“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?”
- George Eliot (Mary Anne (Mary Ann, Marian) Evans,
- George Eliot (Mary Anne (Mary Ann, Marian) Evans,
English novelist & journalist -
Some friends who read my novel - “Loving a schizophrenic”, teased me into writing a book on how men could woo women. Others, especially the bachelor boys, who know of my blissful union with my wife, Doris for more than 3 decades, joked that as a committed husband, I was “spoiling the market.”
At first, I did not take them seriously. Then after reading many reports in the newspapers of how relationships have turned sour and even ugly, with some going to court, I decided to take up the challenge and share secrets on my successful married life in a book on marriage. Aptly titled, “You by my side - How to stay committed in a marriage and how to value relationships", this book is a must -read not only for married couples but also for anyone who values human relationships.
I am also concerned that our divorce rates are going up - from 6,904 in 2005 to 7,405 in 2010.
Mid-life crisis and Infidelity
Loneliness, affirmation from another woman or man, and not getting enough attention from a spouse are contributing to sex outside marriage.
A friend of mine told me that every seven years our habits and lifestyle changes. This is true. For example, when you are 7 years old, you may craze about collecting dinky toys or wanting to read comic books. When you reach the age of 14, you may want to start going to discos. At 21, you may became very fashion conscious, wanting to purchase the latest designer shirts, and sporting the latest hairstyles. This 7-year switch affects every one of us.
Infidelity has been a major factor in marriage break-ups. It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals in the U.S. will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.
Infidelity appears to be spreading, even here in Singapore.
In The New Paper report- “I can’t stop cheating”, published on Sunday11 December 2011; a married woman going by the name of “Nancy” has been cheating on her husband several times. Her husband, a religious man whose work keeps him busy does not know of her straying ways. Stricken by guilt, she would end the affairs after a short stint. For Nancy, it’s her lovers that keep her occupied.
A tribute to my beloved wife
I have always wanted to write a book that pays a memorable tribute to my wife. I know that the 6 chronic illnesses that she has to cope with- including the dreaded schizophrenia and arthritis is going to shorten her life. Just as I have made a lot of sacrifices for Doris, she has done likewise - for over more than 3 decades. God bless you, Doris for inspiring me to write this book.
Doris has often asked me this question which sometimes brings tears to my eyes: “Ray, do you think that you would have been better off if you had married someone else, someone who does not have mental illness?”
“Of course not, Doris! I love you dearly and I accept you for what you are - illness or no illness,” I hug her and give her my assurances.
Patience- a must in a marriage
Patience is crucial in a marriage. Sometimes, men unintentionally hurt the feelings of their wives by losing patience when they go shopping. Women, being meticulous tend to take extra time and effort to pick out items which they want to buy. But the husband becomes impatient and tends to hurry the wife.
It is believed that men speak 5,000 words a day; women 12,000 words. This is because women are by nature, more expressive, more articulate. But whatever we say, whether on the part of the wife or husband, we must be sensitive to each other’s feelings. So let’s use words to uplift and bring joy to a partnership, not use words that destroy it. In a marriage, this is so important.
Coping with chronic illnesses
Chronic illnesses can also see couples fall apart when a spouse who could be the primary caregiver, can no longer carry the responsibility of caring for his stricken loved one. Besides the illness taking a toll on the caregiver, there are also money problems such as mounting medical bills and loss of key social support that can contribute to lower marital satisfaction. The caregiver must not only slog to bring home the bacon, he must also do all the errands, the housework and whatever is necessary to care for his/her spouse. It is an enormous burden and often both partners, isolated from the world, take out their frustrations on one another. And when they can no longer deal with this extremely difficult situation, divorce seems the only solution.
The power of prayer
I have also discussed the power of prayer in my book, for it is through prayer and my faith that I have managed to overcome huge adversities in my life. Adversities which I will continue to face in my life as my journey in taking care of Doris is going to get tougher and tougher as her advanced arthritis condition continues to deteriorate.
Any psychiatrist in the world will tell you that if you practise a faith, your journey in caring for a sick relative will become lighter. This brings to mind what took place during the SARS outbreak in 2003 when my wife suffered a serious relapse of her schizophrenia. Her psychiatrist, advised me to go back to church and to pray because I found that her recovery was slow. During that time, I had given up on God and refused to go to church. It was only when I faced a crisis that I visited my priest and pleaded for help. He advised me to return to church and prayed for both Doris & myself. Indeed, prayer did help, but it was a long haul- 9 months before she fully recovered.
