Erle Frayne D. Argonza

“Are you an under the saya?” is one querry that can put husband off-guard. It is taboo for henpecked husbands in the Philippines to admit to their being 2nd fiddle to their respective wives, and one should share generous thoughts of accolades of one such husband who would make a disclosure of his subordinate state in a marital equation.

This titillating yet controversial topic was among the latest themes of the Tayuan Mo at Panindigan of TV5, among the rising PH media programs on public service talk shows (news & information category). The program just opened this year 2011, and already its informative yet entertaining format has been attracting viewers from diverse sectors, including the intelligentsia.

I was again invited by the program management to guest in the Tayuan stint. The henpecked husband episode was hosted by Aida Uy, Giselle Sanchez, and Jojo Alajar. The thematic discussion focused on socio-psychological factors, notably personality, causing the henpecked husband phenomenon.

Asked whether personality indeed factors into the asymmetry of marriage, I opined affirmatively that such is the fact. Wives who are Choleric personality in make up—strong personality, leader-organizer, stern, commander—will tend to be on top of the marital chain of command. That is, if the respective husbands turn out to be Phlegmatic personality type—passive, routinary worker, subordinates—who tend to work as clerks, utility workers, or related routinary-patterned circumstance.

In any organization, cholerics would tend to be the bosses while the phlegmatics would be better at following commands and helping to put systems to work in a work setting. In marriage, cholerics would be the domineering spouse, while phlegmatics would be subordinate spouse.

Lucky enough for the henpecked husband if his wife happens to be a bit balanced in personality. The wife won’t end up abusing the husband no end. But if the wife is a dysfunctional person, who is sick of antisocial-to-sociopathy syndromes (personality disorder), then expect conflict in the relationship. The 2nd case is what happened to the famed Tiger Woods, who found solace in the company of women he can connect with, as he cannot resonate with his own legal wife—he is henpecked, in other words.

Asked whether ancient Philippine society & culture could also factor into the asymmetry, I likewise answered in the affirmative. It is a consensus among social anthropologists and sociologists that matriarchy preceded matriarchy in cultural evolution.

I recall that in our graduate school class on economic history under the historian Dr. Dery, we did discussed the same phenomenon. Accordingly, before the advent of Western colonialism, women were either co-equal to or superior to men in Philippine society. Patriarchy that was introduced by Western powers didn’t totally erase male subordination to women as a whole, as the subordination appeared in the form of ‘under the saya’.

In the current context of post-modernity, when the vestiges of Victorian Era male-dominated sexism are crumbling by the day, we see more and more of henpecked husbands admitting to the reality. Whether another over-arching historic phase of matriarchy is now confronting us is too contentious an issue, but we must admit at least to the situation where asymmetry co-exists with symmetry in marital equations.

Health-wise, marital asymmetry is 50% healthy and 50% unhealthy. The relationship is like unto a sea-saw, where half the possibility is on one side while the other possibility is on the other side of a tenuous fulcrum. It will be up to the henpecked husband to manage the bond more equitably, to ensure that healthy relation breeds the most optimal growth for both parties.

[Philippines, 12 July 2011]

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