25 October 2016, by Flora Isabelle
“Are you on the way?” I said into my phone. “I told you we have to be there by 6.”
And then I hung up before he could reply.
His car swung up beside the kerb. I hopped on, muttered something along the lines of “Don’t be late next time leh” and proceeded to look at my phone for the rest of the 20-minute drive.
That was circa September 2015.
You’d think that I was describing my relationship with my driver but no, it’s my husband I’m talking about.
I guess to the onlooker we would appear to have been married for decades. You know, that kind of estranged marriage where the romance has fizzled out and the wife goes for her line-dancing classes while the husband plays golf and the marriage is more like two strangers who happen to be living in the same house.
Unfortunately for us, we were married for only slightly over two years and I guess you could still classify us as newlyweds.
Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t in an unhappy marriage but thinking back, I don’t think we were very happy either.
I was in the midst of taking on a new project and for every single moment of my life, every call, every Whatsapp message, every email had to be attended to immediately.
Everything else – including my marriage – could wait.
“You go ahead and pick. I’m ok with anything.” I would say when we’re at dinner with my hands glued to my phone and eyes peeled on the screen.
“Just a second. Just let me reply this one message.” I would say when the food’s served.
By the time we get home, I’ll shower, wash up, give him a quick goodnight kiss and make my way to the study where I’ll end up on my laptop till late into the night. By the time I wake up the next morning, he would have left for work.
This carried on for a few weeks until one day when I met up with my girls and one of them asked, “How’s G? I haven’t heard you talk about him for a while.”
That’s when it hit me.
It’s true – I haven’t talked about him because I haven’t been talking TO him. I have not asked him how his day(s) went, or listened to him telling me about how awesome his new fishing reel is and I don’t even thank him for the dinner he prepares sometimes. Even when we are physically together during meals or before bedtime, I’m always busy emailing someone, replying some message or liking more photos on Instagram. (And asking the occasional, “Is this edit or that filter nicer?”)
That night, I went home and deliberately left my phone in my handbag. I sat next to him at his computer desk and asked, “Hey, so what’s up with you these days?”
I swear he thought that I was possessed.
He stared at me – mouth half-opened – for the most awkward two seconds of my life.
But after that two seconds, we started talking and boy, did we talk. He told me about the three big fishes he caught the weekend before at the fishing pond, how so-and-so is interested in so-and-so and some work stuff – but not too much, because “he’d have to kill me if he told me.” We chatted, we laughed and in that twenty minutes, I got reminded of WHY I had married him in the first place.
Thing is, there are SO many things we can do to treat our other halves better. I could have planned a most elaborate birthday party for him, or baked a chocolate cake so good I’ll put Awfully Chocolate out of business and he could well, perhaps surprise me with a $40,000 Birkin.
But would that make our marriage any happier?
Since my revelation, I now make it a point to put my phone away on days that we get to have dinner together. On days that we don’t, I’ll make sure that we get that 20-minutes of quality time just to update each other on our lives and how our day went. It’s funny how such a small adjustment made such a huge improvement to our relationship. Our lives are now a lot more connected, we laugh over inside jokes and I feel much happier when I celebrate my success with him. In fact, I would think that we are even more in love now than we were before we decided to get married.
Just the other day, I was at dinner and one of my girl friends was furiously typing away at her phone and telling us, “Give me a second. Let me settle this urgent thing first.” and I got reminded of who I was just a year ago.
Some things like a Whatsapp reply – no matter how urgent – can wait.
And sometimes, some marriages can’t.
I’m glad mine did.