Bliss or misery

By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 12,2023 - 08:00 AM

In what seemed like a flash in time, my wife and I reached the five-year milestone in our married life last Sunday. We’re lucky we got blessed with a child, now a bubbly four-year-old who’s the center of our universe, even though we got married really late.

When we tied the knot, our friends were telling us that we may not experience the “war stories” that young couples go through as they struggle to build their careers while, at the same time, raising their families. Little did we know that, just two years into our marriage, we would experience the “war of all wars” that had all of humanity cowering in fear, hiding in our homes for more than two years, destroying businesses and dislocating careers, and posing all sorts of challenges imaginable to all couples, young and old.

We’ve had ambulance rides and hospital confinements because of health emergencies that had all three of us hanging on to dear life. In one near-tragedy, our son almost became an orphan because both his parents had a simultaneous near-tragic bout with the COVID-19 virus. In another near-fatal incident, my wife and I almost became childless because of a bacterial infection that had our son convulsing for oxygen at a municipal hospital.

Except for the medical emergencies, however, I look back at the COVID years more with fondness and happy memories. Before the pandemic, I was a part-time husband and parent who worked in the city during weekdays and who commuted to the province on weekends to be with my family. The lockdown period forced me to completely retreat to the province, and it made us spend time together as a family 24 hours a day for more than two years. The pandemic years became an unexpected blessing of sorts because it gave me the priceless gift of abundant time spent with my son during this very crucial period of his growing up years. It also provided my wife and me time to really know each other’s quirks, as we were forced to be together every waking and sleeping hour during those lockdown years.

The abundant togetherness brought by the quarantine years either amplified differences or strengthened common interests among couples. Luckily for us, it was the latter. Our shared passions for native trees, political activism, art, exercise, and the outdoors have made our journeys around the sun fun and gratifying. My wife and I uniformly describe our years thus far as “bahay-bahayan” because we feel like we’ve been playing house. There are times when we get in each other’s nerves, because our moods, focus, and points of view naturally do not converge all the time, since we are two distinct persons after all. But we’ve had no north pole and south pole differences, and the minor disagreements that annoy us get swept aside by good-humored banter in no time, every time we play together with our child or when we go back to doing or talking about our common passions.

There are no statistics or surveys about the overall effect of the pandemic on marriages in the Philippines, but there are reports that it exacerbated marital woes, leading to big spikes in breakups and divorce in numerous countries. There are really all kinds of challenges that constantly test the bond of marriage. In a lot of cases, their magnitude or importance are functions of perception and emotion.

I have no new advice to give to singles out there looking for their life partners, except to repeat and validate old wise words. Find someone in whose company you can be totally at ease with in your natural self, warts and all. It’s supposed to be easy, and not difficult. It’s supposed to be fun, full of laughter, and a feeling of being in a sitcom. It’s not supposed to be marred in arguments and struggles, and you’re not supposed to be twisting in the wind. If you need to be on your toes, put on a mask, and be your unnatural self in someone’s presence, perish the thought, and find someone else. Keep looking. Who you marry determines your success in all aspects of your life.


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