Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Brand New Ending

I've stopped reading romantic fiction books more than 13 years ago. The first non-fiction book I was introduced to was The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. That book might as well had started off with "Dear Johana," at the beginning! Its an understatement to say that book changed my life. That book launched my love for non-fiction books.

The problem with romantic novels is that the readers usually prefer a happy ending. And the effect of such writings are nothing less than disappointments in real life. Women readers feel unfulfilled if their lives lack the beautiful settings and heroes who are nothing less than knights in shining armors, riding gallantly into their sad and pathetic lives to rescue them from loneliness and a life without romantic love affairs that tug their heartstrings. Yes, I am generalizing here. But I have my reasons for this.

As a practicing marriage counselor for more than 15 years, I've noticed a kind of a pattern in the challenges that bring troubled couples into my office. I always believe that infidelity is merely a symptom of a break down in communication between two people. When two people stop talking to each other and making their needs known to their partners, they set themselves up for trouble in paradise.

Couples seek my assistance to help save their marriage. What they've failed to realize is that marriage is merely a piece of paper that states two people have made a vow to stay committed to each other. However, many of them fail to see the difference between a marriage and a relationship! If you don't have a relationship, where you can relate to one another, your marriage has no value.

Many couples would counter my statement by saying that they do indeed communicate with each other but they still lack understanding of one another. This is because they are talking in different 'languages' with each other. One speaks greek while the other speaks german. The currency of love is also different. One defines loving acts as romantic ideals such as intimate dinner for two, flowers, expensive gifts, etc. While the other only knows how to express their loving feelings through thoughtful actions, such as taking out the trash at the end of every night, caring for the children while their tired spouses cooks a meal.

No matter what the issue may be between a couple, the two must be willing to do what is needed to relate to one another. I have seen many couples survive issues such as infidelity, addiction, financial challenges and many more. They each need to communicate their basic needs for loving and being loved, freedom, fun, power and a sense of belonging because these needs are not tangible. Can't be seen by the naked eye. Many women feel their partners should know what their needs are! For God's sake, only a small percentage of human beings are gifted with the ability to read minds!

Although I will be the first to admit that not all marriages can be saved, I also believe that an end of a marriage does not have to mean the end of the relationship. There is no need for animosity between them. The good times they've shared can still remain as beautiful memories than can never be erased. That happiness was real and can be treasured forever.

Hence, this is the major difference between fiction and non-fiction reading materials, One is created from the author's romantic notions of how love should be while the other provides more realistic options. Love is not about ownership. Love is about loving unconditionally. Regardless of the differences in opinions, values and beliefs, two people can continue to love one other without being married to each other.

The usual cycle of a relationship is to fall in love, get married, and as resentment and disappointment set in, they begin to despise their partners and then decide to part ways bearing hatred in their hearts. Why not try another option? When no more stones are left unturned in finding a solution to the challenging differences between each other, just accept and respect and agree to disagree. Acceptance is easy when the desire to control and change others are taken out of the equation.

So, as far as happily ever after is concerned, it is still possible. Yes, happiness is possible. Even if it means parting ways and remaining friends. Having a healthy relationship is far better than staying in a toxic, worthless marriage. The question I pose to everyone is this: How do you measure or define a successful marriage? Is it by the length of it? Or by the quality of the relationship between spouses? We should learn to cut our losses and part ways amicably rather than stay in a marriage when you can't even stand the sight of each other. Think about it.

And yes. I still believe and respect the sanctity of marriage. But I value relationship above all else. Feel free to disagree. After all, this is only my humble point of view. Just make sure that when you say you want to save your marriage, you have a good and valid reason for it and not because society expects you to remain married regardless.

By the way, I am not devaluing romantic novels. They may be good sources of entertainment and mental escapism. But when it comes to your life and relationship with your significant other, please keep it real. After all, we are living in reality, right? Leave the heros and damsels in distress where they belong... In romance novels.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Silence Is Not My Absence.

Its been more than a month since my last entry. Too many things had happened in my life until I'm stunned to silence. Less than two weeks after my beloved cousin's untimely death, my great uncle passed away after a very long battle of lung cancer. I'm out of tears. Grieving is a deathly slow process towards recovery.

Apart from the constant migraine which I blamed on too much crying, my stiff neck and shoulders were constantly making their nightly visits. What I termed as my 'nocturnal depression' became more chronic than usual. My internal dialogues were filled with self-doubt and dark thoughts. Nothing seemed to help ease my misery. And then came the diagnosis. I have anxieties. But, don't I have too much on my plate already?

I also found myself avoiding to go out, preferring to stay locked up in my tower, isolating myself from friends and family. My whole body would be besieged by pain. No amount of pain killers nor vitamin supplements seem to work anymore. I knew something was wrong. I needed to see my supervisor again. I need to talk to someone I trust. Off I went to see Dr. Wan Kader.

I sat in his office for a good 3 hours. I was an emotional train wreck! I went home feeling relieved and unburdened. Funny how a kind and caring person with good listening skills can do wonders for your soul. Am I cured? No. I'm well aware that I am work in progress. It takes time to heal. I must allow myself to feel all my emotions when they come.

All through out the time since my last entry, I keep visiting this blog with the hope that I would have something to say. Something worth blogging about. I guess now I have found something to say, finally.

When someone is hurting, they may spit out hurtful words. But the one that remains silent is the one that's hurting the most. So, pay attention to those who are quiet. They are hurting beyond words. You don't need to say anything. Sometimes, a simple hug says it all.

"The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words." - Rachel Naomi Remen