Being wed keeps you busy but it cannot completely fill that lonely, black hole in your heart.
SINGAPORE: It used to be that I’d visit Tokyo with my mother every other year or so.
We’d check into a nice hotel in Shinjuku – it’s her hometown and I want her to have a good time – and spend a few days doing the things we always do.
We’d make a pitstop at a used-clothing store in Harajuku, try out the free samples at the food hall in Isetan, stroll through the grounds of Meiji Jingu and have lunch at a sushi restaurant in Ginza.
After a day out, we’ll head back to the hotel and its gym and indoor swimming pool on the 47th floor. The fitness area is beautiful – glass walls, minimal and airy – and my absolute favourite space in Tokyo.
Those holidays were very pleasant, but there’d always be a slight ache inside me.
Working out in the gym with a view of the city spread out below, I’d be overcome by a wave of forlornness.
Maybe it was the thought of how vulnerable this sprawling, fascinating city is to earthquakes and how everything could be wiped out in minutes.
It didn’t help that there’d always be lovey-dovey couples fooling around in the swimming pool.
I’d avert my gaze and try to act nonchalant as I swam among those tiresomely happy twosomes, but the sight of them made me feel lonely as hell.
It’s all well and good to go on holiday with your mother, but when you’re in your mid-40s and still single and doing so because you have no other travelling mate, it’s – let’s be honest - also a little sad.
How I wished that I, too, was part of a couple. Having a partner would definitely assuage my ache, I thought.
Well, I got my wish two weeks ago.
To celebrate our first wedding anniversary, H and I decided to take up Singapore Airlines’ cheap fare deals to Tokyo and spend our special day there, radiation fears be damned.
It was his first trip to Japan and I wanted to show him all my favourite places.
We checked into the same hotel, went through the whole Harajuku-Isetan-Ginza drill, worked out at the gym and were very happy in each other’s company.
I also became what I’d always dreamt of being – one of those romantic couples frolicking in the 47th floor pool.
But the ache didn’t quite go away.
“Marriage doesn’t really cure your loneliness, does it?” I pronounced one night as I stood by the window of our room, looking at the cityscape outside.
He looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t mean it in a bad way,” I went on. “It’s just that if you’re prone to feeling blue, being married doesn’t completely cure that feeling, right?”
He rolled his eyes somewhat and went back to his book. He’s used to my melodramatic declarations by now.
It’s been an eye-opening one year for me.
While marriage has been mostly very nice – 80% of the time, I’d reckon – it hasn’t solved everything that was “wrong” with my life when I was single, although I had actually thought it would.
One year of marriage has busted some marriage myths for me. For example, I’d always assumed marriage would be an antidote to loneliness, but I was wrong.
For sure, marriage keeps you busy. I’ve rarely had a spare or lazy moment since I got hitched last July, unlike in the past when I’d while away my weekends in bed watching football or CSI.
But people like me who are prone to self-centred, melancholic bouts will always find something to be gloomy about, even amid the bustle.
And, I’ve discovered, this feeling doesn’t disappear even when you’re no longer physically alone and are now loved.
It’s a niggling feeling in the stomach, a dread of mortality and death and a sadness at past hurts and future losses.
In fact, marriage can worsen the ache because it hits you that even though you’ve now found a mate, you’re basically still in this alone. You came into the world alone and you’ll exit it alone. How tragic is that?
Another lesson I’ve learnt is that being married doesn’t mean you’ll always feel loving towards your spouse.
I’d imagine that I’d feel warm and fuzzy towards him at least most of the time.
I was shocked to discover that the lovey-dovey feelings ebb and flow, mostly depending on my monthly cycle and the hormones swirling inside me.
It’s come to the point that when I wake up in the morning, I’ll pause to check what my “marriage mood” is for the day.
Am I feeling affectionate and tender about the marriage and towards him? Or do I feel less than amorous and ready to snap? And if it’s the latter, how do I curb my negative feelings and not be a wife from hell today?
Another myth I’d subscribed to was that if you love someone, living with him will be easy and you’ll be mostly happy.
Alas, I don’t think I’ve ever lost my temper as many times as I did in the last year, or have had to bite my tongue to curb yet another abrasive remark.
I’m probably not the only one. An American study of 24,000 people from 1984 to 1995 found that while most newlyweds rated themselves happier after their wedding, the euphoria was brief. Sooner or later, they returned to the mental state they were in before they wed.
Still, the pros of marriage have outweighed the cons.
Marriage has given me a source of emotional support I never had before.
It feels good to have someone to share your woes, and knowing that you are loved gives you confidence. You are also less likely to sweat the small stuff at work because there is something nicer and more important to look forward to at home. That has definitely been a welcome change.
The downside (sort of) is that I have also inherited his problems. When you’ve been single for so long, it comes as a shock to now have to share and help solve another person’s woes. But it has made me, I think, a less selfish person.
Of course, one year of marriage hardly qualifies me as an expert on marriage.
But after 46 years of being single, I can safely say I was an expert on singlehood.
Comparing the two, marriage has been good, give and take occasional bouts of the blues. — The Sunday Times/Asia News Network
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