved Rose now more than ever and looked forward to years of happiness together. Rose was of the same mind. Jimmy was as faithful as the rising and the setting of the sun. He was a good father who came home from work early and liked to spend time with the kids.

Their married life was routine and generally peaceful. I say “generally” because there were some bumps on the road that they had to deal with. It was those moments when they had their fights that truly disturbed Jimmy. When they were courting, things went along very smoothly. They had their squabbles, but nothing very serious. Things were different now. Both of them had advanced in their careers and lived under constant stress and tension. They brought their problems in the office to the house and they would increasingly find themselves into some serious encounters over the children, finances, etc.

Jimmy took more time to recover from these unpleasant encounters. He found it difficult to handle Rose’s temper which had grown more explosive over time. When they argued and Rose would let loose a verbal broadside, it hurt him deeply. More deeply than the argument warranted. It’s just that he sometimes wondered how she could hurt him so and still insist that she loved him deeply.

When we get hurt by the ones we love and those who profess to love us, the pain is always greater than if it comes from a stranger or an avowed enemy. Perhaps it is because we expect the loved one to be gentle in his criticism. If he must hurt, efforts should be made to minimize the pain. We expect special treatment from the beloved. If we must be confronted, then it should be a gentle confrontation.

We expect a greater level of sensitivity from someone who insists he cares. We expect anger to be more controlled, the words to be less cutting, more carefully chosen to avoid inflicting unnecessary pain even as the point is made.

Very often we who love are tougher on our loved ones than on the enemy. Perhaps it is because we believe the loved one can tolerate our excesses more readily and be more forgiving than the enemy. This is why we treat the beloved more roughly than he or she deserves.

There is more verbal abuse that is inflicted on our loved ones than anyone imagines. It should not be that way, but, sadly, it does happen all too often. It isn’t fair and it isn’t loving behavior. And every effort must be made to do away with this kind of unloving behavior.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dealing with porn on the Internet

Dealing with porn on the Internet

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, January 20, 2005 12:30 AM

Dear Bob: I was very interested in your piece regarding pornography on the Internet. I, too, am bothered about the proliferation of the same, but as usual, I am of two minds about it. On the one hand, having three teenage children, I discovered by the simple expedient of bringing up “history” and looking at the list of sites that had been visited from my computer over the previous three weeks, I was sad to see quite a number of pornographic sites had indeed been accessed. Of course, my children being half Filipino, the fingers of blame were pointed in every direction. Instead of raving, though, I remembered my own youth when we, too, would access what we then thought was pornography, the poorly produced nudist magazine Health and Beauty. Thinking back upon it, had we been more scientifically inclined, we may well have come to the conclusion that only the obese and ugly were inclined to shed all of their clothing. I still wonder just how one barbecues sausage in a nudist colony—but I digress.

In our discussion, instead of condemning their actions, I asked them just what did they think of the people performing in the videos? Even worse, what did they think of the person operating the camera or financing the actions? Was the loss of human dignity worth the income? What did they think of themselves for wanting to watch sexual acts? In the end, my children were shame-faced as we had all agreed that pornography, both the making and the watching, indicated a clear regression in the mental capacity of human beings and should be avoided. That was over two years ago and, I am pleased to say, my occasional checking of “history” has shown no more entry in such sites.

The conflict I have with myself is if pornographic sites should be removed from the Internet. I myself get intensely irritated when occasionally, while using my e-mail, there is an intrusion of an advertisement asking me if I want to watch hot sex, both heterosexual or homosexual. I am clear that such uninvited intrusion should be illegal. However, I am more perturbed with just who are the people who can decide on what or what is not pornographic. I am also of the belief that once you deny access to any product, then its illegality creates a desire for which people will spend a great deal of money to satisfy. This was proven with prohibition and pornography is no different.

As an example of this, in my youth, the book Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was banned in the United Kingdom as being pornographic. Being then a resident in Southampton, England, where, to avoid conscription into the forces, many of our local friends worked on the passenger liners plowing backwards and forwards to the United States where copies were freely available, we were able to obtain copies of the same with ease. The first few chapters were indeed arousing, to say the least. However, as the author intended to demonstrate, by the time one had reached the midpoint of the book, the sexually explicit scenes started to become less arousing, and in truth, reaching the final chapter became a chore. Lawrence believed that one could diminish the appeal of erotica if one was given so much that one became satiated.

