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Taking a Break for Heartbreak

By David Haldane

Feb. 26, 2024



It was the worst night of my life.

I had just learned that my (now-ex) Filipino wife had cheated on me with another man. My God, I thought, it’s the end of the world. And as I shuffled along the dark sidewalks of our California neighborhood, I honestly felt like throwing myself in front of an oncoming car. So, I called a suicide prevention hotline to get some help.

Many of us have experienced moments like that when it seems like our lives are about to explode. Now there’s a new bill before Congress aimed at giving heartbreak a break.


What it proposes is “heartbreak leave” for eligible employees following “relationship dissolution,” according to an explanatory note accompanying the Heartbreak Recovery and Resilience Act filed on Valentines Day by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Lordan Suan. “The legislation,” the note says, “presents a win-win scenario for both employees and employers.”

Specifically, it would provide one day of unpaid leave for heartbroken employees under 25, two days for those 25-35, and three days for anyone 36 or over on the theory that the older you get, the longer the recovery. All of which, as a foreigner, I find intriguing. Because a law like that in the United States would surely put most companies out of business by emptying their corridors.

I’m kidding. The truth is, though, that in America and elsewhere, millions of people—especially young ones—are foregoing romantic relationships altogether.  “I’m just not going to try anymore,” one 36-year-old security guard recently confided to The Free Press. Why? Because, he explained, “It isn’t worth it.”

Statistics confirm the prevalence of that sentiment. About 60 percent of American men aged 18 to 29 are now single, according to the Pew Research Center; up from 50 percent just five years ago. The US marriage rate is lower than it’s been in over a century, with 25 percent of adults under 40 never having been married. And a full 43 percent of young women (and 34% of men) profess no interest in dating at all.

Experts cite several contributing factors. Women, they say, are becoming better educated with higher incomes and therefore more discriminating in their choice of mates. Traditional male attributes such as strength, stamina, protectiveness, and courage are less valued by today’s younger generation, causing discouragement among many young men.

Add to that the increasing tendency of youngsters to cohabitate—and even have babies—without the benefit of marriage, exasperated by the rise of artificially intelligent mates who some find preferable to humans.

“I will never go back to human beings,” one man told a Facebook interviewer in Japan, where an estimated 2,000 sex dolls are sold annually at a cost of around $6,000 US each. Not to be outdone, some women are following suit. “He knows how to talk to women better than a real man,” a 25-year-old Chinese office worker told Agence France-Presse, speaking of her AI boyfriend. “I feel like I’m in a romantic relationship.”

In the Philippines, where divorce is illegal, attitudes are also evolving. Roughly 40.2 percent of females and 38.9 percent of males aged 26-29 are married. And the movement to legalize divorce is gaining steam. “We’re saying that this is just like medicine,” one Manila-based pro-divorce activist told the New York Times. “You only take this if you’re sick, but you don’t deprive those sick people of medicine.”

Filipino opinion on the matter is almost evenly divided at close to 50-50.

Recalling my own potentially devastating divorce experience, well, that suicide counselor ushered in a new day. Long story short: with his encouragement, I stuck around long enough to thank my cheating ex-spouse for clearing the path to my much-loved and far-better new one.

Could I have used a three-day vacation? Heck yeah, I might have gone fishing.





David Haldane is an award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines. His latest book, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Amazon. This column appears weekly in The Manila Times.









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