2014 Year-End Review (Part 3) – Marriage Preparation

In this third instalment of my Year-End Review, I’d like to reflect and discuss about my journey with The Fiancée, and our preparation for marriage over the past year.

[If you missed the first two parts, here’s the first two parts: Part 1 (A Gap Year of Exploration) and Part 2 (Don’t Stop Writing)]

yearendreview

As some of you may know, I proposed to The Girlfriend at the start of the year and she said, “YES!” (see “To have and to hold” for the story). Since then, The Fiancée and I have been preparing ourselves for the big day.

Thus far, the journey has been stressful and challenging, but nonetheless still quite fun and interesting.

One of the biggest changes we’ve been struggling with is our transition from student-life to unemployed-life, and finally to working-life.

Working-life is such an annoyance. A whole day in the office, five days a week, and it’s hard to find the energy to have meaningful, heart-to-heart conversations at the end of the day. It’s not like when we’re in uni, where we had plenty of time to enjoy long strolls or enjoy ice-cream and talk deeply about issues that matter to us.

It’s tough. It’s challenging. But we try whenever we can.

I’m very glad that we decided to postpone our wedding to 2016. The original plan was to get married in 2015. But we postponed it when we began to do calculate the wedding costs. It’s ridiculous how expensive weddings are nowadays. We knew it was expensive, we didn’t know it was THAT expensive. And I’m not just talking about the banquet. Even the buffet reception is expensive as hell.

Oh… And don’t get me started about church weddings. I’m horrified that some churches charge a 4-figure sum just to use their venue. They claim it’s to cover the cost of air-conditioning. I think that’s a load of rubbish. A 4-figure sum for one hour of air-conditioning is the equivalent of a factory power consumption on a regular day of production (or even more than that!). And this doesn’t include the cost of manpower…

Anyway, we got ourselves a very affordable wedding package and high-quality Japanese-craftsmanship wedding rings for a super decent price (still cheaper and more aesthetically pleasing than the ugly rings sold at major jewellery shops). So we got that going for us, which is nice.

I digressed… Back to the point!

In many ways, postponing the wedding is a blessing in disguise. It has given us more time to prepare ourselves for marriage. No, I’m not talking about the wedding. The wedding is just a one-day ritual to initiate the start of our lives together as husband and wife, and to celebrate that occasion with family and friends.

But a marriage lasts a lifetime. It is what The Fiancée and I will have to go through for the rest of our lives. And preparation for that kind of thing is way more essential than the wedding ritual itself. Don’t get me wrong. The wedding ritual is important, but it is secondary compared to us living and loving each other as husband and wife for years to come.

If I have to summarise what I think marriage preparation is all about from our journey together, I’d say it’s this:

Marriage preparation is all about learning how to live WITH and WITHOUT your future spouse.

There are two concepts encapsulated in my one-sentence summary. I admit that the “WITHOUT” bit seems a bit like a shocker. But do be patient and allow me to explain.

I’ll start first with the most obvious things, and move on to the not-so-obvious lesson that I’ve learnt.

Yes, marriage preparation involves learning how to live with your future spouse.  The most essential thing being how to handle disagreements and conflicts, and how to forgive one another for one’s failings and to move on. Though this seems like the most obvious thing that many will agree with, I realised (from observing many married couples of all ages) that it’s not easy. And sadly, many couples never learnt how to handle this. Instead they harbour years and years of grudges, hurt, and pain, only to manifest increasing hatred, anger, and annoyance at each other as the years go by.

It is the most obvious lesson, yet it is not the easiest to learn. But we try.

The Fiancée and I have had our fair share of disagreement and conflict from time to time. But the one thing that makes me so glad is that we are both able to settle our disagreements/anger/hurt in a very civil and loving manner. We’re very fortunate to have had some protocols for resolution in place early on in our relationship.

But it’s something that we can’t be complacent with. As time goes by, new issues unlike anything we’ve encountered before, have and will continue to arise. And it’s something we’re still learning to handle.

