Going the distance for love
Malaysian couples talk about their first year of marriage to Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal and Sushma Veera
Malaysian couples talk about their first year of marriage to Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal and Sushma Veera
With the dust of the ‘I-do’s’ over, how do couples cope with life adjustment? It seems like it was only yesterday when the world sat transfixed in front of their TV screens, watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. But a year has passed and they remain one of Britain’s much loved royals and exports, and seem to be just as loving as the day they exchanged vows in Westminster Abbey.
Their honeymoon doesn’t seem like it’s over. So what is the first year of marriage like for regular folk? Life & Times talks to four couples who will soon celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
M. Jai Gaanesh and Kalpana Rajendhiran
After four months of marriage, M. Jai Gaanesh says though life was good during the six years of courtship, it’s better being married.
“Apart from the sudden emergence of the extended family, relatives, relationships and responsibilities, it is going perfectly well. We were and are still very much drawn to each other but now, the sense of belonging is much stronger,” he says.
Wife Kalpana says their relationship before and after marriage has not changed much and that they are still the loving couple.
Recalling how they met, Jai, 31, says it was love at first sight. “It was March 28, 2006. After my usual workout at the gym, I was having dinner at Pan Bakery in SS15, Subang Jaya. That’s when I saw her for the first time, walking in with her friend for a drink. I couldn’t stop looking at her. I sent my good friend Marianne to talk to her.
“My friend told her I was interested in getting to know her and invited her to join us. She joined us after a while and I was very excited. That day, I understood love at first sight. It was a combination of perfect timing, the right people and Cupid’s intervention.”
They courted for five years and nine months before tying the knot. They are now expecting their first child.
Kalpana says marriage has not changed anything much apart from her status as a wife. “I have new family members and new responsibilities. I have to learn to live with them and to be careful of my actions so that I do not hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Kalpana, 27, adds: “Sharing a house with someone is nothing new in my life. I stayed with my family, so having people in the house is not a problem. The only problem is other people’s habits. I used to complain and sulk but I realised I couldn’t change people. So I have learnt to adapt. After all they are family.”
Admitting that some people may find the first year the hardest, Jai says it may be because this is when most people actually learn to understand their partners.
However, Kalpana says it’s not difficult if a couple learns to give and take and if they have a strong relationship.
“I believe everyone needs an adjustment period to live with someone. It can be a year, or two. No two fingers are the same. My husband respects my decision and gives me the freedom to decide. He will not force anything on me,” says Kalpana.
“Of course, we have arguments and it is usually about lame things. My wife is very fussy, so timing is crucial. Sometimes there are issues like which TV channel to watch as I’m an ardent Manchester United supporter. But it happens only on game days,” says Jai.
Kalpana agrees, saying she often gets irritated when there’s a football game on especially at 8pm on a Saturday, as they would have to stay home to watch the game.
Edleen Ismail and Adam Mackenzie
Petite and bubbly TV host Edleen Ismail cuts a striking contrast to her handsomely brooding, model-tall husband of seven months, Adam Mackenzie. They seem as alike as chalk and cheese but this is probably what turns the wheel in their relationship.
The couple dated for more than six years before deciding to cement their relationship last September. And they’re glad they did.
“Everything just feels complete and right now,” says Edleen, her eyes shining.
Adam nods, adding: “To come home and know that someone is there waiting for you is nice. Quality time for us is hanging out at home and enjoying the house because, due to our work commitments, we’re seldom home together.”
Their work schedules, admits Ipoh-born Edleen, have proven to be the biggest challenge in their marriage so far. With Edleen working most weekends and Adam, who is in events management, working odd and, occasionally, long hours, things can get rather trying.
“The frustrating part is that my working schedule is crazy,” confides 30-something Edleen. “When he’s free, I’m working.. and vice versa. Now it’s even more trying because we’re in the midst of looking for a property. When one of us is free to see the agent, the other is nowhere to be found. Even though we’re used to each other’s timetable (having been together for the last six years), you can’t help feeling frustrated sometimes.”
Adam chips in: “Sometimes I don’t even come home because I’m busy setting up an event. In my line, we work when people are sleeping. Sometimes I feel it’s a good thing because it’s a chance for us to get our respective ‘alone’ space, which I think is very important.”
Discord does arise, concedes Adam, but it always stems from work exhaustion. “You’re so tired that sometimes little things, which would not be a problem normally, are suddenly magnified and we end up arguing.”
When that happens, Edleen says she’s the one to offer the olive branch first. “I’m always the nice one!” she says, giggling. “I just don’t like long silences. I’ll make the first effort to break the ice but it’d be quite grudging. Then, much later, when Adam has cooled down, I’ll bring it all up again!”
Looking thoughtful, Adam says: “I feel that the best thing to do when there’s an argument is just to keep quiet. I let her yak until she’s done. There’s no point adding fuel to the fire, I remember this advice from a good friend. I’ve learnt to do that over the years. When the time is right, I’ll put Edleen in her place because sometimes she can be very emotional. I’m very honest with her and I will tell her as it is, whether she likes it or not.”
Marriage has certainly been a learning curve for both.
“I’ve discovered just how lazy Adam is!” says Edleen. “It was there before but I thought it might change.”
Adam chuckles. “So now I’m married I have a bigger licence to be lazier. What have I discovered? I’ve found out that she has a loud mouth and is getting louder by the day!”
