Monday, February 28, 2005

We love as we were loved

We love as we were loved

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Sunday, February 27, 2005 10:38 PM

I had a very interesting session with our Nazareth House residents yesterday. I ran a seminar about love, and the first question I asked was the most obvious one: “ What is love?”

The answers were fascinating. For more than one hour, I listened as the residents gave their own definition of what love is all about. There were no two definitions that were the same. It was as if everyone had his or her own ideas about love. And they varied from one end of the spectrum to the other. And many were contradicting each other.

Since I know their personal stories, I found it fascinating to see how their ideas about loving reflected their own experiences of the past. Like the battered woman who had lived in with a beast of a man for 10 years. She said that “love was sticking it out despite all the pain…that one who loves must endure the hurt”.

Another who had lived a life of emotional depravation said that love was “all about sacrifice. One had to hurt in order to love”.

Still others admitted that they didn’t know how to love. Even some guys who had many women disclosed that they never loved even one of them. What was most significant though was how strongly their views on loving reflected their own past. It just goes to show how subjective are our ideas about loving.

We are our past. We are the sum total of all our past experiences. We love as we were loved, and we do this blindly without giving it much thought. Unless we educate ourselves and get to know more about ourselves and what makes us tick, we will love without knowing what is behind our motive for loving.

The more we understand how the past has moulded and formed our ideas about love, the better prepared will we be to make changes and adjustments in the way we love.

The woundedness in us can only be healed if we become aware of the reasons why we think of love the way we do. During the session, one man stood up and said that love means giving all of one’s time to the loved one. He had been raised by a mother who was overly protective, a doting mother who did everything for him. Now a grown man, he demanded that the woman who would love him be at his side whenever he needed her, which was just about all the time. If not, he would dump her. He was unconsciously looking for a woman who would love him the way his mother did. Yet, he was unaware of the inner dynamics involved and despite his many women, all his relationships had failed. Small wonder since he was so demanding and so possessive. His idea of love was more about being mothered than loving.

Studying our past gives us insights into how we have acquired the thought and behavior patterns that rule us. Once we can do this, we are in a better position to judge whether or not we wish to make changes.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Dealing with a homosexual offspring

Dealing with a homosexual offspring

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, February 25, 2005 11:55 PM

What to do when reality sets in and you are faced with a child who is a homosexual or lesbian? First, you need to spend time getting the facts. There are so many falsehoods going around about homosexuals and homosexuality that you need to sort out the true from the false. Learning as much as you can will make things a lot easier for you.

Then you will need to be ready to listen. Listen to how your son feels about the mix of confused feelings he is experiencing as reality sets in his life as well as yours.

Keep the lines of communication open. This is a time of crisis for your child and he needs you badly to listen to him and understand him more than ever. So keep talking. Get to know what is in his mind.

Be sensitive. Don’t sermonize him about the “evils of homosexual activities.” You don’t want to shut him off and not know what’s in his heart and mind.

Support him. You may have difficulty accepting that he is gay, but keep in mind that he is still your son and deserving of your love. Things have not worked out as expected, but then, much of life holds surprises (many unpleasant) for us all.

Keep in mind that there is a lot more to a person than his sexual orientation. A lot more to your son than his homosexuality. You need to focus on his person and the beauty that emanates from within. I have fine friends who are gay. Many of them are very talented, kind-hearted and generous persons. This is what should be focused, just as one would with the heterosexual son or daughter.

We do not choose our sexual orientation. Someday, no doubt, science will unlock the mystery about why some are born gay. Until then we can only accept and continue to love our gay children as if it doesn’t matter what is their sexual orientation.

Just as we would teach our heterosexual children to live decently, so, too, must we show our gay children the way to a happy life.

There will be, however, some very difficult issues for which there are no easy answers. Like, how the Church views homosexuality. The official stand of the Church is that it’s okay to be a homosexual as long as he does not engage in sexual activities. But then, the homosexual’s orientation is precisely geared to the same sex. It’s what makes him homosexual. So does the Church require him to be chaste for life? It seems so, since he isn’t drawn to the opposite sex. Now that’s a very tall order indeed. It is like asking the heterosexual to refrain from having sex with the opposite sex and instead being restricted to the same sex activity.

Still, through it all, the gay youngster needs the love of the parents. Understanding and acceptance are crucial to keeping love alive and healthy between parent and child.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Parental guilt at having a gay child

Parental guilt at having a gay child

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, February 25, 2005 1:07 AM

We don’t really know what causes homosexuality. Some say the causes are genetic. Others maintain that it is learned behavior. I think it is a combination of both genetics and learned behavior.

