lea sicat reyesZEPHYR

While waiting in queue for the doctor to be available, I got to watch a Filipino telenovela being shown at the clinic.  I do not get the chance to do so on regular days given that as a teacher, my day starts at 6:00am and ends at 7:00pm.  Any chance of rest I get, I take it  which is really not the point of this column so moving on.

I was appalled quite frankly.  And not for the reasons you might think.  I actually enjoy Filipino movies (especially if Sarah G. is in it).  The thing that disturbed me (more than it should have but it did) was how it seemed to normalize, even romanticize, dysfunctional relationships.  And this was at four-ish in the afternoon so kids may be watching.

Sure, it may be entertaining to watch.  Was it just two years ago that movie after movie featured extra-marital affairs?  The sad reality is that in my years of working in an educational institution, as my fellow teachers can also attest, the children are the hapless victims of what showbiz seems to peddle as romantic, as acceptable, as normal.

That is why we, as the adults, should be able to delineate between what’s real and what’s not where relationships are concerned and react accordingly — hopefully with less reckless drama and more careful discernment.

This brings me to the heart of the discussion: how to tell if we are in a toxic relationship and what we can do about it before experiencing a complete and utter meltdown.

I came across an article by  writer Jamie Ducharme that broke down the concept of  toxicity of relationships so readily palatable that it is  easy to digest (oh the wordplay!).  He quoted psychologist and author Dr. Lillian Glass as the latter defined a toxic relationship as “any relationship between people who don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”

Ducharme simplified such barrage of words with three red flags. First is abuse (verbal, mental, physical, and emotional).  Second is persistent unhappiness.  Third is a negative shift of one’s mental health.

So what can you do about it?  For the first, please do not suffer in silence.  If you think you are in danger, you can seek protection from local authorities or you can contact Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE) at (035)226-1800.

For the second and third, this is where discernment comes in.  We have to answer the most difficult questions.  Is this relationship worth saving?  Are we willing to change?  Are we ready to forgive?  Are we willing to do what it takes to save our relationship?

We might not be able to do such discernment by ourselves.  We might need to seek help — legitimate help that is (not alcohol-laced conversations with peers).  There’s therapy.  There’s counseling.  There are marriage movements such as Worldwide Marriage Encounter that can help out.  We have to be proactive.  Happily ever after, after all, takes a lot of work.

So the next time you catch a telenovela that celebrates defeating, overly dramatic responses to relationship concerns, be the adult in the room and see it for what it is: entertainment — no more, no less.

Here’s what you can realistically do: breathe in, breathe out, pray, discern, dialogue, decide, commit.  Mature relationships entail maturity.  And really, maturity is toxicity doing a complete 180.