The journey of a thousand steps

Jul 2015    

What is your reaction when a wedding invitation arrives in your mailbox?


Some see it as a chore to have to dress up to the nines or to give ‘ang pows’ that draw various hues of responses – red faces from the disappointed wedding couple when the “token” amount is just too little, or blue from guests who find it hard to keep up with the inflated “going rates” of these gifts. Others may find the event altogether amusing when they see videos and hear stories of how the couple met and how they pursued each other.


Weddings these days have evolved to be glamourous events of epic proportions. The wedding couple and their families are usually determined to make the affair memorable for their guests as well as themselves. An entourage of video crew and make-up artists follow them throughout the entire day documenting each detail as if it was an episode of the famous reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.


The attention to detail for the wedding day is understandable. After all, it is their big day, and happens but once in their lives. It is a public declaration of devotion as the pair pledge their undying love to each other.


And yet, it seems disproportionate in comparison to the amount of attention and resources the couple spend on preparing for the rest of their lives together. Most couples prepare for their wedding but how many prepare for their marriage – their lives together as husband and wife?


This is not to say that a good wedding does not help launch a good marriage. There are troubled couples I have seen who claim the roots of their marital conflict began during their wedding event, even stemming from the words said back then. However, a good launch to one’s married life does not necessarily mean a happy ending.


As I write this, I am helping to conduct pre-marital preparation classes. More couples are choosing to go for such classes, possibly because some churches require couples wishing to be wed in their venues to attend such sessions. Research from the USA offers some evidence to support the value of attending such classes. Yet I notice my “students” are often too busy gazing into each other’s eyes, and I wonder how much of what I am saying gets heard.


Unlike in the USA, where pre-marital preparation involves confirming one’s choice of a life partner, in Singapore, by the time some couples attend the sessions, they have already committed to marriage. With down-payments placed on a HDB flat, a hotel reserved for the wedding banquet, invitations to more than a hundred guests mailed out and professionally-done wedding shots in exotic locations, the wedding is already a ‘done deal’.


My view is that for such sessions to be effective in preparing a couple for marriage, it either has to be done much earlier or even months after the wedding. Without the distraction of hectic wedding preparations, the couple can give their full attention to the building of their marriage.


What about the years to come? When we purchase a home, no matter how perfect it may have been, few buyers would argue the need to do home improvements or renovations after some time. In fact, because it is your home, you would want it to be maintained and even improved for your family to enjoy. How about your marriage? Should it not be given a sprucing-up regularly, and even a makeover now and then?


Going for vacations has become the Singaporean family’s way of rewarding ourselves for a year’s hard work. Such trips are usually centred on the enjoyment of individuals – the children who like the sun and the surf, the adults who love to chill out, ambling aimlessly, or simply eat and shop.


What about taking some time for a ‘marital spa’? Spending some time away as a married couple to do a ‘marital health check’ and maybe even work on toning up the ‘muscles’ of the relationship can help strengthen it. It can be an activity to detoxify the relationship from the years of cumulative emotional aches and pains.


Marriage is a journey. For some, it is an adventure and a discovery. For many, I fear, it quickly settles to become a long and humdrum ride. There are even a few for whom it resembles a death march. If we take some care with each step, be it in planning for the wedding, preparing for the marriage or having regular tuning-up spas, then it is a journey of a thousand steps that can be truly appreciated.


Picture by monkeybusinessimages/

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.


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