How do you explain the homosexual who has had no desire for women since the day he was born? Genetics. Then, later on when he gravitates toward like-minded young people, he learns behavior.

Homosexuality, however, isn’t something that parents do. Still, many parents feel guilty and ask themselves what it is they did to cause their son to become a homosexual.

The American Psychiatric Association believes that “innate characteristics contribute to sexual orientation cannot be changed through medical or psychiatric treatment.” Still, many parents, upon learning that their child is a homosexual or lesbian, will try to change him or her. Unable to accept the reality confronting them, they feverishly look for ways to make things right. And making it right usually means doing what it takes to get them back to normal.

That might mean getting the boy to go out with a woman. I know of instances when fathers have brought the gay son to a prostitute in the hope that sex with a woman will do the job. It doesn’t, of course. What it does, however, is to further traumatize the youngster. Or, the pressure is on for him to get into sports and “act like a real man.”

In many cases, there is a subtle (or not so subtle) rejection of the homosexual son or lesbian daughter. This is reflected in the feelings of the children who find it difficult to feel one with their parents.

We parents have expectations of our children and it is inconceivable that a parent wishes to have a homosexual son or lesbian daughter. So when it does happen, parents have a lot of adjustments to make.

But before making adjustments, they will need to do battle with their own feelings. They will need to face their own reality and their own unfulfilled expectations. Fathers feel guilty for not teaching masculine values.

They naturally see their sons as reflections of themselves and they don’t like what they are seeing.

There is a measure of shame. What will friends and the extended family think? And there is anger that things worked out this way. Anger with God even. Why did He let this happen?

Then, there is great confusion as this mix of feelings gives rise to a sense of increasing helplessness and hopelessness as nothing seems to work when trying to change the youngster.

It is not surprising that parents get so disturbed when they are faced with the reality of a homosexual child. Not surprisingly, their feelings run the whole gamut, from hope for change to despair that nothing will ever change.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A homosexual in the family

A homosexual in the family

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, February 24, 2005 2:18 AM

He was a tough military man, an officer who had spent his life as a soldier, and now he was very angry with his son. The boy was 14 and had admitted to his mother that he thought he was gay. He confessed that he had no interest at all in women but felt strongly attracted to males.

He had kept this to himself, with the exception of a few similarly oriented friends. It was precisely his band of friends (all gay) that had alerted his father and caused him to confront his son. Trembling with fear, the boy nevertheless was able to tell his father the truth about how he felt. His dad was furious and belittled him and told him to “grow up and be a real man.”

The situation threatened to get out of hand and I was called in. The dad refused to listen and kept insisting that all the boy needed was to get into sports and have a few women and he would be just fine. In the meantime, there was no way that he could or would accept that his only son was gay.

There are few problems that cause more distress in parents than the discovery that their son or daughter isn’t “normal.” It is a shock for them to learn that Juan is a homosexual, or that Pilar is a lesbian. Long after all the evidence is in, parents will still remain in denial for quite a while. And some go to the grave without ever accepting the reality of their child’s sexuality.

The rejection of the child’s homosexuality is soon interpreted by him as a rejection of his person. It is difficult to imagine just how painful is the agony that young people experience as they deal with the reality of their own sexual orientation and the overt hostility they feel coming from a parent who is unwilling to accept the teenager’s homosexuality.

When a youngster is faced with the thought that he might be gay, he will initially go into denial. He instinctively knows the consequences of being gay. He is aware that if indeed he is gay, his lifestyle will be very different from most boys. He understands that he will be in the minority. A minority that is all too often mocked and scoffed at, made fun of and openly rejected by many.

He wonders too about his standing in the Church, which is quick to say that it condemns homosexual behavior but not the homosexual. This even if the Church expects him to refrain from any homosexual acts, never mind that he feels no urge to have sex with women. In fact, for many homosexuals, the thought of having sex with a woman is as abhorrent as is the prospect to a heterosexual man having sex with a male.

He fears the reaction and rejection of family, friends and strangers if and when they come to know the truth about himself. He worries even if God will understand him.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Enough of kid gloves for erring priests

Enough of kid gloves for erring priests

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 12:15 AM

I just spoke to my brother who lives in Boston, Massachusetts a while ago. He works with the mentally ill. He calls them the “mentally challenged.”

