Scaling the peaks
After the initial flush, it takes essential qualities to anchor a harmonious marriage.
I MARRIED a man with whom I shared many mountain trekking expeditions during our student days. Our adventures together culminated in us trekking down the aisle in 2004, and henceforth, began our own journey of matrimonial highs and lows.
Over time, I’ve realised that just as stamina, tenacity and determination are crucial in ensuring that trekkers reach the peak of a mountain, several qualities are just as essential in maintaining a harmonious relationship.
The first of these is mutual appreciation for each other. I think this is terribly understated during one’s initial years together. Even now, this aspect can still be taken up a few notches.
I remember how acts of service which we rendered to each other during courtship would induce gushes of “oohs, aahs” and “Thank you soooo much, dear!” It’s strange that once we had vowed to serve each other till death do us part, such acts were automatically slotted under the category of “duty”. Instead of thanking each other for the things we did, we made the other feel duty-bound, for example, to provide financially, cook, clean up, fold the laundry ...
Is it any wonder that before long, feelings of being taken for granted crept in?
Whether or not we’re duty-bound to do such things, every task becomes a labour of love when followed by a hug and a “Thank you”. Somehow, it alleviates the mundaneness of our daily tasks when we know we are needed and that we fill somebody’s void. Appreciation elevates the menial to magnificent.
Making up after a disagreement is also a crucial element of our marriage.We’ve had our share of disputes and sometimes, our anger with each other has led to week-long “cold wars”. I often joked with my husband that if mere thoughts could eliminate a person, I would have been widowed long ago.
However, I believe it is the choice we make after the quarrels that determines the path our relationship will take; whether we choose to remain bitter and thereby descend into a bog of contempt for the other person, or to reconcile and love with greater acceptance.
I remember after one particularly “cold” week; it was so difficult to say “Sorry” and forgive each other. But once we did so, the unpleasantness which had clouded us like a fog lifted and we grew closer to each other. I learned that when forgiveness is hardest to dispense, that is when it is most needed – for both the giver and receiver.
Good manners make a good couple too. In this aspect, I am still learning from my dear man. In all the time that I’ve known him, he has never been rude or ill-mannered to me or our children. He’s a Chinaman in many ways, but he’s a gentleman. When I return home late in the evening, he will open the door and greet me warmly with a smile. In contrast, several times when he came home, I greeted him with a bag of trash to discard.
Growing up, we were often taught to put our best foot forward when guests visited. I think such behaviour should not be reserved only for such occasions. If a guest who visits my house temporarily ought to be shown civility, tactfulness and generosity, what more the person I build a home with?
Finally, for me, minding our language is critical. We grew up in two different households. In one household, members practise debating styles akin to that in the Malaysian Parliament. In another, diplomacy comparable to that in the House of Commons rules conversations.
Crass language and name-calling certainly have no place in our relationship. However, the tricky part lies not just in what we say, but also how we say it to each other. There is a world of difference in the way a phrase impacts our loved one when we say it either sincerely or sarcastically.
Winning an argument with indelicate words may secure me a fleeting “victory”, but there is nothing worth gloating about if that only results in my husband’s unhappiness.
The tongue is a double-edged sword; we can use it to criticise or compliment; to cut another’s heart or carve out a deep affection for each other through endearments and sweet nothings. We should strive to choose the latter.
Undeniably, the going gets tough from time to time. Nevertheless, the rewards are great, and my reward is seven wonderful years with an exceptional man with whom I look forward to many more years together as we scale greater heights in our marriage. To this man who has loved without reservation, given much without hesitation and cared with immense compassion, I want to say: “I love you Keng Ben Sen.”