– Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally 2012
This is now a national concern and much has been discussed and debated. Here are my thoughts on this – too many young couples are delaying marriage. When they finally get married, they are unsure if they want to have children. And even if they finally decide to, they worry over the costs of bringing up more than one child.
My wife and I have been married for 30 years and we have three wonderful children, aged 28, 24 and 22.
My wife and I met when we were 14 years old. I was a boy scout and she was a girl guide. We both came from single gender secondary schools then. It was not love at first sight; at that age, it would be infatuation at best. We kept in touch through our studies and became a pair when we were 18. Young lovers!
National service separated us for a while but it only made our hearts grow fonder. By that time, I decided that she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Armed with only a diploma from Singapore Polytechnic, I figured that instead of spending 2 years as an NS officer, I might as well take home a regular pay as a full-time serviceman. The regular job and pay would help me to marry my girlfriend sooner than later.
Marrying the Love of my Life at 23
My first full-time pay as a Technical Officer in the SAF in 1979 was about $700. She was working as a secretary for around $450 a month. We boldly started to plan for our wedding. Finally, after courting each other for more than 5 years, we tied the knot at a “ripe old” age of 23.
My army colleagues were laughing at me.
“Why get married so young?” they mockingly asked.
Some seriously advised me, “Are you sure you are ready to give up your freedom and be tied down? Hey, enjoy your freedom, why do you give it up so quickly?”
I thank God that I did not change my decision. Besides coming to know my Savior, marrying my girlfriend at 23 was the best decision that I have made in all my life.
Giving Up to Gain
Getting hitched is meant to be a commitment for life. It was more than freedom that my girlfriend and I had to give up.
When I made my vow to Michelle at the altar, I knew that I was not only vowing my love to her. It was the same for her. We knew that marrying one another meant giving up our individual life and rights …. and the two shall become one.
Before I frighten those who are preparing to get married, let me quickly add that Michelle and I gained much more than we gave up in our 30 years of marriage. In fact, we came to the point that we enjoy giving up things for each other.
Not that we gave up everything that we were doing as singles, but I gave up most of my men only outings, weekend golf, the impatience of shopping and habits that irritated her.
Michelle gave up lots of fun time with her girlfriends too; along the way, she had to give up her insistence of doing things her way and many more.
We have lived and behaved as singles for over 23 years before becoming one. We needed time to get to know one another deeply in order to enjoy one another. So, we decided to deliberately give up individual times to spend time with one another to build up our relationship.
The key word is deliberate.
We deliberately gave up less important things for more important ones. The “more important things” were to build our relationship up as a couple, to build our children up with godly character, to support and be there for one another as much as we can.
We deliberately gave up some things to gain better ones.
Perseverance Builds Character and a Good Marriage
Despite being deliberate and determined to build a good relationship, we also faced many challenges in our early years of “character integration”. This is not unusual. Beyond the over-hyped issues of which end of the toothpaste tube we preferred to squeeze, and which side of the bed we were used to sleeping on, we had serious issues that needed harmonization.
We had to contend with our different mindsets that stemmed from our different family backgrounds and value systems, habits, likes and dislikes. Those did not quite coincide for many years into our marriage. Some of those issues still do not intersect right up to this day.
But we are glad that many of those “irritations” do not irritate us any more. Yes, it was painful when we went through those times. I remember that both Michelle and I had many times in our early years cried out, “Why, God, why?” and “I can’t take this anymore!”
We are so glad that we persevered.
Our determination to make our relationship work and enjoyable is paying its dividends, and handsomely too. Michelle and I agree that our relationship has never been better and is still getting better day by day.
Perseverance does build character and a great marital relationship!
Then parenthood came along… and our lives were forever changed.
[Story to be continued… stay tuned!]
Written by Steven C