During our conversation, he touched upon the problems that the archdiocese of Boston is currently having. They are huge. Who would think a few years ago that this once rich and prestigious archdiocese would be closing 38 parishes next year? It needs to in order to raise money to pay off the liabilities incurred because of the clergy sex scandals that have plagued the Church there recently.

As you know, the archdiocese has been forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to litigants who have won their cases in court. Now the bill has come due and the Church must come up with the money. The once wealthy archdiocese has to sell some church properties and cut back on its services to make ends meet.

It’s sad, but Boston is by no means alone. A number of dioceses are in financial trouble as a result of clergy sex abuse cases and have had to do likewise. Two dioceses lately have declared bankruptcy.

The consequences of the sex abuse scandals, according to my brother, can be seen in the drop in attendance at Sunday masses. “There are few people, mostly the old, who are present,” he says. “If you want to see a decent crowd, you need to go to immigrant parishes, like those serving the large Brazilian community here in Boston.”

It’s so sad to see the devastation caused by the scandals. My brother further states that the “priesthood has suffered much from a huge credibility gap.” People no longer respect priests the way they used to. The scandals have tainted the good priests as well as the bad. And with the loss of credibility has come the loss of faith for those whose beliefs are not strong. If they have not left the Church outright, they have grown silent and inactive.

The Philippine Church needs to learn from the events that have truly traumatized the Church in America. It needs to move fast to clean up its ranks of those members of the clergy who are damaging the people of God. It must do so expeditiously and with conviction.

There has been too much tolerance for erring priests. The Church needs to take off the kid gloves and deal with these abusive priests with a strong hand, if not a mailed fist. The welfare of the people of God should be the primary concern. It should not matter if some of the erring priests get hurt. The message should be made clear and it must read: “Shape up or get out!”

Unless the Church is proactive, it will have to react to events that will overtake it. What we don’t need but will eventually get if we don’t get deadly serious, is a repetition of the trauma that the American Church has experienced.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Mature couples don't fight dirty

Mature couples don't fight dirty

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 12:43 AM

Conflict should come as no surprise in any relationship, whether it be of a business or intimate kind. Conflict on the job has always been and will always will be. So, too, will there be discord in personal relationships. This is so obvious that it is safe to say that a person’s success at work and in his personal life will depend, to a great extent, on his ability to deal with inevitable conflict.

On the personal level, many experts believe that it isn’t how many conflicts one has that is important, but how good one is at handling them. Less skillful persons may have less conflicts, but their inability to deal with them might have devastating results. Successful couples, for instance, may have more conflicts but know how to contend with them.

Don’t think that happy couples are spared their share of conflicts. They are not, but added to their love for each other is a maturity that allows them to tackle their discord in ways that let both partners to be satisfied with the outcome.

Love isn’t enough. Contrary to what lovers think, love does not conquer all. It needs the backing of a mature mind in order to survive the inevitable procession of conflicting situations that are part and parcel of any long- lasting relationship.

Couples in love who do not have the maturity to back them up will resort to fighting dirty. They will turn to anything, even what is foul, to gain advantages in conflict situations. Lies and deception are two of the more common weapons that those fighting dirty use to win. Intimidation is another. So is dredging up ugliness from the past that has nothing to do with the issues at hand.

Dirty fighting causes a severe loss of love when couples (or one partner) engage in it. This is so because dirty fighting is contrary to love. It’s hitting below the belt and it’s intended to hurt as well as to win points.

When partners curse each other and use every cutting word they can find when arguing, that kind of dirty fighting goes straight to the heart. It is seen as insincere, and sincerity is the corner stone of all love and of all successful human relationships for that matter.

When one turns to dirty fighting, it means that there is a willingness to use any method not only to win an argument, but to hurt in the process. If you don’t want to hurt your partner when you’re deeply in love, then you care little if you do so when love has fallen a great deal. This is why you will find that dirty fighting is common among couples whose relationship is on the decline. This is when the old saying “all is fair in love and war” applies, especially when lovers are at war with each other.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Love in the real world

Love in the real world

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, February 21, 2005 12:30 AM

When it concerns relationships, we never cease to be surprised. Just when we are totally convinced that we are deeply in love, something happens to prove to us that it isn’t so. Just as a couple believes that their love is unbreakable, the relationship is shaken.