Excerpt from the Foreword written by my Parish Priest
“I have known Raymond Anthony Fernando and his wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang for more than 10 years, and I have always admired how Raymond has stuck by his wife through thick and thin despite the many adversities he faces in caring for her and loving her. Even though Doris has struggled to cope with schizophrenia for 40 years, and over the last 5 years with advanced arthritis, Raymond has not given up on her - not once. During their 37 years of marriage, Doris has suffered 12 relapses of her schizophrenia and as a devoted husband; Raymond has always been there to help lift her up during her most depressing moments. The stress and demands of Raymond's caregiving responsibilities has many a time seen him suffer ‘caregiver burnout’ and the threat of his own health including depression and anxiety is not something to be taken lightly. Thankfully, this has not in any way discouraged Raymond from fulfilling his duty as a dedicated and committed husband. He candidly shares with me that he draws his strength from the Lord.”
The important things in a marriage
Marriage means you have allowed almost everything in your life to be shared with one person – your spouse. This includes problems, decisions, joy, sorrow, and any amount of freedom you enjoy. In a nutshell, a marriage means dividing the responsibilities and even the burden by two.
What is important in any marriage is the little things that couples neglect to do - like keeping in touch through the phone, sending emails when the couples are working overseas, etc. During the period when we were both gainfully employed, Doris and I would keep in touch with each other through the telephone during the lunch hour. Those phone calls, even if it was to chat for a few minutes, kept us closer together. My wife still keeps in touch with me on the handphone when I am engaged in some part-time work or going about doing some errands. Staying connected helps to keep the love burning bright.
Love and sacrifices
Doris is heavily dependent on me to provide her with unwavering emotional support that is vital in helping her to overcome illnesses, loneliness and adversities in her difficult life. There are many occasions when I am out of the house; at times for just an hour, and she would call me on the handphone and draw out her pent-up emotions: “Ray, I miss you, what time are you coming back, darling?” And when I return home, she will hug me, saying: “I feel so safe in your arms, dear.” So when one is caring for a loved one stricken with so many chronic illnesses, there is a dire need to make sacrifices. This is why although I have skipped many social outings; I do not mind sacrificing my social life because Doris is more important to me than anything or anyone in this world.
Coping with loss
Coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy. What would Doris and I say to each other before we draw our last breath? Generally, people do not like to talk about death. Like mental illness, it is a taboo subject. “Let's not discuss it, let's avoid the subject,” many people would say. Doris sees me as the most important person in her life. She cherishes me as her soul mate, her whole world, someone whom she depends upon and relies on for most, if not her entire adult life. But death is a destination that we all share and we can never escape from it.
Although my wife's arthritis condition continues to deteriorate and will inevitably challenge her resolve, Doris still remains happy, optimistic and always positive. That is because she's got me to care for her.
Many people have asked my wife this question: “It must be really hard on you and Raymond as you as you struggle to cope with so many health issues. Both your crosses are very heavy. How do you, cope, Doris?”
"The one thing that has kept me going despite my turbulent health is, love - the love that my soul mate and husband Raymond has, and always showers upon me. It is with his love that I challenge all odds of my arthritis and schizophrenia conditions - and I will conquer all adversities with You by my Side... Ray,” Doris smiles and declares stoically. (* This is the concluding statement in my book).
I ‘d like to end of this write-up , in typical style, with a poem- one that is intended to uplift my wife should I pass on before her.
Poem: “Memories are made of this”
A tribute to my lovely wife, Doris Lau
My Dearest Doris,
You need not worry
For my novel told of our story
Which many regard as one of the finest ever told
It was about you, Doris
My beloved wife
Who has a heart of gold
Movies that we watched together in the cinema
In our room, gazing at the shooting star
In the hall, listening to music on the radio
Dancing cheek to cheek as love flows
Decorating the Christmas tree in December
These are fond memories that we can always remember
The fragrance of your soft hair
The sacrifices that you gave
With so much love and tender care
The poems that I wrote for you
My undying affection for you that I so often declare
The songs that I wrote for you
Lifted you up when you were feeling blue
I’m sure when anyone of us goes to a better place
With angels and the Lord in all His Grace
We can live in the beautiful memories that we once shared
And when we reminisce, you will not be so sad, but glad
I want you to know that memories are made of this
Can be much more, for there are so many on the list
For anytime we are apart
I can feel you so close
Deep in my heart
The fond memories will always last
These are beautiful memories I cherish
And my love for you, Doris will never diminish
Raymond Anthony Fernando
Raymond’s book on marriage is expected to be out at the end of December 2011 or even earlier. There are some excerpts from his book that are used in this article. The book, running into more than 130 pages with 18 chapters, excluding mailing charges cost $16. If anyone wants to purchase this book, do drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) with your contact details and I will arrange to mail the book to you. A postage fee of $2 per book will be charged to cover mailing costs if the reader request for the book to be mailed to him/her.
Website of Raymond Anthony Fernando