21 October 2020, by Johnathan Chua

When Living Together Felt Impossible

It was an exciting morning for us on the 21st of January 2018.

We woke up in the bridal suite of Crowne Plaza Hotel, slightly buzzed from the after party and the wedding just the night before. Just days and weeks prior, life was a lot more hectic. Last minute arrangements and errands for the wedding left us almost wanting to get it over and done with.

But not today. Today we woke up in pure bliss. Our phones are filled with congratulatory messages from the people we love. We paid the final bill for our wedding banquet and didn’t go bankrupt.  And beyond all that, today is the day we move into our freshly renovated BTO.

At that point, we’ve already dated for almost 10 years. That means 10 years of having to wait till weekends to spend the night together. 10 years of having to send her home then making the lonely journey home myself. 10 years of wanting a life together but living under the roof of my parents. I mean love them to bits but it’s not the same.

We settled down quickly. There wasn’t much more to learn about each other’s habits since we’ve dated that long. We created new routines in life for our little family. Laundry day, cleaning day, groceries day. We woke up at the same time to prepare a simple breakfast around our kitchen island and enjoy it together before Patrina departs first for work. The only surprises we had were how obsessed we were with keeping our new home clean and presentable, ever ready for a surprise visit from anyone.

And then we fought.

Beyond knowing almost every little thing about each other and beyond knowing that we truly enjoy each other’s company, there was an important detail I didn’t think about. Time apart.

You see, in the past, whenever we fought, we could always decide to go home. Get distracted by the commute, greet your family, simply diving down internet wormholes, getting in your own business. All that usually made me forget why I was even angry. The goodnight text would then be sufficient for us to put it behind us.

But not this time.

We fought at home about something so stupid I can’t even remember. She raised her voice and stormed into the shower with the door slamming loudly behind her. I was raging. I wanted to throw a hard plastic file at the toilet door just to also display my boiling anger since she can’t see me (and just to startle her). Then I thought about how much I spent on buying the door and decided to instead open the file and throw the paper inside the file instead. The paper didn’t even make it to the door. I was pissed off raging x2000.

Having nowhere else to go, I took refuge in the living room. Then I got tired and sneaked back into bed to sleep with the enemy.

But our first HUGEEEE fight as a married couple came when my parents moved in while temporarily being in-between houses. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re both close to my parents and they’ve contributed so much to my life and our relationship. Pat loves them like her own parents. But with the new dynamics, things got uncomfortable for reasons I cannot understand. My wife understood that it’s wrong for her to feel this way, but she admitted that she couldn’t help but feel the way she feels. My parents on the other hand were very concerned that their presence might be affecting my new marriage and started to behave like tenants instead of family.

What was a proud Asian son’s moment of having my parents living under my roof became an impossible mission to reconcile. What do you tell your wife when she already says that she knows it’s wrong but she can’t help but feel a certain way?

The endless amount of things I needed to reconcile made my time at home miserable.

That’s a long story, but, one much too heavy to pour out here. Having been close to my parents my whole life and knowing first hand how much they’d give up in the blink of an eye for our family, I gave my wife an ultimatum after what felt like a hundred arguments. While the quarrel isn’t exactly between my wife and me, I said,

“If I had to choose between my parents or you. I want you to know that I’ll pick my parents”.

That broke her. And seeing her in tears broke me.

And then things got better.

Of course, all that is ancient history now. But there were some things I learnt throughout that ordeal that I still hold close to my heart and might be helpful to you.

  1. We all grew up in a unique environment and treasure different things.
    The fights that led to the ultimatum proved to be a crucial pivot for our life together. She understood fully how important my parents are to me. I in turn, learnt that she had nothing to call her own growing up and our humble BTO was just that for her. I also learnt that she would go through anything just to receive my undivided love.
  2. Continue to live your individual lives
    Just because you are married and living together doesn’t mean you need to spend every non-working moment together. Meet your buddies, hang out with your friends. Those support systems got you this far in life, why would you assume you can now live without them?
  3. Don’t buy $200 doors or opt-out of the HDB doors
    We were broke af when we renovated. We chose a cheap hollow door and that’s why I couldn’t throw the file with gusto. I still think about that decision today. I’m going to change that stupid door.

Thanks for reading fam. If you got this far and took something good away from it, drop me a dm on Instagram to let me know. @johnathanchua 🙂

To my wife, thank you for bearing with me. I can’t imagine another day without you now.

Photo credits: @pixioo 

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