Tuesday, February 16, 2010

being committed, ex-style

How to peacefully co-exist and co-parent with your ex? Gina Abuyuan gives three ways

I received word of my annulment on July 7 of last year. I sat at my desk at home, crying and saying “oh my God” over and over again. I was sobbing and laughing and thanking God at the same time. My kids looked at me with worry and fear in their eyes and asked if I was ok.

“Are you sad, Mommy?” my daughter asked.

“No anak, I’m actually very, very happy.”

Like little suns, their eyes brightened, and they skipped out of the room, leaving me to revel in my new, legal, technical, single-blessedness.

After that, I told people it surpassed the happiness I felt when my ex-husband asked me to marry him.

Funny then, that he—my ex-husband—was the one who broke to me the news that we were no longer married. “Hoy, hindi ka na Llanes!” he texted.

How’s that for coming full circle?

Take the high road

Many people find it strange that Mardy and I are still friends. Some are amazed. Some dont just believe it. I dont blame them. Finding something salvageable in a person after he or she had given you unimaginable (well, until you actually go through it) trauma isnt easy. In fact, it can be the hardest thing in the world to do. In some cases, murder would probably be easier to commit.

As many of you may have read in HIPPs September issue, Mardy and I separated on and off for three years. It wasnt until a particularly huge fight in 2005 did we really split up, not want to have anything to do with the other (save for the kids), and not speak to each other for almost a year.

So how did we do it? How did we get to this level of being able to speak again, even joke with each other again, help each other out againwithout stabbing each other?

As Brooke Burke of ModernMom.com says of her relationship with her ex, We decided to take the high road for the kids. To his credit, Mardy did come to me and try to explain and apologizeit was I who approached our initial contact after the fight with a businesslike coldness. After all, it was his responsibility and obligation to take care of the kids needswhat could be more obvious than that? But I also didnt want my children growing up not knowing their father, and it took another year before we finally got talking comfortably again.

Step One-Two-Three

How do you start?

Get outside help. This does not include nightly carousings with San Miguel and friends just as embittered as you. Sure, that was part of the process, but at some point you have to take a different mindset. See a shrink, a therapist, a counselor, or join a self-development workshop or seminar. The Landmark Forums basic course worked for me (www.landmarkeducation.com). See what comes your way to best fit your personality and path to healing, too.

The RCW Foundation also has short courses on re-grouping and getting clear on where you want to take your life to the next level. Call (2) 436-0710 or 426-6832 or visit www.rcwfi.org for more details.

Annulment lawyer Sheila Bazar recommends that her clients see counselors even before the annulment process. This is to gird them with a healthy psychological and emotional attitude for the grueling course of interviews and hearings. Things can get extremely tough, trust me. I even skipped a couple of hearings, much to the consternation of my lawyer, because I felt I could not face the judge and take yet another public cross examination.

An outside perspective and an educated approach to psychological and emotional counseling will also help you interact with your ex-spouse in an appropriate manner. No drama, no blaming, no accusations. And most important: no more romantic illusions of you ever getting together again!

Be accountable for the transformation. Outside help can work just as much as youll allow it. The transformation has to come from within you. I know youre probably rolling your eyes, but its true. What you are nowyour thoughts, your feelings, your expectations of a relationship and the way you view rearing your childrenhave changed. Again, take the higher road andif you should be so luckydevelop with your ex-spouse a new relationship that works for your kids. Not for either of you, but for the kids.

I admit, Mardy and I had several blow-ups before we got to this relatively peaceful co-parenting co-existence. We had to repeatedly reassure the other one that we were still on one side with regard to the kids. We had to back off, or firmly tell the other one, if either of us were over-stepping communication boundaries. Be pro-active with setting ground rules, and sharing important issues about your children. List down the things you have to both tackle as co-parents: expenses, schooling, time / holidays spent with the kids. Learn to negotiate nicely. Learn to be flexible too.

Find a common commitment. Time may heal all wounds, but it may not help in making us forget. Im not going to go all fuzzy and esoteric and tell you to release all hurt into the ethers and let the good vibes settle, because that may not work for you. Maybe focusing on your job or your kids or your hobbies will work you; maybe a sabbatical in Sagada. The ways of healing, of getting to know ourselves and expanding our hearts to accommodate new relationships and people in our lives are infinite. It all stems from one thing, though: commitment.

