Friday, 2 March 2012

I 'do’ is not forever

Putik Lada By Chong Kien Mun

I Do (But I Don't)
I Do (But I Don't) (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)
The present Generation Y has been immersed in a culture of instant gratification, escapism, and self-centred inflexibility. Couples nowadays do not hesitate to take the plunge into marriage – or out of it.

A COUPLE of years ago, when I first started practising law, I was approached by a soon-to-be-married young couple, who wanted me to prepare a prenuptial agreement for them.

Despite my explanation that prenuptial agreements arguably have no legal effect in Malaysia, they were adamant.

Obviously, some valuable assets were at stake. A sense of numbness enveloped my heart and soul. (Hey, lawyers are mortal humans with emotions, too!)

I could not recall the previous time I actually felt that way. I was filled with a sense of disappointment, of great sympathy. Not for the young couple, but for the sacred institution of marriage.

A couple of weeks ago, amid the scorching Malaysian sun and the beautiful full moon, Valentine’s Day came and went. The roses have now dried, and died.

One wonders whether the couples are still able to wake up to smell love in the air. Or, has real love and genuine affection also died? Perhaps not an overnight death, but a gradual and painful one? And is that a death that should be mourned or celebrated?

It has been said that the longest distance known to man is not the distance between birth and death. Nor is it the distance between the North and the South.

The longest distance imaginable is actually when that person is standing right in front of you, but somehow cannot muster the courage or the opportunity to say that he loves you, and so you don’t even know it.

To those who have been lucky enough to close that distance, it is usually the result of some persistence.

It may sometimes take months or even years for a man to grab that special girl’s hand, and hold it gently but tightly on their wedding day, with primary promises of being a loving husband, and a good father.

However, statistics have shown that, as the years go by, couples evolve from walking hand in hand on their wedding day to walking down the corridors of exile, hands folded or in their pockets.

Here is a riddle for you: “What starts with ‘I Do’ and also ends with ‘I Do’?” Got it? No? It is marriage, which starts with an “I Do” to marry someone, and an “I Do” to divorce that same someone.

The present generation – Generation Y – has been immersed in a culture of instant gratification, escapism, and self-centred inflexibility.

“My way or the highway” is a common statement. Surfing on concurrent waves of escapism, scepticism and pessimism, couples nowadays do not hesitate to take the plunge into marriage – and out of it.

An “I Do” to try it out, and an “I Do” when it does not work out as imagined. It ends just as it began, with the simple “I Do”, which used to be a sacred phrase but is now used flippantly.

There is a fine line between love and hate, for both are forms of interchangeable extremism. Lovers may turn into haters, and vice versa.

As the divorce decree is pronounced, the sourness of love and hate becomes a poison in the respective memories of the individuals involved, which time will seek to erase.

It is difficult to reverse the chain of events once a married couple make arguments and conflict a habit.

Sometimes, conflict becomes such a habit that the couple do not even know what they are fighting about any more.

It gets to the stage where they cannot remember why they accepted each other to begin with, when they had a love to believe in as the foundation of all things beautiful – or so they believed.

At the very least, they used to have a love that they could work on. They see divorce as the only cure.

Sometimes, taking the easy way out is a form of escapism. Form turns into habit and habit evolves into attitude.

An attitude of love is vouchable, while an attitude of escapism only breeds more problems and issues as one escapes from one black hole to a bigger one as the main issues with oneself remain unresolved, unmitigated, and ultimately aggravated.

The alarming divorce rates we see today will inevitably have a domino effect. A Pandora’s box has been opened.

The increasing numbers of single parents bringing up children of broken marriages will potentially lead to the further erosion of the fabric of love and family.

Statistics show that child abusers or molesters usually have had traumatic childhood histories as victims of the offences that they have gone on to perpetrate.

It is not much of a stretch to imagine that children of broken marriages have a higher risk of growing up to break their own marriages.

Back to the young couple that started me on this contemplation about marriage, I told them flatly: “Sorry to be so direct, but the very fact that the thought of such agreements even crossed your mind indicates disturbing elements of doubt and distrust, both essential ingredients of a lasting union. The marriage, if pursued, may not be a lasting one, and I hope to be proven wrong.”

The door was slammed close then. Fast forward a couple of years, and the door was re-opened, the same couple walked in again, asking for a divorce.

Perhaps George Orwell was right after all when he said: “Happiness can exist only in acceptance” or “Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.”

> The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, visit www.malaysianbar.org.my

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