Perhaps this is out of place, or just anachronistic, but I feel an urge to respond to a newspaper article “Women, Be Strong” with a simple motive of providing some alternative views on our life in Hong Kong (and elsewhere). I would like to share three thoughts here.
First, paradigm shift.
I view life as a project to be created and directed by oneself. I aim to consciously lead my life with articulated strategies to achieve self-chosen goals while counteracting the forces of mundane habits and social hypnotism.
Yes, enculturation in Hong Kong has to be utterly resisted! From time to time I remind myself to be critical of the hypnotic influences of the mass media. I watch less TV but read more books on thinking skills and accumulate wisdom through learning and concrete life experiences. I exchange ideas with friends to stimulate lateral thinking and counteract my irrational subjectivity.
Nowadays in Hong Kong we devote excessive time and efforts in working/studying to prepare for work but insufficient time and efforts in finding a life-long partner, an essential developmental task that has to be completed before we can proceed to the next stage of development. “To begin with the end in mind,” one should view this life event from the perspective of the total life cycle. A life-long partner gratifies our needs for sex (of decreasing significance as one ages) and more importantly, for intimate relationship (lasting the whole life long). The arrival of child(ren) elevates our life to a fuller level yet. The intrinsic feeling of our life extended in our offspring, the satisfaction of a created legacy, is largely irreplaceable.
Not setting up a family due to financial constraint is a false argument. It is the paradigm of economic servitude.
Second, strategic timing.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” We all have a biological clock ticking inside. For a woman the hormonal regulation is vital in shaping her sexual appearance (and thus attractiveness), her mood, her fertility… Nature is more lenient to man in this regard but nevertheless time is still always pressing on inexorably.
So the strategy is simply “first thing first.” We have to give full weight to the era of courtship from the perspective of the total life cycle.
If this development task of forming a family is not completed in time, one may find the life structure unsatisfactory or even intolerable. When the neglected parts of the self yearn for expression, one should then explore new possibilities and make new choice to provide a basis for a new life structure.
Third, tactical chance encounter.
Luck plays a vital role in this aspect of life because finding the “right” partner depends on chance encounter and involves another person’s choice. For actions within our grasp, the key is to proactively create opportunities, and prepare ourselves to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Here emotional risk-taking plays a vital role. We are sometimes caught unprepared or are ill-equipped when confronted by the challenging situations of dating (especially relevant to me and others from single-sex schools). To venture into a new stage of life with a view to fostering growth, it is essential that we take risk and overcome whatever emotional obstacles are lying ahead.
One way to prepare ourselves for chance encounter is to counteract our conservative traditional Chinese family enculturation by training ourselves to deliberately adopt an open attitude to novel experiences and expanding our spontaneous behavioral repertoires. There are many counseling services teaching techniques in social effectiveness and in conditioning our mind-set.
We can also proactively pursue experiences of chance encounter. Nowadays even in Hong Kong, there are many interest clubs, arrangements for socializing dinners and even matchmaking services. These ventures all involve emotional risk-taking so naturally they arouses negative emotions of anticipatory anxiety, fear, hurt feelings, embarrassment, loss, rejection, insecurity, regret, ... One technique in handling the negative emotions is to keep reminding ourselves that the accompanied negative emotions will surely pass away soon enough, while the rewards of the new life structure could last for the whole life.
Finding the “right” partner is perhaps a false proposition. I don’t find many couples who are “right” for each other. Instead, I think the key is the mutual ability of both to love each other. When loving each other, we have to compromise of course, but compromise is always with limits. I found it hard to compromise, but it turned out that the secret of loving each other lied not in compromising, but in the unconditional acceptance of her as whom she was, and her mutual unconditional acceptance of me as whom I was.
I am a lucky man.
“The Seasons of a Man’s Life” by Daniel J. Levinson, New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1985
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, New York: Simon Schuster, 1989