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Ties that bind

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By Mavis Hooi
Do you ever think of how your family has shaped your character and the way you interact with other people? Do you ever wonder how your relationship with your family can affect marriages and friendships? In this month's article, we examine the importance of family in a relationship.


Being the ones who brought you up in normal circumstances, you would naturally be imbued with values your parents taught you. As Asians, the support and blessing of our parents is very important, especially when it comes to romance and marriage. Filial piety still figures strongly in the Asian culture, no matter how modern we've become. When it all boils down, we just want to know that we have done our duty to our parents.

When you've been dating someone 'exclusively' for some time, it's likely that you'll want to start thinking about marriage. This will inevitably lead to you and your partner seeking the blessing of both sets of parents. Why ask for their blessing? Because you both silently want assurance that you're making the right decision. Because your parents have been doing their best to guide you wisely since you were little and you need their counsel for what is to be one of the most important events of your life.

It is for this reason that objections from parents for what they regard as unsuitable pairings almost always make the couple very uncomfortable. This is proof that your family's opinion is often very important in deciding where the relationship is heading.

Clear Sight

Parents see things and situations more clearly than their child who's involved in the relationship. Love can blind one to certain flaws: the fact that one's lover is married, the fact that he/she doesn't have a proper job, the fact that he/she needs a little non-returnable cash loan now and then for 'expenses'.

Your parents are often very good at weeding out candidates deemed unsuitable and unworthy for their precious child. Maybe his pot-smoking habit isn't an issue with you now, but mom observes that addictive tendencies are unlikely to fade away even after marriage. Perhaps her taste for expensive meals throughout the month (even when cash is low) doesn't matter that much to you now, but dad reminds you that it'll be a bit hard to set up a stable household when most of your salary is spent on extravagant meals.

A Sense of Belonging

Humans are social creatures, and thus most of us need to be a part of a group of people: having a family, a group of friends, our tennis kakis, our mates from the chess club or our lunch clique at work. We need to feel a sense of belonging, to be with people with whom we share something. Among these, your family should have the strongest bond with you.

When we're in our teens and early adulthood, many of us don't think of our family as being the people we're closest to, often preferring to confide in and spend time with our friends. Many of us take our families for granted. However, though you may think that your partner is family enough for you, being with the people who brought you up and who grew up with you is equally important.

Once we get married and have children of our own, we'll start to realise the importance of kin. After all, once your friends start settling down, they too will devote more time to their spouses and children. It's not that they don't regard you as a friend anymore; it's just that their priorities have changed - it's a natural progression in life.

Blood is thicker

Does love conquer all? When you have to choose between your family and your lover because your parents object to your relationship, what would you do? Marry your lover without their blessing or stay with your family and let go of the person who may be your soul mate? Many will consider leaving their families for the person they love.

However, you must also carefully consider this: if you marry the person your family disapproves of and are disowned as a result, you are sure to have some regrets later. When you have children of your own, you may feel isolated and may long for contact with your family of origin.

Severing family ties is a very big step. It means not communicating with the people who brought you into this world and up; it means a sort of cold war between you and your family. That's not half of it.

You can be sure that every time you argue with your partner, you will question the wisdom of your decision. You'll probably ask yourself: "Is this what I left my family for?", and consequently could end up building up a very unhealthy resentment towards your lover.

So, are there any other reasons why you should not get yourself disowned? One distinct benefit of keeping in cordial contact with your family of origin is the security to know that you have kin who can help you if you ever fall on rough times. This is not to say that you should only keep in contact with your family as a security blanket; it's just one of the many good things that result from being in a close-knit, happy family.

In conclusion, what I'm trying to say is just that you should try your best to be in touch with your parents, siblings, grandparents and other relatives as much as possible, even when you have your own family. After all, isn't it better to have close kin rather than strangers as relatives?


Don't neglect your family whether or not you're attached or married. Spend quality time with them: have dinner, picnics, chats and long walks with them. Make traditional delicacies with them or help to decorate the house during the festive season.

Try to resist the urge to worm yourself out of reunion and wedding dinners! Many people I know prefer not to attend these occasions simply because they find them deadly boring. However, if you don't attend, you'll miss out on chances to meet and greet relatives you don't get to see very often. If you haven't been going to these family gatherings, just go for the heck of it - you just might have some fun!

Listen and consider the opinions of family about your spouse/partner, even though the comments are negative. There's probably at least some truth in what they're saying.

Try your best to give a good first impression to your in-laws and maintain good relations with them. You wouldn't want to start off on the wrong foot with your partner's family and be poorly regarded by them after that, would you?
By Mavis Hooi

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