Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr Baer,
I am in a long-term relationship with this girl, Dee, whom I want to marry.
However, I ended up having an office affair with Rita. I accidentally impregnated Rita. I always thought of Rita as nothing more than a fubu (fuck buddy) but now we share a child, she is expecting more of me. Rita’s dad practically told me that I should eventually marry Rita.
Rita has already given birth and still doesn't suspect that I have a relationship with Dee. I want to break up with Rita while maintaining a relationship with my offspring. I do not know when and how to tell Rita. I would prefer not telling Rita about Dee.
Should I slowly become emotionally detached to Rita? Or should I just sit her down and slowly build up to the break up? Should I make a list of reasons why we would not work out? What do I tell Rita if she begs me to stay with her because of the baby? What if Rita forbids me to see our child since I would be leaving her? Could I ask advice on the best way to break things off with the mother of your child?
Thank you for your email.
There seems to be only one major character in your story as you tell it and that is you. Dee gets a passing mention as the ‘lucky’ girl who will get to marry you, Rita gets slightly better treatment but only because she is the mother of your child and has to be placated, and her father barely merits a sentence. You, however, are center stage.
You have been going out long term with Dee and plan to marry. So deep is your love for her that you have also been having an affair with Rita. Rita became accidentally pregnant, which presumably means that one or both of you were simply too careless to ensure that this did not happen — or possibly that Rita was trying to ensnare you.
Faced with this unexpected and unwelcome development, what did you do? It seems that you procrastinated and did nothing, to the point that you and Rita are now parents, Dee is blissfully unaware of your new family and you now want to wriggle off the hook on which you have impaled yourself.
You set out various scenarios designed to aid your abandonment of Rita and ask which one will enable you to achieve your aim with the least pain (to yourself of course). Quite how you think anyone can advise you on such a nuanced issue when they have virtually no information on the other party, your lover and the mother of your child, eludes me.
There appear to be no good options immediately available to you. You could marry Rita and if you are very lucky, live happily ever after. You could dump Rita, support your child, and marry Dee, hoping she never finds out about your infidelity and offspring. You could come clean to both Dee and Rita and try to manage the nuclear explosion that that would probably set off.
Or, most likely given your past behavior, you could continue to lie to everyone and just try to manage the situation on a day-to-day basis.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter, though I can’t really say I thank Mr Baer for his answer to you. Talk about petmalu!! (malupit; i.e., cruel).
But even as I judge his answer as, perhaps, more scathing than it need be, I also realize that, at least in my opinion, he has told you all you need to know. Admittedly, he could have been more gentle in his approach but as we psychologists sometimes say, “woulda, coulda, shoulda, (and trying to rationalize things this way is a waste of time)."
What matters is that Mr Baer said what he said and, perhaps, it is up to me to try and share our message in a way that makes it more likely you will absorb some of it.
Mr Baer begins his final paragraph with: “There appear to be no good options immediately available to you.” If you take the present and immediate future, he is right. However, if you take the long view, especially if your current dilemma helps you understand the necessity of being open (no more secrets!) in your relationships, then you will have future options in life that will be welcome and worth aspiring to.
True, coming clean with both Dee and Rita (not to mention Rita’s father) might result in catastrophic pain for all involved. I imagine both Dee and Rita would be devastated, judging your actions as acts of betrayal. They would be correct in thinking so.
However, based on clinical experience, coming clean with both Dee and Rita is the only sane option. Keeping secrets takes its toll not only on the mind and heart, but also on one’s body.
“The most damaging type of secret to keep, it seems, is exactly the kind you fear would lead your partner to disapprove of you. But protecting those secrets that may lie in the core of your identity keeps your partner from having a complete picture of you, flaws and all. The longer you keep such secrets, the more difficult they become to keep, and the more they can jeopardize the pathways of communication between you.” Easterling, B., Knox, D., & Brackett, A. (2012). (Source: “Secrets in Romantic Relationships: Does Sexual Orientation Matter?” Journal Of GLBT Family Studies, 8(2), 196-208.)
I can understand how the fear of repercussions and blame following a “nuclear explosion” makes keeping secrets a great temptation. Please remember that while the initial combustion will come quickly and the fall out may take months – even years – to repair, nevertheless coming clean makes it possible to have relationships that are worthwhile, enduring and respectful. Anything less would be a disservice to all involved, most especially yourself.
Why do I say that? In addition to its toll on your mind and body, keeping secrets from others encourages you to keep secrets from yourself. I am talking mainly about self awareness, which you seem sorely lacking in.
Self awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions and know your strengths and limits. This kind of attention to your thoughts and feelings makes it impossible for your emotions to rule you. Unless you choose to give them the upper hand.
In your case, I doubt you even had the choice because you lacked self awareness. However, then was then and now is now.
Emotional awareness is a part of self awareness; it makes it possible to recognize emotions that you experience, understand the feelings, thoughts and actions associated with the emotion, and guide you to the best course of action to take not only for yourself, but also for others.
So important is self awareness (Daniel Goleman calls it the 'keystone' of emotional intelligence) that Philippe Rochat once announced that “self-awareness has been called "arguably the most fundamental issue in psychology, from both a developmental and an evolutionary perspective.”
BUT even if you are lacking in it now, that does not mean you will be lacking in it forever. In fact, if you write to us again, there are many ways by which I feel we can help. However, now is not the time to share these.
Now is merely the time to:
Show how a lack in self awareness contributed strongly to the situation you are in now. Thus, increasing your own self awareness will help you become a more thoughtful, responsible human being to people you profess to love;
Show that despite the horrible situation you’re in, admittedly, mainly of your own making, love, desire and respect is possible. Yes, yes, also mainly of your own making.
Sounds difficult from where you’re standing now, but I assure you, it is possible.
Please write us again if there is anything else we can help you with. And please don’t think me mayabang (boastful) because I honestly think we can help you. A lot lot lot.
All the best and good luck!
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.