Thursday, 23 February 2012

Let’s not forget: it takes two, and please have a rest

I had not intended to blog about Mr Yaw Shin Leong. But even before this became news, I had been mulling over the question of how a marriage could stay intact.

As I hear more sob stories from my clients at the Citizens Advice Bureau of partnerships (not necessarily marriages) gone wrong, I was asking myself, “How do I keep my own marriage intact?”

My husband comes from a family where there are many broken marriages, including his brother’s. For this reason he was not keen to marry.

He also came to the conclusion that in every marriage breakdown there is always fault with both parties. It takes two to form a partnership, and it takes two for the partnership to break down.

Whenever we discuss the breakdowns of friends’ partnerships, even of friends very dear to him, his comment is always, “It takes two.”

I have been conscious therefore of my own part in this marriage, too.

I look at Mr Yaw and the wonderful things that he has done for the public with such energy. I wonder how much his partner understood his aspirations and how much support he was given. Was he ever reminded to “slow down”, have a break, recharge?

Did Mr Yaw also support his partner in whatever career path that she was pursuing?

There is always a danger when the dynamics within a partnership change. My husband has always been the worker ant. He calls me the “tai-tai” and I run the family and a business from home.

(He may be the breadwinner, but I am the bread maker! Bread making is a delicious hobby.)

Dynamics change when one or both partners make career moves, take on new hobbies, children are born, start school, leave home, fall ill, etc.

My husband is now semi-retired. I, on the other hand, am trying to forge an academic career (again) given my imminent redundancy as a full-time mother.

He was always very sensitive to my needs while I was a housebound mother, always checking to see that I was still happy to remain at home, always telling me to treat myself to something nice because being at home is boring. (I’ve declined all offers of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and more recently Christian Louboutin, etc.)

I realized that I, too, must remember to be sensitive to his needs as a husband who might be spending more time at home than I do for the first time in our marriage.

His words keep ringing in my head: it takes two.

I learned an important lesson when I became a full-time Christian worker. Jennifer told me: “You are not indispensable. Always make time to rest.”

Take time to have a life. Christian ministry (like politics?) is 24/7 if you let it.

But as Jennifer pointed out: even Jesus rested. He went to quiet places to commune with his Father. He avoided the crowds. This is the same message I pass on to all friends going into full-time ministry.

All of us, whether ministers of religion, ministers of education (teachers), ministers of law (politicians, lawyers. policemen), ministers of medicine (doctors, nurses), ministers of care (mothers, maids, etc) all need time off to recharge our physical, spiritual and mental batteries.

Those of us in a personal partnership need to ensure and encourage our partners to take necessary breaks, and be there to support him/her. If we are the busy/busier partner, we also must take heed and take time off to recharge.

We owe it to our partners to be able to give them our full, total and undivided attention on a regular basis. We are, in that sense, indispensable, or should make ourselves indispensable to our spouses.

Breakdowns do not happen out of nothing if that relationship (ie a firm commitment) was there in the first place. (I grant that some marriages are marriages of convenience.)

Relationships start breaking down when partners stop communing, in word, in deed and in the flesh.

In word: The Bible teaches “Never let the sun set on your anger.” Let us make sure we talk and clear any “bad” air before retreating to bed.

In deed: My husband makes me a mug of tea in the morning before he goes to work. I make him coffee when he comes home from work. Each mug is lovingly made and each is gratefully received and acknowledged. (This probably does not happen in households with maids.)

In the flesh: The words of the marriage vow “with my body I thee worship” is very powerful imagery. Married Christian people do not “own” their bodies, according to the teachings of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 (emphasis is mine):

3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Jesus taught, “Love your neighbour as yourself”. So love your spouse, your closest neighbour, as yourself, your own body.

This is a timely episode to remind all of us in a relationship to not take our partner for granted. I think those who feel able should also pray for healing for the marriages we know that have broken down.

I pray, too, that there is room for forgiveness.

Let him/her who is without sin cast the first stone.

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