If youre committed to making something work, and getting off and over those things that didnt make it work in the first place, then youre making progress. I say getting over but not forgetting; no one really totally forgets, and sometimes, we do need those little reminders to make us avoid the same mistakes. A zap in the head to pull us back and pivot us on the road to our commitment.

Mardy and I are committed to giving our kids the best education they can receive; that includes school and experiences that will help them grow into strong, intelligent, kind, healthy, well-rounded individuals. That means putting them in the best schools, tailoring their extra-curricular activities to help hone their talents, exposing them to places and experiences with which they can store in their love banks, and showing them that though Mommy and Tatay are not married, they are still magka-kampi when it comes to the three of them.

No one hurts them. No one harms them. No one f**cks them over.

Its a commitment thats worked for Mardy and I, given our personalities as individuals and the qualities that brought us together as a couple in the first place.

How about you?

HIPP Magazine was the first Filipino parenting magazine that tackled the issue of harmonious co-parenting between ex-es. If you'd like more stories or tips on how to successfully co-parent with an ex, please write directly to me, gina.abuyuan@gmail.com, since HIPP doesn't exist anymore. What a bummer.

That Loving Feeling

For this piece, I put on Afghan Whigs “Something Hot.”

“I wanna get you high
I wanna get next to you
I wanna feel everything about you (girl)
I wanna feel good
You make me feel good…”

An almost-finished box of Royce dark chocolates at my side, the coarse dusting sticking to my fingers. I brush them off my shorts and take a swig of San Mig Light. I have a Rhone aching to be opened, the newest addition to my partner’s formidable wine collection, but I’m not ready for it.


Contemporary blues with Royce and local beer? Sacre bleu, many of you will cry.

But this is a piece about sex, and that’s what sex is.

Sex has no rules. No patterns, no formulas. It can start off with a kiss as gentle and as light as a strawberry mochi bought fresh from the Yurakucho station, each bite a sigh, the confectioner’s powder puffing slightly with the pressure of teeth and lips, and end as abruptly as the guitar break on a Flogging Molly ditty. It can last as long as an MM Kaye novel, all adjectives and imagery and words that crowd the senses, and end with a crescent and a ballerina’s leap, as beautiful as burst of a 2007 Pinot Noir on the palette. It’s aching for more, like I do that Rhone.

Sex can be divine, sex can be dirty. It can be vanilla as vanilla can be, or it can be as colorful as halo-halo, as native as ube, as childlike as Choc-Nut, or as exotic as sesame seed. But to fully enjoy it, you have to remember one thing: Just. Let. Go.

Spread not only your legs, but your being. Don’t hold in your sighs. Be unashamed to explore. Be unashamed to let your partner explore. Look into each other’s eyes and touch each other’s faces, hair, back, arms, and all the nooks and crevices you never thought you’d touch before—and I don’t mean only with your hands.

Have fun. Laugh.

Discover each other’s imperfections. Your dimpled thighs. His assymetrical ears. That rough patch on his shoulder. The stretchmarks on your stomach.

Tell each other what makes you feel good. What sends shivers up your spine. Tell him again and again and again.

Men get turned on by visuals; women, by what they expect. Use this to your full advantage.

Divert from the tried and tested. Try on a new negligee, take the sex out of the bedroom, do it with the lights on, try out new toys, creams, music, scents. Experiment. Explore. Make it a game.

“No, I can’t do that,” some of you might say. “I’m not like that. What will he/she say?”

This is the beauty of long term, monogamous sex. You can do anything with and to each other, and not be judged by it. This is the same neck you kissed when it was firm and no baby’s forehead had ever rested on it; these are the same hands that once held yours timidly and victoriously, the first time you allowed them to; these are the same hips, once compact and tight, before the bones beneath expanded to make room for your children.

If you can’t enjoy uninhibited, swinging-from-the-rafters sex with the one you’re committed to, and whom you trust, then whom can you enjoy it with?

This is the glory of long-term relationships; this is what those who prefer casual sex and one night stands may not understand.

