By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
This September will mark my 22nd wedding anniversary, and the only thing I keep asking myself is “how the heck did that happen?”
I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s been an amazing adventure right from the start, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But boy, did that go fast.
Twenty-two years ago, I was playing in a tennis league every week. Now my son is the one playing in a league.
But in our family, 22 years is just a drop in a bucket.
My mom is going to a family reunion next month and asked me to scan a bunch of pictures of her brothers and sisters and put a video together for the celebration. In the middle of scanning some wedding photos I suddenly realized that of all my uncles and aunts — six on my mother’s side and 17 on my father’s side, there hasn’t been a single divorce. Not a one.
I’ve read studies that show that the divorce rate for Asians is around 5 percent, about 45 percent lower than the national average. Some people say that it’s due to the importance Asians place on family. Others say that culturally, divorce is frowned upon, which is why couples will endure just about anything before they decide to divorce.
This all may be true — I don’t really know. All I do know is what works for me and my wife, Maya.
A few days after our wedding, my father-in-law, a gentle and good man, decided he should give me some words of wisdom on how to have a successful marriage to his daughter. I remember his advice as clear as day.
He said, “Son, at some point Maya is going to get angry with you for something you did. My advice to you is that when it happens, leave her alone for a while. Don’t try to fix the situation. Just leave her alone and not talk about the problem until later. That’s what I would do.”
I was definitely moved by his advice. This dear, sweet man had taken it upon himself to do what he could to get our lives together off to a strong start. He was absolutely sincere, and I could see that his advice was heartfelt.
He passed away a few years later, but I never forgot his words of wisdom.
It’s been 22 years now, and I definitely took his advice. When Maya would get angry, I gave her some space. I didn’t talk about why she was angry or what I could do. I’d let her calm down first.
If somehow I could turn back time and reach out to him, or maybe communicate with him now, wherever he is up there, I’d want to tell him:
Father Hu, thanks for taking the time to help me. And if there is one thing I could say about your advice to just not talk about the problem Maya has with me when she’s angry, I would tell you — it doesn’t work!
In fact, if anything, it just makes things worse! She gets more and more mad, and accuses me of not dealing with the problem! The more I stay quiet, the angrier she gets! I would say that giving her space and not talking about the problem is the absolute, 100 percent opposite thing of what I should do! Every time I’ve tried it, I’ve regretted it! What the heck were you thinking when you gave me that advice?
And before you ask, no, I don’t think he was secretly trying to break us up.
Anyways, now that I’ve been married 22 years and have 15-year-old triplets, I feel that I am now qualified to provide some advice of my own. The least I can do is to impart some of my wisdom to my children who will someday marry the partner of their dreams.
Here’s what I would say to them:
Some day you’re going to meet the special someone in your life. And when that day comes, I want you to know that a successful marriage only works if you work at it. Therefore, based on my own experience, I would like to share the five rules to having a successful marriage.
One. Your anniversary is important. Remember that date. Write it down somewhere. Tattoo the date on your arm if you have to. At my house, I own a parrot and have taught it to say, “Don’t forget about September 29, you idiot! Squak!”
Two. If your wife becomes very quiet and when you ask her if there’s anything wrong and she say’s, “nothing”, you are in serious trouble. Immediately think of everything you’ve done in the last 24 hours. Immediately recall all the things your wife told you not to do. Compare and contrast those lists. When you come across a match — bingo.
Three. Arguing to prove you’re right is rarely ever worth the effort. On the other hand, buying a bouquet of flowers only takes a few minutes.
Four. When she’s asking for your opinion, don’t reply by saying, “Is this a trick question?”
And finally, five. Record the Sunday football game. This allows you to say, “Sweetie, would you like to go antiquing? I can always watch the game some other time.” Trust me — it’s worth it.
And finally, in 30 years or so, if any of my advice seems to backfire on you, all I can say is — take it up with grandpa. He started this. (end)
Wayne Chan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.