It was recently disclosed that fewer people in their twenties and thirties are getting married in Singapore, and more are getting divorced. I am not surprised.
Among my friends, I can count an increasing incidence of them, who married early (in their twenties) and have been through their first divorce. A majority of them got hitched after getting to know their partner for a year or two. The problems cropped up after they got married and began staying with each other. They then realised how fundamentally different each of them was from the other. This predictably led to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
I think this problem can be attributed to the social realities created by the government of the day, bowing to pressure from religious groups and other lobbies appealing to a heightened sense of morality.
In most other countries, young people move out their parents’ homes as soon as they graduate. This gives them the opportunity to meet potential partners more actively. When the time is right, they move in together. This enables them to get a feel of what it will be like spending days and nights with each other. Once they get confident and comfortable about living together, they progress from the live-in relationship to marriage.
In Singapore, we impose the burden on our young people of living and caring for their aged parents because, unlike other first-world nations, the government feels it should not be their responsibility. The late David Marshall touched on this.
Public housing policies do not allow young persons to their own homes until they get turn 35 or they get married. Since it will take them longer to such age, more take the latter route as an easy way to secure their own place.
The last minister responsible for public housing in Singapore used to boast about how men would broach buying their first flat to propose marriage. He wrote, “'Shall we apply for an HDB flat?' This is how Singaporean men propose to their beloved. So we are told – I am not sure how common this is. However, this uniquely Singaporean marriage proposal reflects a common aspiration among many young couples intending to wed – getting an HDB flat.”
I guess one should be grateful to the minister for sustaining the relevance of the family justice system, and supporting the countless lawyers, judges and other professionals who rely on this as a source of income.
Beyond such qualifying criteria, if you want to buy your own place, you also need to fork out a huge amount of cash upfront. Renting a place is out of the question since that will only decapitate your ability to raise the cash needed to pay for your first home. As a result, one is left with little choice but to live with one's parents.
A very close friend shares that this creates a further problem. He suggests, as a result of many young persons living with their parents well into their thirties, many of them mature later. They don’t know what it means to live with a new person, and to give and take in a relationship. They find this alien as they are so used to having things served on a platter by their parents.
This is aggravated by the way the sexes are segregated in universities. You can’t share rooms with members of the opposite sex, even if you want to. In some places, there are separate floors for girls and boys, even if they prefer not to live on separate floors. Let’s consider the underlying implications of such policies. Are the universities, in effect, advocating that it is okay to spend your most intimate and private moments with a member of the same sex, but not the opposite?
No wonder Singapore had a historic 10,000 people protesting for the freedom to love some weeks ago. How can we expect more marriages, when we have a climate that stifles the freedom to love?
Interestingly, I do not see the same trend among my school friends, who had moved out of Singapore by the time they reached 21. Many of them have built strong families overseas, having had the opportunity to assess their future partners through live-in relationships. A few of them have returned to Singapore because they felt their children needed to grow up nearer to their grandparents.
The current minister responsible for advocating marriages in Singapore speaks of a need for a mindset change.
Take the bull by the horns. End appeasing religious lobbies and moral policing. Stop segregating the sexes in the local universities. Don't expect Singaporeans to live with their parents till they are in their late thirties. Encourage young persons to move out and build their own lives. Make it possible for Singaporeans to be free to love!
How is this for a mindset change?
Unless this happens, more people like me will be delaying marriages, if not rushing into marriages only to be divorced soon after.
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