Marriage: The Front-Row Seat

Marriage: The Front-Row Seat

Words by: Joseph Koh (Photos by: Brandon Myles Krause)

Interview with Kuik Shiao-Yin

I remember coming across a Facebook post written by Kuik Shiao-Yin (Director and Co-founder of The Thought Collective) on her relationship with her husband, in which she shares, in “testing times, you aren’t thinking of whether he’s The One. You just care about whether he’s the one who is choosing not to walk away, choosing to lean in, choosing to be kind, and choosing to bring some light.” As I was dating someone at that point in time and thinking about how best to approach this seemingly ineffable endeavour, her words of wisdom shed such lucid perspective on not looking for perfection in a union.

In an interview with SELAH, we learn from Shiao-Yin on how we can best build a sustainable and enjoyable marriage. She details the convictions that God has laid upon her heart in becoming “one flesh” (Mark 10:8) with another person.

Could you share with us how you met your husband?

We met at a Christian event — he was filming the event and I was sitting in the audience near where he was shooting from. We struck up a conversation because he thought he knew me from somewhere. After we discovered we had some similar work- and ministry-related interests, we met up for coffee the following weekend to talk more, and that’s how we became friends. We met occasionally to go to the gym, do creative projects together, or just for coffee; but we just stayed friends. It was only a year later, after we went on a mission trip together, that we talked about developing something more.

Were there cultural differences or hurdles that you both encountered?

Nothing significant. He had been a youth pastor in a Korean church back in the United States, had done missions in Asia before, and was generally open and curious about Asian culture. I was also quite familiar with American pop culture, so the initial conversations were free of significant cross-cultural baggage.

Looking back on the dating phase of your relationship, what have been the most important values that you two have held onto?

Before we met each other, we had already separately came to our own conclusions that we weren’t interested in playing games or leading anyone on. We were already in our early 30s and had each gone through enough of our own disappointments in the relationship department to be disinterested in repeating mistakes. Enough was enough.

So once we had the conversation where we both admitted that we were attracted to each other, we immediately agreed that:

  1. Attraction alone did not justify us getting into a dating phase.
  2. In helping us to decide whether to go from the attraction phase to the dating phase, we would each pick an older “happily married” couple to walk with us through our decisions, and help us discern whether we were a good fit. We eventually had three couples watching over us; we gave them permission to ask questions, speak into our lives, and be honest with us if they felt any alarm bells had gone off.
  3. If we did start dating, it was going to be an intentional exploration of whether we were aligned in what we wanted in a marriage.

Could you share the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in your marriage?

As we are both entrepreneurs running our own businesses, there can be times of great financial and existential stress that personally weigh upon us. In moments where we feel the scarcity, it becomes easy to feel anxious and draw away from each other.

For instance, when there are long droughts of revenue that end up impacting either one’s “take-home” pay (or both), it becomes far easier for us to feel overwhelmed by guilt or shame. Personally, I know if I don’t watch my own mental and emotional state, I can get bound in a mood of overwhelming sadness and anxiety, which can cause me to withdraw internally into a useless spiral of pessimism. When that happens, I tell my husband explicitly what is going on within me and let him know specifically what I need from him in the moment.

Usually, what I need to centre myself again is not a logical solution but a compassionate, authentic listening presence, and a gentle reminder of all the good we have in our lives. If I don’t say it out and leave him to figure it out on his own, this can lead to further misunderstanding and irritation. It’s important for both of us to take as much responsibility as we can of our own emotional state and let the other person know what we need.

The moment we feel any tension or get upset with each other, we always talk it out to make sure that no bitter root is allowed to gain a foothold. We help each other learn to be more vulnerable with our anxieties, anger, and expectations.

What is one revelation about marriage that God has shown to you?

Marriage is a beautiful privilege where you get front-row seats to the unfolding story of your spouse’s journey through life. You get to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night bearing witness to the evolving person your spouse is learning to become.

How do we build a sustainable and enjoyable marriage?

A lot of problems in marriage can be traced back to the roots of how you went about dating each other. Therefore, as much as possible, watch the way you navigate the beginning of the whole process towards marriage. Try to keep the process as intentional, loving, and clean of deceit as possible. Good foundations really help.

I think if we keep encouraging each other to learn new things that develop and grow ourselves, we keep things interesting for each other. We can enjoy each other for who we are and celebrate who we want to be.

I heard this memorable anecdote from my pastor once: An old couple had approached him after he had preached a sermon; they were both in tears and declared their gratitude for the sermon he had preached on Satan being the enemy. They confessed to him, “Hearing you, we’ve just discovered that we are not each other’s enemy. The real enemy is Satan. We are crying because for far too long we had imagined each other as the enemy.”

I always remember this story as my rule-of-thumb: Fight the real enemy. The real enemy is Satan. It is not the person sitting across us.

What would be one advice you’d give to young couples?

If you must get married, don’t settle for less. Try as much as you can to choose to be with someone who loves God, loves you, and loves others. Choose to be with someone who has shown they know how to go through suffering and still emerge with a heart soft towards others.

 

JOSEPH thinks that Nasi Lemak ought to be Singapore’s national dish. He is passionate in discovering how faith can collide beautifully with urban culture, and believes in mentoring the next generation. He also wishes that a singular Singaporean accent will emerge in his lifetime. Follow him @firesandtimbers

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