After reading the article by Anthony Yeo, again I see the social stigma on singles resounding strongly, pushing many singles to the track of marriage. Singles even have to pay more income tax than married couples.
Yet marriage is not for everyone.
Consider the high standard of living, the rat race, office politics and other stressful aspects of life in Singapore, being married is more bane than boon. In fact, when I observe around, the only happily married couples are those married recently. For those who are married above 5 years, they face a higher stress level in work as they cannot afford to screw up due to family commitments. Hence, they can only be Mr. or Mrs. Yes people when it comes to work “arrows”.
I am not saying staying single will definitely guarantee more happiness than being married. Nor am I saying being married will be the sure way of losing freedom and happiness.
I do feel that many married couples get married for a variety of (perhaps wrong) reasons. For instance, natural progression of our romance, our combined income nearing $8000, hence “better” get married before we are not eligible for the grant, parents nagging, friends are getting married one by one (herd mentality), wanting to have kids at an earlier age, already have a kid!, property are at attractive valuations, found a nice HDB flat at a good location, can’t wait to get out of my family (perpetual conflicts), everyone knows we are together and we will “lose face” if we do not get married, we are together for many years already, I cannot find a better one anyway, I am getting old etc.
The list can go on and on.
Being a rational person (or at least I try to be), getting married is a life time investment. A wrong choice can literally upset your life and leave you 50% poorer. It takes careful planning and thorough evaluation before the big commitment. Yet the above reasons are often emotional and even impulsive. How can we expect marriage to be happy when romance dies off (almost certainly as time progresses) and hope for happily ever after? Are we leaving our happiness too much to fate and hope?
Having gone through a number of relationships with Singaporean girls, I do have my reservations on marriage. I have seen many heartlanders or “girl next door” expecting high standards from their partner. Car, stable income, potential high income, good family background, university degree, presentable looks and built, humourous, witty, gentlemanly, intelligent, caring, generous, good dress sense, enjoys talking on phone etc.
Although I shamelessly admit that I possess the above characteristics, I do feel stressful to keep up with the “natural selection” criteria of the Singaporean girl. I do not blame them for it though. Consider the typical small family size in our local context, all boys and girls are gems of the family and are brought up with good education and material comfort. I cannot expect them to “downgrade” after marrying me right?
Yet I do not see the point being entangled in romance, enter a journey of marriage and eventually tomb of divorce. The girls can continue to keep their high standards, I respect your selection criteria. However, I will definitely stay vigilant and not fall into the marriage trap. Staying single and living with parents grant me absolute autonomy of lifestyle: I have no curfews, I can invite my friends for mahjong, I can watch soccer till wee hours of the morning, I have my laundry and ironing done faithfully, I do not have to worry about utilities or breakdowns, I do not have to tolerate PMS, I do not have to visit in laws, I do not have to wash the plates and get scolded for making a mess, I have freedom.
The reasons may be simple and even selfish, but at least it is my choice, my free will. I do not allow myself to be subjected to peer pressure, herd mentality and societal expectations.
Hence for those singles reading my blog, you have not made the wrong choice!
For the married ones, I respect you, and wish you all the best for your marriage!!
Copied from Sunday Times, 29 June 2008
People believe that June is a good month for marriage. Somehow this is the month for weddings, and with the recent series of activities in conjunction with enhancing family life in Singapore, marriage is certainly in the air.
Weddings are usually much celebrated events often attended by enthusiastic guests, including single or unattached adults.
Along with the carnival spirit infused into the celebration are those well-meaning married guests who inevitably accost singles with the inevitable 'So, when is your turn?' query.
Single adults know all too well what this means and often respond with polite responses such as 'You'll know when it comes' or 'I guess it's not time yet'.
Somehow we tend to believe that marriage is for everyone and, all too often, unattached adults are singled out as targets for prospective coupling in marriage.
There is also a commonly held notion that to get married is to 'settle down', in contrast to being unmarried suggesting that the latter is to be saddled with an 'unsettled' state of life.
Somehow there is a prevailing idea that this 'unsettled' state is synonymous with being uncertain, fickle-minded, frustrated or incomplete.
With all the earnest drive to promote marriage in Singapore, singles tend to be unsettled by the idea that fulfilment and happiness in life is to be experienced primarily in 'marital bliss'.
This prevailing idea seems to defy my observation of the many couples who have sought help for marital conflict.
Each time I encounter married people afflicted with marital woes, I am reminded of how marriage tends to be an unsettling experience.
I have also been left with the unsettled feeling, wondering why so many had chosen to be married when they could have had a less stressful life if they had stayed single.
Of course, the other unsettling feeling is the painful journey I traverse with those who have the courage to go their separate ways.
As I ponder over this issue, I sometimes wish that marriage was not held in such high regard, with less focus on the romantic ideals of a peak experience that marriage seems to promise.
Those who contemplate marriage would do well to confront the reality that marriage can be an unsettling experience rather than one where couples live happily ever after.
The way I see it, marriage promises to be unsettling as couples need to be prepared for a lot of adjustment to living with someone quite unfamiliar to oneself, learning to adapt to each other's idiosyncrasies, growing together as partners in life and coping with all the demands that marriage and family life brings.
It is also prudent to be aware that romance, if it is ever experienced, is not everlasting and may in fact fade months after the honeymoon is over.
Conflicts are inevitable and there will be many issues to be negotiated, such as relationships with the in-laws, work-home relationships and friendships with those outside of marriage.
The more I work with couples with marital conflict, the more I am concerned that marriage should not be entered into lightly. It is also fallacious to believe that life will be incomplete and unfulfilling if a person is not married.
There is more to life than marriage and no one should be made to feel deprived of what life offers if the choice is to be single.