*By guest writer, Joshua Lee
Society continues its plunge as many continue to take the plunge without ever knowing the truths about marriage. We read product manuals before using gadgets and appliances, Google-review movies before we pick which ones to see and get counsel before embarking on a degree or career, after which a FOUR good years of training follows at our Alma Matter before we’re finally ready to take up a job. But when it comes to marriage, we rely on silly horoscopes, heed petty peer advice and read stupid magazine columns. We ignore the advice of our parents and we sink into the wisdom of our hearts, thinking it’s the best compass to life lived well.
The problem then is that we go into marriage with many misconceptions, ie. unrealistic expectations. We live with those fantasies for a year or two and then we wake up to reality. When we find that fantasy is not nearly as close to reality, the distance between the two creates tension and exposes the void. And then the disappointment sets in. Disappointment leads to resentment. Resentment leads to bitterness. And then the root of bitterness corrupts everything, discoloring your view of life. Virtues become vices. That which attracted you, now repulses you.
I’d like to share those misconceptions, so that many can take stock of reality before they jump into fantasy – a fantasy with disastrous endings.
Myth 1 - the biggest marriage wrecker is the third party
WRONG by most accounts. Why did I state this so early on? See Myth 2.
This is by far the loudest myth that guises as truth. This has been one of modern history’s biggest fallacies that has misled many marriages down the gutter. Surprisingly, it is one of marriage biggest wreckers. Recent Sociological data has proven that marriages that started off with this arrangement are 600% more bound to fail. Why? It’s like opening a present long before your birthday. There’s nothing to really enjoy on the day of your birthday. Or it’s akin to running a 1/2 marathon before an actual marathon. Most of us would not last the first quarter.
Warms ups are important. Dating and knowing each other is important, but don’t over do it. Forget the overseas trips together and all that…save it for marriage. In fact, I sincerely believe that couples spend way too much time together and over communicate during the courtship days such that by the time they finally settle down, they are left with nothing much to say to each other except when they quarrel.
The best marriage preparation is pre-marital counseling. There are many good ones out there and of course with anything good, a lot of mambo jumbos as well. I highly recommend “The Marriage Course” by Nik and Sila Lee. It’s all about early prevention friends…
Myth 3 - I mean “I do” when I say “I do”
The truth is we all enter into marriage asking, “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME????” We all run on the Windows WIIFM operating system. To make things worse, we have popular culture, the media, consumerism and hedonism at its apogee that has propagated this self-serving tendency to depths untold. Which is why when we wake up one day and realize that the marriage or our partner no longer meets our needs (which will almost certainly happen), we want out. We need to constantly have our attitudes checked on this, and half the battle would be won.
Thanks to the wishful thinking of creative writers and directors, we play up so much on the wedding ceremony we’ve forgotten what really matters. The perfect gown, the diamond rings, the gorgeous brides maid, the dashing best man, the cute flower girls, the ostentatious deco, the proposals, the processional music, the string quartet, the choice of flowers, the color coordination, coronation, segregation and perspiration… again, it’s like dressing up really well for a corporate presentation without having any content or substance.
It’s also like having a display window full, but an empty storeroom. We rigorously and tenaciously work on and through so much details for this one or two nights of celebration but give relatively very little thought for the actual marriage.
Myth 5 – Marriage should remain lovey-dovey or something is wrong
In the perishable world that we live in, even diamonds are not forever. If you think that being crazy madly deeply in love is all there is to marriage, you don’t live in the real world. You don’t live in my world. You live in a false world of utopia-ism. If you think the high of being in love will last forever, then you need to wake up and smell the coffee… Get real. There will be days and even weeks when you wake up feeling absolutely numb towards your partner.
There will be dry seasons where you’ll feel abandoned and all alone. There will be chapters of constant quarrels and sharp disagreements. There will be episodes when a rival threatens the relationship. The rival may even be your own child, a new job, a new friend, a new hobby or a new iPhone. But it doesn’t end there. Hold on. Wait a little longer. Love is patient. The winds of love will come again… and soon, you’ll find new heights of lovey-dovey love you never knew, you never knew…
Again, we act like we’re born yesterday. We live in fantasyland. This is reality. We are all fallible. Going into marriage and having lofty thoughts that our partners won’t cheat is recipe for disaster. In fact, a good percentage of us go into marriage thinking we ourselves won’t cheat. Most of us don’t want to.