When we fall in love, we know that stress, tension and conflict are inevitable, but somehow there is something in our love that we believe makes us immune to the problems that besiege other couples. It’s strange but true that every couple that falls in love thinks that their relationship is unique and that somehow it will escape the usual problems that everyone in love encounters sooner or later.

Perhaps it is because when we fall in love, we feel so good that it is inconceivable that things won’t work out.

It just does not seem possible even that our love will weaken, much less collapse. If we thought it would, we would surely hesitate a lot longer before rushing to the altar.

Love is like a narcotic. Not only is it addictive; it also has a quality of the unreal. It has a way of leading us out of the real world and into the realm of fantasy where everything is possible.

Clark Moustakas, in his book Creativity and Conformity, writes: “No matter how genuine a relationship may be, there will always be stresses and storms, to bring unexpected words, to make one impotent and afraid, to make one feel the terribleness of not being able to count on the other person, to create the despairing feeling that breaks in love can never be repaired.”

He’s right. Every couple, no matter how solid their love, will have their moments. Times when doubts of some kind will seep into their relationship. Moments of anger, of disappointment and of hurt. Times when love seems to be thrown into reverse. Instances when even regret makes its presence known.

This is the real world of love. This is how relationships work. Yes, “work.”

Somehow, despite it all, if the relationship is built on solid ground, it will not only survive, but it will thrive and even soar to great heights.

Moustakas again: “But one lives and loves, and suffers and forgets and lives again. . . perhaps even thinking that this time, this new time, is to be permanent. But man is not permanent and man is not predictable.”

Even if we do go on in spite of it all, love never ceases to be an adventure where surprises continue to lie in wait just around the corner. Love is unpredictable because, as Moustakas says, “man is unpredictable.” But it is this element of unpredictability that makes life at once so exciting and so unpredictable. It is what keeps men and women playing at the game of love even after losing.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The loving relationship

The loving relationship

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, February 19, 2005 2:08 AM

Last of 3 parts

When two people marry, both expect a lot from each other. You don’t commit to a life-long intimate relationship unless you believe you will benefit from it. And that is exactly how newlyweds feel when they tie the knot.

If the marriage is good they continue to feel that they are both indeed fortunate to have each other. They know they are loved because they continue to remain intensely focused on each other.

They have ways of showing each other that they truly care. There is a whole range of cherishing behaviors which remain living proofs of their concern for each other’s welfare.

They have their routine which shows love for each other. And these loving behaviors are not all going one way. In unbalanced relationships, one, the wife for example, is doing most of the loving but not getting much in return. In a truly committed relationship, however, loving behaviors are going both ways. You won’t hear one or the other complaining about doing all the giving.

Both partners can sense that the other is doing his or her very best to please and to look after one’s well-being. There seems to be a contest going on between them to see who can give more.

The partners in a good marriage are quick to acknowledge and show appreciation for the loving gestures they receive. They don’t take even the smallest signs of love for granted. There are lots of thank you’s, lots of loving and kind words that are exchanged.

Though there may be a tendency to get into power struggles, the deeply committed couple refuses to get drawn into such negative behavior.

There is a division of labor. The finances are shared equally and openly. Promises are kept and agreements willingly adhered to consistently. There is fairness in their negotiations with a great effort being made to be sure that both parties end up satisfied that what is agreed upon is the best that could be had under the circumstances.

In a loving relationship, there are the inevitable problems that disturb the marriage, but two intensely committed lovers have a way of working through them without damaging their love. In fact, problems tend to draw them closer to each other further and solidify the bond that keeps their love strong.

Another thing that keeps their relationship out of trouble is their habit of constantly checking on the state of their relationship. And both do this because both fully put the highest priority on their love and both want to guard it against any potential threat. I emphasize the word “both” because a marriage can be beautiful only if both partners feel the same about their love.

In some marriages, we find one giving heroically, while the other gives very little. The only thing holding the relationship together is the one who is determined to make it work. It may end up working, but not working very well. Just enough to keep it going, but not enough to classify it as a deeply committed relationship.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Commitment test

Commitment test

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, February 17, 2005 1:18 AM

First of 3 parts

IF you want to stay happy in your marriage (assuming you are now happy), you need to check out your present situation in order to catch possible problems before they get out of hand. This means having the courage to look into your relationship with an honesty that could be disturbing at times. Still, if you value your love, you should find the courage to do so.

