Recently, a couple of good friends and I had the chance to catch up again after being in different countries for awhile.
It was an intimate, girly session, and we shared updates about our lives and how things have been since we last met. Since most of us were married or in a relationship, naturally, we spoke about our partners.
Well, I guess it took a lot of courage to share the less-than-happy stuff as one of my girlfriends spoke about the upheaval in her marriage. She may have said it in a cool, matter-of-fact manner, but I’m pretty sure it was anything but. She could have chosen not to speak about it, but she went ahead, and I’m glad she did.
They have been married for over 10 years with two lovely children. Whenever we meet, both husband and wife always had endless chatter and were all-smiles. Both are the kind of friends you’d want to keep talking to all night.
So, my girlfriend broke the news.
“A* (names have been changed) and I nearly got divorced…,” she started.
An endless gush of questions ran through my head, and I tried very hard not to look shocked.
Then she went on about how it all started, how her workaholic husband and her were drifting apart (she’s a working mum), the things her husband said (and didn’t say), and eventually how she started a relationship with another man.
Her husband found out about it, and things turned ugly between them. Their children, her parents and siblings were involved in the episode too. But at the end of it, both have come together and agreed to start afresh once more.
Throughout the session, I could sense her roller-coaster of emotions. It was an intense chat which I definitely didn’t expect, but it was very real.
When I reflected upon her experience, I realised it could easily happen to anyone, man or woman. And, I’m not saying this as an excuse, and neither am I condoning any act, but sometimes things can just flow in directions we least expected… or maybe it was expected?
She even went on to talk about letting her husband have their kids should they divorce because she knows he would be able to better care for them. All this talk about the custody of children got me pondering further.
I asked myself, “Why would a mother do that? Wouldn’t she want to have her children with her after a divorce?”
And I guess, my answer might be very different from hers, or from any other mother who makes this decision. Who was I to question anyway?
While getting married only requires a signed marriage certificate, getting a divorce is a complicated affair. Beyond annulling the marriage, if the couple has kids, the custody of children needs to be decided upon – sole, joint etc? Not forgetting, there’s the kids’ welfare and upbringing costs involved too.
And then there’s the division of matrimonial assets in Singapore, which includes the homes, car, savings, jewelery etc., and splitting them up. I’ve also heard of couples who keep records/receipts of all their purchases (yup, right down to the furniture, groceries, items for their kids!), just in case.
It was heart-wrenching to hear my friend’s story. After all, she had found her true love at work, and was happily married in her early 20’s. Kids came along, and her family seemed happy in photos. Of course, these are just superficial points that one can observe from the outside.
These tests in a marriage are real. But a marriage is perhaps a little more than the usual relationship. It goes beyond just the input of effort, time and teamwork to play the roles of husband, wife and parents.
Just as most of us are in a similar situation: working parents, young kids, work commitments, social life – it’s easy to let the mundane bits of these things bury the very reason of being married. Worse, some of us may start to feel like we’re simply roommates who are raising children together. There are multiple challenges in any relationships, much less a married couple. What about yours?
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of leading our own lives, perhaps we could take a moment to think about our own marriage. It’s not very often that we do that, right?
Ask yourself a few questions: Are you happy in this marriage? Why did you marry this man/women? How has married life changed you for the better and for the worse? Where do you see the both of you in 10, 20, 30 years? How will the both of you continue to keep the marriage growing and blooming?
In fact, talk about it with your spouse and keep the communication open. I mean, a healthy marriage should have an open communication anyway, isn’t it? Talking about topics such as divorce, or how we feel about our own marriages can be quite rare between a couple. These days it’s about the kids (who napped, who threw a tantrum during mealtime, what’s planned for the weekend etc.); we seldom give much thought to “married life”, but we are married. Seems normal to discuss, yes?
Tests in marriages can help the relationship become stronger, but it may also throw things to the other end of the spectrum. Amidst the adversity, how both parties choose to respond in dire situations makes a difference in the outcome.
And, of course, there’s a whole list of other factors such as pride, guilt, the children’s welfare and a suite of both intrinsic and extrinsic considerations. But both parties would have to make a decision as a unit; as a couple.
I don’t ever wish my friend (or anyone around me) would end up in a divorce, nor be talking about the custody of children or troubling themselves over the division of matrimonial assets in Singapore.
A marriage is like a sacred rose, which needs nurture, hugs, kisses and most importantly, love. It is a continuous journey to keep the marriage alive, fun, fresh as time goes. It’s easy to take each other for granted, or take things as it is. There are tons of reasons we can dish out, but I guess we need to always remember why we chose to marry our spouse. Working towards a happy future takes two hands to clap – and I hope every married couple can find the spirit to applaud and create countless more happy memories together for the many decades of their lives ahead.
Remember to kiss your spouse before kissing your children, husbands and wives :)
Marriages go through different tests, and some of these make them stronger. Have you got a story to share too?
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A version of this post originally appeared on The HOOting Post.