What Does It Mean To Be Married?


*Preface: The following is how I, a Singaporean Chinese male who is married to a Malaysian Chinese lady, view marriage in an Asian context. My view is not representative of all Singapore Chinese males or even Asians, and is in fact, quite uncommon (and unpopular).

Many colleagues and friends (mostly single) ask me how it’s like to be married at 28, which is considered “early” to most of my social circle.

They always follow up by saying, “How sure are you that you’ve found the one?”

Not in a bad way, of course, they’re mostly asking because they want to find someone whom they can spend their life with as well.

I often preface by saying that my view won’t be what they’d like to hear and expect because other people whom I know who are married, have quite differing views than me.

Without leaving you hanging for too long, my short answer is: my marriage doesn’t feel very much different than before we were married, it’s just us telling the world that we’re sure about our decision about one another.

For my long answer, well, you’ll have to read on. But it can be summed up in three key points:

  • No one is right or wrong
  • Acceptance of each other’s differences
  • Sacrifices are the foundation

No one is right or wrong

It’s not sexy, but there’s no such thing as “winning” an argument or fight. It doesn’t matter who should be blamed for a mistake. So what if my wife is in the wrong?

This might sound like I’m a very gracious and forgiving husband, but knowing that keeping a scoreboard of each other’s boo-boos is a sure-fire way to start derailing the marriage, is one of my most grateful realisations.

In any relationship, even non-romantic ones, either party would definitely be in the losing end at any one point in time.

When you’re in the losing end, you’ll always hope for the other party to forgive you – so why not do the same if the other party is in the losing end this time around?

That’s not to say that I won’t get angry at my wife at all, far from that. It’s just that when it’s time to reconcile, I don’t put myself on a pedestal to feel like I’m the bigger person or the one in the right.

Read any memoirs of old couples or just asking a loving elderly couple personally would give you that insight. It might be boring and even off-putting for young couples who are passionately in love, but which piece of truth isn’t?

Acceptance of each other’s differences

My wife and I are almost like two different species from distant universes when it comes to our personalities. Sometimes, we marvel at how we’ve come so far together.

The old clichéd phrase “opposites attract” apart, I think we’ve grown and learned to accept that we’re both very different, especially our worldviews.

Sure, there are some instances where my wife would get upset that we have so little in common, but I think because we’re so different, when we do find something in common, we’ll cherish it.

Also, there’s always this feeling that we don’t know each other entirely, but in a good way in that, there’ll always be something new we’ll learn about one another and slowly grow to accept it.

It’s like how some couples know each other too well and have too many things in common that it becomes hard to maintain the spark and passion in the marriage and relationship.

It’d be very sad if all that holds the marriage together are the children.

Sacrifices are the foundation

Speaking of children, the true challenge of a marriage’s strength is sacrificing time to look after the kids for the other half.

It’s hard for me to comment right now because we haven’t had a child of our own, but I read and learn about other married couples who are parents, raising the child(ren) is the defining challenge of any marriage.

If only one side were to sacrifice time while the other just takes a back seat, not only will the marriage weaken, the child(ren) will grow to hate the neglecting parent.

Children aside, any form of sacrifice is one of the most sincere ways of expressing one’s love to the other. What can be bigger than sacrificing one’s free time just to make the other’s day better?

It can be as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier to prepare breakfast or putting down the game controller while you’re in the middle of fighting the last boss just to listen to your other half’s bad day.

I have to admit I haven’t learned this well enough yet, but I’m doing my best and I’m certain that one day, sacrificing my time (which is the most valuable resource) will be second nature.

I’m still learning about marriage every single day

I’m writing this not to claim that I’m the world’s best husband or that I know a lot about marriage. I’m writing this as a reminder for myself that there’s so much to learn about myself, ourselves, and marriage as a whole.

What I’ve written might turn you off – you might be thinking, “why is this person viewing marriage as some form of torture or sacrifice? Why do I need to forgive my other half if he or she is obviously in the wrong? Or why should I be the one who sacrifices, what if he or she never sacrifices for me?”

Sorry to say but if you’re asking yourself or even me the above questions, you’re not ready for marriage, not by a far cry.

Getting married isn’t just for the vows, or the right to ballot for an HDB flat (in Singapore), or to show off how lavish your wedding is.

Getting married is telling the other half that you’re ready to take care of him or her for the rest of your life, and that you’re sure you’ve found the imperfect one for yourself, and sacrifices are ready to be made so that the marriage stays strong.

If you’re constantly thinking about yourself in the relationship, justifying your actions for your own good, then you’re obviously not ready to dedicate your life to spend with your other half.

About the author

Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.

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by Vance Wong


Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.