Couple, DINK, the Single on Navigating Modern Relationships
Manila/ Ohana/ Family

We Asked, They Answered: Couple, DINK, the Single on Modern Relationships

The Changing Landscape of Modern Dating in the PH

"May boyfriend ka na ba?" "Bakit single ka pa rin?" "Kailan ka mag-aasawa?" "Bakit wala pa kayong anak?"

("Do you have a boyfriend?" "Why are you still single?" "When are you getting married?" "Why do you not have children yet?")

One could be in the "I can buy myself flowers" camp, perhaps playing the field, or have already found their "loml" – but we bet many Filipinos still aren't spared from such questions both prying and hackneyed. Go to any family reunion and you're bound to hear the same unimaginative queries and their variations, aside from the customary "Uy tumaba ka (you gained weight)" comment that nobody asked for. It's got to be a collective experience.

When it comes to dating and relationships, there are no hard and fast rules – something we can only wish everyone would understand. As times change, the landscape of modern dating is also ever-shifting and the roles in romantic relationships just as much: some are rewritten, others are preserved or reimagined, and always in the hope that these are contextual and consensual to every partner concerned.

This love month, The Beat Asia turned to a Gen Z couple, a single Gen Z woman, and a millennial DINK (double income, no kids) couple to field their takes on modern love. How do they navigate their relationships and dating? What values do they look for in an ideal partner? How does one share in the nitty-gritty of finances and domestic responsibilities? Why the DINK lifestyle? We ask all these and more!

Jam

Jam Marciano
Photo by Jam Marciano

For Jam Marciano, 24, a romantic relationship is an investment.

As a single woman who lives with her parents and shares in the monthly household finances, she budgets her salary as an editor for a research and education company into three categories: she prioritizes her bills, followed by savings, and then her "luho" or luxuries.

While dating is not her current priority, she has previously dabbled in the online dating space and has strong opinions when it comes to dating, including how it is a shared venture where couples should invest not only emotionally but also financially.

Jam also believes that dating has become more expensive, adding that social media can pressure couples to spend more.

“Dala na rin ng pressure online, ‘yung mga couple, may mga nagpopost kunwari ng, ‘Uy ganito, sobrang cute naman nung pinuntahan nila (other couples),’ ganyan. Parang, ‘Nakikita mo ba ‘yung tina-tag nung ibang magjowa? Punta tayo sa café na ‘to,’ gan’to, ganyan... Pag makikipagdate din, syempre, dapat financially ready.”

(The pressure [on dating] has intensified because of social media. Many couples established relationship milestones by making it a habit to visit trendy cafes [then post it online], which entices others to set standards and emulate what others are doing... So, [we] must be financially ready).

When asked what she looks for in a potential romantic partner, she noted, “Siyempre dapat [‘yung] masipag. Like ‘yung ‘di siya aasa sa akin financially. ‘Yung tamad, ayoko ng ganoon. Gusto ko ‘yung nag-eexcel din siya sa mga gusto niyang gawin.”

(Of course, I prefer someone hardworking — not someone who will depend on me financially. I don’t want a lazy partner. I want someone who excels in what he wants to do.)

She also wants to have balance when sharing expenses with her future partner. While she isn't sure yet if she'd want to be a full-time mom one day, she shared that she prefers to work since remote jobs are common nowadays.

"Siguro hati kami sa mga bills tapos may sarili kaming ipon," she said. "Kailangan pareho kaming nag-aambag." (Perhaps we can share the bills and then have our own savings. We both need to contribute).

These shared responsibilities, she added, should also extend to the home.

"[D]ito din sa bahay, lahat kami dito may ginagawa, like ako naghuhugas ng pinggan, tatay ko nagluluto. Hindi nila ako tinuruan na maging tamad. Inaadvise-an din nila ako, since matagal na silang kasal, na ‘yung future partner ko dapat yung maaasahan mo sa lahat ng bagay. So kailangan, pareho kaming gagawa."

