Hold on to time-tested values amid rapid changes

As a young adult, I find Dr Yik Keng Yeong's letter disconcerting (Family values have changed with times; May 26).

I disagree that wedding vows of permanence are not viable for a "younger generation of instant gratification".

It is precisely because we live in a culture of instant gratification that I find pledging my commitment to my future wife - "through thick and through thin", "for better or for worse", "till death do us part" - a comforting anchor to hold on to. It stands as a bulwark against fleeting desires and pleasures.

Dr Yik also suggested divorce as a solution to difficult marriage issues. Barring cases of abuse, I believe more information should be shed on whether divorce is indeed a good solution.

A report by the Institute for American Values found that unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier than unhappily married adults who stayed married.

Divorce also did not reduce symptoms of depression or raise the self-esteem of unhappily married adults, compared with unhappy spouses who stayed married. Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.

Furthermore, it is one thing to say that raising a child in a single-parent home is better than raising a child in a dysfunctional marriage. Given the less-than-ideal circumstances, it may be the next best environment.

But, it is another thing altogether to legally incentivise and encourage such a family structure by making divorce easier.

Research has shown that children who are raised by their married parents do better in life on many fronts.

As Dr Yik pointed out, some family values may have changed over time.

However, not all change is beneficial; there are good changes and bad changes. Just because something has changed does not mean it has become better.

There is a saying: Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.

In a time when change is rapid and constant, perhaps the most progressive thing we can do is to hold on to time-tested values that are cherished and passed down by many cultures across the world.

One such value that has stood the test of time is honouring one's marriage vows. This will be good for us, our children and our society.

Zhang Jieqiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'Hold on to time-tested values amid rapid changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe