Hard truths about marriage
In more conservative times, marriage was a coveted gateway to elevate your status and lifestyle. Divorce was frowned upon so many who couldn't ride the relationship storm went on to have two to three wives and additional offspring. These days, couples are more realistic than ever. They accept that marriage has a 50/50 chance of survival so they go in with pre-nups, discussions on shared finances and are fully aware that couple life after the honeymoon and baby-moon may not be as they want or expect. Marriage isn't for the faint-hearted or the weak-willed. Do you have what it takes? Here are some hard truths.
1. Popular or auspicious tie-the-knot dates won't make the ride easier
Many wannabe-weds consult the Tong Sen (Chinese Almanac) hoping to guarantee the fate of their marriage bliss by consorting with the Chinese Zodiac Universe and "stars" to align them in the couple's favour by choosing a wedding date that's based on the number of strokes in their Chinese character names and birth dates. If only marital longevity and happiness were reliably correlated with inter-galactic, good-fortune safe dates, maybe more folks would sign up for the marriage walk.
2. Soul mates are non-existent
Many un-jaded singles still hold out for their soul mate, but a 2010 Pew Research says that 69 percent of people don't believe that only one person in this world completes them. Love, companionship, having kids, joint financial stability may be the reasons that catapult many first timers to take that leap of faith, but for many who tie the knot again, finding an actual soulmate is less important than meeting someone who's not insane and whose principles in life aren't synonymous with "what's in it for me."
3. Marriage has competition
Finishing your Masters, paying off school loans, getting a job and creating a savings nest compete with the "fall in love, let's get marriage" emotional rush many previously relied on when planning to hop on board the "Happy Days" love train. Love of work and work travel increases time spent at work and de-prioritses other things on their life list. Happy incentives like being able to rent and live away from your parents, putting down a small mortgage to finally get your own crib and giving cohabitation a try all add to that new generation bucket list and pushes back that actual walk down the aisle.
Discussed seriously, calculated and slotted in to a calendar planner that has a 360 view of all joint priorities over a five year period, has marriage morphed into yet another transaction in life? We'll find out in a generation or two.
4. Marriage isn't what it used to be
People used to marry to spend more time together, doing mindless things that build intimacy and raising kids without the stress that accompanies parenting today. Work demands nowadays see couples spend more time apart than their predecessors did. And bringing up Junior is now based on a new set of enrichment schedules and academic achievements previous generations never put pressure on attaining.
For those that travel on the job - two weeks at a time or posted abroad for a three-year stint - strain on the ones left behind is a constant. Will living separate lives strengthen the bond? Or will you feel single again and crave for emotional attention with a seemingly baggage-free third party? What if the wife becomes the expatriate and hubby won't give up what he worked hard for? How do you bridge that gap?
If he's constantly away and you already have little "pitter patters," will parenting solo pile on resentment because you didn't sign up to do it alone? Kids aren't robots, obeying on command. They have individual personalities and it's not always a listen-to-mum moment. Not doing homework, always on YouTube, hating greens, having "stuck poop" four times a week all become a parent's worst nightmare when it's put on repeat. If your kid has mild or more serious learning challenges, your load just quadrupled. How do you maintain your sanity and work on a long distance marriage?
5. Attitudes have changed
Generation Strawberry, Y and The Millennials are less likely than older peers to commit legally just because someone got knocked up. A growing number of ladies now actually go through labour before walking down the aisle. Gone are the days when women were shunned for having kids out of wedlock. Nowadays, if you're happy with your lot, your support teams (family and friends) will say you're in a good place. People used to marry for love, commitment, companionship, stability, to start a family. Now they can have all that outside of what some say is a "legal jailhouse."
6. Demand doesn't tally with supply
Many stay single because they haven't found "the one" or aren't financially stable enough to want to be responsible for someone else. Singles have a partner wishlist they want to check off - brains, brawn that won't sag, a good job that has higher income earning potential, generosity in wallet and in the bedroom - before entertaining a life with someone else. When they're ready, they want someone equally accomplished. Reality doesn't paint the prettiest picture - those who meet your requirements, but who were more pragmatic about life and relationships, have already left the singles market, leaving you with fewer choices.
7. Your actual married life may not be what you expect
Marriage on paper is pure bliss. So was the planned sharing of bills. But once that morning alarm beeps, real life beckons. Your marriage prep course didn't tell you that daily living amplifies all the horror stories you don't want in shared living - dirty gym socks under the bed, pink and gold eye shadow powder flecks on the sink bed, used feminine hygiene products uncomfortably visible in bins and that shared finances actually means you pay more.
Your inter-ethnic relationship was glorious at the start - cultural differences made dating fun and created the right electricity to tie the knot. But now whatever drew you like a moth to a flame is setting off a mini bonfire. He says young kids don't eat with adults or run around the table. She says it's the Asian culture to come together and create festive noise. He asks why you always have to be around family. She says she has no choice. How do you meet in the middle without making your family hate you (and him)? You thought he was manly. Now he's your fifth child, playing Pokémon GO every day after work, skipping dinner and avoiding all dinner conversation by saying he really has to use the loo.
8. Having kids isn’t a given
Medical research says a woman's fertility curve peaks at about 25 years of age. That means those who marry later become older parents in waiting. Challenges in conception, especially when one or both have "happy work stress," is very real. What was once excited family planning discussions of when to try to get pregnant, how to discipline your kids, to cane or not to cane, all take a back seat when you can't conceive the baby you want. Spontaneity in the bedroom becomes tiresome "quick, I'm ovulating now..." discussions. Will this tear your marriage apart? New necessary topics find a way in. Is fertility assisted treatment needed? Do you have the funds? Is your body ready? How do you train your mind and body to be happy and positive when you're feeling sad and scared?
9. You might have to live with and take care of your in-laws
Many people are marrying later. That means your own parents and in-laws are likely to be older as well. If you signed up expecting not to live with your in-laws, you might have to reconsider your stance. Marriage automatically imbues a list of should-dos as it is the grown up thing to do. Older couples have to accept that "immediate family" may now mean your kids and ageing parents on both sides all under one roof.
10. Singles who want marriage are also happy piloting solo
What a pickle. Some say singles who want marriage may be more selfish because they haven't had to share and be responsible for someone else. It may take a little time for those who haven't had to share space, time or money with someone else to learn to. Folks who've enjoyed singlehood have a strong sense of who they are and what they want. They've spent a lot of time growing up. They've developed a clarity about life and its purpose that being with someone else sometimes just can't give. They just need to sync that fairly with your needs and wants. Don't fear the permanent bachelor/bachelorette. If you have strong feelings for each other and genuinely want it to work, love will find a way.
Karen Khng is Managing Director of Love Script International.
Find Love Script at www.love-script.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.