What’s love like when you marry young, late or even the second time round? These three Singapore women share their experiences.

Singapore wedding advice: Looking for love

Three Singapore women share their experiences: One married young, another
wedded in her late thirties while the third remarried, happily. Image: Getty Images

 MAY YEE’S STORY: MARRYING YOUNG AT 23 

A good thing about marrying early: Peter and I don’t have to juggle dating and working; and worrying if we’re going to find our life partner because there’s just no time for a social life. Pete and I met in college when we were both about 19. We wouldn’t have become a couple, if it wasn’t for a girlfriend of mine who had a crush on Pete’s friend. In trying to get them together, Pete and I got to know each other.

I fell in love with his voice first: It’s a warm and comforting voice; a voice that made me feel like I had come home. Even now, after having been married for 10 years, I still love his voice. We began dating and about six months later, we realised that we were soulmates. I’ve never met or dated a man who has made me feel so comfortable, and being together was
a blast.

Having said that, we were still grounded and realistic about what we had in common even then. We shared the same sense of humour, had similar ideas about marriage, family, money and even divorce, mainly that if things didn’t work out, we would move on. We were the best of friends and companions. Besides, Pete was also the only boyfriend I had brought home, and whom Dad actually approved of!

Five years later, marriage was the practical solution because we started thinking about getting our own place. Getting married didn’t change anything in the relationship. We were still having a blast, living every moment to the fullest, and surviving hand to mouth every day. Pete was finishing university, while I worked by giving tuition.

We lived off his scholarship fund and my tuition pay. And whenever we saved a little, we’d go off for quick short trips nearby – nothing expensive but it was good enough for us. Life was good, and we lived like there was no tomorrow – but we were still practical enough to keep some money away every month.

It’s been 10 years now, and we’re all grown up. We hang out with friends less often now. We don’t travel as much as we used to nor do we spend every waking moment together. Since the relationship is on such a comfortable level, we have time to concentrate on our careers, and focus on the realities of daily living.

We have our own circle of friends, and we do our own thing some days. I have male friends but none where the lines are blurred. I was tagged out a long time ago – and happy to stay so. Sometimes I do wonder what would have happened if I’d tried to make it out on my own a little longer. Who would I be if I’d sorted out my life by myself, without Pete by my side?

Among my friends who have married, three couples are already divorced. I can’t guarantee that Pete and I won’t head down that road – anything in life is possible. For now though, I am content. I have married the man I love; he is happy to be married to me. Most important of all, we have both married people we can live with, and we’re still happy in that marriage – which is what keeps it going.

 ALICIA’S STORY: I CHOSE TO MARRY AT 38 

By the time John and I decided to get married, I couldn’t wear any of the slinky dresses that I would have loved to, and I was dyeing the grey out of my hair. We were both 38 and married after “going steady” for about 10 years. In the month before the wedding, I thought a lot about marriage, the path we were taking and wondered if, and how, it would change our lives.

Our parents had long stopped nagging us about when we would tie the knot, and after 10 years, we too wondered if this was what we wanted. Now, four years on, I know that it was the best decision we made. John and I are free spirits. When we got together, we were already financially independent, we didn’t feel lonely nor did we feel there was a need to get married just because we love each other.

Another reason why we didn’t marry earlier: Our own paths in finding our individual identities. When we met in our late 20s, we were busy forging our careers and doing what we said we wanted to do when we were in school. We both worked for financial institutions, so the work was fast-paced, the hours long and the stress levels high. It was easier to put our personal lives on the back burner for a while.

We knew we’d want to marry someday, but not before we’d travelled the world, made enough money, got that luxurious apartment … you get the picture. We each had our own dreams; marriage just wasn’t one of them then.

Things changed when we hit our mid-30s. One by one, our friends began to get married, set up homes, and have children. Night-long clubbing sessions became civilised dinner parties with soft music. Before, we used to hit the sack at 4am. Now, a yawn would escape by 11.30pm. Suddenly, we realised that we were slowing down. The idea of marriage began to be more appealing. Then I began to think seriously about it. I thought about John and the past nine years that we had shared.