That after every glowing night of sex, there is nothing that can equal the experience of waking up in the imperfect arms of someone who knows each and every inch of the imperfect you, and still want to make love to you over and over and over again. – Gina Abuyuan

sidebar: Get into it
Subhead: Step out of your comfort zones and into a brave new sexy world

1. Get out of your usual role. You’re usually the receiver, the passive one, the one who slips into missionary after, er, after whatever. Do something different next time. What would your alter ego do? Allow it to take over.
2. Get excited. Women are always told to “relax” to get into the mood—do the exact opposite! Get aroused! Get your heart pumping. Try sex after a workout—or pop in a sexually explicit movie on DVD nights.
3. Talk erotic. Take it outside the bedroom. Send each other random texts and emails throughout the day. Chat each other up (not a good idea if his/her office desk is facing his co-workers, though!). Get over your discomfort of using “dirty” words. Tell each other what you’d like to do to each other.
4. Get selfish. Women have also been told that they should put their partners’ needs ahead of their own. Duh, no. Try this role out for once. Take charge. Pleasure yourself. Return the favor another night.
5. Try out costumes and sex toys. There’s a shop on the corner of Nakpil and Orosa that sells such; there’s another one in Metrowalk. There are thousands of vendors online. Just remember to lock them up in a safe place out of kids’ reach! Good Lord.
6. Think about what else you haven’t done. Do it.

(for more sexy tips for committed partners, get this month's issue of HIPP Magazine)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

final editor's note for HIPP

This is HIPP’s last issue.

That’s the only way I can say it. Straight up, no drama. The only way fitting to an audience we respect and owe much to.

We were informed of the shut down last December. It was my parents’ 38th year anniversary, a day after my twins had turned six, and on that surreal Friday afternoon, I learned I had lost a magazine I had started from scratch.

Can’t blame anyone, though. Across the globe, print publications have been shutting down. “Elle Girl.” “Cookie” (on which I pegged HIPP). “Gourmet” (the oldest food title in the US). More. It was inevitable that the recession and sorry ad sales catch up with us.

Or maybe, just maybe, I thought as I let myself go and cry a few tears in front of my boss, the country just isn’t ready for a magazine like HIPP.

Readers who have followed us since day one know why and how this magazine came to be. I felt Filipino parents needed something new, a publication that spoke to them about the changing dynamics of Filipino families (single, expat, and in absentia parenthood; paradigm shifts in child-rearing, health, and education; the many more opportunities available for making an income). A publication for the Gen X parent—that curious and strongly opinionated mix of ex-punks and ex-yuppies who have the world at their fingertips, their parents’ values deeply rooted in their psyche, and who are equipped with the exposure (via books, dialogue, and travel) and manner of critical thinking that empower them to go against tradition, if called for.

For the birth of HIPP in March 2009, I have to thank Sesame Seed Creatives’ publisher, Marbee Go, the first person I thought of calling when pitching the idea. Her support and generosity as both colleague and friend will remain unmatched anywhere I go—and that’s no bulls**t.

For my team, I chose only the best: Em Guevara, a colleague from way back (“The Business Daily”-way back, that’s how far we go), to act as managing editor. I wouldn’t have been able to survive the past year if it weren’t for her persistence, attention to detail, almost maternal concern for our staff, and never-ending good humor to balance out my quick temper.

With her, she brought Tricia, Irene, and Angelo. We’re very proud of Tricia, who we’ve seen blossom from a writer, to someone confident enough to plan out her own pages and handle even the most difficult of contributors. Irene’s gained some bite, too, having to deal with both internal and external suppliers, and by doing so has amassed a network that I’m certain will be valuable outside HIPP. It’s likewise been a gift to see Angelo grow. From an artist uncertain of his work, he’s learned swiftly—from layout to directing visuals to being adept with the production process. He moves on to sister publication “Garage” as its artist beginning this month.

And what of me, Em, Tricia, and Irene? We’ll be busy packing up things in the office, keeping lovely memories in boxes, chucking unneeded ones in the trash. The question of going online is still, well, up in the air. Time and budget permitting, we’ll be able to put the site up in a month or so.

A week after the news, I suddenly felt like everything I know had been pulled out from under me (a delayed reaction, I know). We love this magazine; we love putting it together for you. As my good friend Red Constantino says, leaving stings, but you can throw some mint and sugar in it and mix it like a mojito.

With that, I raise my glass to you, dear reader, for being with us these past nine issues. For one last time, I invite you to turn the page, and see this love leap up to you from every word and image.

Till our next reincarnation.