(Here at home, we all have our chores, like I wash the dishes and my dad cooks. My parents didn't teach me to be lazy. They also give me advice since they've been married for a long time, that my future partner should be someone I can depend on for everything, so we both need to contribute).

Elaine and Tristan

Couple
Photo by Elaine and Tristan

In dating and relationships, it can't be helped for one to feel uncertain, if not anxious, especially when gender roles are concerned. First date jitters, sometimes, could include the seemingly trivial worry of who pays for the date.

In a study published in the Psychological Reports journal on Dec. 7, 2021, it was found that traditional gender norms in dating remained popular among heterosexual college students, particularly because men "almost always" paid the whole bill on the first date and paid more in the succeeding dates. The study also noted that men were expected to pay more for first and succeeding dates when the respondents were asked who should pay for such dates.

"Women did show some willingness to share date expenses, although nowhere close to be completely even," the researchers wrote. "The findings also indicated that gender role attitudes played little role in actual practice but had a stronger role in date payment expectations, showing that individuals subscribing to traditional gender inequality views tended to believe that men should pay more for dates."

But this is dating, and only one aspect of it. Aside from this, relationships also serve as a litmus test for gender roles, especially among heteronormative couples where traditional gendered norms and expectations could arise.

Must the man always be the provider? Should a woman only stay at home and tend to domestic roles? How are expenses worked out?

For Elaine Tercero and Tristan Alcabasa, both 23, gone are the days when men were always expected to provide, and sharing expenses, even on simple dates, is a better practice to maintain a good relationship.

“We always share expenses, lalo kung planned. Pero ‘pag mga biglaan, kung sinong capable [o] kung sino ‘yung taya, siya ‘yung responsible para sa gala or sa date,” Tristan shared.

(We always share expenses, especially if they are planned. But for unplanned ones, we decide on who will pay based on who’s more capable or who’s “it” for a specific trip or date).

Elaine added, “Syempre sa culture natin diba, sinasabi nila ‘Ay, hindi, mga lalaki dapat ‘yung nagastos.’ Mas gusto ko din nagshe-share ako since we both [plan] yung dates [at] both kami nag-enjoy.”

(Of course, in our culture, people say, “Oh, no, men should pay.” I also prefer sharing since we both planned our dates and we both enjoyed them).

Communication, respecting each other, and having the same mindset and values are just some of the non-negotiables in romantic relationships. Another aspect is one’s financial capability.

Elaine and Tristan still live separately and are two cities away from each other. For the couple, financial stability is their common goal, especially since both want kids one day.

The two acknowledged that saving for their children's future is important, but they also make sure that they enjoy their life together as a young couple.

"Nag-se-save din naman bahagya," said Tristan. "Syempre, for [emergencies] and if mangyari 'yung di inaasahan. Habang nag-e-enjoy, responsible pa rin." (We save a bit, especially for [emergencies] and if the unexpected happens. We are still responsible even while enjoying).

“In our generation today, it is generally accepted that you both prioritize to provide, especially in the future. And my mindset is, if you can provide, that's when you can really see the responsibility as a partner, especially when building a family,” said Elaine.

She added that dating these days can be expensive, but also noted that couples can give and take.

"Sa sobrang mahal ng bilihin ngayon, parang di ka na makakakita ng mga murang makakainan o mapupuntahan..." she shared. “[N]ano-normalize na natin yung give and take and kung sino yung mas capable on specific days or dates, siya yung magpo-provide.”

(Things are so expensive nowadays, it seems like you can't find any affordable restaurants or places to go to anymore... People are starting to normalize give and take and the one who’s more capable on specific days or dates provides more).

As for Tristan, openly communicating with his love is paramount.

"[N]agiging madali siya in a way na open to communicate naman kami sa needs naming both," he said. “Kagaya nung, kunwari, magbibigay ako ng gift sa kanya, ‘di mo kailangan mapressure na magbigay din ng gift, di mo kailangan laging magrereturn."

(It becomes easier because we are open to communicate when it comes to both of our needs. For example, if I give her a gift, she doesn't need to be pressured to do the same or to always give me back something in return).

