Good Bye 2015, Hello 2016 – Part 2: On Marriage

It’s amazing how time flies. Now that it is 1 Jan 2016, there’s only another 29 days before my wedding.

Allow me to begin with two quotes from the US Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on marriage:

Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.

(Obergefell v. Hodges, 26 June 2015, p.3)

And:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.

(Ibid., p.28)

Indeed, marriage is a beautiful union, greater than the two persons combined. It’s more than just two individuals getting together.

In the past year, as we continue our preparations for marriage, we have witnessed how the dynamics of this relationship has evolved further and deeper.

I don’t think this is something that one acquires in a relationship from the length of time spent. Seems to me that it’s more about the decision to commit spending the rest of our lives together that changes our perspective and outlook of how we spend our time and what we do.

Indeed, marriage is not something for everybody. There are people who are better being single or in short-term relationships. So I won’t say that this is better or the best thing for everybody. But for those who can and for those who dare, I think it is worthwhile to attempt to seek and establish a profound union that goes beyond two individuals.

We chose this different perspective and context to our relationship and we are quite glad for what it has become:

It’s not just about you and me, but about us as a unit.

It’s not just about seeing you happy, it’s about seeing you flourishing in life.

It’s not just about good times, it’s about enduring the difficult moments together.

It’s not just about the good memories we make, but it’s also about overcoming our differences to achieve harmony.

Indeed, we find ourselves challenging each other to strive to become better persons in so many different aspects of our lives. We find ourselves enriching each other by sharing the new and wonderful things that we discover. Or sometimes we discover new things together. And through these learning journeys, we grow – not just sideways – but in person to live richer, fuller lives.

Perhaps one of the greatest realisations towards the end of 2015, is realising just how much The Fiancée has been my voice of conscience and reason; a voice that has been challenging me to strive for greater heights, a voice that has been challenging me to be a good and virtuous person, a voice that has been challenging me to put aside my own insecurities, fears, doubts, etc., to do what is right. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a friend and partner in life. I think one of the big things I need to do in 2016 is learning how to obediently listen to that voice. Yes, the old cliché joke rings true here. I may be Mr. Right, but she is Mrs. Always Right.

Couple Cushions: Mr. Right and Mrs. Always Right. We got these free at a wedding fair.
Couple Cushions: Mr. Right and Mrs. Always Right. We got these free at a wedding fair.

And indeed, listening to one’s wife is something I should really learn well. That is the advice several happily married elderly men have been telling me. I’ve met many of them in different contexts: work, conferences, church, etc. But the advice is always the same. The secret to a happy marriage is to listen to one’s wife. I guess a prerequisite to that is to ensure one marries a wise lady, and I think The Fiancée fits it perfectly.

In my 2014 reflections (see Marriage Preparation), I wrote about how one of the major challenges in our preparation for marriage is learning how to be with and without each other. It is learning how to attach and detach, how to be close and how to give each other space.

We’re still learning to attain a suitable balance without neglecting ourselves and each other.

Nonetheless, 2015 has brought us new challenges. Now that we’re both working full-time, one of the big challenges is balancing time for work with time for each other, and time for ourselves.

It has been surprisingly difficult, and I wonder how other people do it, especially when they have children to deal with as well.

Interestingly, no one seems to have a solution.

Especially with academic research, I realise this is the kind of work where I can’t simply just put it down and resume the next day or a few hours later with ease. This is the kind of work where I have to set aside hours just to settle my mind, and slowly get into the flow. And when one is in that flow-state, there’s a kind of inertia that makes it really hard to stop work. In fact, pausing would simply interrupt the flow of things.

One model I learnt from a professor seems to work rather well (he’s been married for quite some time already), and I think it works, at the very least, for couples without children. It goes like this: weekdays are dedicated intensely to work and personal time; while weekends are dedicated intensely to each other.

We experimented with this for several weeks. It is not ideal, and frankly, quite exhausting and unsatisfying. I suppose this is something that The Fiancée and I have to continue discovering on our own. It’s never easy finding that balance.

Well, let me say a bit about wedding preparations. Unlike most couples, we have settled everything related to the wedding day way ahead in advance. And unlike most couples, we have been slow in doing one thing – invite people. We still have a stack of invitation cards to send out. With 29 days to go, it’s like a race against time to ensure everyone gets it.

One of the good things about having a wedding two years after the engagement is that a lot of the hype and excitement wears off. That’s good because now we don’t really care too much about having the “perfect” wedding. So it’s less bridezilla/groomzilla, and more let’s-just-do-whatever-works-at-a-decent-cost. It’s great for the budget, and it’s definitely a less stressful way to approach the wedding. So wedding preparation has now reached a stage where it’s almost stress free. That’s really nice.

One final comment before I end this reflection. Some have shared with us how The Fiancée and I have been an inspiration to them about relationships and marriage. We never set out to be an exemplary couple, but to have fun throughout every moment in our relationship. Nonetheless, their words have been a source of encouragement. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing, and it’s nice to know that somehow in the midst of our cluelessness, we’ve been doing some things right.

So with that, we count down the days to a new chapter of our lives.