Saturday, June 03, 2006

Epidemic: The relationship divide

Just a few days ago, a friend called and surprised me with some bad news: she has broken up with her Dutch bf of more than 5 years and has moved herself and her 3 kids out of the house into an apartment.

When we met, she told me with a poignant look, “I felt so lonely and I felt lonelier than ever every time I realized that I actually have someone when I come home.”

Since the children are already quite settled in the Netherlands and the eldest have wishes of joining an exchange program with other European schools, and most importantly, she has a good job, they made the most logical of all decisions --- to stay put in the country. They are only entertaining thoughts of going back home to the USA if things will not work out for them in the next coming years.

Foto from

With her residence permit in order and valid for another 3 years, they have an advantage. In addition to that, she has fulfilled all the necessary requirements to get Dutch permanent residency or even Dutch citizenship, though the latter she is not anymore keen of getting because the main reason she uprooted herself in Big Apple and moved to Holland was for a Dutch man. Now that he is gone in her life, there is really no reason to stay and become Dutch, well, if not because of the children.

I’ve also been to a going-away party of another friend.

With a miserable heart, she made a decision to give up her relationship of 5 years and go back home to Israel. The Dutch bf was supposed to move together with her to her homeland but a few weeks ago, he surprised her by backing out from the original plan. He realized that he was not suited for a country like Israel.

As a lawyer, she had a hard time finding meaningful work that will feed her drive and ambition in the Netherlands. Her law credentials are not honored in this country; she must return to school and study Dutch law but first she must master the Dutch language at a fluent business level.

She just left; her heart bleeding, but she must pursue and find her own true happiness and fulfillment. I wish her success with the new high profile job she just got in Israel. Something tells me though that she will be fine.

And our other common friend, I have just heard is back in Finland after breaking up with her Dutch bf too.

They have had a rocky relationship; it seems that she and her bf cannot agree to a compromise on the issues that they are very concerned about. Eventually the differences lead their union to disintegrate into pieces.

Uh, why is everyone breaking up!?

These 3 girls are the very first few friends I have made on my first year (almost 4 years ago) here in the Netherlands and it seems that within the group, I am the only last one standing tall with my relationship --- can be a scary thing too.

A few weeks ago when the Dutchman was away in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong for business, I spent my weekends with the Dutch sisters-in-law. The same negative sentiments was floating in the air during our afternoon tea and after dinner coffee conversations; a number of their old friends have broken up recently and their neighborhood at the moment too has become a new real estate haven with te koop [for sale] signs posted on the windows of houses --- many couples have broken-up/divorced after 10 to 12 years of living together.

Sister-in-law’s next door neighbor and the neighbor across their driveway, both families are going through a divorce with the te koop [for sale] signs posted in front of their houses. They even joked around that since this divorce flu plagued the community quarters vastly, you never know who’s going to be next, it could be them!

Reasons of the break-ups were: (a) growing out of love and growing apart; (b) one partner communicates while the other partner shuts the other out; and (c) irreconcilable differences.

Life’s heartaches, sigh, this must be what they call mid-life crisis... eh?

I noticed too that these break-ups/divorces usually happen within the first 3 to 4 years of a new relationship (the adjustment period) and after the 10 to 12 years of a long relationship (the awakening period). Moreover, ages of the couples fall in the late 30’s to early 40’s range, which I fondly call - the age of reality.

And, I also believe that the background of a person plays an important role, i.e. having divorced parents, many divorcees in the family --- these can serve as bad examples and/or influence, subconsciously.

Hmm, Dutchman and I are still on our 4th year relationship stage (6 years altogether) and we are in our mid to late 30’s ages, which means, we are not yet out of the danger zone!

Aside from the stable relationship we have (hey, its a lot of work too!), another solace we can think of is this: we both came from intact families - no divorces and separations from both our direct families, parents and siblings, and almost none too from both our older extended family members.

Well, we shall see...

Some wisdom to ponder on: No matter how sincere we are in our commitment to our partners, we can never guarantee a future of happiness and success in our relationships. A union of two lives is never easy; as it is, it needs constant tending and compromise, and the act in itself can either bring the best in us or the worst.

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