Sunday, 10 June 2018

Ahok's divorce and the challenge of marriage.

It is a sad day. A day marked by a broken marriage. 

Ahok's divorce from his wife, Veronica, was granted by the court. He is 51 and she is 40. They have three children, 19, 16 and 11.

Here's a brief background.

Basuki met Veronica when she was 19, and he proposed to her in 1997. 

At that time, they were both active members of the Kristus Yesus church in Pluit, North Jakarta. She was a member of the church's choir and he was on the church committee.

Basuki loved the way she played the piano and sang, and she fell for his resolute character.

When Basuki decided to enter politics, she decided to follow him and supported him wherever he went. 

Even when he was partnering Joko Widodo in 2012 and became the deputy governor and governor of Jakarta in 2014, Veronica was his dutiful wife, supporting him and ferrying their children to and fro. 

She performed her role as a mother faithfully to her successful politician husband.

Then came the public revelation according to court's record and evidence. 

Basuki presented to the court that "the marriage is no longer harmonious due to his wife's love affair with Mr Julianto Tio."

The evidence consisted of "conversation between (Tio) and (Veronica)" which included "form of photos of chats from a mobile messaging app". It revealed "a close and special relationship."

Basuki's sister, Ms Fifi, filled in the gap here about their secret relationship. 

She said that Tio was a former friend of Veronica's sister. Tio was a married businessman and Ms Fifi said that "his affair with (Veronica) stretched seven years."

It reports as follows:-

"Describing Mr Tio as a "deadly seducer", (Ms Fifi) said that Basuki exhausted all efforts to keep the family together, including confronting Mr Tio in 2016 to leave his wife alone for the sake of both marriages.""

Even Basuki's son confronted Tio "to tell him to keep away." But Tio denied the romantic relationship, "though they continued to contact each other."

What is disconcerting is that the evidence in court showed that "(Veronica) had concealed the identity of her "good friend", Mr Tio, on her mobile phone by using a nickname for him."

The judge said: "To deceive anyone, including her husband, (Veronica) changed the name of Julianto Tio on her mobile phone to another name, Medan Elang (meaning "eagle")." And they would communicate in Hokkien which the husband does not speak."

Veronica did not engage a lawyer to defend her and all parties did not appear in court. 

Basuki (Ahok) is currently in jail for blasphemy. He has been serving his sentence of two years since May last year. 

Lesson? One. 

I think the danger of marriage is the danger of the idea of the perfect couple. And let me be frank. I suspect the "poison" in the wedding cake is the poison of unearthly expectations. 

The perfect couple must be everything to the other, that is, a consistent provider, a super-sexual lover, a self-sacrificing partner, an unconditional giver, a tireless spouse, a stimulating companion and best friend, even soul mate.

I once talked to a friend (who is married now) and she admitted to me that she desires for a simple and godly husband who satisfies about 36 of her criteria of what makes up a Christlike Husband, that is, he has to be honest, humble, responsible, forgiving, loving, faithful and the list went on and on. 

Her expectations were truly unearthly, and in my mind, should she find such a man, I don't even know whether she will be worthy of him.

Alas, I think the greatest challenge to monogamy is to think of the marriage as a series of tests to be fulfilled (or hoops to be jumped over) once you walk down the aisle with your so-called ideal partner. 

As such, we enter into holy matrimony armed with a checklist, and then as the day goes by, and the weeks turn to months and years, we start to feverishly tick the boxes of eagerly anticipated virtues as if we stand apart from the union like a quality inspector checking for faults and flaws in an assembled product. 

But human relationship, especially a union meant to last a lifetime (or both lifetimes), brooks no binary answers, clear-cut definitions or easy resolutions. 

It is not like a cut or a wound where you can plaster it over and watch it heal overnight. And once the scars are gone, the pain is wholly forgotten. 

In fact, there is a word (or two) for marriages where couples never disagree, argue or have differences. It is called separation or emotional divorce. 

In the same way you can't divide a sunbeam with a butter knife, you cannot expect a wound of the heart to be healed or stitched up overnight, where the pain of a betrayal is both totally forgiven and completely forgotten. 

The irony is that the prerequisite for forgiveness is remembering. The only difference is that what is remembered is not so much the pain and hurts of the past but the mutual pact to heal and overcome in the future. 

So, remembering is the forward-looking verb to the future tense of forgiveness. 

Let me end with trust. It is indispensable in a marriage. 

If you can't trust, you enter this marital journey at your own peril. It is like a backpacker going on a road trip by staring at his map all the time without even bothering to survey his surrounding once in a while to see where he is heading to. 

The map is the ideal we jealously hold about marriage and monogamy. It is always well delineated, well presented with colours and all. But it is not the actual reality, that is, the actual journey we trek upon.

And because the map does not reflect reality, and does not reveal all its meandering and even treacherous nuances, we often lose our way and fall by the wayside. Some of us even give up the journey. 

But trust in marriage is like the horizon we see before us. It is an experiential journey with your covenantal partner, and both of you take it with your eyes and hearts fully open, ready to meet the challenges ahead, that is, the insidious bends and sharp turns, and to eventually overcome together. 

More importantly, trust does not hide our human vulnerabilities or brokenness, but it joins (or melds) them with maturity, resilience and hope.

And because with trust, unlike the metaphor of a map, you see beyond the trials that a couple face to the endless horizon of hope, devotion and love. As such, your marriage is always resilient and transforming to overcome disappointments, broken expectations and even emotional betrayal. Cheerz.

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