11 December 2013, by Tan Li Lin
Is this what they meant when they said Marriage is eternal? A time-warping, indescribable feeling of ‘it happened 3 weeks ago, but it’s felt like it was just yesterday, and yet so long ago’? Sometimes I forget that I’m hitched, and accidentally refer to Ronald as ‘my boyfriend’. I’ve found that it secretly makes me feel young and free again… but I don’t hesitate to quickly correct myself 😛
Interestingly in just 3 weeks, Marriage has changed me somewhat. I’d never had expected that a small act (of signing a contract) would assume itself an epicenter of transformation. It’s one of those things people don’t quite talk about; I guess the assumption is that we’ll all figure it out on our own. I suppose everyone’s experience is different, although I’m quite sure many have been surprised at the hidden gifts that Marriage brought to them. The unpredictable nature of putting two together. Here’s my account of how my life after Marriage is unfolding. But first…
What’s not changed after Marriage
#1 Love is Love, Regardless of Titles
Marriage has not changed the depth of the love we have for each other. I attribute this to our clear intention and commitment to a long-lasting relationship since we started dating. So far it has proven to help us transcend our personality differences, ensuring conflicts don’t get in the way of Love. We never banked on Marriage to seal our love (as old fashioned as it might sound, I’ve heard that still happens), to a point we still wake up to each other as another ‘person’, and not a ‘title’ (Or a ring, which incidentally we’ve taken off after 2 weeks).
#2 Questioning Expectations
Inevitably, expectations are brought into relationships. They are especially fueled by idealism, of which I’m guilty. It takes conscious effort on my part to curb the imposing of those onto Ronald, and to always make a choice to see him for who he is. I had to ask myself many times over the last 3 years if I’m going to be okay living with Ronald for life if he doesn’t change (for the better) or doesn’t meet any of my expectations. That has helped me come to peace with any assumptions I have going into this. That doesn’t mean that I don’t make demands of him. I just think it needs to be agreed upon and in the interest of the other person. Marriage brings to the table a new set of expectations, but it doesn’t come with the excuse to release the floodgate of “shoulds and shouldn’ts” onto our partner. In other words, let’s not get complacent or unreasonably demanding on each other now that it’s official we’re in this for a lifetime.
#3 The Kisses
It feels the same way it did 3 years ago…. nothing’s changed.
Having said that, so too are the strewn clothes, sudden belches and toilet lights left on. There are some things Marriage doesn’t change, and there are those that Marriage shouldn’t change.
Which brings us then to – so what’s changed after Marriage?
#1 A ‘New’ Set of Parents
I’ll admit, I’m still having difficulty relating to Ronald’s parents as my ‘Mom and Dad’ now. Mainly because I’m a huge fan of my parents (they’ll be relieved to know) and I refuse to think anyone comes close to them. I don’t like recognizing people simply for their titles, which means I have to make a conscious effort to be genuine in addressing his parents as such. I still slip up occasionally. In the last 3 weeks I’ve called his father ‘Dad’, ‘Pa’, ‘Papa’, and ‘Uncle’ and sometimes resorted to quietly slipping past him so I didn’t have to face the struggle of not knowing what to call him . You’d be comforted to know that Ronald and I had a debrief about this odd struggle and decided to just go with ‘Pa’. The sooner I get past this hurdle, the faster I get to learn who they are and absorb the wisdom they have to share. While I’m work in progress, Ronald’s transited well. My dad’s cooing over his ‘3 handsome sons’ probably has something to do with it.
#2 Renewed Sense of Responsibility
Responsibility isn’t evil. Quite the contrary. Responsibility paves the way for Joy. There is a new-found sense of joy in taking care of myself and Ronald. It extends outwards into caring for his family more too, as well as my own. Marriage is the unity of 2 families, not just 2 individuals, and more care and thoughtfulness flowing around has never hurt anyone. When everyone is taken care of, so is each individual. We cycle the good energies around. Time to also make more deliberate effort with our circles of friends. Having healthy communities around us helps to keep us in check, and likewise I hope our relationship serves positively the people around us.
Our health is another aspect. Taking the effort to be healthy means a lower chance that the other half has to become responsible for our health problems down the road. It also means being in the best shape possible when we decide to have children. We owe it to our loved ones and ourselves. This motivates me to keep up with my exercise. Ronald has taken some steps too… by buying life insurance. His way of buying time (and some credit) before the nagging to hit the gym starts again.
#3 Increased Accountability
This subtle but undeniable effect of getting Married comes with the realization of what Unity really means. So we’ve experienced that in teamwork too, but Marriage is different because it’s freaking teamwork for life! I can’t run away, or ‘take medical leave’, or convince myself someone else will step in, or decide that it’s ‘my way or the highway’. Every decision to act or not act now directly affects someone else’s life, for better or for worse. This has helped me to grow mentally and emotionally, and this isn’t something that comes with age. It comes with Choice – The choice to spend it on a dress, or save it for the house. The choice to sleep in 30 more minutes, or to get working on the business. The choice to be petty, or to do the right thing. Marriage has made it more about me, and yet less about me – which is it? It’s a constant weighing of outcomes and doing what’s best for both.
There’s probably more to add to the list as time goes on, but I’m happy taking on the Marriage mystery with gusto. I wonder what else I’ve signed up for. Borrowing a famous 1-liner from many, many Christmases ago…
“Life is like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
(But of course that’s only true if you were adventurous enough to pick a box with a variety of flavors.)
Lin Tan is an Entrepreneur and an Executive Coach who dedicates more time to making society a better place over making babies. Follow her blog on www.maybebaby.sg/blog and journey with her as she embarks on all things ‘life after 30′.