But here’s the balance: we ought to hope that our partners or us won’t cheat, but to know that it can happen, and that when it happens, is not the end of it all. I’ve seen too many cases where things repair between the couple and they become stronger and closer than ever before.
Myth 7 – The person we marry is the same person for life
Marriage is like a child. It evolves, changes and takes new forms. We unconditionally love the “child” every step of the way, at every station of their lives, regardless whether the child turns out to be a rascal or not. Similarly, as we’re exposed to different environments and circle of influences, our values, goals, choice of friends and perception changes. All this subsequently changes the marriage landscape. Even feelings change, no matter how perfect a match. The only constant here is the resolve of two people to grit their teeth and make things work.
When it comes to our children, we expect the changes and seasons. We deal with it and embrace it each step of the way. But when it comes to marriage, we act like corporate people and scrutinize our partners performances, their KPI and the marriage satisfaction index.
Myth 8 – Just because we love each other, we’ll agree on most things
Just because two people are of one heart, doesn’t mean they are of one mind. The mind part takes years to come together because it’s the marriage of two legacies who have at least 25 years of thought patterns independent from each other. And even after a lifetime, there are some things that both parties will never agree on, NO WAY! As Rick Warren once said, “agree to disagree.”
Myth 9 - Marriage will keep me from falling for others
Wrong again. Marriage is not a pill that will take away this tendency. We’d be as good as dead if we lost the ability to be attracted. We are social and emotional beings whether married or not. But what we do with the attraction is another thing. “A bird can fly over my head, but it can’t perch there if I won’t let it,” as the old saying goes. But many of us are caught by surprise and we sink into cognitive isolation. We entertain the attraction, and before we know it, we’ve fallen head over heals for someone else.
And then there is the other situation where things aren’t going so great in the marriage. We all enter marriage with very noble thoughts and intentions…to commit to a life mate, to raise a family… without realizing that underneath it all, our main OS hasn’t been really dealt with (remember Windows WIIFM?). And so when the storm of life hits, and dry spells appear, we’re rudely awaken to reality. We see “ugly” and we can’t accept it. And then deep inside the recesses of our hearts, we began to wonder… there’s more out there…
Myth 10 – Great sex equals great marriage
Great sex before and after marriage does not guarantee a great marriage. In fact, before marriage, it has quite the opposite effect. It almost always guarantees infidelity. Why? Because you’ve inadvertently self-obtained a license which says, “sex permitted with only TWO pre-requisites.” What are they? Mutual consent and “love.” So if I actually like someone else and we both mutually agree to have sex, it will happen.
Sex after marriage has its ups and downs as well (no pun intended). Nothing’s perfect. Good sex is way too over rated. Suddenly, sex is a yardstick to measure the success of marriage or relationship. Everything is about pleasure and the pursuit of pleasure these days. We live in a world dominated by hedonistic tendencies that is causing the sanctity of marriage to spiral down into the abyss.
Myth 11 – Love is spelled “feeeeeeeeeeeeeeling.”
Yes, say that with a Chinese accent. We’ve misplaced the real meaning of love and taken on board the lies of Hollywood, and stupid new age philosophies – “If it feels good, then it’s good.” “Follow your heart, go with your passion.” The problem is that feelings work like this: when you “fall” in love”, you feel like you could spend every moment with this person; you feel like you can’t breathe without this person around; you feel like you could spend eternity with this person; you feel like you’ve missed out so much on this person’s life before you met, and so on.
And after all these, you wake up one day and feel like you want to quickly get out and go spend time with your friends; you feel like you can’t breathe with this person around too often; you feel like you’ve been shortchanged; you feel like… I think you get my point. So how can we put trust in this thing we call “the feel good factor” when it can take us from euphoria to phobia?
If you remember nothing from all that you read today, remember this…feelings are our frenemy – friend and enemy. They amplify our positive experiences, but they also betray our common sense. If we really followed our feelings and natural instincts, we’d all be rabbits. No man or woman is an island. If we follow our hearts true passion, rightly or wrongly without holding things in context, we’d be like a volcano that says, “I think I’ll have an explosive time and blow my load.”
While we are instinctive by nature and chemically wired, we are not subjugated to all these faculties. They are internal guides and enhancement aids, not determinants. Unlike animals, we have God’s greatest gift to us… CHOICE! We can chose to love. And feelings do one thing: like water, they take the shape of the solids they’re put in. Sometimes we have to CHOSE to act and then the feelings will come. We are masters of our destiny. Leaving things to fate is like crossing the road with your eyes blindfolded.