You might want to do a quick inventory of your marriage by considering the following. About commitment, ask yourself how much you enjoy spending time with your spouse. This might seem to be a simple question, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

Remember how, during courtship, you never seemed to have enough time together and how you enjoyed every second of the time you did have? If this has Changed and you don’t enjoy spending time with your spouse as much as you used to, then that could be a red flag and you might want to ask yourself why it’s so.

Another very telling characteristic of deep commitment is your willingness to set aside your own pleasure in order to do something important for your spouse. The more you truly love a person, the more you are willing to give to your beloved. Not so much gifts and material things but the willingness to set aside your own pleasures in favor of your loved one. Is that willingness still as strong as ever, or can you say that it isn’t what it used to be? If so, it could signify a weakening of your commitment.

When you married, you were full of hope that you would live “happily ever after,” as they say. Do you still hold onto that hope or is it safe to say that the prospect of spending the rest of your life with your spouse is not what it used to be? If it isn’t, then how far have your expectations of a happy life fallen? And are they still falling? Remember that the root of all unhappiness is unfulfilled expectations. The more unfulfilled are your expectations (regardless of whether or not they are realistic), the deeper will your unhappiness be and the greater will the willingness be to walk away.

Another indicator: Are you still proud to introduce your spouse to your friends and family? If you deeply love a person, you feel proud to show him/her off to others. If that pride in your spouse has fallen, chances are that the level of love has also fallen.

Question. Would you marry your spouse again if you had the chance? If not, then you can strongly believe that your love and commitment is at a dangerously low level.

Then ask yourself if you are generally more happy than unhappy in your marriage. That should give you an indication of your commitment. It is difficult to believe that you are strongly committed to an unhappy marriage.

Lastly, do you feel that your marriage has helped you grow as a person? The more true this is, the stronger your commitment will be. The less true, the less will your real commitment be.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

When reality sets in

When reality sets in

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 1:25 AM

It is common for lovers to expect the impossible. Lovers believe that the happiness and excitement they now feel will hold and go on forever. The experiences of the rest of mankind don’t matter much because lovers always feel and believe that their love is different and unique.

They feel this way because when two people fall in love, they do all in their power to avoid tackling tough issues that might cause any kind of discomfort. There is real fear and deep concern about rocking and possibly capsizing the boat.

Perhaps the greatest miscalculation that lovers make is to believe that they can satisfy all of each other’s needs. The intensity of their love is such that they find it difficult to believe that this isn’t possible.

In time, they learn that there are needs that they cannot satisfy. A man who is deep into his career falls in love. The woman believes she can replace his interest in his job, which takes him out of town so often. She believes that their love will convince him to change his work situation in order to remain close to her. After all, they do love each other so deeply. She is later surprised to learn that he does not share her thinking. He feels he can go on in his present situation and still keep the fires of their love burning. In short, he isn’t willing to compromise on this issue because what he is doing is too important to him. She feels hurt because she believes he sees his job as more important than her desire to keep him close to her.

Meanwhile, he wants her to quit her job and to take care of the kids when they marry. He believes that a woman’s place is the home. She, however, does not share his thinking. She won’t give up her job because she finds it a whole lot more growth-giving than staying at home and getting bored. Besides, she is convinced that she can still give quality time to her children.

I remember my wife, Emmy, telling me before I married her 28 years ago that she would not be kept at home, but insisted that I should allow her to work. She got her way. I knew that her work was vitally important to her and that, much as I loved her, I could not hold her at home without damaging our love. I was a poor substitute as far as her work was concerned.

Young lovers quickly learn that there are many needs that their partners have that they cannot satisfy. This often comes as a shock, a rude awakening to the realities of life, of love.

It’s important to understand this soonest when one gets into a relationship. Some lovers will try to change each other’s needs to suit themselves. This rarely works.

Perhaps it will for a while, but later on, when the gloss and the glow of new love wears off and reality sets in, the partners will eventually give in to their yearnings and look to satisfy them.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Addictive love

Addictive love

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, February 11, 2005 1:10 AM

Fourth of 5 parts

What keeps a woman in such a one-sided relationship where she is completely dominated by the man? Where she lives in the grip of a man who continues to be abusive even as she tries her very best to please him?

The answer is ADDICTIVE LOVE. This kind of woman is addicted to her partner. She feels she cannot live without him, even if it is so difficult to live with him. Like the drug addict who will do anything, suffer all kinds of pain in order to get a momentary high, the woman who chooses to remain in an abusive relationship is deeply dependent (addicted) to her man. Like the drug addict who chooses to go on in his self-destructive ways because of his highs, so, too, does the love addict decide to stay in her toxic relationship because of those happy moments that she experiences, even if they are few and far between.