We had a good thing going: We were best pals, we loved and liked each other (a distinction that’s important to us), we trusted each other and we were committed to the relationship. We had a solid basis for a wonderful marriage. The past four years as a married couple have proved that. I am glad we took the time to say yes. When two people come together in their 30s, they bring with them fully-formed personalities. They are self-assured and know what they want out of the relationship. Or, at least, they should.

The most wonderful thing about marrying late is that you have no illusions about the other person. Intimacy over such a long period reveals your flaws to each other – what you see is what you get. And when that person is still the one you really cherish in spite of the flaws, the relationship will survive better over the long haul. Of course, marrying late didn’t come without a price. Having children isn’t in the picture for us. We don’t know yet if we might regret it one day, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, we are happy.

 ELIZABETH’S STORY: I REMARRIED AT 34 

When I first said my marriage vows at 26, I didn’t expect to say them again eight years later – to a different man. I certainly didn’t think that my first marriage wouldn’t last. When I married Steve after two years of dating, I was beyond sure that here was the man I was going to grow old with. His zest for life was incredible and infectious. When we were together – whether we were windsurfing off the East Coast or watching the latest gongfu flick – the rest of the world fell away.

It sounds corny now but then, I felt so alive. Life was full of promise, and I was in love with the most wonderful man on the earth. He was the centre of my world and more. The marriage fell apart three years later. Our “wonderful love” didn’t survive the charms of a younger woman – one more easily seduced by the tales of a suave, older man, a younger woman not bothered by her biological clock ticking away and wondering when she was going to have her first kid. Also, a woman not stressed out by having to balance a demanding job and husband.

Steve lost interest in the marriage once he realised that I was serious about having children. We’d discussed it summarily before the wedding. He wasn’t ready then. Three years later, he still wasn’t ready. He didn’t think he would be ready anytime soon. Fights began. An affair started. Fights escalated. Divorce filed.

When I met Wei a year later, I was wary. Having just rediscovered my freedom, I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. Besides, Wei was four years younger. Dating a younger man? I was even less ready to go there. Wei works for a friend, through whom we met at a house-warming party. Through sheer persistence, he got my number, got a date, a second date, and yet another, until finally, he’d wrung from me, three years later, a “Yes. Yes. Of course!” to his marriage proposal.

I love marriage second time round. It isn’t because Wei is a better husband or because I love him more. It’s because both of us are more grown-up and we’re at the same “mental age”. Steve was sweet but I recognise now that he was a boy at heart – something I refused to acknowledge since I thought love was enough. “If he loved me, he would …” was a pet phrase of mine. But I know now, sometimes it has nothing to do with love, and everything to do with growing up. Steve and I may have loved each other; but he wasn’t ready for the pitter-patter of tiny feet, nor to give up travelling and exploring the world.

With Wei however, I got my act together from the start. You could say I learnt a hard lesson, first with the divorce and second, being in my 30s. I was a new woman. The divorce taught me to stand up for my own rights. I wasn’t an extension of my husband. Turning 33 liberated me. I was a self-sufficient modern woman, but why wasn’t I taking the responsibility for my own happiness? I made a commitment to myself then: I wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes that I made with Steve.

With Steve, I was emotionally docile. When he was happy, I was happy. When he was angry, I became hypersensitive: Was it my fault? How can I make it right? Meanwhile, he would go into his “quiet sulks”, driving me even more crazy. With Wei, I am more in control. When there is anger between us, we’ll actually sit down and discuss the problem. If we can’t solve it, we’ll take five, go away, then come back again.

Their attitudes are also different: Wei never takes me for granted. He treats me as an equal partner, something that I have grown to treasure. So by the time Wei asked me to marry him, I was sure of him, myself and our relationship. In him, I’ve found a man who is prepared to return the same responsibility, commitment, honesty and – let’s not forget – fidelity, that I am prepared to give to the relationship.

I don’t regret my first marriage. There were happy times. But I think love, the second time around, is better. It’s older, wiser and richer. Passion burns less bright, but it’s no less exciting. Love isn’t a thrilling roller-coaster ride anymore. That’s fine because it’s now a sure and steady journey with a partner I can walk with for a long time to come.

This article was originally published in Her World Brides March-May 2011.