Talking with Silvers about love and marriage can be both challenging and interesting. Most Silvers are happy to share their wisdom on a variety of topics. However, some might shy away from sharing their personal experiences on marriage and romance.
Even in movies, which are a barometer of society as a whole, until not long ago, portrayal of love affairs and intimacy between older people was almost taboo as movie makers pandered to stereotypes. In pursuit of the “Silver dollar”, there’s been an increasing representation of seniors in the movies.
But even though things are changing, societal norms are still such that some people find romance amongst Silvers a bit off-putting. Sure, there is a certain element of ageism and stereotyping among the younger set, but even many Silvers themselves seem to find the subject awkward. Nevertheless, attitudes are evolving before our eyes. Maybe that’s in part because society itself is ageing — being “old” is becoming the norm — and because of cultural factors which come into play.
Regardless of what’s happening in movies, in truth, many Silvers enjoy and even crave intimacy, just like everyone else. The nature of our acts and expressions of intimacy may evolve as we age, but our needs and desires are still there even though they may be manifested in, perhaps, more subtle ways.
One couple who were very willing to share about their relationship and the life lessons that came with it is Eric and Elaine Koo. They have enjoyed a long and happy marriage, and Eric was happy to respond to my questions:
1. How long have you and your wife been together? And how did you meet?
We have been married 26 years. We met in 1993 when we were taking catechism classes at The Church of St. Mary of the Angels. After dating two years, we got married on a Saturday night before celebrating Easter Sunday together the next day. And, like many Singaporeans, after registering our marriage, we got the keys to our marital flat and started our life together as a married couple.
2. What do you enjoy doing together now, and what did you enjoy doing together in the early days of your relationship? How have the things you enjoy doing together changed over the years?
One of our key bonding activities is travel, which we have done since the beginning of our relationship. We have consistently taken one long trip (e.g., Europe, America, Australia) and one short trip (e.g., Southeast Asia) every year. Although Covid-19 has temporarily put a damper on that, we look forward to resuming our travels soon. Attending church together is another activity we cherish, and we even still do the proverbial movie and dinner date. But at the same time, we each have interests we pursue on our own — I enjoy cycling, swimming, hiking and mah-jong, while Elaine is into physical activities like yoga and Muay Thai. I believe the fact that there are some activities we enjoy together and others that we enjoy separately only helps to maintain the healthy balance in our relationship.
3. How does having children affect relationships (for you or other couples you may know)?
After being childless for the first eight years of our marriage, we were blessed with two daughters in quick succession. While we very much enjoyed our married life before having children, our daughters have added more strength and depth to our relationship. While, yes, there will always be challenges in any marriage, our daughters have provided an important additional bonding factor and have added priceless dimension to our marriage.
4. What are some of the most cherished memories of your relationship?
Two events immediately come to mind. One is our wedding day which involved several of my loves — family, friends, church and, of course, Elaine. This day was truly a “one and only”. The second event which will always live in my mind is the joy Elaine and I felt upon learning the news that Elaine was finally pregnant, after we had been waiting and hoping for so many years.
5. What advice would you have for singles looking for a mate? And what advice would you have for young couples just starting out?
I think it is very important that prospective couples to get to know each other well before tying the knot. While this may sound obvious, it isn’t always done that way. And it’s important to look beyond the passion. Consider the essence and viability of what will be the foundations of the relationship.
6. Has the way you celebrate holidays, e.g., Christmas, CNY and (especially) Valentine’s Day, changed over the years?
There are four crucial days for us: Valentines Day, my birthday, Elaine’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. This has not changed over the years.
7. And finally, what are your “words of wisdom” regarding the most important ingredients for a happy marriage?
That’s easy — no need to think about this one. There are three:
Trust — This includes the ability and willingness to allow your partner to have his or her own private space
Compromise — Both sides need to go not just halfway, but a little more than halfway. That’s because perceptions of the halfway point can differ depending on point of view; if you both try to give just a bit extra, things will all work out.
Respect — This includes deference for the decisions and opinions of your partner. It also means that each partner must have his or her own domain. In our case, Elaine is in charge of home and family, while I take care of my work-related matters. Another important thing is to avoid interfering each other’s areas, and to avoid making and voicing judgements.
Eric adds that a successful marriage is not necessary a passionate non-stop love affair, but rather happiness and satisfying moments shared with each other and family — and the ability to, together, smooth out those occasional and inevitable bumps in the road.