Dr. Susan Forward describes it this way: “It is a vicious cycle. The more dependent she becomes, the more important he becomes. The more important he is, the more she is willing to give up for him, so there is less left in her life that is free of him. This keeps her hooked very firmly.”

Often these are very capable and talented women who are very successful in their careers. It’s just that when they step into the house, they become very different. Perhaps, like one woman told me, “I have many people under my supervision in the office, but when I face my husband, I’m like a marshmallow.”

The reason for this seemingly unreasonable behavior is that the woman feels like she cannot live or function without her partner, even though he is abusive. There is something inside her that causes her to cling to her man and bear his abuse. If it was anyone else, she would never tolerate it, but it’s him and she is under his spell.

Another reason why the woman remains in this kind of miserable relationship is because of what Susan Forward calls the “Hope Hook.” The woman has the fervent hope that something will happen and he will change. Even if this is only a pinpoint of light, it is what she holds onto in the midst of her sufferings. It’s what keeps her going.

There is also, Susan Forward says, the “Fear Hook.” She remains trapped because of concerns about finances, loneliness, her children and reputation if she leaves. She may also fear retribution from her man if she walks away. Men have been known to kill a partner who gets up and leaves.

There is also, of course, a great measure of low self-esteem. Women who have a healthy regard for themselves, who value their person, would never allow themselves to remain in such a poisonous relationship. They would not hesitate to insist on changes or, lacking that, they would get out.

More tomorrow

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Are you into a slavish relationship?

Are you into a slavish relationship?

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, February 9, 2005 1:12 AM

Second of 5 parts

It isn’t easy to let a woman that is caught up in a slavish relationship where she is overpowered and dominated by a man see the contradiction of it all. The man says he loves her, yet he abuses her emotionally, verbally and perhaps even physically. Still, she makes excuses for him and insists that he loves her. He is very possessive of her as he dictates what she can and cannot do, often even up to some very detailed matters that she could and should easily decide for herself. He makes himself her whole world and she accepts it even if it seems like madness to her family and friends.

How can you tell if you are caught up in a similar relationship? Remember that if you are, you don’t usually know it because, if you did, you would have gotten out long ago. You’re trapped and you can’t figure out why, except that you are unable to break free. It is almost as if you like to be abused.

Dr. Susan Forward, who has worked with many women in such circumstances, has come up with a list of questions to help determine if you are into such a situation.

Here are some of them. The more yes answers, the greater the chances that it is so.

1. Do you apologize all the time?

2. Do you willingly accept the blame for everything that goes wrong in your relationship?

3. Do you watch every word that you say or rehearse what you will say so as not to set him off?

4. Do you constantly tell the children to be careful so that they don’t upset Daddy?

5. Do you cry a lot more than you used to?

6. Do you repress your feelings, especially your anger?

7. Do you constantly try to figure out how to get your partner’s approval? Do you twist yourself into a pretzel trying to suit his ever-changing demands?

8. Have you given up interests, activities and people that were once important to you?

9. Have you let go of opinions, ideas, attitudes, hopes and dreams you had for yourself?

10. Do you hold yourself back in your vocational or educational advancement?

11. Do you constantly excuse your partner’s behavior to yourself and to others?

12. Have you let yourself go physically? Have you gained or lost a great deal of weight? Are you paying less attention to your personal appearance than you used to? Do you find excuses not to leave the house?

13. Is your life based on trying to please your partner so as to avoid his wrath or disapproval?

If you have answered yes to a number of these questions, chances are that you are into a slavish relationship and almost surely you are not a happy woman. No amount of pretending can change that. It isn’t easy to look honestly into your relationship, especially if you are convinced that you are loved even if just about everyone who knows your condition strongly doubts that you are.

Tomorrow I’ll have more questions for you, this time about your partner’s behavior.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Is your man quiet and withdrawn?

Is your man quiet and withdrawn?

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Friday, February 4, 2005 12:29 AM

First of 2 parts

What do you do when you are married or have a relationship with a man who is quiet and withdrawn? A man who keeps pretty much to himself and doesn’t like to expose his inner thoughts and feelings to you. A man who doesn’t respond very well to your proddings. Who often is a mystery to you.

