V-day is a very important day for ladies in Singapore, thanks to marketing. Here is one woman who saw through the illusion. She’s a regular contributor to Today.
Don’t buy into the facade of love
Frances Ong Hock Lin
MY FRIEND told me she had dropped many hints to her husband to buy flowers for her for Valentine’s Day. I suppose she believed it was the appropriate way for him to show her that he still loves her.
When I was a teenager, I used to dream about walking down Orchard Road with a big bunch of roses. But having once worked on Valentine’s Day delivering flowers to lovestruck young girls all over Singapore, I have come to the conclusion that there is more to love than roses.
There was a man who ordered two bouquets: One for his mistress, and a bigger one for his wife. I suppose he was hoping his wife would still believe that he loved her.
Then there was this girl in America who ordered a box of chocolates for her boyfriend in Singapore. My heart dropped when I delivered the chocolates to his house. The dinner table was set for two, complete with candles and flowers — but I knew that his dinner companion would not be the girl in America.
Each February, men are reminded to show how much they love their girlfriends or wives by buying flowers, chocolates, diamonds — and, of course, the mandatory candlelight dinner.
How much of this expectation is shaped by advertising firms and retail outlets?
Thirty years ago, Valentine’s Day was virtually unheard of in Singapore. Nonetheless, men and women still fell in love — and stayed in love.
Now, I sense that women in Singapore are dictating how men should love them. And more often than not, their demands for expressions of love are shaped by women’s magazines, which inundate them with suggestions on how to spend Valentine’s Day.
It has come to a point where some men expect payment in terms of sex after spending so much money on an attractive lady. Thus, it is no surprise that men often use words of love to get sex, while women use sex to get words of love.
This could be a factor that has contributed to the rise in divorce rates in Singapore. Women often define love as a feeling or as an attraction, and choose our life partners on this basis.
What happens when that feeling dies or changes, as all feelings will over time? Do we change partners the way we do in a social dance?
Do we consistently search for the elusive high that we get each time we fall in love with someone?
After being married for 18 years, I have come to the conclusion that love is not a feeling; it is a decision.
There are days when I do not feel any love towards my husband, when I want to tear his eyes out, and yes, sometimes I just want to walk out of this marriage.
A few years ago, I met someone who swept me off my feet. He was different from my husband in many ways, and I thought I had fallen in love again. I was attracted to the feeling of being wanted, of being at the centre of someone else’s life.
I felt young again and I was tempted to walk out of my marriage. A few of my friends supported my decision, as they felt that if there is no spark left in a marriage, it is all right to change one’s partner.
But on closer reflection, I realised I had only fallen in lust. I realised that the feeling I had would disappear with this new-found love over time — just as the similar feeling I experienced when I first fell in love with my husband had eventually faded.
What did I do with this emotion? I confessed to my husband. I knew that he had accepted me for better or for worse — and this was one of my worst moments.
I knew that only by coming clean would we be able to continue with this relationship. He accepted me as I am, knowing that as a woman I could feel for other men, yet he showed that he can trust me with my emotions.
Through this experience, both of us were reminded once again that love is not a feeling, but a constant decision that we make. Love demands that we choose each other constantly despite coming across alternatives.
This Valentine’s Day, I chose to buy a gift for my husband. I had not bought him a gift in a very long time as I could never find anything suitable.
I seldom feel guilty for not buying him a gift for Christmas or for Valentine’s Day; I would never buy a gift just because some article in a woman’s magazine told me to. Neither would I buy one because my girlfriends have bought one for their beloved.
I chose to do so because I knew the gift would bring a smile to his face and joy to his heart. More importantly, I do not expect a gift in return.
The writer is an educator and a mother of six.