Articles : We are Married, For Better Or Worse 2016-10-23T15:24:05+00:00


When 21-year-old NS man Anthony Neo knocked the army truck he was driving into a pedestrian, romance was the furthest thing from his mind.
After the accident, he decided to pay a visit to the victim’s home, where he met and became acquainted with her sister, Ivy. One day, at the invitation of a mutual friend, both of them went to a movie. Then, 20, Ivy found Anthony “good-looking” and “sincere”.
Before long, they started dating. Besides going to more movies, they spent evenings at Katong Park and the public space behind the former Ocean Theater. On Saturdays, they attended church service together.
Every day, Anthony would cycle to Ivy’s home, even if it was for a quick chat. “I was simply smitten by her. She was so pretty, bubbly and always had interesting things to say,” the now 52-year-old plumber says.
Meanwhile, Ivy started discovering Anthony’s other strengths. “Visiting his family was an eye-opening experience,” she says. I realised that he helped keep the house clean and neat. I was impresssed.”
Six months after they started dating, Anthony popped the question. In 1976, the couple was married in a ceremony at the Church Of Our Lady Of Perpetual Succour. In the same year, too, Ivy gave birth to daugther Angelina. Three years later, son Elvin arrived.
Living together meant they had to learn to accommodate and adapt to each other’s quirks and habits. Their differences in personality and opinion let to constant squabbles. Fortunately, divorce was never considered an option.
“Ironically, most of those arguments arose from misunderstandings,” says Ivy, “and nothing directly linked to our relationship. In fact, they often concerned our different opinions about our friends or problems they faced. I think we simply couldn’t let go of the unpleasant feelings and allowed them to simmer until the situation become more serious.”
They also approached parenting differently. For instance, while Anthony was a loving dad, he was also protective of Angela. So whenever the child fell and hurt herself, he would express his unhappiness by ticking Ivy off. Fortunately, she refused to let it get to her. “I would persuage him to take it easy because it is quite normal for children to fall and get minor scratches or bruises,” she says.
In 1987, the couple signed up for a marriage-counselling programme known as Marriage Encounter Weekend organised by Catholic Church Of Singapore. It became a turning point in their marriage.
Ivy credits the event for helping them rediscover the principle of a successful marriage. “It wasn’t that we were going through a rough patch. But we were reminded of the importance of cherishing each other, spending time with each other and showing understanding, care and concern,” she says.
Instead of allowing their anger to fester, they now communicate such negative emotions through letters. Anthony says that penning these thoughts allows both parties to check their tone while giving each time and space to reflect on his or her emotions. They also make it a point to get some couple-time every day. Before Anthony leaves for work at 9am, he and Ivy go for breakfast at a nearby coffee-shop. She then returns home before Angelina and her husband Cedric Pan, 31, a retail manager, head for the office, to take care of her grandchildren, Xavier, two, and Anais, five months.
The couple also go on a holiday every year. They have visited Chinam Israel, Europe and New Zealand. Anthony admits he used to gripe about the amount they had to put aside for these trips, but he has come to appreciate the significance of these trips.
“Some couples become frustrated after being together for a long time. Being understanding and considerate towards each other is the key to a long-lasting marriage. After all, we vowed to cherish each other through all circumstances,” says Ivy.