Material World's contributing writer Wilma Chang pours her heart out on why she's learnt that love isn't enough to keep a marriage going.
When two extremely independent people get married to each other, the result is not, as everyone might expect, always perfect. Rather, it can be, as I have come to learn, isolating and heartbreaking.
Why do people get married? I think one of the biggest mistakes I've made in my life is assuming, confidently, that this is a question that needs no answer. C'mon! Why do people want to get married to each other? Obviously it is for love, right? They love each other so much that they can't imagine spending the rest of their lives with other people. If you've seen the movie Deadpool, you'll remember the scene in which Ryan Reynold's character proposes to his girlfriend. It seems like the reason they want to get married is because they are like two pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that don't fit anywhere else but fit together just right. I hate to break it to all you romantics out there: being a perfect fit together is not reason enough to get married.
I'm sorry to sound awfully unromantic and pragmatic. After four years of marriage, I have learnt that if the both of you are not planning to make something together, you may as well have stayed unmarried. Notice I've said "make something together" rather than "start a family together".
In the grand cosmic scheme of things, human beings are a collaborative species. Every interaction we have with another person has a purpose. This is what we call "relationships". For without relationships, we may as well be passers-by to one another. I think my husband and I are slowly becoming passers-by to each other because, take away that legal document called a marriage certificate, our lives are scantly connecting.
Every day, he goes about his own business while I go about mine. When we do see each other, it's at home. But there, we do our own things too. He brings work home and continues typing away on his laptop, I'm watching TV or in the bedroom reading. Phil Collins' Separate Lives plays in my head every time I think about my marriage.
This sense of isolation feels even more pronounced when my husband misreads my cues. For instance, when I ask him if he'd like to go out for dinner, it's not the "dinner" that I want. What I want is for us to go out and spend some time together. When he offers to cook, I shake my head in resignation because while I know his intention is good, what I want is for us to go out, as if we are on a date. And, increasingly, he has even started eating dinner earlier in the day, and when I ask him if he wants to head out for a meal, he would say he's eaten.
If we can't do something as simple as go out for a meal together, our lives are barely merging. Which is why I say the reason for getting married needs to be "something you can make together".
Be it to start a family or build a business, to save up for your dream home or abandon everything and see the world together, a common goal is the foundation on which successful marriages are built. It is only when you both have something to work towards to that your marriage will continue to evolve, grow, and strengthen. If it's business-as-usual with or without the other person, then why get married? You are simply housemates with benefits.
With a project, you each have a role to play, a certain amount of investment you have to make. While I won't go as far as to say that a project binds the two of you to the marriage, I believe it is what will help your partnership make sense when love alone isn't enough.
And, should love no longer exists between the both of you, when it's time to call it a day, having worked on something together could at least make you feel the marriage wasn't a sham and an utter waste of time.
Material World is a women’s lifestyle website started by four former magazine editors specialising in beauty, lifestyle, and self-improvement.