Michelle and I celebrate our Wedding Anniversary today (1 Jan 21). For many years, my practice is to give her a bouquet of roses, one rose for each year of our union. This morning, I proudly and joyfully handed her a bouquet with 39 roses.
We have known each other since we were 14 years-old, started courting at 17 and married when we were at a “ripe old” age of 23. In a wink of an eye, 48 years have passed us by. The adage, “Time flies when you have good company” is entirely true.
In our circle of friends, we are known to prefer spending time privately as a couple. Since our children became independent, we started to do recreation, dine, go for holidays and many more things just with each other. It is not that we do not spend time with family and friends, but just that we spend a lot more time as a couple than with them.
Over the years, friends have asked us several questions:
“What do you have to talk about with each other after so many years together?”
“Are you ever tired of each other since you spend so much time together?”
“What makes you want to spend so much time with each other?”
Michelle and I often discuss our thoughts on these and we always come to the same joint conclusion – we enjoy each other so much that we want to spend more time privately as a couple, before our time is up!
This is not to say that we do not have or do not value friendship. On the contrary, Michelle and I have a circle of friends whom we can trust and assuredly rely on when we need them. And, they us. But, we do not spend more time with our friends than we do with each other.
We made this decision deliberately. The reasons for this grew stronger as our marriage grew deeper.
In the early days, we spent most of our time with our children and friends with children of the same age. By the time the children became teenagers and began to spend time with their friends, Michelle and I decided to invest in ourselves and to build our marital relationship instead of just enjoying good times with friends.
It was the best decision we made and we have reaped and continue to reap bountiful harvests, especially now that all our children have left home to build their own families.
The recent Circuit Breaker lock-down to manage COVID-19 in Singapore forced many couples and families to spend time wholly and strictly at home. No friends to meet, no social gathering, no shopping or leisure activities outside home. An unprecedented amount of time was spent with spouse and children. Many found the forced presence of their spouse in close proximity for an extended period both intimating and stressful. Tempers rose, quarrels increased and relationships strained.
Every day for 3 months during Phase 1 & 2 lock-downs, Michelle and I realized how much we truly enjoy spending time just with each other. Confined to our home, we had lunch with Chinese tea every day, dinner with wine every evening and deep conversations about what matters to our hearts. One of the subjects we talked deeply about was how do we cope when one passes on before the other.
We were reminded of what my uncle and aunt, who loved each other very much, told us years ago. Even after more than 50 years of marriage then, they were actively expressing their love to each other, and rather visibly.
When they entered into their 80s, they told us that they had started preparing for their eventual “separation”. They started to sleep on different beds so that one can ease the pain of missing the other. They also started engaging in activities separately and with their friends so that the remaining one would not be lonely.
While I admired their love for each other, I really could not appreciate their joint decision to detach from each other.
Later, we found out that they were not the only truly loving couple who have such thoughts. Their reasoning was that since death will eventually part them, they rather not be overly intimate as they grow older. They thought that each should build a circle of friends, who will be there for them when they are widowed. In their minds, if they did not spend more time to build friendship, then they might not have friends to support them later. As a result, they begin to spend equal or more time with friends than with each other.
While we respect our uncle’s, aunt’s and friend’s choices, Michelle and I hold a different view. And this is purely our very own view and a reminder to ourselves only.
We are mindful that we will be separated by death at some point in time. While death is a certainty, yet when it will come, we do not know. This means that we do not know how much time we have left with each other.
For this reason alone, we decided that we will spend as much time as we can, to be there for each other, to do things, to enjoy, to meet challenges, to serve, and just to be together before we are separated. And when the time comes, the living one will have no reason to lament that he/she did not spend enough time with the one lying in the casket. We do not want to give an emotion-filled eulogy because the dead cannot hear.
Are we concerned that we will have no friends by then? Absolutely not, because we know we have friends who will rally around us when that time comes. And even if we are wrong on this belief, we will live on with memories of the best times we have of our life.
To Michelle, my God-given Lover for Life, thank you for being my partner and fellow sojourner, who always cares to co-create a meaningful and fulfilling life we now have. Happy anniversary and many more roses I will give you!
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