Coping With Being Apart – Advice for Australian Filipina Couples
Australian Filipina Couples – Being Apart during COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Times
Back “in my day” Australian visa processing was much faster, and being apart wasn’t so extreme. Mila and I applied for our Prospective Marriage Visa through Hong Kong (where she was residing and working at the time), and the process only took just 2 months. We walked into the Australian Consulate in HK and handed in our paper application. Got interviewed on the spot. Took away a list of additional things we needed (because our application was full of holes), got the Medical, sorted out what was missing, then 2 months later received our visa grant.
Did that make it a walk-in-the-park for us? Was it stress-free? Definitely not! Being apart is never pleasant. I still had to go back to Australia by myself, and we still had to worry that it might lead to a refusal! Of course it’s a real possibility! The Embassy/Consulate/Department staff all have the power to destroy your hopes of being together! We all know that, and it’s far from comforting.
I’m telling (re-telling…..yes, one of my Dad-skills) my story again just so you know that I DO understand what it feels like to be apart, and my proverbial heart bleeds for those who are stuck apart during COVID. We had a Prospective Marriage Visa granted just yesterday after 2 1/2 years wait! And I was stressed over my 2 months of being apart!!
Australian Filipina Couples being apart – How to cope?
I’m reflecting back a lot of years to when this was still fresh for us. And I’m also thinking of advice given to various clients over this time.
Regardless of how things seem, COVID is a virus with a <2% mortality rate, and most of those are the elderly and those with “co-morbidity”, ie respiratory conditions, heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Those who get sick are generally over it in 2 weeks. And if you follow simple precautions, you won’t get it.
Both of our doctors had it. Caught from patients, of course. They’re in their 60’s. They got over it.
Issue here in the Philippines is people being careless. We have our weekender in Alfonso, Cavite. They’ve been a bit more careful lately, but up until a month ago wouldn’t have been 5% of them wearing masks. Part of the culture is not to want to offend others, especially those who are your family, neighbours and old classmates. Putting on a mask is seen as a rejection and an insult to your barkada (mate). The same mentality applies to sharing food by dipping fingers and saliva-covered utensils into the same food (see pic below).
This country has one of the highest levels of Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B and C in the world, and it is entirely preventable! All spread by carelessness! All preventable with appropriate levels of awareness and hygiene. (Click those links and tell me what you think the real health risks are here!)
My theory? Yet-unproved theory? I would suspect that more lives have been saved in the Philippines during this time from lowered Tuberculosis and Hepatitis spread than those lost from COVID! Bold statement, but one I’m confident enough to share.
So want to keep your sweetheart safe? Tell them to take this seriously, and forget about pakikisama (getting along with others harmoniously)!
But I’m talking about coping here! I’ll tell you how I cope! I don’t watch the daily Department of Health figures. I change the subject when people start telling tales of woe and mixes of conspiracy theories that get tossed in. Life goes on! We all need to cope, and that means we need to maintain our mental health and maintain a positive outlook on life. We have wives/husbands, kids, jobs to do. You simply cannot be a quivering mess in the corner!
No, I’m not a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, but I DO like an excerpt from a prayer they use. It contains the lines “Accept the things you cannot change, and change the things you can.” It’s basically all anyone can do. Remember in the 70’s when everyone thought the Russians would “push the button” and the Americans would follow? How many movies were based on “the aftermath of World War III”? I can remember as a kid (yes, I was a kid in the 70’s) hearing people stressing about whether “the big one” would be dropped! I could never see the sense in it. And look back! 40 years later we’re all still here!
So my advice is to “change the things you can”. Take care and don’t take risks, but otherwise get on with your lives. Just like the Iron Curtain fell, and World War II ended, and ISIS never beheaded the Pope in St Peters Square! This thing will finish. Once vaccines are widespread, this thing will crash and burn.
When life gives you lemons…..
The old expression says “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”! Make the best of it!
Those of you who are apart? You HAVE a loving relationship! Once upon a time you didn’t, and now you do. And in my highly-biased view, there is no loving relationship as good as an Australian Filipina relationship. No one is as sweet, kind, loving and committed as a Filipina. You got out of your comfort-zone and you found the love of your life. You are more fortunate than so many. You know that already, I’m sure. I’m just reminding you.
So be happy with the things you have, and do what you can to enhance what will be a long and happy marriage.
Plan for your future
Renovate your house. Buy a new house. Build your business and/or career so your future lives will be stable. Study if you need to, and improve your qualifications. Learn some Tagalog (says he who knows and understands very little!)
Improve your health
Exercise! Start walking or lifting weights or playing sport. Cut back on alcohol. Quit smoking. Lose some weight. Eat more healthy foods. Get out in the sun and improve your Vitamin D levels (which along with Vitamin C and zinc will boost your immune system).
Remember your friends and family
One thing I’ve enjoyed about lockdowns is spending most of my time at home. I’ve always done that. Office is 10 minutes down the road, and this is where the staff work. I work from my office at home. Always have! So yes I guess it hasn’t changed much for me, however it means Mila doesn’t go out as much and the kids are doing their schooling online. So we all see more of each other. It’s great! We have 7 kids here, and the youngest Megan is 2 1/2. She’s become a serious Daddy’s Girl, and harasses me much of the day. If I was at an office from early morning to early evening, I would miss out on so much.
