Dex and Jan are a very unlikely couple. I have observed how those little details and big pictures in their relationship have evolved in the past 13 years. In hindsight, it was not as common as we often expect of many couples. They weren’t really romantic to each other. I rarely saw them holding hands or hugging or even kissing. Neither I saw them fighting each other. It was uncommon to catch Dex giving something to Jan. The only thing I remember was when he gave her a short but sincere letter. Only the closest friends and colleagues know that they certainly are a couple. Others outside of their world barely notice it. They do not show what usually couples do, but there is no need for them to really show it to others. Their relationship is more than the eyes can see.
Dex once told me an unforgettable description of his relationship with Jan. They see their relationship in three levels: as friends, as siblings, and as lovers (Filipino: magkapatid, magkaibigan, magkasintahan respectively). We were just 18 years old. But even then, I felt that his treatment on their relationship was way far beyond our young age. It has become their relationship principle. Since then, they have always lived it out. Since then, I have always seen it in their lives.
First, when they were starting, they talked like normal friends do (as they don’t act like a normal couple). They studied together like normal classmates. They joked and laughed together at each other’s funny, outrageous and ugly side. You won’t even notice a tinge of romance. For a time, their relationship appeared so vague that most of us in the class hadn’t had any clue of the real score between them. Who would have thought that a relationship need any labels? They didn’t have one. They didn’t try to find one. What they always know is that they are comfortable of being together, of being real and natural as they are.
They have cultivated their connection as friends, promised to take care each other as siblings and built their intimacy as lovers.
Second, they are siblings as much as they are friends. Dex is an only child; with no brother or sister, the three of us have become much closer almost by blood. But between Dex and Jan, being siblings are unique. Once, Dex had called Jan ate (older sister), while Jan had called Dex kuya (older brother). They since have forged a strong bond that unknown to them binds the sinews of their spirit. They fell in Love with each other, but there was more to it than just the thrill of romance. They have felt each other and tended each one’s welfare like they came from the same womb. It wasn’t ever visible to others. But being part of their lives, I have always seen that.
Third, they have always been lovers. There are countless moments when two of them are always together. They have stories only known between them. To live out the romance, they do things like most couples do. They go out on a date, give each other gifts, and show each other affection. And they also face the tribulations of romance. Dex got attracted to someone because of the lingering desire to find his ideal girl. It broke Jan’s heart. She hated and avoided him, and lived a tensed period of jealousy. It was a silent struggle between them. Perhaps nobody else knew. But I witnessed them – when their relationship frayed and when they began to weave it again.
Dex has sought my help to sort all these beautiful details of their relationship. He wanted me to put their story into words. I eagerly listened to them as I transcribed their thoughts. At that moment, a surge of nostalgic insights opened in me. While I have known them as a couple, I have just recently learned to see these individual threads of their entwined lives. I haven’t heard them uttering the word empathy, but they were able to integrate that virtue in their communication. I haven’t seen them reading any relationship books, but they have practiced honesty and openness of their thoughts, emotions and dreams. They have internalized and lived the crucial ingredients of a relationship that most couples yearn to experience but fail to achieve .
Throughout the years, Dex and Jan have gone through the metamorphosis of those three levels. They have cultivated their connection as friends, promised to take care each other as siblings and built their intimacy as lovers. Whenever they have a relationship crisis, being lovers breaks down into siblings while healing their pains, then they revert to being friends, as if strangers knowing each other for the first time. And they rebuild their relationship again from friends to siblings to lovers. Today, they are celebrating a new event of togetherness in their lives. I am grateful to celebrate with them these relationship levels as a unique process of a true relationship. This is not just their triumph. Because Dex and Jan have ignited a new meaning of relationship, they inspire me and my partner and many couples of this generation and next. Within the vow they declare, that essence of those three levels finally unites and becomes one.