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Hoi Yee:  When my fiancé and I picked a date for our wedding, I looked for a book on marriage.  I found it strange and disturbing that the shelves were lined with relationship books giving advice on how to keep a marriage alive, what to do after “he cheats on you”, how to stop arguing with your husband . . . but nothing on early marriage.  It’s like mainstream medicine: mostly curative, rarely preventative.

I’ve been married for five years now, and I celebrate that we are still married . . . happily.  We even have a child and we’re still together.  I understand that we defy most statistics already.

I’m still not sure how we’ve done it.  I get frustrated when my husband does not take structuring our son’s daily routine seriously, when I feel like the only who cares about nutrition, when I have to argue to have our young child’s teeth flossed: Why am I the only one is doing all this?!!

My husband rushes off to meet with clients on Sunday, flips open his laptop to keep up with emails at home, yet doesn’t have time to take my calls.  I am vexed when I see him staring mindlessly at the television for hours.  I am not proud that I explode fairly regularly.

However, the evenings when I come home late and the house is romantically lit with candles and my son grabs my hand to show me each vase of newly bought flowers because he chose them himself, I know something is right. And, we do celebrate the days when our son goes to bed on time (which are most days now), finding ourselves chatting and giggling over the funny events of our week.

These little victories over the years of marriage merit a little celebration every now and then.  That’s what marriage is, isn’t it?

Julia: A young Chinese friend recently asked me, “I can’t be ‘me’ if I want my marriage to work, can I?”

I understand her fear of losing her individuality.  I felt just the same, 30+ years ago.  She has been living an independent lifestyle; getting up when she chooses, eating what she wants to, going out when she feels like it, and staying home when she doesn’t.  Then, quite suddenly, she finds herself living with another human being who has a different set of habits and preferences.  It’s not easy.  Does she simply give up on her own way of doing things, or does she attempt to impose her lifestyle on her husband?

Unrealistic expectations, handling domestic chores and keeping up with both sets of family and friends have to be resolved.  He may love home cooking, but she likes eating out.  She wants him to repair her broken computer, but he prefers to buy her a new one.  Such little things really, but perspective takes a nose-dive when two people live together.

How could I answer my friend?  The usual clichés about ‘give and take’, and ‘things will get easier with time’ sound so utterly boring and older-generationish.  But, the truth is that these hackneyed phrases do reflect reality.  One partner will probably take on the cooking, while the other may learn how to fix the computer.  Somehow, out of the muddle and chaos of the first few years of being together, the couple will create their own uniquely inter-dependent lifestyle.

Neither needs to lose their core “me”.  I believe that if we can push through the early challenges of living with another person, we come to place where we are both comfortable . . . and very happy.

After years of marriage, my husband, who is currently on an 8-day motorcycling tour of China, is still “him” – and, I, who just got back from the mardi gras carnival in Venice, am still “me”!

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