Our kids? Honestly, nothing they do or say indicates that they have a care in the world. They’ve adjusted to the online schooling. They keep in touch with their friends with video-chat every day. A great attitude, and one you could benefit from. Please, spend more time with your kids. And maybe use Facebook Messenger a bit more? Keep in touch with your friends and family more than you did before. You’ll probably end up with closer relationships at the end of all this.
Keep your relationship alive and well
Had a stressful day? Letting the tales-of-woe get you down? Don’t ever take your stress out on one another. Go for a brisk walk or punch a punching bag before you start talking.
And DON’T stop communicating either! Couples talk every day. Don’t get out of that habit.
You know how to make your relationship work. Not going to start giving romance lessons! You fell in love with each other, so you obviously know the basics. Main thing is not to let negative things damage those positive things you have. Humans are funny creatures sometimes in that we can get into the habit of punishing those who least deserve it for things that are not their fault. That includes confusing stressful feelings for something small that the other person did. Picking on them! Going on and on about small things that you should let go. Make sure you don’t do this!
And definitely do NOT let COVID and separation cause you to break up! I don’t think (as far as I know!) that any of our clients have broken up for this reason, but I could well imagine it happening. And…..oh no!……another old expression! I sound like a Grandpa (actually I am!). “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!” I think my mum told me that one.
If it gets tough and you get impatient and snappy? Apologise! Say “It’s not you. I’m stressed and I’m lashing out, and I shouldn’t lash out at you! I’m really sorry!”, and resolve in yourself (or yourselves) not to do it again! Fight the urge.
Want to say something hurtful? Do the opposite! Say something nice and positive instead. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel. Both of you.
Wise words I heard once (yes, being Grandpa again) I find helps if you think things are getting stale:
When you met your sweetheart you were given a special gift that no one else was given. I like to call it a “Golden Vision”. You get to see them as no one else sees them. You see them exactly as they are (good points AND bad points), but mostly you see the thing in them that makes them special and makes it impossible for you not to love them. That vision was strong enough to make you do something that would otherwise seem completely illogical. You decided that they were the person you could and WOULD love for the rest of your life. In marrying them, or planning to marry them, you threw caution to the wind and dived in headfirst!
Well? You weren’t wrong! And if you don’t see it now? Then you are wrong right now! You’ve let the stress…..the distance…..the fear of visa refusal…..the dreaded COVID…..all of these things you’ve let cloud your vision, and you can’t see what you once saw.
Do this! Look at them. Think of them. And think back to when you realised they were “the one”. The time when you had this Golden Vision for the first time. Do this and see how it makes you feel! Hang onto this, and remember this if your vision gets foggy again.
Any ways to move forward?
Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. I’m back in Registered Migration Agent mode now. I’ve taken off the Grandpa slippers!
It depends on your situation. If you haven’t met in person? You have to meet! And I have no way of realistically suggesting a way around being apart for you.
The Migration Regulations require that partner visa applicants must meet in person.
Partner Visas? Yes, “must meet” is legislated. Not in the Regulations, but umpteen thousand tourist visa applications tell me that it’s highly unusual for them to grant a tourist visa to those who haven’t met in person. So unlikely that I happily call it impossible. Strong and reliable anecdotal evidence, in other words. Not based on somebody on Facebook who had 1 – 2 tourist visas granted and thinks they’re an expert. For us? More than we could count! And if you haven’t met in person, then not even worth trying.
And with the travel bans, they will NOT grant an exception unless the applicant is a member of the sponsor’s immediate family, and that means being a spouse or a child! NOT a girlfriend or fiancee.
So if you haven’t met in person? Sorry, but I won’t waste your time, money and hope on something that won’t work.
Not married? De facto relationship?
Are you by chance in a de facto relationship? Have you been leading a shared-life, EVEN WITH TIME APART, for a period of time? Go to https://assessments.downundervisa.com.au and let’s see.
Not married, but COULD marry?
By “could marry” I mean are you both legally free to marry? Because despite many a hopeful person’s misapprehension, you CANNOT marry when you are only separated from your wife or husband! Doesn’t work like that. Don’t care if he ran off years ago, or he has a new family, or you had a “legal separation”, you can’t be married to two people!
So “could marry” because you’re not presently married to someone else? And you are committed to each other and want to marry?
- Wait for borders to open and get married, or
- Get an online wedding
Yes, I did say “online wedding”. It IS legal to marry in Utah (USA) online, even if (a) you’re in Australia and (b) she is in Philippines and (c) neither of you is American.
And Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on Marriages (1978) and therefore recognises overseas marriages that are legal as long as they comply with Section 88D of the Marriage Act (1961):
- Neither party was already married at the time of the wedding
- Neither party was underage
- Neither party was too closely related under Australian Law
- And they both genuinely consented to the marriage
Cover those things and present a legal marriage certificate, and under Australian Law you are legally married and therefore may apply for an Australian Partner Visa.
How do we know this?
- Had advice from a Family Law specialist lawyer in Australia
- Had advice from the Attorney General’s Department
- And most importantly?
Had both Tourist Visas AND Partner Visas granted to couples who married online by the Utah Government!
See below for further information on visas and on online weddings.
Hang in there, everybody! We’ll surely get there!
Visas in general: https://www.downundervisa.com.au
Am I qualified for a visa?: https://assessments.downundervisa.com.au
Online weddings: https://www.onlinefilipinoweddings.com
BLOG articles (quite a few on online weddings!): https://www.downundervisa.com.au/BLOG