Two couples share how marrying young gave them a head start in life.
By April Zara Chua
While the national average age for marriage may have been increasing through the years, there are couples who found bliss in marrying young and who have had the pleasure of enjoying more years together as a couple, and eventually, as a family.
Starting a life together
Aaron Tan, 30, and Kerina Ang, 29, first met through online social networking site Friendster in 2004. They chatted online and exchanged phone numbers, eventually meeting in person a few weeks later. The pair hit it off instantly and began a relationship soon after.
“We were really young when we first met and there was a lot of excitement in getting to know each other. But most importantly, we had chemistry and that chemistry stuck,” says Aaron. What ultimately won him over was discovering how caring and understanding Kerina was. Kerina felt that Aaron’s loyal and kind-hearted nature was an important quality she valued in a relationship. Overtime, the two forged such a strong connection that they just couldn’t wait to spend the rest of their lives together. The couple dated for a year and a half before getting married.
Despite mixed reactions from their parents and friends, the couple stood by their decision and won everyone over by following through with their responsibilities. They welcomed a son the following year and a second son the year after, all while juggling their respective tertiary educations and National Service (NS).
After the birth of their first son, Kerina took time for her diploma in Mass Communications at TMC Academy, and upon completion, the couple was ready to expand their family.
With their decision to start a big family early, Aaron pursued his degree in Mass Communications part time at Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) while serving NS. “Kerina was pregnant with our second kid during that time. I decided to juggle my studies and NS to save some time, so I won’t miss any precious moments with my kids.”
There were also other sacrifices that the couple had to make in their early years. “At that age, most of our peers were partying and drinking, but we had made a commitment to each other and to our family, and we wanted to honour that commitment. This is also something that we want to instill in our kids,” says Aaron. In 2013, the couple welcomed their third child.
“In those early years, we really gave each other a lot of reassurances, and encouraged each other on every personal endeavour. We were each other’s study buddies, source of strength and pillar of support,” says Aaron.
Aaron and Kerina have no regrets marrying young. They have close bonds with their kids, and starting their family early has freed them up from the bulk of child-rearing responsibilities and they can now put more focus on their careers and their time together as a couple.
Because they have a smaller age gap with their kids, the couple shares that their older sons tend to speak their mind more freely and express their emotions better. “I don’t know what they would really say about us but I would say I am a cool dad. Firm, but cool,” says Aaron.
Kerina adds: “With the smaller age gap, I would say we know their ‘tricks’ a little better if they want to get out of something. You can't fool me, but at the same time, it calls for playful teasing which makes the relationship a lot better. We can't be serious all the time, can we?”
The right person for life
Juwanda Bin Iman, 55, and Manisah Bte Osman, 54, first met in 1986 when they were roped in by some friends to plan a Hari Raya event for their alma mater. The both of them had good first impressions of each other, and it wasn’t long before they started dating. Juwanda was 23 and Manisah was 22.
They enjoyed each other’s company and got to know each other more as their attraction grew. Manisah found Juwanda to be a chivalrous, respectful and kind-hearted man who had good looks and a good sense of humour to boot. In Manisah, Juwanda found a funny and intelligent woman whom he developed great admiration for. The pair was inseparable and saw each other almost on a daily basis.
The decision to tie the knot early came easily and naturally as both had qualities they were looking for in a life partner. “I wanted to see her every day, I enjoyed all our moments together, and I didn’t want to lose her to someone else,” shares Juwanda. “I just felt I’d met the right person with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life with as he appeared to be a responsible, reliable and mature person,” says Manisah.
Juwanda and Manisah tied the knot a year later. At that point of time, Juwanda had just joined the workforce as a technician (in the same company he’s been with for more than 30 years now) and Manisah was still studying to become a teacher, which raised slight concerns with their families. But the pair, confident with their decision, persevered. On their own, they managed to purchase their first home, a resale 3-room flat in Ang Mo Kio right after getting married.
They stayed at Manisah’s mother’s place for a week before they moved into their own home. Two years after getting married, they welcomed their first son, followed by a daughter a year later. The family grew again in 1994 when they welcomed their youngest.
The couple admits that their biggest challenge in the early years was managing their finances. Buying their flat, becoming parents and hiring a domestic helper were their biggest financial commitments at the time. In spite of these challenges, they always found a way to pull through by learning the importance of being thrifty, spending money wisely, and by being there for each other.
Their bond grew stronger as the years passed and they attribute their solid foundation to their core beliefs: “We share the same values of putting our family first. We emphasise on the importance of mutual respect, care and compassion. Responsibility is very important, too.”
Looking back after 31 years of marriage and three children, Juwanda and Manisah believe they wouldn’t change a thing except perhaps worry less about the finances and relax more. Marrying young also allowed them to enjoy their time with the kids. “We got to spend a considerable amount of time with our children since we didn’t feel too old to join them in having fun – even today we feel the same way!” says Manisah.
At your own pace
Marriage is a big commitment and is certainly a life changing event, but both couples agree that age shouldn’t matter, and it’s more important to have faith that everything will happen in its own time.
Juwanda and Manisah share: “There are pros and cons to marrying when you’re young (or old), but once you’ve met the right person, you have to believe that you can make the marriage work! Talk to each other every day. We both do it and love it very much.”
Aaron and Kerina add: “The first step is always the hardest but be resilient, be committed, and always be there for each other. Everything else will fall into place.”