Although I really do not like pornography, feeling ashamed for the people, especially the parents of those who act it out in front of the cameras, degrading both themselves and the sexual act, I believe that banning access to it will do more harm than good. With children it is natural curiosity and peer pressure.

I think that it would do more good to make them sit and watch with you gently pointing out the idiocy of those involved than to rant and rave. By not forbidding them to watch pornography, a great deal of the excitement of doing so is removed. By pointing out the stupidity of the actors gives them a good reason for not wanting to watch.

I am not an advocate for free love or untoward exhibitionism within the home, but sexual honesty with one’s children can keep them from making a great many mistakes. Sex should not be embarrassing to parents. It is because of sex that they became parents. But illicit sex should not be exciting either, and honesty in answering questions can avert a great deal of this occurring.

Keep up the good work, Bob. My New Year’s resolution is to make an effort to have a coffee with you.

—Alan C. Atkins

* * *

I share much of your thinking on the matter; however, I have a few comments and concerns.

Many parents, like myself, are computer illiterate, even computer stupid. They don’t know how to turn on a computer, much less track what their kids are watching. What’s more, my work with youngsters has taught me that kids are very creative. They could use other computers to get what they want see.

I, too, feel uneasy over who should censor what and I don’t expect the Internet to be policed. It’s just too big. What bothers me, though, is that it seems that the porn available on the net isn’t just of the benign sort, but you can find hard-core materials that are outrageous to the extreme.

Your response to your children is not what I see most parents capable of doing even if they shared your thinking. Still if you were successful in turning them off to porn, it was an extraordinary feat.

I see far too many young people addicted to Internet porn not to be deeply concerned about it. No doubt we parents will have a lot of explaining to do to them along with the exercise of vigilance if we are to protect them from being contaminated by twisted ideas about sex and love.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Fighting corruption

Fighting corruption

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, January 17, 2005 1:13 AM

I have often written in this column that the number one problem in our country is dishonesty of every kind. Corruption is tearing our nation apart. It is not only a national shame but a curse that we cannot seem to shake. It is a malediction that is bleeding our country to death.

A few months ago (August 23, 2004) Time magazine ran an article about the Philippines titled “Going For Broke?” It was a very depressing but sobering piece. It carried some pretty stark facts and figures. Like a budget deficit that ballooned from $897 million in 1998 to $3.6 billion in 2003. Not good. A lot will have to be done to reverse the situation. There will need to be considerable belt tightening. But then, who is willing to do so? It seems as if we are sinking deeper and deeper into debt, and the government does not have the courage to clean up its act and attack the many problems (mostly concerning corruption) that beset our suffering masses.

We spend 28 percent of the budget just for interest payments alone. This is up from 17 percent in 1994. We cannot continue at this pace without courting disaster.

In its piece, Time says that a major problem is tax collection: “A large problem is that too many Filipinos treat tax bills like parking tickets—they simply don’t pay them. . . at least 30 percent of the Philippines potential tax take is lost to cheats and government corruption each year, according to Standard and Poor’s. Only 7 million taxpayers have registered. . . everyone else either isn’t reporting income to the government or has been exempted from paying taxes.”

If I sound pessimistic it is because I see little or no progress in battling corruption. It seems as if the despair of our people stems from the belief that we are mired in the sinkhole of graft and corruption, not just in government but also in the private sector. It seems that the situation is hopeless. It’s clear that we simply cannot continue this way. It cannot be business as usual because business as usual is all about debilitating corruption that is killing us.

I hate to join the chorus of those who have little good to say about what’s happening, but perhaps what’s needed are enough voices that clamor for change in the way we do things. We need to begin behaving like the Christian country that we are, not just in our religious rites but in our everyday lives. We need to stop being religious hypocrites and start living the faith we profess. This means cleaning ourselves up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not much you can do about this problem sister

Not much you can do about this problem sister

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, January 12, 2005 12:30 AM

Dear Bob: I have a problem regarding my sister’s attitude.

She is 48 years old, so conscious of her beauty (she’s not really that beautiful, but because of retoke sa mukha—injection here, there and everywhere—kahit paano nagkaroon ng mukha).

She is conceited—a very conceited woman with high pride. Masakit magsalita.

She loves herself more than her children, her relatives; walang pakialam sa mundo. She’s a very strange person.

She accepts boyfriends, even married men, as long as she could please them for admiring her “beauty.” She is separated.

