Monday, 11 November 2013

Straits Times edit: Marriage and manners

In view of the storm kicked up by a certain 'infidelity' website that wanted to set up in Singapore, I sent the following piece, exhorting the benefits of pre-marriage counselling (marriage preparation courses) to Straits Times which published a very watered-down version.

The original letter here, followed by the Straits Times version:

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Marriage and manners

I am excited to be home soon to attend my nephew’s wedding.

I gave him and his fiancée the same advice I had found useful: Too many couples spend more effort preparing for their wedding day, and not enough for a lifetime of marriage. So, spend more time working on their marriage rather than on their wedding.

Older Chinese women used to say, “If you marry a chicken, follow a chicken. If you marry a dog, follow a dog.” Today this can be seen as belittling the position of women.

But at the heart of this saying is the very important concept of commitment. Commitment (along with family honour) was important. Parents ensured that children married someone who was well-matched to give their marriage a fighting chance.

The fatalistic chicken-and-dog saying is equivalent to the Christian marriage (not just wedding) vow to to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”.

Keeping a relationship of whatever nature going is hard work. Marriage is hard work. There will be times when we feel that we are not ‘in love’ any more. That is when we have to make an even bigger effort to love.

Marriage preparation courses help us to anticipate and identify potential crisis points (illness, unemployment, money and children problems, temptation, etc). Fidelity comes from remembering that we have not married a ‘Mr/Miss Right’.

We are marrying a ‘Mr/Miss Left’: one who has left all others to stick with just one person. And this person – you and I – will never be perfect, never ‘always right’.

“Manners maketh man” sounds like an old English saying.

Yet good manners in word and deed (ie no physical or mental abuse) exhibited by husbands towards their wives (and vice-versa), and to their children and neighbours, will naturally become the behaviour that children will model when they step out of their family.

The Chinese call this jia jiao (family education), a derivative of the Confucian concept of li.

From this perspective, good manners is not merely about giving up one’s seat on public transport. It goes to the very heart of our relationship with our spouse, our children, the wider family, rippling out to the nameless thousands that we encounter in our lifetime.
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I thought, "Not bad, in under 400 words I was able to tackle a current issue 'marrying' my Christian understanding, the 'manners maketh man' adage which I had been contemplating, and good old Confucian ethics. So I was disappointed to read this version (reduced to 254 words) on Straits Times Online, leaving out the most crucial point about marriage preparation courses:
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Marriage is hard work, try good manners

MY NEPHEW is getting married soon and I gave him and his fiancee some advice that I had found useful.

Too many couples spend a lot of effort preparing for their wedding day and not enough for a lifetime of marriage. More time should be spent working on the marriage.

Older Chinese women used to say: "If you marry a chicken, follow a chicken. If you marry a dog, follow a dog."

At the heart of this saying is the very important concept of commitment.

Keeping a relationship of whatever nature going is hard work. Marriage is hard work. There will be times when we feel that we are not "in love" any more. That is when we have to make an even bigger effort to love.

Fidelity comes from remembering that we have not married a "Mr or Miss Right".

Instead, we are marrying a "Mr or Miss Left" - one who has left all others to stick with just one person, and this person will never be perfect.

An old adage states that "manners maketh man". Indeed, good manners in word and deed exhibited by spouses towards each other and to their children and neighbours will naturally become the behaviour that children will model after when they step out of their family.

From this perspective, good manners is not merely about giving up one's seat on public transport. It goes to the very heart of our relationship with our spouse, our children, the wider family and everyone we encounter in our lifetime.

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Moral of the story: Straits Times Forum letters are often so edited that it totally loses the objective of the letter writer. Reader, beware.

3 comments:

LSP said...

Please DO NOT attempt to post your advertisements here. If you do, your action will be reported to relevant authorities. Thank you kindly.

Theexpat Counsellors said...
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Cherilyn said...
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