Such a man has a way of driving a woman half-crazy trying to figure him out. He can deeply frustrate a woman who is desperate to communicate and get a dialogue going.

The question might be asked why these women got into a relationship with such men in the first place. Perhaps they thought that the wedding ceremony would cause them to open up. Maybe they interpreted their being withdrawn as a sign of confidence in themselves and were actually attracted to them because of it.

Mostly, though, the withdrawn man is usually hurting badly. There is something bothering him and he isn’t talking about it. Not some tiny little thing, but something serious enough to shake him up and drive him into himself. Men hate to talk about their weaknesses. They have great difficulty expressing their fears, their frustrations and their feelings of lost confidence.

They have been conditioned by our society to be strong, macho even, and such men are not supposed to be affected and kicked around by such feelings. They are expected to rise above it all and handle adversity by themselves.

We know that isn’t the case. We know that even the strongest, most mature and well-balanced men have their moments when fear, frustration and feelings of insecurity overtake them. Even the Christ, the man-God, was overcome by those feelings the night before He was crucified.

There is another side to the withdrawn man that can be very unpleasant. He will often lash out at his family when he no longer can control his feelings and his frustrations. When he cannot handle things anymore, he often makes his loved ones pay the price of his depression.

The withdrawn man who feels inferior and turns in on himself and refuses to share and seek help can and does strike out at his family. His wife and kids cannot understand what is eating him up and he isn’t saying. Meanwhile, his aloofness and coldness drive a wedge between him and his family. His refusal to open up is dragging his family down along with him. It is draining the level of their love for him. You can better handle the difficult man only if you understand something about what is eating him up.

The challenge, however, is to get him to talk, to open up his heart and mind to someone he trusts. And hopefully that someone is his beloved. If, however, he cannot be frank with her, he will need to talk to somebody and get help.

Asking for help about such matters isn’t the strong point of men who are expected to find their own way. Still, if a man is to find relief from the inner pain that is causing him so much harm, he will have to somehow open up.

More tomorrow

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The sooner the better

The sooner the better

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Thursday, February 3, 2005 12:45 AM

Last of 2 parts

So, what to do when the courtship begins and you are faced with some tough and potentially difficult questions from the one you love? Questions like “What does your father do? (He’s in jail or is a jobless alcoholic.)” or “Did you ever use drugs?” Questions that can possibly kill a relationship before it begins.

If you tell a lie and are discovered, it could mean the end. If, however, you tell it as it is, it could also mean that the courtship is over. Many lovers will opt to take the easy way out and tell a lie, hoping to do damage control later on. There is this thinking that if love is deep enough, those things won’t matter. Perhaps, but sometimes they matter very much indeed.

I think that by telling the truth, you will get to know where the other person stands and you won’t waste a lot of time. After all, there are many others out there you can love and if the one you’re courting cannot handle some unpleasant or even ugly truths about you, then there’s a good chance he/she isn’t the one for you.

If he cannot accept that your parents are separated, better that you know it now rather than later. If she leaves you because she learns that you’re using drugs, it’s almost sure that she will go later when she inevitably learns the truth.

In fact, the sooner you get these nagging questions out of the way, the better. You might even want to let the other know the truth before being asked. That might even win you some points. We all have our skeletons in the closet. None of us has a perfectly clean slate.

This is why love always has a measure of risk. Every potential lover has the potentials of being less than advertised. None of us is without some kind of blemish. And rare is the couple that doesn’t have some surprises awaiting them after the wedding.

Dr. Harold Bloomfield has a nice way of putting it all in perspective. He writes: “I had done bad things in my life, have had bad thoughts. I am not always kind nor always generous. I have placed myself first. I have lied, cheated. I have acted out of passion which has hurt others. I have been inconsiderate, punishing, even vengeful. And I have felt guilty, tried to make amends, tried to atone, made New Year’s resolutions about becoming better. I know some very similar things about you. So I’m not ok. And you’re not ok, but that’s ok.”

If your relationship is to be healthy, you will have to love your partner who will surely be less than what you expect. There will be much that is that you will wish isn’t. And much that isn’t that you will wish is.

Still you will love despite it all and find happiness in the midst of imperfections. It is the only way to love realistically.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

When love is new

When love is new

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, February 2, 2005 12:21 AM

First of two parts

Perhaps the greatest effort that two new lovers exert is in trying hard to impress each other. New lovers don’t trust each other enough to be themselves. Their love has not yet taken strong-enough root to allow them to see the negative traits and feel comfortable about them. There is fear that if the beloved knows the ugly truth, it could end the relationship in the wink of an eye.