She doesn’t care about the world. She only cares for herself, men and material.

She hates being told “may edad ka na, matanda ka na.” She is so terrible, arrogant and worse is her plastic attitude.

She doesn’t know that what she is doing is affecting our morale and dignity. She has no shame.

What can I do to make her change her ways?

Please help me how to tell her straight that what she is doing with her life is degrading. I would like to correct her, but she might misunderstand me and we might end up quarrelling.

I remember telling her, “Drop those men in your life because you are only grateful for their admiration of you because they enjoy your body; but, you see, there is no love.” She did not react.

Please, Bob, tell me what to say. My mom and I would be very grateful if I can do something to change my sister’s bad manners and arrogance.

Thank you and best regards.

—Remy in Holland


She’s 48, separated, lonely and looking for someone to fill the emptiness in her life. She’s running around with men, no doubt in the hope of getting one of them as a partner. Meanwhile, she is making a fool of herself.

What to do? Not much. If she is living with you, you can ask her to leave the house and then have nothing to do with her anymore. But, then, perhaps she does not live with you, but still is somewhere around and is proving to be an embarrassment to you and your mom.

You are obviously very upset with her. Your feelings are running high and you may not be the one who can have a serious talk with her without making matters worse.

Better to find someone she respects and convince that person to talk to her and gently find out why she is behaving this way. Chances are she can’t stand living alone and is desperately trying to find Mr. Right, but going about it in the wrong way.

It’s also possible that she simply does not care anymore and is looking for those moments of pleasure and satisfaction that the day might bring. A “live for today” attitude.

Whatever it might be, she needs help. This is why someone who has sufficient listening skills and who is a wise adviser must be the one to approach her. Find that person and let him or her do the talking.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Corruption begins early

Corruption begins early

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, January 10, 2005 11:45 PM

Dear Bob: You are absolutely right in your analysis of why students cheat in school. It surely is a reflection of our society, our culture, our school priorities and our religious beliefs.

No wonder the corruption in government could be in perpetuity. Only in the Philippines! Where will the honest politicians come from in the future? The current generation cannot be a source of potential honest leaders for reasons you have stated in your article.

With exposure to a pervasive society indulging in sex scandals, unlawful behavior, illegal wealth accumulation, etc., how can a young mind develop a character conducive to creating an acceptable and ideal behavior?

How long can the Philippines go on this way? Is there any solution at all to save the country from destruction? It seems to be headed that way. Something has changed in the Philippines within the last 60 years.

Sorry, but I’m just expressing my thoughts.

—Name withheld


Don’t be sorry. We need more people like you to express their anger and indignation over what’s happening to our society. Those of us who would want to do something but do not know where and how to start can at least make their voices heard. We can speak up about the evil that we see is becoming an acceptable part of everyday life.

There are among my readers those who see me as a gloomy and pessimistic man who cannot see anything good in our society. The fact is that I love this country and its people. I see so much that is good and wonderful. This is why I have spent the last 40 years here, and I intend to die and be buried in the soil of this land.

Still, I am hurt and offended by the rampant graft, corruption and an incredible amount of dishonesty that contaminates all that is good. And it begins early in life because, as you say, “with exposure to a pervasive society indulging in sex scandals, unlawful behavior, illegal wealth accumulation, etc.” (all forms of dishonesty), how can a young mind develop a character conducive to creating an acceptable and ideal behavior?”

Our children learn from us. They are products of the home and society. They watch their elders carefully and learn from them. In less corrupt societies, they learn honor and honesty and grow up valuing these qualities, and living them on a day-to-day basis.

In our country, we talk a lot about “doing what’s right.” We’re long on talk, but short on walk. We talk the talk, but don’t walk the talk. And we get insulted when people remind us of what we are. Instead of doing something about it and changing our ways, we lash out at our critics. We reject the obvious and go on our way, doing what we have always done.

Is there hope for our country? Of course, there is. We are an intelligent, talented people. One day, when the nation gets completely fed up, the people will rise up, demand real change and refuse to listen to those who talk the talk but won’t walk the talk.

That day may not come until we hit bottom and bounce a couple of times, but someday the people will shout “enough of this, time to change.” Then, it will happen. Till then, people like you and I need to keep showing our indignation and hoping to add more and more voices to the chorus of protesters.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The loss of a child

The loss of a child

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, January 9, 2005 11:10 PM

The recent tragedy that has befallen the de Venecia family has affected us all. We can identify with the loss of a loved one because all of us have had that sad experience.

