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A secondhand emotion

“I’m getting married!” exclaims one of my friends during dinner as she flashed her shining-magic-“I made it past 30”-engagement ring. That, and it made me the last single 30-something among my friends. “Oh,” I uttered with a sigh and a sound of resignation. “Another one bites the dust!” I wanted to sing to myself. “Malay mo ikaw na susunod,” my friend says, laughing. Umm… I think I have to find love first, try to keep it, then we will see what happens next. 

It’s the love month and for days now I’ve been complaining about my social media feed. There’s just too many  engagements and weddings, or maybe I’m at that age when everyone is coupling and it’s just stressful to see when you have just come out of and recovering from a long-term relationship. I’ve always wondered how people last long in relationships and what makes it work. I’ve been in the publication industry for almost 14 years and I’ve interviewed so many couples from all walks of life, and the ingredients are always – patience, understanding, giving, respect, and love. Well, that last bit has to be in the center, otherwise everything else can easily crumble. 

For some reason, even if I’ve already been in long-term relationships, somehow it always seems hard to keep the other ingredients intact. Love can be there, but love surely is not enough. So what makes lasting relationships? What’s love got to do with it? And is love enough? I’ve asked a few people who have been in long-term relationships that most of us can only dream of, or imagine. Here’s what they have to say: 

“You both have to share some common values and principles. It also helps if you have something you both are passionate about,” shares James Bernardo, ECD of Havas Ortega. He has been in a relationship with his wife for 29 years, 22 years of it as a married couple. “There is really no recipe for it. I think a lot has to do with both genuinely caring for the wellbeing and happiness of the other,” he adds. 

“I used to think that love is enough, but after 11 years, we’ve realized that it takes effort, too,” says Claire Seelin-Diokno, makeup artist from Shu Uemura, in a relationship with her husband for 11 years. “Hearts have a funny way of forgetting how much you love the other person while picking up dirty socks off the floor. So far, though, it’s never giving up on each other. That and patience have been working for us and having fun together,” she adds. 

“Love is not enough; respect strengthens relationships and a decent earning keeps it smooth sailing,” shares Jun de Leon, photographer extraordinaire and married for 19 years. “But then again, the solution to love is to love more. Lastly, learn the art of always saying yes to your wife. Happy wife, happy husband,” he adds. 

“Give-and-take is an important and vital set up. More so, being sensitive with how your partner feels about things like making decisions or as simple as how you react,” shares Hazel Zaide delos Santos, entrepreneur, who has been married for 16-and-a-half years. “Relationships could be defined as a partnership, that through thick and thin, the couple would breeze through it together.”

“You have to be best friends, and basically, communication is important,” says Mafae Belasco, former Miss Philippines beauty queen and now CEO of Belasco Unlimited Skills Academy, in a relationship for 13 years with 11 years of it within marriage. “Being lovers is, of course, an amazing feeling but sharing your thoughts and experiences to your lover and trusting their opinions is special.”

They say it takes two to tango – it takes two people to work on the relationship and when one gives up, it is bound to fail. When do you say enough is enough? And how do you even begin to repair a relationship that has gone sour and on the brink of collapse? 

“Even if the relationship seems to be beyond repair but the couple is willing to work at it, you do not have to let go. There are some problems that take time, that perseverance and maturity of the couple can return the love,” explains Maribel Sison Dionisio, a parenting and relationship expert for over 25 years and consultant at AMD Love Consultant for families and couples. As a relationship expert, she says it is her job to help “willing” couples work on their failing marriages. “We try all means to save the marriage before giving up. But if one is getting emotionally pained and hurt and be a wreck, then it may be time to pause and stop working at the relationship or to move on,” she adds. 

Relationship books authored by Maribel Sison Dionisio

“We listen to their stories and we encourage them not to consider breaking up,” explains Gracier Paungan Yu, founder and counselor of maximizingmarriage.com. “Our first goal is for them to become open again to each other and to remove the option to separate. We also teach them skills on how to better communicate and better resolve conflicts.” 

But when do you say the fight is over and the best thing is to part ways? “There are some cases where they need to be separated for a while, if one of them is hurting the other. We are talking about physical or emotional abuse or extramarital affair. The offending partner needs to understand that his or her actions cannot be tolerated anymore,” explains Yu. “For those suffering from extramarital affairs, more work is needed. I know of relationships that recover from extramarital affairs. I still believe it can work out for as long as they are both willing to work on their relationship,” she adds. 

According to Dionisio, you have to look at red flags to assess if it is better to part ways. If friends and family are already affected by the relationship and they do not agree anymore because fights and frustrations are no longer good for the couple, then maybe it’s time to listen to them. She also suggests sitting down and discussing each other’s dreams and values. In a book she co-authored with her husband, Thinking of Marriage,  she wrote a series of inventories for couples to see if they have similar values and if love for each other is really authentic. 

“True love comes with time.  An exclusive relationship of three years will test this love. That is needed for a happy marriage,” shares Dionisio. I usually call this the third year hump, the year I never get past at, #stress. Dionisio explains that the first year of the relationship is the romantic stage. Everyone is still wearing rose-colored glasses and still on cloud nine. Then on the second year comes the real person. “Hello? It’s me…” Oh, Adele. Is it the person you want? Is he or she a monster? 

“There will be more conflicts due to differences, especially if you allow your true selves to surface,” shares Dionisio. “If at the end of the second year, with full awareness of your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, and you are still the best of friends and lovers, chances are your love for each other is authentic.”

This Valentine, if you’re with your love, make the most of this day and the rest that follows. If you’re single, do not fret. As my friend said, “You know, someday, you are going to be more than enough for someone,” so today share this day with your family and friends. You do not need to be a couple to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  

For comments, and topic suggestions, you may email me at tatum@thestandard.com.ph. For my crazy life’s adventures follow me at @tatumancheta on Instagram and Twitter.

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