updated 9 Aug 2013, 13:06
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Tue, Aug 06, 2013
The Straits Times
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The three-year itch
by Sumiko Tan

Time flies.

I celebrated my third wedding anniversary recently. It almost slipped my mind.

My anniversary was on a Thursday. On Tuesday, a friend at work asked me if I was going to take leave on Thursday afternoon (I had meetings to attend in the morning.) I looked at her blankly.

Why would I want to take half-day leave, I asked.

It's your anniversary, she said, laughing.

Oh gosh, I replied. I'd completely forgotten.

I asked a colleague who sits next to me in the office if she takes the day off to celebrate her wedding anniversary.

Oh yes, she said, then added: But I've been married for only three years.

I told her that I've been married the same amount of time too.

In the end, I left the office at 8.30pm on Thursday.

I wondered if H would remember the day. He did - barely.

The date struck him before he left for work, and I woke up that morning to find a note from him wishing us a happy third anniversary and a card in which he'd drawn an image (rather unflattering though) of me.

He suggested an early dinner somewhere nice, but I had to finish some work first. Why don't you go to the gym and I'll meet you after that and we'll eat, I said.

When the time came, the thought of driving all the way from my workplace in Toa Payoh to Orchard Road just to have dinner seemed too much of a hassle.

I messaged him to buy some takeaway instead.

I picked him up at the MRT station near my office and we had dinner at home in the kitchen - beef horfun and cheng tng from the Ion food court, and a falafel wrap from a stall outside Ngee Ann City.

It wasn't a fancy meal but we were hungry and it was quite delicious.

He surprised me with an anniversary present - a necklace with a crystal pendant (third-anniversary gifts should be in leather, crystal or glass) - which he had bought on the way to the gym.

I didn't get him anything because I didn't think he was going to get me something.

It was late by the time we finished and we went to bed soon after.

So much for a romantic anniversary.

Three years of marriage is short in the scheme of things. But three years is apparently some kind of a marital milestone.

Under Singapore law, a person must have been married for at least three years before he can file a writ for divorce under the ground of irretrievable breakdown, which is the sole ground the Court here looks at.

Exceptions to the three-year rule can be made only if you can prove "exceptional hardship" or "exceptional depravity".

Divorce is the last thing on my mind, of course. But my marriage turning three got me thinking how there must be a reason the lawmakers decided that three years is the make-or-break mark in a marriage.

A 2011 study of 2,000 British adults in steady relationships indicates that they were on the right track.

The survey - done to promote the comedy Hall Pass in which some married guys get time off from their marriage - found that couples start feeling restless around the 36th month.

The frequency of sexual intimacy dips around the three-year mark, as do the number of compliments you get from your partner (from three a week in the first flush of passion to one measly one).

Sixty-seven per cent of those interviewed said that traits which they had found endearing about their partners early in the relationship became intolerable around the three-year mark.

The top 10 things that irritated them, in order of the most annoying:

-Weight gain/lack of exercise
-Money habits
-Anti-social working hours
-Hygiene issues/personal cleanliness
-In-laws/extended family matters
-Lack of romance/sex
-Alcohol intake
-Snoring and other bedtime habits
-Lousy fashion taste such as wearing the same old underwear
-Bathroom habits including "stray nail cuttings"

While I wouldn't say I'm bothered by H's stray nail clippings (they don't stray anyway; he's a neat clipper), it is true in my case that time does strip away the lovey-doveyness in a marriage.

In the first two years of our marriage, we were glued to each other like Siamese twins.

We spent practically every minute of our weekends together, even if we were in the throes of a quarrel or doing different things (he watching TV and I on the iPad).

These days, he's often found in one part of the house and I in another. We don't seem to need each other's company as much.

At the three-year mark, other hard truths have also started to emerge.

One is how, even though we're a married couple, we're also individuals with different interests and tastes.

While it would be sweet if we continued doing everything together like we did in the beginning, there are just some things he likes which I never will (like going to the gym and playing chess) and vice versa (watching hilariously bad teen comedies).

I'm beginning to accept that it's okay that our interests don't always meet.

Having individual activities doesn't mean the marriage isn't working out.

I now also get it when people say you have to really work at keeping the romantic spark alive in a marriage.

Now that we're firmly wed, the novelty of being a couple has gone, as has the thrill of the chase.

It's easy to take each other for granted, to dress sloppily at home, to play Candy Crush late into the night when I should be looking into his eyes and talking to him, and to generally be lazy about pleasing him.

When it came to celebrating our third anniversary, he passed with flying colours - the card, the present, the plans to have a nice dinner.

I, on the other hand, failed miserably.

But if I'm lucky, we'll have many more anniversaries for me to make it up to him.

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readers' comments

Miku, tell me the truth, you don't think this way too?:confused:
Posted by Seekeroftruth on Thu, 8 Aug 2013 at 12:42 PM

The same problem loh. Notice no 'We' in the article. Everything also i, i, i. The writer is already independent and doesn't see her life as a couple. She is confused and thought it is normal and marriage needs to have effort in order to have spark. After years of giving effort, she might feel worn-out and eventually things fail.

Marriage means starting a new life as a couple and we no longer only think as one person. The other person's habit is now yours, the other person's dream is now yours. When the word "we" is used naturally, whatever lack of spark or whatever lack of sex is no longer important.
Posted by mikuhatsune on Thu, 8 Aug 2013 at 12:35 PM
in general ,3 yrs, and 7 yrs is the crisis time....

but with today fast pace working lifestyle....a lot of sex happened before marriage, multiple sexual relationship with others carried forwards into the marriage, so extra marital already happened long before marriage
Posted by jameslee58 on Thu, 8 Aug 2013 at 11:15 AM
3 year itch?!! hahahaha For some men, its a perpetual itch! eg. SOT

I wonder why they bother to get married when they set out to keep gfs and mistresses right from the start.
Posted by kopikid on Thu, 8 Aug 2013 at 10:42 AM
So long there's sex, you should be fine. Maybe baby? :D
Posted by mystrawberry on Thu, 8 Aug 2013 at 09:52 AM

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