But for a parent to lose a son or daughter is perhaps the most difficult of all sufferings to bear. There is something about the loss of a child that strikes at the deepest recesses of the heart. The death of a young and vibrant innocent is too heavy to imagine.

When Emmy and I read about the tragic fire that took KC de Venecia, I whispered to my wife, “I cannot imagine what I would do, what I would feel, if this had happened to one of our daughters.”

Emmy’s reply was short but telling: “Our lives would never be the same again!”

How could it be? We parents expect our children to bury us. When we have to put a child of ours to rest, it tears our heart out. We die a thousand times. We think of how much better it would be if it were us to go instead of our little one. Better if it was us. We have lived and our days are numbered, but a child has only begun to live and to be taken away at such a young age seems to be so unfair. Small wonder that questions like “Where was God?” and “Why did He allow this to happen?” arise.

Children are dying all over the world in wars, famine and because of poverty. But they are faceless to us. Children with no names. When, however, it is the child of a well-known personality that suffers a tragic death, then it strikes us all. Young people suddenly feel vulnerable and think of their own mortality, something they rarely do. Parents look to their children and wonder, “What if it happened to our family?”

I am sure that many families are checking the exits in their homes and perhaps even reminding their loved ones of how to get out of the house in case of fire. Our helper, Nelia, came to us and, like a good fire marshal, gave us a rundown of the exit options in our home. She, too, felt the stress after reading the account of the tragedy,

Long after a child is laid to rest, the vacuum that the loss has created remains and can never seem to be filled. The child is ever present in spirit, in memories, in what might have been, in lost opportunities to live life to the fullest.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the de Venecia family. We mourn with them as we do with every parent who loses a child.

As a result of such a high-profile loss, you can be sure that parents all over the country are taking a closer look at their children and appreciating them even more than usual. Hopefully they will hug them more tightly and say ‘I love you’ with more feeling.

The loss of anyone’s child is a tragedy that should cause us to value life and our own kids even more. It should draw us even closer to our children and remind us about just how precious they are.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Excuses, excuses

Excuses, excuses

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper

If there is one thing that is common to most governments and institutions around the world, it is that they are very good at making excuses. It is exceedingly rare that governments will take responsibility for making mistakes. Even if it is obvious that they are at fault, they never admit it.

Perhaps it is because they fear the opposition will take advantage of their admission. Or maybe it is because they hope to project an image of infallibility. Or, more likely, the excuses are efforts to cover up incompetence or, worse, dishonesty and corruption.

I suppose it is too much to expect governments not to make excuses. This is why most people don’t trust their own officials. Instead, we have serious doubts about their honesty if not their competence.

But what about us? Are we any better? Or, do we find ourselves making excuses for our own failures and lack of skills?

We have all used excuses to cover up mistakes, laziness, lack of commitment and a host of other foul-ups.

Excuses might save us from embarrassment and trouble, but they also are a form of dishonesty. When we make excuses, it is another form of lying. When we say we “didn’t have the time,” even if we did but used it for other matters, that’s a lie. When we invoke the old “traffic” excuse even when we left late, that’s a lie too.

Excuses are a polite way of disguising lies and dishonesty. And when we get used to lying we not only hurt our reputation (“he’s always making excuses”), but we also get comfortable with dishonesty. And that hurts us even if we get away with the excuses we make.

More often than not, we don’t fool people when we use excuses to cover up. Everybody knows that you could make time when you insist that you “had no time.” You could have cut your free time if you truly wanted to. Everyone knows that, but they are too polite to confront you. Still they know and feel that you had priorities and they were not near the top of the list.

Better to tell the truth and apologize. “Please forgive me for being late.” Period. No excuse, just an acknowledgement that it was your fault.

You might be surprised that your honesty will most likely win some points and raise your credibility. Trust is built on truth, or the perception of truth. When you make obvious excuses, you lessen your credibility and you become less trustworthy.

We need not fear failure anymore than we should be afraid of admitting to our mistakes. We need to stop hurting ourselves and tell it as it is. A great American football player said it well. “I believe,” he said, “that the day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, is the day you start to the top.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Risks in a live-in relationship

Risks in a live-in relationship

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, January 7, 2005 12:05 AM

When two people fall in love and wish to commit, there is marriage. Or, there is “living in” when marriage isn’t feasible or when the couple “isn’t ready” for one reason or another.

