The Single Women

The patients were divided into two groups: a younger group in their twenties, and an older group of less than ten women, in their forties or fifties who had never married.

The young and single female patients came in almost always with a ‘man problem” as the central issue. Breaking up with a boyfriend or the discovery that what she construed to be honest intentions on the part of the man were far from being so seemed sufficient cause for a state of severe emotional confusion which could last for months. The experience of rejection was painful enough. What added salt to the wound was guilt over the involvement and an excruciating feeling of shame before one’s friends or one’s hometown crowd, who happened to have knowledge of the event.

Interference by the parents in a girl’s involvement with a married man often made it harder for her to give him up. When the parents forcibly made her give him up she was prone to take the opposite camp and give battle. Although in the end she gave in to her parents, it was usually only after a long, bitter emotional estrangement from, and sometimes permanent resentment of, the parents for interfering. One father forcibly kept his daughter under lock and key. He contacted her girlfriends, alerted the maids and the whole family to any attempt of the girl to sneak out and see her married boyfriend again. The father felt he was carrying out his duty to protect his daughter’s honor, and everyone in the family and their close friends agreed with him.

In talking with young girls who became involved with a married man, I have observed that knowledge of his civil status was not exactly unknown to the young girl, early in the game; but the girl successfully utilized the mechanism of denial, in spite-of unmistakable evidence that she was already deeply emotionally involved. The young girl later remarked—”! never thought we would fall for each other; he was like a father to me”; or ‘He picked me up and brought mc home from work all these months, but I thought he was merely being kind and considerate.”

Six young women, who were 21-25 years old, had obsessional rumination about the intactness of their virginity. Each told a story identical to the others. The boyfriend, over the girl’s objections, forcibly took her to a motel. After much scuffling and struggling in-between the young man’s attempts at initiating sexual activity with the girl, the latter brought the whole episode to a halt by fainting, by crying, or by simply exhausting or exasperating the man.

Older women, still single, usually presented conflict centering around the burdens of obligation to the family. These were women who forfeited marriage in favor of assuming responsibility to parents and siblings. They were usually the oldest in the family and were like second fathers in terms of giving material support to everyone. Each was the pillar of the family, the shoulder for all to lean on, especially mother. Then there came a time usually in their forties or fifties when they began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of their chosen role. It might be because of a greater awareness of their own personal needs or a realization that the role is not particularly rewarding. The younger siblings had grown up, had families of their own, and had moved away.

One 37-year-old woman (in therapy for over two years), exasperated by her mother’s over-indulgence of an adult son with profligate ways, quit her job and went to California with an eye for marriage. In three months, she sent back a card saying that she married a Filipino old timer in San Francisco and was looking forward to a family of her own. She finally broke away from her mother, but continued sending sums of money for her support. She was the exception. The greater number, after struggling with their ambivalence, returned to their old roles. They felt it to be too late to make a major change and merely tried to procure greater emotional gratifications by seeking friendships with similarly unattached women or by advancing themselves in their work. Some women, who had adopted a niece or nephew and provided for his or her care and schooling, found themselves alone later on. Alone, unable to keep and maintain the emotional ties after the niece or nephew has grown up and married, they found themselves right where they started except that (they were no longer as resilient and hopeful as before.

The widowed women had the same problem of finding themselves alone with the children grown up and living away from home. These were women who had been very dependent emotionally on parents, husband, and later, on the children. Even if they had work or business to distract them, the loss of these relationships led to depressive and anxiety reactions. Of course, the woman who was socially active found much more opportunity to make friends. The woman who had been confined to the home and had been very dependent is at a complete loss. As one woman in such a predicament said, “After my husband died, I dedicated my whole life to my children. I thumbed my nose at my neighbors down the street, who played mahjong and panggingi. Now that the children are in Manila, I wish I had learned to like some other things, too.”