The Challenge Of Marriage

Dear Joe,

I NEVER thought that something would happen that would leave me lost. Like a typical man, I’d prided myself in figuring things out on my own.

I am in my late twenties, working in the sales division of a company in Manila. I’ve led a fairly exciting life. I finished college early, before I was 20. I collected girlfriends like trading cards. I soon found myself saying "I do" to one of my girlfriends I had slept with because when her family found out, they forced me to take responsibility for my actions.

I was miserable yet I remained the picture of the perfect husband. After so many years of being good and dutiful, one glance sent me into a tailspin. I never knew I was holding my breath for so long and at that very moment found the reason for breathing.

I hadn’t noticed her before, though we worked together. But now, I became very much aware of her presence. I didn’t know her name, and I was scared to find out. All I could really do was admire her from afar.

We eventually found ourselves talking during breaks. The hours would just fly by. I found myself telling her about my life, and she told me all about hers. But I hadn’t told her the most important detail in my life: that I’m married. I knew that letting her know would change things.

When I decided to tell her, a lot of things came out. I told her that she was special to me, that I enjoy so much being with her and that she makes me happy even though I’m married. I was prepared for her anger. But what she did next surprised me. After calmly asking how long I’ve been married, she started to weep. She asked why I told her this too late. Why did I allow her to fall for me? I was shocked. She was falling for me? But I was falling for her, too.

We both decided to keep away before things got messy. I didn’t want to let her go, and I could see in her eyes that she was unwilling to let me go, as well. But this was the right thing to do. I spent more time with my wife and tried to notice the little things she did so I’d appreciate her more. But I was dying inside.

And then, one day, I bumped into her again. She didn’t want to look at me but I felt her sadness. I knew then we both couldn’t go on like this. So I told her how I was lost without her. I found out from her that she too was miserable without me. So we decided to continue the friendship, but made sure we didn’t cross the boundaries until we both knew what to do.

She told me once that she loved me and that all she wanted was for me to be happy even if it meant not being with her. I feel so much for her as well. I know I love her, but right now I don’t know if that love is enough for me to leave all the things that I know.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this. You’re the only one I can run to, Joe.

Alex

Dear Alex,

I know it would be too late to tell you that you shouldn’t have married out of obligation, but then again, a lot of people miss out on this very important rule. Marriage should not be used to fix something. Marriage is for people who share one love. It is not about needs being fulfilled. It is about loving a person and choosing to be with that person, not out of duty but out of genuine and heartfelt love.

Alex, you realized that it would have been better had you not married your wife when you met the girl you truly love. But it’s too late to even think of having a relationship with her. You are two people caught in the wrong place and time and I don’t see anything that could make it right except the love that you feel for each other. I have always said, time and again, that loving someone is not a sin. It is what people do when they feel they are in love that usually gets them into trouble. And even if you feel that loving her is the right thing to do, it still isn’t.

The greatest challenge to a marriage comes when someone gets into the picture and steals the scene. Your challenge, Alex, is how to keep your marriage alive and how to keep your heart from dying inside. You have to play a fair game. If we all allow our marriages to be threatened by someone who can offer us something better, then all of us would be miserable because there would always be better partners than the ones that we have now.

It eventually becomes a matter of contentment. Let us try to make our marriages work even if at times we lose our interest in them. Let us always remember being blessed is not always in finding someone new to love but in being able to continue to love someone whom we have always had, and making that love grow each and every single day.

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