'Singles, give fate a chance to work magic'

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo advised Singaporean singles to "be proactive and give fate a chance to work its magic."
Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo advised Singaporean singles to "be proactive and give fate a chance to work its magic."PHOTO: ST FILE

That's Josephine Teo's advice to young people ahead of Valentine's Day

Some say matters of the heart are best left to fate. But as couples new and old celebrate Valentine's Day today, the minister in charge of lifting birth rates has this advice for singles: Be proactive and give fate a chance to work its magic.

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo's advice comes as the number of citizen marriages last year saw a slight dip from 2014, but is still the second-highest figure in the last 10 years.

There were 23,805 marriages last year involving at least one Singaporean, down from 24,037 in 2014.

Mrs Teo, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division, said in a Facebook post yesterday that the figures got her thinking about dating and marriage.

She noted that fairy-tale weddings of celebrities and well-known figures, such as Mandopop star Jay Chou and wife Hannah Quinlivan, have dominated headlines for their sheer lavishness in recent years.

Such fairy-tale weddings are fascinating "because there's so much room for imagining the best of everything in the married life that follows the wedding," Mrs Teo said.

But they do not guarantee a lasting marriage and are not necessary.

If her children were to ask her for advice on what makes for a successful marriage, she would ask them to consider the marriage of the late Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew instead.

Mr Lee "was not afraid to marry his intellectual equal", Mrs Teo said. Such unions are far more common now. In 2014, 81 per cent of marriages involved couples where the bride had the same, or higher, qualifications than the groom, up from 77 per cent in 2004.

"What does it take for such a marriage to thrive? Mutual respect, for a start, and mutual support for each other's aspirations in life," she said.

Mrs Teo also cited the marriage of two of her best family friends, whom she called Uncle J and Aunty K. The duo are from different races and have been married for nearly 20 years. At the start, one of their mothers objected to the match.

"By some societal yardsticks, one could say they were not fully compatible. But their relationship has withstood the test of time," she said. "When K had a health scare, J was the pillar of strength. K in turn has, in her quiet way, been J's biggest cheerleader when things have not gone his way."

Inter-ethnic marriages are more common now, making up 20 per cent of all marriages in 2014, up from 13 per cent in 2004.

Mrs Teo also shared her own fairy-tale romance - she and her husband used to date on buses, as it was the cheapest option for them.

"Far more important in getting to your own fairy-tale romance and a lasting marriage is sincerity, a big heart, a generous spirit, and willingness to make sacrifices for the person you love," she said.

But all love stories must start with making time to find that special someone, she added. "What about those of you who are single? Have you reached out to find that special someone?" she said. "Remember, you need to be proactive - to give fate a chance to work its magic."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline ''Singles, give fate a chance to work magic''. Print Edition | Subscribe