Edleen adds: “Yeah, but we love each other anyway! Adam is my best friend.”
But seriously, Edleen says marriage has made her a better person. “I was spoilt before. Being an only child, I usually had my way on most things. And then marriage came along and I realised it was no longer just about me — it was teamwork and I had to learn to be more selfless. My mum has been giving me a lot of advice about the whole selfless thing. She loves Adam a lot so she wants this to work. She tells me to learn to give and take.”
Adam, who’s of mixed parentage (Sri Lankan, Chinese, Scottish) is learning to be more patient. “I struggle with this part,” he confides.
The couple still has some way to go and plenty to learn about each other. Challenges, they both agree, are part and parcel of marriage. “When the honeymoon is over, never forget why you actually married the person in the first place,” says Edleen. “I certainly can’t imagine life without Adam. It’s good to feel this way because it shows how connected you are to your partner.”
Adam adds: “Being together isn’t just about being sweet and loving. Our relationship is very real. I always say if you’re angry, be angry. Don’t let resentment build, don’t disregard your emotions and certainly don’t repress your partner’s emotions.”
Lim Jiunn Tar and Shermayne Choi
“Life has been fantastic — to have someone greet you when you wake up, someone to share your meal, a jogging partner and a friend to travel with. I enjoy having a permanent companionship.”
This is how Lim Jiunn Tar, 27, describes his marriage.
It has been eight months since he married his girlfriend of 13 months, Shermayne Choi, 22.
Choidescribesmarriedlife as great, to have him by her side through good and rough times.
Before marriage, Lim used to party till morning. But now, he has become more responsible.
For a start, he has traded in his “performance” car for a family saloon and started saving for his family. Before marriage, he used to spend his money on travelling and electronic gadgets.
“I want to build a home. Everything has to be planned well so that there will be no room for mistakes,” he says.
During the courtship, says Choi, she was more concerned about being the “Best Girlfriend”, looking good and being well behaved.
“But now, my main concern is to be a good wife, daughter-in-law and a mother-to-be. We spend our money wisely as we both want to ensure we have a good future. And we make sure we spend some quality time together.”
Lim adds: “We have little arguments about things like decoration for our new house. Who doesn’t argue? I enjoy fighting over silly stuff. And after the argument, I will buy her something to cheer her up.”
Choi says they argue about the time they spend together. “For me, quality time is very important. Perhaps a little chat for five minutes to share what happened during the day. Who wouldn’t like that?”
Both say the first year of marriage is not as hard as many people describe.
Choi says: “Marriage is for long-term. If we are not willing to give and take, it’ll be hard to make the marriage work.”
Nicholas Andrew John and Chia Huey Ming
TV producer Nicholas Andrew John and his lovely wife, former air stewardess, Chia Huey Ming, are nearing the one-year mark in their marriage. They tied the knot in May last year after having dated for more than four years while working in Singapore.
“After the third year, I sort of knew that she was the one,” says Nicholas. “I planned the proposal with the help of her sister and my friends. It was a challenge to get it together because she was flying a lot back then. I thought the best way would be to surprise her when she was overseas. In January 2010, she had a flight to London and I decided to go, without her knowledge, and surprise her at the London hotel where she was staying.”
Chia eventually quit her job when Nicholas received a job offer in Malaysia. “I quit ESPN and joined Astro,” says Nicholas, 30. “We wanted to come back eventually anyway but with the offer, the process was expedited.”
The couple are still waiting to move into their own house and construction is scheduled to be completed very soon. In the meantime, they’re “camping out” with Nicholas’ family, literally living out of suitcases and plastic bags.
“This has been a challenge,” confides Chia. “Accommodating each other’s living habits is already a challenge but when you have additional people in the equation, it can get a little claustrophobic. Hopefully things will get better soon when our house is ready.”
Nicholas adds: “Obviously the plan was to move into our own house soon after our wedding but it didn’t happen. So we’ve had to adjust to living at my parents’ house.”
Do they argue? “Yes!” they both proclaim. Nicholas elaborates: “When we started dating, my wife was always the quiet and passive one. Whenever we had a ‘discussion’, almost 90 per cent of the time she’d be the one to give up. But she’s grown a lot and has more confidence. She used to resign herself to the outcome just to stop an argument from erupting. Now, she engages in the ‘battle’ ...and I like it because it’s healthy. It’s not about finding a winner, it’s about healthy engagement!”
They’ve learnt a lot in the short time they’ve spent as husband and wife.
“Deciding to get married in the first place is like a lifetime promise to each other that whatever happens, we’ll be with each other through thick and thin,” says Chia, 29. “The most important thing I’ve learnt is to give and take from time to time. Sometimes we get really selfish and are not willing to hear out the other side but that’s all very damaging. It’s very important to have open communication and strive to iron things out.”
It was good that they had the opportunity to spend some time with each other before they married, says Nicholas. “I operated on two extremes. In Singapore, I was a workaholic. But then, when I wasn’t working, I had a lot of ‘alone’ time because she was travelling a lot. I got into that groove. Now I’m learning to invest some effort to make time for her. My workload is so much heavier now that sometimes I take my wife for granted. But I’m working on it.”
When they do have time together, the couple like to spend their precious hours at home. “We’re homebodies. We like to watch movies and go out for a meal occasionally. The time can be short but as long as we know that both parties are engaged in the time that we’re with each other, that’s already good enough,” says Nicholas.