Sunday, July 21, 2024

Trouble in paradise: What happens when you break up in Mexico?

My personal story of breaking up in Mexico is absolutely one worth telling. I can still remember the first time I saw my now ex-husband as he walked through the door. I liked him immediately, and the attraction only grew as the evening wore on.

There was only one problem. The door he’d walked through was my friend’s, and my friend was his girlfriend.

It’s hard to not get wrapped up in the romance of the country (and the men) at first. (Travis Grossen/Unsplash)

You can probably imagine the breakup: it was messy. It was dramatic. Lies, intrigue, attempts at sweet, sweet revenge. It ran the gamut, and by the time we were “officially” together, it could have inspired a telenovela.

This was the beginning of one fairly normal relationship in Mexico, my friends. Yikes.

All I can say for myself is that we were very young, and that I’d felt fate tugging at me. Indeed, I would not have my beautiful daughter today had the moral character I thought I had turned up.

Bethany Platanella’s great article a while back about dating in Mexico inspired me. Why not talk about the end of romance, too?

Because in Mexico, ending things can get pretty dramatic. I mean, humans as a species love drama and hate being blamed for things (even when they should be). But in as passionate a place as Mexico, those tendencies can get you to some pretty unexpected places!

Breaking Up is Hard to Do ― So Why Do It?

When most people enter a romantic relationship, they do so assuming that it will last for a long, long time. If we didn’t believe that, we’d never do it, after all.

The reality, of course, is that almost all romantic relationships we enter will end at some point. Spoiler alert: it’s not usually because one of you dies.

So how do most of these relationships in Mexico end?

Of course, not everything is plain sailing however. (Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash)

Many of them come to end as a result of infidelity, or suspicions of infidelity, or just plain jealousy. Mexican men, especially, are not known for their sexual loyalty. It’s a stereotype that not all fit, of course. But it’s common and widespread enough that the trope of “the other family” is still alive and well. I can’t imagine how anyone could hide something like that in our surveillance society!

As you might guess, women are generally quicker to forgive cheating than men. Often, this is for practical rather than sentimental reasons, as women tend to be less economically independent. The opposite, of course, is not often true. What kind of macho forgives such an insult? Not many, is the answer.

As Platanella wrote, trust tends to spring from cheating opportunity rather than behavior. And unless you’re with your significant other all the time, well… Fidelity is hard to prove.

Another reason for breakups? In a culture where passion rules the day, some people are just plain crazy when it comes to romance. You guessed it ― crazy, usually, with jealousy. There’s also a tendency for abusive men especially to accuse their exes of being crazy. New partners mostly believe them ― oh, the stories! ― until they themselves turn out to be the “crazy ex.”

Guy cheating on his girlfriend
There are stereotypes about Mexican men… though they are not universally deserved, of course. (Social Media)

Who’d have thought there’d be so many crazy people out there, eh? When crazy means “they didn’t think I was right all the time,” quite a lot, it turns out.

Closing Ranks

When a romantic relationship in Mexico ends for whatever reason, all bets are off.

Mutual friends need to choose a side fast. Ex-partners are often deleted and blocked on social media. The friends above might serve as spies, and new relationships will be bitterly criticized and scrutinized. It’s a delicious process if the heat’s not on you.

As you might have guessed by now, “staying friends” after a relationship in Mexico is rare indeed.

Worse, divorce can only happen in one of two ways. You can come to an agreement through a state-sponsored mediation service, or you must sue your ex for divorce.

Take a wild guess about which of those options is more common.

And if the couple is older and has children, things can get really complicated. First, you aren’t allowed to divorce until the state is satisfied regarding the arrangements for their care. Unfortunately, that’s usually the least of it.

Parental alienation and even kidnappings in these cases are not unheard of. The justice system is not always just, and anger toward one’s ex has ruined lives. The stories I’ve heard and witnessed among friends would make your skin crawl.

People around here might be slow to anger, but when they do, watch out. I’ll never forget the words of a friend when I was trudging through the indignities of divorce. She thought I was being much too accommodating, and was exasperated at my unwillingness to strike like a snake. “I’d take everything from him; even the damn smile off of his face.”

Come back to me, baby!

You’d think that after all that drama, ex-partners would want to avoid each other forever. But in more cases than you might suspect, you’d be wrong.

After the explosion come the attempts at reconciliation. (Freepik)

Get a few sad songs and some alcohol in their system, and watch the “Baby, come back” messages bloom like roses. Gifts, promises to change, a heightened sense of romance and urgency ― it’s all intoxicating.

In the end, of course, true change is hard-won, and uncommon enough for people not to believe in it. Maya Angelou had it right: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

The End of the Affair

The ending of my own marriage was not easy. If the beginning had been fun and exciting, the ending was an absolute dumpster fire. It was not quiet, or chill. It took so much longer than I thought it would. Worst of all, our kid was devastated. Kids are made to create drama, not live through it.

But we made it. We’re not what you’d call friends; we cooperate because we have to. We were both good enough people, or not psychopathic enough, to not try to take the other for everything we could. Our kid is okay.

With my current partner ― we are not married ― we’ve got a plan. If we get married (it’s true, I don’t learn), it will be with a clear prenup. “Better to create these emergency triggers now when we love and want the best for each other,” my partner says.

Fantastic idea.

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, sarahedevries.substack.com.

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