The strongest of bonds are forged from the fires of the toughest challenges; be it by proximity, societal perception, or just simply superficial incompatibility. These are barriers faced by the modern day Romeos and Juliets who struggle to gain recognition that their love is not so different at its core.
When it comes to love, most people have an ideal relationship in their minds that they try to pursue. When it comes to conceptualizing these relationships, the mind and the heart are said to know no bounds. Despite these, however, there are relationships that do get a sideways glance from the majority, and people who partake in these relationships end up ostracized or shamed by society.
Relationships of the unconventional sort carry with them unspoken warning labels, labels unfairly heaped upon people who have undertaken love on the road less travelled as opposed to a more traditional paradigm.
Friends-with-benefits (FWB) relationships are up there amongst the most scandalous sort anyone can have. This sort of relationship finds itself becoming more prevalent in the “hookup culture” we find ourselves living in. Therese* is a girl who enjoys living the so-called fubu lifestyle, and opens up by saying, “Walang forever is what I see nowadays, and I believe it. Sparks won’t be there [forever], so why spend time with one partner for the rest of your lives if you can have so many other choices?”
“This friends with benefits relationship is what I live for because I can get action whenever and wherever. There is nothing to lose.”
“You give yourself, your body, your time and your emotions without requiring a commitment,” Therese says when asked about the details of an FWB relationship. “When it comes to relationships, commitment is the price to pay—the more you give, the more you should receive.”
Therese also shared her opinions on why FWB relationships are taboo in society. “We grew up with sex being such a big thing. Living in a Catholic country [the rules often] tell us no premarital sex. They make sex such a big thing, but it’s not at all.”
However, Therese still believes that there is room for the FWB culture to fit into the norms of our society. “I feel like people are more open right now. Especially now when gays and lesbians [are getting together] and the whole LGBT community are changing lives.”
For Therese, this type of relationship also teaches her to be independent. “I don’t need any man by my side to make me happy. Happiness is a choice, your happiness depends on you.”
In recent times, we’ve seen the rise in acceptance of homosexual relationships. While it still continues to divide opinion, movements around the world continue to push for the acceptance of it. Paolo Sison, a BA Psychology student from UP Diliman, sheds some light on what he faces as an openly gay individual.
“[The relationship] is a lot like the conventional boyfriend-girlfriend relationship thing you see on TV,” Paolo says. “You find somebody, commit to them…The only reason there are complications is because of a societal thing. If a guy has a girlfriend, there’s no issue. But if it’s two guys, people might harass you, or are against it.”
According to Paolo, the biggest misconception people have about gay relationships is that they think it’s different from your conventional relationships, but Paolo says in defense, “When you look at gay marriage, it’s a union between two dudes. At the core of it, it’s not any different from other relationships, they don’t get any special treatment, gay people don’t get more benefits than straight people. Love is love.”
“It’s funny how we have so many gay people on TV, like Vice Ganda and all those personalities, but it’s treated like a novelty thing,” Paolo explains when asked about the acceptance of gay people in Philippine society. For him, people don’t see it as an actual lifestyle, but as a character or personality, so when people are actually faced with an actual gay relationship they don’t know how to respond or are put off because it’s something people don’t really think is normal or acceptable.”
“Human beings have this tendency to hate things they don’t understand,” says Paolo. Despite the stigma he may face as a gay individual, however, Paolo still has hope that gay relationships can integrate themselves as part of the norm in Philippine society. “Around five years ago, you never would’ve seen a same-sex couple holding hands, but now, you kind of do. Hopefully in the next few decades, we actually get to see some legislation [for the gay people].”
“I’d actually love to know why [people are against gay relationships]. As convinced that we are that we’re right, we sometimes forget to try to understand that these people think that they’re right too.”
When asked about what he’d say to people against gay relationships, Paolo pleads for them to be open-minded and to listen for the sake of understanding. “To everyone who is ignorant, or who is against this, talk to people. Talk; talk to me, talk to [your gay friends]. We’re never going to get anywhere if we don’t try to understand each other.”
At times, there will always be factors one cannot and could never control. Be it in terms of proximity, school choice, parental discretion, or anything under the umbrella of, “I guess it will be best for him or her,” there are just factors outside the reach of what most couples deem convenient that mandate the question “Do we really have to go this far?” In most cases, distance has been the greatest deal breaker among couples who wish nothing more than to prolong the relationship.
“You can’t see the person. You can’t touch the person. The time difference and the busy schedules screw up meeting each other online. The places you used to eat in, the events you used to go to, it doesn’t feel as happy or complete,” explains Angelica Abad (II, CAM-BSA), one of many individuals involved in a long-distance relationship (LDR).
Just like any other couple, trust and security suddenly become issues that were non-existent in the past. What pains couples the most isn’t the separation of miles itself, but the constant reality that one can’t be with the person who makes life more livable when the need arises. At the end of the day, it’s exactly the distance and pain of not being with one’s significant other that motivates individuals to live out each day and look forward to that time in the future where things would be just as they were in the past—before the drama, before the hardships, and before the separation.
“Lots of times I actually thought of giving up because it was really hard, but sometimes I think about how wasteful the three years would be and sometimes we also just remind ourselves that this is temporary and things will be good after we graduate,” shares Faith Siao, an ardent believer in true love despite being in an LDR across nations
In most cases, there is no certainty of when and how all of one’s efforts will pay off. There is no definite answer to the question, “Will we still be the same after three years?” To believe, however, in the likelihood of goodness after such time is a manifestation of how much the relationship has positively affected each individual. Since distance creates so much to cover, it’s faith that more than makes up for it.
On top of the difficulty of making such choice between the millions of ways to love exists the undue burden imposed on them by society. Every relationship has its hardships, but there are those that get neglected by society too often. The most beautiful element about all these relationships, however, is the fact that no matter how often society may give them a resounding no or a thumbs down, the passion forged between them keeps a fire burning—warm, bright, and ablaze.