Dan and Danica

DINK Couple
Photo by Dan and Danica

Married for one year now, 29-year-old Danica and her 31-year-old husband, Dan Philip Flaminiano, decided to embrace the DINK lifestyle to devote more time to each other and their respective careers.

“We wanted to enjoy our time together when we got married, especially [because] we [both] came from conservative families... When we got married, we had a lot of things to look forward to doing together na wala na kaming curfew, wala na kaming restrictions kasi when we got married, kaming dalawa na lang (because we no longer had a curfew or restrictions. When we got married, it’s just the two of us)," the couple shared.

“We always give time to have dates also travel kasi yan yung mga bagay na pag tumanda kami, yan yung mga bagay na mababalikan namin," they added.

(We always make time to have dates and travel because those are the memories that, when we get older, will be the treasures we can relive every time.)

As a DINK couple, one of the best kinds of freedom they enjoy is how they approach their careers and finances. Both working in the corporate world, Dan and Danica agreed to merge their incomes while keeping whatever they make from their part-time gigs for themselves, respectively. They make it a point to regularly discuss their individual aspirations and support each career goal. But while Dan and Danica, like so many other DINK couples, savor financial independence, they also prioritize having a financial plan.

Dan described his wife as someone who’s “really good at budgeting” because she sets up quarterly targets for them and makes sure they stick to the budget to hit those goals.

“It’s a matter of knowing your priorities. Kami, even if we don’t have a child yet, we have an allotment pag nagbaby na kami. Mga hospital bills, panganganak, we have allotted for that para when that time comes, meron kaming bala pag nangyari siya,” Dan added.

(It’s a matter of knowing your priorities. Even if we don't have a child yet, we have an allotment for hospital bills, childbirth, so that when that time comes, we have it covered).

To address the elephant in the room with such gentleness and open-mindedness is not always easy. Although they have repeatedly explained to others that having a child is not yet part of their plan as a couple, people still question them and give unwanted advice about their choice.

“Even if we explain it a lot to other people, there will still be a lot of questions like, ’Maybe there is something wrong with you two, one of you has health issues," Danica said.

Being childfree is not always a fixed or final thing, either. Despite the societal pressures weighing on them, Danica pointed out that having good communication with her spouse matters the most, and that they’re not closing their doors to having a child in the future.

In the interview, Danica confessed about a time when she felt deeply hurt by the assumptions and criticisms they received. But the pair doesn’t have any regrets about their no-kid lifestyle and believes that the decision to raise a child is deeply personal, fueled by one’s genuine inner desire rather than brought about by societal pressures or expectations.

At present, Dan and Danica are loving the DINK lifestyle and regularly share on social media how they navigate their modern relationship. The couple wanted to emphasize that being a DINK does not mean avoiding responsibility, but rather a path towards becoming more responsible parents.

“You have to be mentally stable, physically stable, spiritually stable, not just financially stable. Kasi nakikita namin kapag nagkaro’n na kayo ng baby, hindi na pwedeng pangsariling desisyon lang, you will be selfless. So, dapat emotionally you are ready,” Danica said.

(You have to be mentally stable, physically stable, spiritually stable, not just financially stable. Because when you have a baby, you can't just make a personal decision, it’s all about being selfless and emotionally ready [to prioritize the needs of another human being]).

Conversations on Being Childfree

“Not your uterus.”

This was what Heart Evangelista had to say to a netizen who asked her on TikTok back in January 2022 why she doesn’t have any kids.

"Ba't di kayo magka-anak? (Why can’t you have kids?)" the question goes. It was written in a way that seemed to imply that there was an underlying issue about why she and her husband, Senator Francis “Chiz” Ecudero, “could not” have kids instead of asking why they “won’t.”

“Ayoko eh (I don’t want to). Didn't anyone teach you manners? I mean, you know what, if I am not sad about it then why are you even?” Evangelista replied.

She also added in the caption, “Not your uterus," and "Being a mom shouldn't be the only source of happiness. My goodness. What are you going to do when your kids have their own lives?”

And who’s to say celebrities aren't spared from these same societal pressures?

