Singaporebrides | Weddings 101

June 2011

Keeping The Flame Alive – Pt II

After the “honeymoon period” is over, couples may start to find themselves irked by each other’s faults and habits. We speak to four married couples who have been married for five, 10, 25, and 30 years respectively, to find out what keeps their flames alive.

Continued from Keeping The Flame Alive – Pt I

Couple 3: “A wedding is for a day but a marriage is for a lifetime.”

Ignatius Chia and Magdalene Tan, married for 28 years

Ignatius Chia and Magdalene Tan were members and former presidents of the Singapore chapter of an international youth organisation that focused mainly on community service activities. It was in the midst of all these activities that their relationship blossomed. Ignatius’ confidence and reliability made Magdalene realise that he was the perfect one for her. “Once he has made up his mind to do something, he does it with resolve. Moreover, his simple ways and quiet, patient nature never cease to touch me.”

The couple dated for two and a half years and tied the knot in 1983. Incidentally, it was Ignatius who was in charge of the planning of the entire wedding. Thanks to his meticulous planning, the wedding went like clockwork. “When the big day came, I was cool and collected but I heard that he was a rather excited groom. It was quite an exhausting day and one that we will remember for the rest of our lives,” Magdalene recollects.

Their daughter was conceived soon after. As they adjusted to a new life together, they also prepared to welcome a new member into the family. Magdalene shares, “When our daughter was born, I spent a lot of time with her. On hindsight, I think I might not have devoted enough care towards him. However, he was very understanding and gave me a lot of support, even being fully involved in the daily chores and caring of the baby. I feel very blessed to have him around.”

As with most couples, the initial hiccup this pair faced in their marriage was communication. In their early years, they were both absorbed by their own work, and their children, that they were not able to invest sufficient time in each other. The subsequent realisation of that led them to devote more attention and care to each other’s feelings. They learned to be attentive to each other’s emotional needs and to exercise more patience and understanding of each other’s shortcomings.

At their matrimonial home, Ignatius painstakingly landscaped and nurtured the garden with flowers and plants to provide a peaceful haven for Magdalene to find respite and relaxation. She appreciated the attention and time that he had put into the garden for her sake, which she reciprocated by tending to it with loving care.

Plenty of give and take has allowed this couple’s marriage to remain strong. “I must admit, sometimes I take more than I give!” says Magdalene, “But he is always very patient and forgiving. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn to be less hot-tempered and more rational as the years go by.” After Ignatius was baptised six years ago to share the same faith as Magdalene, the couple allowed their marriage to be anchored and guided by their religion and its teachings. “Being part of a close-knit group of Catholic married couples, called the Love Circle, has enabled us to share many aspects of our marriage and receive direction and strength from God and from each other. This has further strengthened our marriage and bond,” they share.

What advice would this couple give to newly weds?

At the point when their children are to announce their decision to marry, the couple would advise them such, “Communicate with each other constantly. It will also be good to pray together regularly to be uplifted as a couple and be able to face the challenges of family life with fortitude and inner peace. A wedding is for a day but a marriage is for a lifetime.”

Couple 4: “Women always say their husband is their biggest kid. I think for David, I’m his biggest kid.”

David Tan and Fiona Low, married for 33 years

The year was 1978. He had just celebrated his 20th birthday, and she had yet to turn 19. He was still doing his National Service and she was fresh out of school. With a baby on the way, David Tan and Fiona Low exchanged wedding vows in front of family and friends at a restaurant at the now-defunct National Stadium.

“We were so young that we even needed our parents to authorise our marriage,” David shares.“It was the night of some football finals, and every once in a while, we had 60,000 people cheering ‘Yam Seng’ with us!” Fiona recollects.

Fiona fondly remembers her elder brother saying to her in 1978, “Even though you did something wrong, at least you did it with the right person.” And how did Fiona know she had found “the one”? “Actually he was my second choice; Donny Osmond wasn’t available,” explains the 51 year-old entrepreneur with a smile. Fiona started work first as David was still doing his National Service. His first salary was $40 lesser than hers and that was one of the reasons he strove to work harder and harder. As loyal and hardworking employees, they kept stable jobs and took night classes to upgrade themselves.

That paid off. Today, David heads a department in a private bank, and the couple no longer has to live from pay cheque to pay cheque, a far cry from the days of their humble beginnings when they sometimes found themselves without enough money to even buy milk powder. Many of their relatives had placed bets that they would not last more than a year but 33 years, 4 children and 2 grandchildren later, Fiona and David’s marriage is still going on strong. What’s their secret? “We committed to the union, probably in the same way as saying ‘we don’t choose our parents or siblings’. We stay with the person we chose to spend our life with.”

As newly-weds adjusting to a new life together, they had their struggles. Money issues often topped their worry chart. “Money-wise, we were not (wise) but we never let money, or the lack of it, stand in the way of our happiness. When I got my A Level results, David went out to buy my favourite food, popiah, to celebrate. He never let me live a life of poverty; he financed all my wants and needs, even if it meant himself getting into debt.”

While they believe in giving each other space to do what they like as individuals, they also turned their individual interests into common interests. For example, David introduced Geocaching to Fiona, as well as hiking, and Fiona instilled a love of travelling and temple-visiting in David. They have also found that many of their individual interests complement each other’s. With David’s support, Fiona recently started her own business offering a one-stop service for spa customers, and David used his software expertise to write software programmes for her.

To this couple, the little things matter. David may not win any awards for being romantic, but he lets his wife know he loves her in his own special ways.

What advice would this couple give to newly weds?

“Lots of understanding, lots of give and take. Less ‘me’, less ‘you’, more ‘us’.”