So, just how happy are you likely to be if you live in rather than marry? We don’t have statistics that I am aware of in this country, but research seems to indicate that “cohabitation typically leaves a trail of broken relationships, unstable homes, domestic violence, poverty and thus a weakened society,” says Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly La Haye Institute in the US.

“Child abuse cases are three times higher for a child who lives with his or her mother and her boyfriend than the child’s biological father in a married household. The Department of Justice estimates that women are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by their live-in boyfriends than they are if living with their husbands,” she says.

“Often, adolescents convicted of crime come from cohabitating households. In 1998, a study of adolescents convicted of homicide in adult court found that at the time of the crimes, 43 percent of their parents had never been married, 30 percent were divorced and 9 percent were separated.”

Researchers found that “children living in cohabitating households also exhibit other social and behavioral problems such as being less inclined to care about school and homework and thus have poorer performance, tend not to get along with peers, experience difficulty concentrating, and feeling sad or depressed. . . One study found that the percentage of those exhibiting these problems was six times greater in cohabitating stepfamilies than in married biological-parent families. . . They are also more inclined to engage in early, premarital sex and have more discipline problems. . . and they are three times more likely to live in poverty.

“Couples who live together say that they plan to share expenses equally, but more often than not the women support the men. Studies show that women contribute more than 70 percent of the income in a cohabitating relationship.

“Cohabitating relationships are experimental in nature, tenuous at best and tend to dissolve at about twice the rate of marriages. Hence, children living in such situations are twice as vulnerable to the anguish and hardship associated with separation from a parent. Moreover, cohabitating relationships do not usually end in marriage,” say Dr. Crouse.

And finally, “research shows that cohabitating relationships in the US tend to be fragile, and less than half the relationships last more than five years. Typically they last 18 months. The national Sex Survey reported that men in cohabitating relationships were four times more likely to be unfaithful than husbands and that women in cohabitating relationships were eight times more likely to cheat than were wives.”

Just how true are these statistics to the Philippine setting, I don’t know, but they surely give us lots of food for thought.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Countering indifference

Countering indifference

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, January 6, 2005 1:18 AM


What do you do when faced with indifference? What to do when your partner is like the rock of Gibraltar or the Sphinx sitting on the sands of Egypt? When you cannot seem to move him one way or the other?

Indifference is characterized by a lack of concern and interest in you. The less concern and interest, the greater the indifference, and the deeper is your relationship in trouble. Perhaps the indifference is of the silent kind. You know, he still comes home and goes through the same old routines, but there is a growing lack of interest in you and those things you hold dear.

Unlike before when the flame of love was burning brightly and he was all over you. Now the bright flame is merely a dim flicker and you begin to ask yourself what happened to that intense love you once enjoyed.

Now, he seems bored. You might not see any signs of an affair, but there can be no doubt that a measure of indifference has settled over your love. You might, at first, dismiss it out of hand as just a passing phase. When, however, the indifference doesn’t want to go away, you begin to worry if this might be an indicator of trouble.

If so, what to do? First, get serious about this threat to your relationship because, no matter how you try to explain it all away, it surely is a threat. How big a threat remains to be seen, but then, any threat needs your attention.

Next, you need to talk about it soonest. Find an appropriate time when he’s relaxed and tell him about your observations. Chances are he will deny that anything has changed even if it’s obvious that it has. Still, you need to make your point so he knows that you know.

Then you need to try to inject some zip into your relationship. You will need to do things that will stoke the fires of love and bring back some of those old feelings you enjoyed so very much in earlier and better times.

Sure, you can’t go back to those courtship times when you were insane with crazy feelings that swept you off your feet. Still, you need to do things that worked then, trusting that they will cause you to reinvigorate and reenergize your love. Even the most powerful batteries need recharging. So, too, does the best and most solid relationship.

If love is still alive, these actions should rekindle the fires of your love. If, however, a storm is already brewing and love has dipped to dangerously low levels, then emergency measures might have to be taken. Perhaps you need to call in the experts who can help to pinpoint the problem and help you come up with effective solutions.

Whatever the situation, keep in mind that indifference is the sign, the dark clouds on the horizon of a coming storm. Take it seriously and pay attention. When indifference creeps into a love relationship, it means that love is on its way out.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The opposite of love

The opposite of love

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, January 5, 2005 12:54 AM

Part 1 of 2 parts

Rollo May, one of my favorite authors, wrote: “The opposite of love is indifference.”