For Nadine Lustre, she’s said in interviews that she would prefer adoption if she decided to have a kid in the future.

“That’s where my head's at right now. Just because, there are so many people na on Earth, and I do believe that there are lots of kids who don't have parents and who need taking care of. So, I feel like if I do wanna have kids, I might just adopt. Sustainability!” the actress said in an interview with Cosmopolitan Philippines in 2022.

The eldest daughter of “Master Rapper” Kiko Magalona, Maxene, is also assertive about not wanting to have kids. She made a good point about how it’s important to heal one’s childhood traumas before jumping into parenthood. In an interview with Inquirer.net in 2022, she said that she’s 100% okay with her present life and urged those “curious” individuals to break the toxicity of making others feel awkward by asking personal questions.

These empowered women prove that they are perfectly fine with their own paths and believe that being a mom is not the only source of love and the be-all end-all of happiness in life.

It’s undeniable that getting married and raising one’s own child remains an expectation in Asian society, including the Philippines. Babies are often seen as bundles of joy or even little miracles, but not everyone’s a fan of changing diapers and late-night feedings.

When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) anticipated a surge in birth rate, with most families spending time together at home. However, what happened was quite the opposite. Birth rate plunged to its lowest level in 34 years, with 1,516,042 registered births in 2020, according to a preliminary report by the Philippine Statistics Authority in June 2021 via PopCom. This was second only to the 1,493,995 births in 1986.

The same report also showed that the country saw the lowest number of marriages in the last 20 years in 2020. According to Population and Development Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH, some factors like possible hardships and lack of access to medical and family planning services are why Filipino women are delaying children and why families are avoiding having more kids.

Meanwhile, total fertility rate in the Philippines also declined from 2.7 children per woman in 2017 to 1.9 in 2022, according to the 2022 National Demographic and Health Survey report by the Philippine Statistics Authority. This downward trend has been consistent across all age brackets since 2008.

Another common reason for adopting a childfree lifestyle is the prioritization of career advancement. This sentiment was echoed by incumbent PopCom Executive Director Lisa Grace Bersales in an interview with “The Chiefs” aired on Cignal TV’s One News on May 8, 2023, where she highlighted that chasing one’s professional ambitions is one of the reasons why the younger generation is delaying marriage and having a kid.

The childfree movement has also kindled advocacy efforts in online communities and social media platforms, with local Facebook pages Childfree PH and Childfree by Choice Philippines gaining a following. Although the followers are few, these micro communities’ existence can’t be ignored.

The latter’s page touches on various topics, such as breaking free from generational expectations and traumas, navigating parental regret, and unpacking all the ins and outs of what it means to take on—or not take on—parental responsibilities. Childfree by Choice Philippines also manages a private Facebook group where one can have an intimate support squad with about 240 members, as of this writing.

Within this close-knit community, members can engage in discussions about being childfree, as it welcomes “people who [don’t] want to have a child or [don’t] want to pass the generation curse to future generations.”

Whatever the reason may be for delaying children and marriage or totally forgoing parenthood, the childfree lifestyle underscores the importance of agency and making choices of one's, or a couple's, own.

This goes back to Dan, who emphasized that one should not be affected by what other people say about their personal choices.

"‘Wag kayong papadala sa sinasabi ng [iba] kasi for sure marami din gustong maging DINK, wag muna mag-anak, pero syempre maraming tao sa paligid. Syempre, nandoon pa rin ‘yung tradition, di naman namamatay yon eh…” he said.

“There is a proper time for everything. Maximize yourself kahit sa mga single and pag naging married kayo, maximize niyo rin yung time ninyo. For me, wag madaliin ang mga bagay-bagay. May tamang oras, may tamang time for that.”

(Do not be swayed by what other people say because, for sure, there are a lot of those who also want to be DINK or not have kids yet. Of course, there are a lot of people around you, tradition is still there, those don’t really go away... There is a proper time for everything. Maximize yourself even while you’re single and when you eventually get married, maximize your time together. For me, don’t rush into things. There is a right time for such decisions).

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