Saturday, June 28, 2008

Staying single

I have been meaning to write an article on staying single for quite some time. Due to work commitments and procrastination, I did not get about penning my thoughts down.

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!!

Anthony Yeo: Marriage - an unsettling experience

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.


Anonymous said...

marriage is about a choice of lifestyle. one that is in many ways fullfilling and enriching.
life without marriage is the same as saying I do not want to see the world, I only want to stay in my familiar environment and know where my facorite chakwayteow and cafe latte is .

stress is part of life. what is life without some kind of resistance. and what's the point of being able to focsus throughly in work just to reurn to an empty house to have no ones to share the spoils of your career with.

if you focus on stocks, or cars, or golf, stamps, dogs , mountain climbig, canoeing, movies, or whatever that engage you, than why not that path to live with someone.
just because you are turn off by some irrational immatured ill informed gals, does not mean that its not a choice to embrace

You may say friends will be there but who is there in the middle of the night ? parents are great but its a matter of time before they pass on. dogs and cats are there for you when you need a companion to share your joy as well as your hap[iness but they there to enrich your mind and push you in directions that you have not and may never consider?

marriage is about love, companionship, sharing your life with someone who understand your whims and your fancies, someone to share a goal in life.
Life not all about career, happiness, burdenless, freedom.
neither its about kids, companionship, a HDB flat, a warm dinner, legal sex.
its also about sharing of saddness, an extended family, the persuasion to the girl next door that you do have the qualities that they want or the fact that your persistance allowed her to recognise that some of her criteria is not important after all. marriage is about the commitment and the responsibility that comes with it. about the fact that you have progress to yet another stage of your life , just like you have progressed from a carfree childhood to a student to a NSman to a working adult to a manager of a dept to a part of a familiy unit which enspoues everyhting that is about marriage.

life is not about slefish and what's best for me, but also abt taking a slower path and well, yu may term it looking for some trouble. but hey the experice that comes with these troubles, may they be joys or pain or riches or sacrifiances is somethingthat makes life more interesting.

Life is not about joys but about expeiences - all the good and the bad that comes along with it.
life can be interetig without a life partner, but it will be twice the fun with a soul mate. its like adding an extra engine to your car. justr remember to leave eough space between the 2 engines - you and your partner.
(you see i use the word partner here and not hudsband / wife)

Marriagfe is not about procreation or the continuity of life or mankind. its about the fact that life is beyond self. its not only about the joys that comes with independance but also about the hardship and the sacrifiaces and the joys and the sharing that only a co-head of a family unit would understand.

I do not wish you a smooth sailing life. I wish you a life of up and downs,of surprises and ocassionally inconveniences, of spikes as well as troughs, and ultimatey one that's varied abd interesting. marriage is not the only avenus for that. but definitely one fo the ways.

And yes, I respect your vuews and your ways...

Sgbluechip said...

Thanks for your enriching perspective on marriage. Indeed, sometimes in the middle of the night while trying to sleep, I do feel awfully alone and begin to look back at all my past relationships and really wish someone can be here to cuddle together and share some nice bedtime chat.

Your post came timely. Yesterday I had a phonecall from a nice gal, who told me she was getting married. We have been great friends but somehow, she sensed that I never wanted to go a step further in our relationship despite vision that we will stay happy together. I was keen to stay single at that time and procrastinate our relationship "till further notice". Slowly we drifted apart. She lamented that if she ever suffer a unhappy marriage, I must be held responsible as I did not take the final step to be together with her. She was even honest to say that her current fiancee wasn't exactly the right kind of guy she hoped, but at this point of time, she has decided to settle for 2nd best, rather than waiting for my silly decision.

It set me thinking, real hard. I looked at the mirror and asked if I really wanted a life to live, eat and die alone. I could have been the groom, preparing for wedding, posting on Singapore Brides forum instead of Sgfunds.

I really feel the tinge of regret. Regardless what the future holds, I wish her happiness, with or without me.

沈伊 said...

hahahahahaha.... you make me laugh. Well, I think my husband is regretting marrying me because he did get scolded when he make a mess, - well, not scold but more like a nag. Yes, i agree with you, you get your freedom indeed!!

沈伊 said...

Just saw your reply to anon. Well, that is nothing to be regret from as when you make decision that time (in the past), you make the most out of your ability and that the best you can do. :) I'm sure you will meet a nice girl too in the future. Keep us update though. ;) Best of luck.