All valid concerns. When love is new, it is fragile and can easily be shaken to its core. This is why there is so much tension to be found in new love, along with the obvious thrills and excitement.

The problem lies in being honest with each other. Honesty is scary when you worry about the beloved being able to handle a revelation that could become the reason for a breakup. This is why new lovers agonize over whether to open up matters that could be controversial even if they are important.

Lovers know that if they are to be fair, they should reveal certain realities that could turn off the beloved. When they don’t do so and the partner learns about it anyway from another source, there is a measure of disappointment and a loss of credibility. When asked why the truth was not opened up, the inevitable answer is “I was afraid to lose you.”

That surely is true. It is this fear of losing the beloved that causes lovers to lie, deny and minimize. Somehow they hope that given more time for their love to deepen, the relationship will stand a better chance of surviving.

They are correct… up to a point. Lying and dancing around the truth might give a lover more time, but the price to be paid will be high. Assuming that the relationship survives, the playing around with the truth will cause a measure of doubt in the mind of the beloved. The question will undoubtedly arise: “What else is he/she not saying?”

These doubts will give rise to an uneasiness about the sincerity of the loved one. Perhaps love has intensified enough to keep the relationship from crashing, but then maybe it has not. Many lovers cannot handle the lies and decide to walk away rather than deal with them. Others hope against hope that this dishonesty (that’s what it is, even in love) is going to be a one-shot deal and won’t be repeated. Regardless, the issue of telling the truth in the early stages of love is one of the most common concerns of new lovers.

I personally believe that the truth, even the ugly truth, should not be played with. There is nothing that shakes up a relationship more than lying.

Sincerity is the foundation of loving. Dishonesty is the direct opposite of sincerity. The lover who lies and then claims that his lie is sincere isn’t believable.

More Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The REALity of God

The REALity of God

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, February 1, 2005 12:14 AM

Ah Christ, that it were possible for one short hour to see the souls we loved, that they might tell us what and where they be.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote these words. In the light of the deep grief that the nation felt with the sudden death of Fernando Poe Jr. and KC de Venecia, the lines above become more meaningful.

There is so much that is unknown about death and beyond. There are those who truly believe that there is nothing beyond. They are convinced that this life is all we have.

Then there are those who say no and who believe that there is life after life. But it is so vague, so mysterious that those of us who are left behind when a loved one passes away can only wonder—“what and where they be.”

There is heaven, but we know next to nothing about it except that our faith tells us that it exists and it is where God takes us if we have lived a good life. But then again, we can’t help but wonder what it is like “up there,” even if we are spinning on a tiny planet in the vastness of space and there is as much down there as there is up there.

What will it be like living in the presence of God for eternity? What will we do? Will it be boring? If not, how exciting will it be and what is the nature of the excitement? Will we communicate with others? If so, how? By talking or by some other mysterious method?

And what about purgatory? What does it mean to spend time there when beyond death there is only timelessness?

And what about hell? If we become spirits, how can we burn? We will suffer in hell, but what kind of suffering? It’s all so vague, yet the thought of having to spend an eternity in pain either causes great fear or perhaps lets some of us believe that it just won’t happen.But then the question arises: Do we REALLY believe in God? The other day, in a chapel, I asked a group of men and women the question, “How many of you believe in God?” All the hands went up. Then I asked, “How many of you REALLY believe in God?” Though most still raised their hands, a number of people did not.

I’m not sure if this is true of some of us believers. We believe, but do not REALLY believe. Not enough to behave as if God is REAL in our lives. It seems to me that if we TRULY believed we would behave differently. If our faith isn’t strong, then we might take the chance that maybe He doesn’t exist and our behavior will then reflect this lack of belief.

The demands of the commandments and the way of Christ are not easy and call for a good measure of self-discipline and control. If God is present (real) in our lives, it is made easier for us because He becomes a strong motivating force. Not because we fear Him but more because we long to be with Him in the life beyond the grave.

Lord Byron said it well:

“I feel my immortality o’er sweep all pains, all tears, all fears and peal like the eternal thunders of the deep, into my ears this truth: Thou livest forever!”


If you have problems about drugs, alcohol and behavior/attitude call my office at 820-6107 or 825-1771 or, e-mail me at or write me at P.O. Box 2099 mcpo, Makati City