When a sacred love ends
As a child of devoted parents, as a millennial whose peers are saying their “I dos” left and right, and as a fan of genuine grow-old-with-you love stories, I can’t help but think about marriage—or more accurately, our concept of it. I’m among the millions of idealistic Filipinos who hold marriage in extremely high regard. It’s a lifelong commitment, a decision a couple must always try to uphold. For some, it’s because marriage is made sacred by the divine; for others, it’s because the Constitution itself describes it as “an inviolable social institution.” Either way points to the sanctity of this union and the power of the love that founds it.
So when confronted with a marriage narrative that actually turns vicious—inhumane, even—we have a hard time grasping that it is broken. If love conquers all and if the union is sacred, how could it possibly fail?
The romantics in us immediately point at divorce as the culprit in failed marriages. It’s the most apparent villain and the easiest scapegoat because it’s tangible—documents, signatures, and all. And the fact that the Philippines is somehow aligned with the Vatican in not having legalized it (yet?) seems to add to the feeling that we’re on the righteous path, that we’re protecting the sanctity of marriage against all odds because we’re shunning divorce.
But divorce is not what destroys marriages. It’s abuse, infidelity, chronic toxicity. The sacredness of the union is already defiled once a spouse is subjected to physical, financial, or psychological suffering. What is supposed to be inviolable is already violated the moment one’s rights are stepped on—and again, and again. It is because of these, not divorce, that a marriage ends.
Divorce, or the formal dissolution of marriage, is only a legal means to clean up the fray and free individuals from torment. It is not merely a selfish grab for liberation; it is a way for abused persons to distance themselves from their abuser and finally get a chance to be self-reliant. Neither should divorce mean automatic trauma for children. When conducted with respect, sensitivity, and genuine care for the children, the legal process could actually establish sound arrangements for their welfare (such as child custody, child support, and coparenting).
The greater evil is forcing a family to stay together despite the deep and persistent wounds they have to endure, despite the threat to their safety, despite the perils to their well-being.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for us idealists. In a perfect world, divorce would not be a necessity. All the problems and wrongs in a marital relationship would be justly resolvable.
But here we are in a world where manipulators chain their partners in both visible and unnoticeable ways, a world where forced marriages and marital rape exist, where the destructive behavior of one can drag an entire family to rock-bottom.
Currently, Filipino spouses who experience these have little to no chance of a remedy, as legal separation and annulment are both restrictive in their scope and costs. Divorce, that oft-maligned legality, may be the one realistic option for many of those who need an opening to freedom. It is cruel and unjust to deny them this necessity just because it’s unpalatable to our dreamy ideals.
I’ve heard it asked, “What’s the relevance of marriage if you could just divorce sooner or later?” Or, “Wouldn’t the legalization of divorce encourage married couples to be cavalier about their relationship?” These are bizarre imaginations of how divorce could transpire. There are strict provisions and valid grounds required to dissolve a marriage. It’s not a free pass for anyone who simply grows tired of marital life or changes their mind about their spouse.
“Everlasting love” and “for better or for worse” are so easy to utter while basking in the glow of romantic proposals and beautiful wedding ceremonies. It’s easy to believe that a union blessed by the heavens could never be harmful to a wife or husband. We’re faithful romantics, and we’re sometimes blind to the needs of those who suffer outside our rose-tinted vision.
But love, in those unfortunate cases, can turn malignant, and even a sanctified bond can end in shambles. Nobody should have to stay trapped in that ordeal. It’s time we allowed for a clean closure.