Conversely, true love is rock solid and stable. Love is contentment. It is selfless. It is sacrificial. Think of our parents. If not for their sacrifices, we wouldn’t be where we are today. And so we should carry forward this sacrificial love into our marriage and not sacrifice marriage instead. If our parents had followed their feelings and scrutinized us based on their feelings, we’d all end up in shelter-homes.
Myth 12 – I’d be happier with someone else out there
I’ve always thought of that for the longest time until I began to study the relationships after marriage. This is what I’ve seen: it always ends up the same. Why? Because you’re still the same person, and you attract the same sort of person. When all the surface stuff recedes, you’re left with your same old husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, but in different skin.
Same old car, different brand badge. The good old saying goes…. “Change the world…. start with you.” But because “you’re still you” (as Josh Groban so wonderfully sang it), you’ll eventually affect and change that new person into the very person you ran away from…
Not only that, in fact, it gets worse; because we enter future relationships with more emotional baggage. We learn from history that we never learn from history. We repeat the cycle over and over again. We live and chase after the illusive perfect partner and end up with none… Contentment is the real key to real joy.
Myth 13 – Nice to touch, nice to hold, once broken, considered sold
We’re so accustomed to our consumer world. Everything is a test run or a trial. We’re part of the BATA society (buy and throw away). Easy come, easy go. But I’ve seen many marriages that work and many that didn’t work, I’ve seen my own nearly wrecked to pieces and I’ve seen my own on cloud 9… and my conclusion is this…NOTHING IS BEYOND REPAIR! No, you may not re-live the lovey-dovey years of your blissful marriage, but who said you would? Oh yeah… the whole damned media world did – people who have no interest in your personal life nor an ounce of care for you dictated your life for you didn’t they?
All said, the ultimate marriage wrecker is this: hardness of heart and pure stubbornness. The only antidote is forgiveness. Forgiveness releases you from all the injustice, broken promises and fragmented trust. Forgiveness will also go further to heal. I’ve come to learn that time alone does not heal. You need active and continuous engagement in forgiving each other. Pray to God above for His healing touch, and then like kids, move on and live life all over again.
When a marriage turns sour for any reason, don’t throw baby out with the bath water. It is both your responsibility to work it out. Be responsible adults in this sense. Divorce will wreck great harm to both you and your child. You will be emotionally scared for life and for women, the onset of a series of sickness (according to research in recent years)
Listen! It took two great people to make things work, fantasy or not, and it took two parties to wreck it also… and it will only take the two super-exclusive parties to make things work again.
On a macro scale of things, read history and you’ll see that every kingdom in the past collapsed when the fabric of society collapsed. And the nucleus of society is the husband-wife relationship. Not even child and parent relationship comes close. That’s another myth to add to the list, but a slightly different topic for another day!
So if you think marriage is dead? No it’s not. It’s alive and well and many thrive and blossom beautifully, often because they’ve identified the myths early on or along the way and they’ve come to accept the reality that marriage is not a constant high, but highs and lows. Both have its virtues. On the top of mountains, you get a great view, but in the valley of life, is where it is themed with life and growth.
Thanks again to the evil in media, marriage has taken a bad rap and is deemed no longer workable, as good as a trial subscription and a disposable item. Marriage sits right in the bulls eye. But the real culprit is ignorance and the lies of pop culture. Yes it’s 2010 but people are still people. We still bleed the same way when we’re cut, nothing about that has changed, and so nothing about how to be successful in marriage has changed either. What I’ve written above is NOT NEW. It’s simple timeless common sense wisdom.
And if you’re not yet married but are thinking of marriage (not your second one hopefully), do yourself a BIG favour, read the above again, print it out, and sign up for the Marriage Course. Ask me where… I’ll get you there…
At the tender age of eight, Joshua Lee was already singing in public. Not long after, in his twenties, he was singing lead vocals for JRM, a fast rising rock band back in the mid-90’s signed by Sony International. Josh is also frequently tapped as a public speaker and speechwriter. He’s spoken to crowds of international audiences and has been commissioned to ghostwrite speeches for a string of captains.
A father of three, Josh’s short stint at the Institute of Advertising and Communications (IACT) sealed his desire and passion to work with young people. He has sung, emceed, and produced videos, pro bono for many charitable events and organizations.
Previously a brand director at NagaDDB, Josh jumped into the StART Foundation wagon in July 2008 as Programme Director and has never looked back.
He also teaches drums, percussion and voice at StART.