Love, Marriage, And Unweddings

Views on love, marriage, and hopes for an Unwedding.

There is something about my past I don’t tell most people and it’s because I simply don’t think about it.

When I was studying in university in Canada, I was engaged to my college boyfriend of three years. There was a ring and to top it all, I had a job offer. Everything a self-respecting Malaysian student could want to settle down overseas and yet I opted for the unknown, which was to return home to Sarawak and pursue work in orang utan conservation.

Years later, he is married, with kids; and I am not. Believe me when I say this: I am so grateful with how my life has turned out.



Maybe I’m the itik aneh in today’s Asian society for not seeing marriage as an end-goal of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I think marriage is a beautiful thing when two people get together for the right reasons, and are faithful to each other in all the sense of the word till death do they part. However, I don’t think a lot of my peers have gotten married for the right reasons. They marry because their friends are also getting married, that their parents want them to settle down, to give them grandchildren, to complete the cycle of life. And yet, is it not up to us, to say, we may not want this for ourselves?

I’m not convinced that marriage makes you happy or that it completes you. It scares me to see married people who are very unhappy with each other and yet are unable to do anything about it. Sometimes, if one of them has the fortitude to make a change, a divorce may occur which is always devastating to both parties. Sometimes, the marriage becomes a hollow shell where two people are together because society dictates so.

I think what most people don’t understand is that when you say marriage isn’t for you, it’s not so much that you want to be polygamous or you don’t want a long-term commitment but rather the idea of marriage is so sacred that you need to be prepared for all the consequences that comes with getting married. I am not ready for that.

It is of my humble opinion that it takes greater effort to stay unmarried, than to get married. To be able to resist society’s and family’s pressures to ‘settle down’, and as well one’s occasional insecurities of being alone for the rest of one’s life can be quite a feat especially if you are Asian living in Asia. I feel that wanting to get married is like having a career goal: once you put your mind to it, you will eventually find someone with the same desire. Yet staying happily married is another thing, and it terrifies me to be tied down with someone for whom my feelings might change years down the road.

And so, I thank my parents for raising us up to be independent, particularly my sister and myself. As daughters, we have never ever been pressured to get married. The question has never even been raised. Do you know how amazing that is for Asian parents? Especially when one’s mother is a staunch Catholic?

Both my parents told me —

If you do get married one day, get married for love. Not for money, not for security because neither of these are guaranteed in the long run. Even marrying for love is not guaranteed for a happy-ever-after but at least it is the better choice out of three reasons that most people use to get married.

I don’t believe in getting married so that a ‘man can take care of me’ because I like the sense of self-reliance; ensuring my own continuing ability to take care of myself financially regardless of whether I am in a relationship or not. Or to have kids so that one day, they can take care of me.

But anything can happen. What if my kids die before me?

It’s a selfish reason to procreate, especially in this day and age when earth’s resources are dwindling and our population exploding at an unsustainable rate. I worry about having kids and leaving them in a world where they would have to struggle to survive. Or leaving them in a world where there are no orang utans in the wild. Can you imagine that?

Seriously, this is something I actually ponder upon and feel sad about. The thought of my kids not knowing what it is like to walk in a forest, and see wildlife. Anyway, I think pets are the best ever substitute for kids because they will love you forever, will never go through all that teenage angst, and you will never have to worry about their college tuition.

A close friend said to me recently that she doesn’t want to get married but wouldn’t mind a wedding. I think it’s a great idea for serious committed couples who don’t want to get married.

Have an Unwedding! Invite all your family, friends and relatives and throw a big party celebrating the love that you know of today.

You don’t know how long you are going to stay together but you do hope it will be for a very long time. And you will certainly keep working on the relationship every single day because you don’t have the security of society’s expectations.

The Unwedding is to say that you don’t need to have society’s approval to stay together, and that the only reason you are together is because the two of you have decided so and that you would like to share your idea of committed love with your family and friends.

Plus, in the end you get angpow — win-win situation, I say!

June wants an Unwedding one day.

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In another lifetime, June was a field biologist, searching for orang utans in the wild. She still dreams of living in the forests.

Posted on 13 January 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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