Marriage preparation, in that sense, is not merely a learning journey, but a learning journey of learning how to learn from each other, of acquiring the flexibility to adapt, the humility and courage to be vulnerable to hurt while discussing such matters, the sincerity of being honest with each other, and if possible, the ability to sense when the other is troubled enough that it warrants a heart-to-heart discussion of the matter.

The second thing about marriage preparation that I’ve learnt is this: learning how to live WITHOUT one’s spouse. Yes, it may sound odd, but it’s very normal. There is a tension between (1) spending time with one’s spouse, and (2) spending time alone or with friends. Both are necessary. When I say, “learning to live without one’s spouse,” I’m referring to the process of learning how to balance spouse-time with time for friends and time for one’s own self.

I’ll admit that till now, I still haven’t quite found that balance, and it’s something that I’m still trying to figure out. It’s not something where there’s a universal rule to apply. It really depends on the needs one has and the needs of the (future) spouse.

Having observed the people who are married for a long time, the marriages that have soured or failed, are largely the result of not learning how to find a balance between spouse-time and me/friend-time. It’s always very easy to fall into the trap of neglecting the other for the sake of one’s own self-interests/pursuits or even work.

Ironically, what I’ve come to discover is that perhaps the best way to learn how to live without one’s spouse is to co-ordinate the balance with one’s spouse.

Without that active feedback process between the two, it’s very hard to know when one feels neglected by the other, or when one needs time out to spend one’s time alone or with friends. Interestingly, this is something that I learnt only yesterday, but I won’t go into detail. But it struck me that this is by far, one of the most essential things to learn as we prepare for marriage.

There are many other important matters that we’re learning together in this one year of preparation. Among them, are issues like financial planning, agreeing to disagree (we don’t always have to agree on the same issues), future planning, and of course, planning for the wedding.

At this point, you may be asking: “What about housing? Aren’t you going to get a flat?”

No. No new house for us any time soon. We both agreed that we will marry in phases. We’re both very bad at multi-tasking (although I have to say that she’s better than me on this on many counts). Handling all the wedding-related matters is already stressful enough, we don’t want to bring in the additional headache of housing. And for that matter, we agreed that we will not allow housing to define or influence our marriage.

I think the problem many couples have, here in Singapore, is that they are so distracted from real marriage preparation, that they’re focusing all their time and energy on non-essential matters. It’s bad enough that the wedding day has so many issues to worry about (the design of the invitation card, who to invite, what to wear, what to eat). Why add more distractions to marriage preparation? It’s very easy to be so overwhelmed by the wedding itself that you end up thinking only about the wedding day. This we can speak from experience because we were initially super-overwhelmed by all these issues that for some time that we stopped focusing on our relationship, only to obsessed over the wedding planning. We eventually came to our senses and said: “No, we need to stop and focus on what matters.”

So yes, there’s enough problems to worry about. The last thing we want is to add housing into the list of worries and stresses. When the time is right, we will begin worrying about housing. There’s always a time and place for everything, and housing is not essential for now.

Anyway, since I touched a bit on wedding-day preparation, here’s something funny to share! One day, The Fiancée and I were discussing wedding invites. I felt quite cheeky, and decided to design some hilarious wedding invites. We may or we may not use them on the actual day of the wedding (there is some meaning to it anyway).

Here’s the first fake wedding invite:

wedding1
“It is good not to marry… one who marries will have trouble in this life.” (1 Cor 7: 1, 28)

Here’s the second one:

wedding2
“It is better to marry than to burn.” (1 Cor 7:9)

HAHAHA!!!

I had such a good laugh designing these two invites. Heeheee…

Anyway, looking back at the years that we’ve been together, it amazes me how much we’ve grown and matured together over the years. Those past years have been very very good years.

Marriage preparation is indeed a learning journey of learning how to learn from each other. We’ve had our struggles and we’re still learning to live with and without each other.

Nonetheless, we’ve had many happy moments and memories together these few years, and we look forward to creating more memories and shared experiences together. I do hope that we can live out our lives together, grow old together, and eventually be one of those rare but sweet elderly couples that are still so tender and loving to each other even after so many years.

We’ve got one more year to prepare for the big day! With that, 2015 here we come!