He’s right. Take a good look at collapsed relationships and you will find indifference everywhere. You see it in marriages that have grown stale. He does his own thing, she does hers. He goes his way, she goes hers. He doesn’t really care what she does, neither does she.

This is why when lovers break up, they no longer care what happens to each other. They make no effort to keep track of each other. In fact, they couldn’t care less. They are truly indifferent. The more indifferent they are, the greater is their lack of concern or interest in the former lover.

If there is continued interest even after the separation, it is often a sign of love that refuses to die. When lovers separate, it often is not the decision of both parties. One partner bails out after making a unilateral decision. If the other is still in love and wants to keep the relationship, even if it lies in tatters, then the one left behind is far from indifferent. There is anger, sadness, desperation and a mix of many other feelings, but surely not indifference. There is still a shred of hope that perhaps a miracle will happen and the relationship might get back on track.

Only when indifference sets in is it all over. Indifference is the ultimate in not caring. There is a complete lack of interest in knowing what’s happening to the other person. A complete lack of concern. And the more complete the lack of interest and concern, the greater the indifference, and the stronger the proof of the loss, the death of love.

This is why lovers must pay attention to the indifference meter. As the level of indifference begins to rise even just a little, it is a red flag, a signal that the relationship is beginning to shake. When the level of indifference rises even more, now you know that it is no longer just a bump on the road, but a more serious problem that is undermining your relationship and threatening your love.

Time to swing into action. Time to rally the troops and rush out to meet and engage the enemy. If you don’t move, chances are that the level of indifference will only continue to rise.

When this happens, your partner (and perhaps even you) will begin to take his interest elsewhere. He could bury himself in his work, go to his friends and maybe, in time, find another one to love.

If indifference has already set in, now you’re really in big trouble. Especially if you continue to live in the same house. The indifferent one cannot simply carry on this way indefinitely without the high probability of getting involved, sooner rather than later, with someone else.

At no other time is the old saying, “No man is an island,” more valid than when indifference reigns in a relationship. Often, indifference is the prelude to separation. If your partner shows you great indifference, chances are he’s ready for an affair, if he isn’t already into one.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Power games in a troubled marriage

Power games in a troubled marriage

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, January 3, 2005 10:12 PM

Beth and Randy have been married for 10 years now and the relationship isn’t what it used to be. There was a time when the couple were madly in love and believed nothing could come between them.

Now, four children later they are not so sure. Both have real issues with each other. Beth resents Randy’s friends who seem more important to him than her and the kids. He is out of the house a whole lot and she senses that he has drifted far from her emotionally.

She suspects he is seeing some women but cannot prove it, though she is convinced that one day she will. She feels that since he is the only bread winner in the family, he uses his paycheck as leverage against her. He only gives enough for the household expenses and keeps the rest. She doesn’t even know how much he earns because he won’t tell her.

Randy has his complaints, too. He feels that Beth withholds her affection and often avoids having sex with him because she is angry at him. He worries that if he gives her money, she will not manage it well, just as she failed to do in the past.

When love is going well, there is nothing more beautiful, more satisfying on the planet. When, however, it begins to go wrong, it has misery for company. And sooner rather than later it becomes a power struggle with the spouses or lovers using various weapons to gain advantages.

It’s what is called power games. Power games are used to intimidate and eventually get what one wants, even if it means hurting the partner.

For example, Randy uses money and Beth withholds sex. Both are power games that damage love and make it more difficult for true intimacy to thrive.

Another power game that is meant to intimidate is the use of anger. A man has a mean temper and does not hesitate to use it when he needs to do so to gain an advantage. The partner is intimidated by his loud voice and angry words that fly like arrows whenever he gets upset. In order to avoid his outbursts, she does what is necessary to give him what he wants.

The same is true of the power game of violence. Some women are so scared of getting punched out that they give way to the man who uses violence as a weapon. The guy might get what he wants, but, in the process the level of love keeps dropping until the only thing holding the relationship together is fear.

Conflict is another power game. Some spouses threaten to pick fights if they don’t get what they want. And they become so good at it that the partner, completely intimidated, will back off and give way rather than engage in verbal scuffles.

Take a look at your relationship and ask yourself if you or your loved one is using power games to gain unfair advantages. If so, then you know that your love is slowly eroding and the day is approaching when you might find yourself in a loveless relationship.