Mon, 25 Dec 2000

Finding Mr. or Ms. Right could be a headache

JAKARTA (JP): Time has a way of changing everything. The younger generation are now more outspoken than their parents. They want greater freedom in their life, not only in expressing their views but also the freedom to choose their soulmate.

In this cosmopolitan city of Jakarta, young people meet all kinds of individuals who come from different backgrounds and have different characters. There are many cafes and entertainment centers where they can relax and meet new friends. There are many parties and other social gatherings to attend. Finding Ms. or Mr. Right should not be a problem. Right? Not necessarily.

At the age of 26, Philinda Sihombing, a chemical engineer at PT Petro Nusantara Interindo, is yet to find her prince charming. A graduate of Saint Louis University in The Philippines said that she twice fell in love but had to break off the relationships as both boyfriends had a different religion to her.

As a Batak, born in Jakarta, Philinda does not mind having a husband from a different nationality or ethnicity- one of her sisters is married to a Chinese Indonesian, but when it comes to religion, she has a different view. "My parents are really strict about religion, they would kill me if I was to marry a man of a different religion."

A devout Christian, she insists though, that the decision to have a husband with the same faith is entirely her own conviction and she would not allow her parents to interfere.

"Religion is a sensitive matter. If a couple have a different religion from when they first meet then, it will be difficult to maintain that relationship because each religion has its own set of traditions that are individual," she said.

Religion is only one of the elements in the decision making process of a relationship. Love is a must. But love alone is not enough. There are of course many other things. Some may put more emphasis on physical appearance, education or financial matters, but for others, what's more important is that they can talk to each other.

"It does not matter how handsome or rich he is, but of course if he is dumb, then, just forget it," Philinda laughed.

Idris, a communication staffer with a company, also failed twice in relationships.

The first girl dashed his hopes after she learned that Idris was not that financially well off. As a consequence she then married her friend, who was a manager at a financial services company.

Deli Sumatran, a 33 year old Malaysian, lost his second girlfriend, a Javanese, because she said that she preferred to marry a man who came from a similar background.

Graphic designer Uwi Nugroho, 27, has another story.

Two years ago, he broke up with his girlfriend because they were not suited to each other. But he also admitted that their three-year relationship ended probably because he spent too much time at his work and too little time with her.

He said that he usually returns home at 9 p.m. or later and at present he would not think about finding a new girlfriend. Asked about his ideal woman, he said "she should be broad-minded." "Otherwise she will not be able to follow my arguments."

He added she must be a Muslim, just like him.

Marta Muryati, not her real name, a post graduate student at the City University of London, also has a problem finding a boyfriend because most people she meets have a different religion. She wrote via e-mail that recently she has changed her attitude on this matter, "because I am growing older."

Psychologist Monty P. Satiadarma regretted that people still put serious consideration on religion when choosing their marriage partners.

"Indeed, the problem can't be avoided since it is innate. Such problems also occur in the United States. However, in many cases, we can still see different flowers growing in our garden, can't we?" he said, comparing a multi-cultural society with a garden.

He made an interesting observation about why people these days often have difficulties when looking to choose a partner.

"Nowadays, young people have greater freedom to choose their soulmate. In this state of freedom, they become confused by the choices, as it is this freedom that has forced them to create complex considerations for themselves," Monty, who is also the dean of Psychology Faculty of the private Tarumanegara University, told The Jakarta Post at his office.

Monty stressed that the scene was different in the past, because at that time, young people found limited "social interaction challenges."

"In some cases, a girl, for example, was forced to get married when she was 12-year old. There were also others who did not have any chance to find their own soulmate because their parents had them 'married off' from before they were born," he said.

Agustin Sukarlan, a psychologist at the University of Indonesia, shared Monty's view that this greater freedom has created complicated dilemmas for young people to find their suitable partners. "These dilemmas vary, ranging from social status to tribes and religions," she said.

Agustin, who is also head of clinical psychology division at a noted university, formulated a number of reasons which forced young people to be selective in their choices for suitable partners.

She said young people tend to choose partners with the same social status, since they want to maintain their status niche.

Financial matters could also count. "Some people will not make a decision to choose a serious partner, until they obtain a managerial position with an attractive salary," she said.

Despite these restrictions, young people should be optimistic that they will one day find somebody to spend the rest of their life with.

"Globalization can't be avoided. Young people have great access today in finding their partners like Internet and others," said Agustin.

Therefore, they should not worry about not getting a soulmate who suits their preferences, since there are many choices available out there.

The most important thing to remember is don't be too fast in making a decision about whether people are suitable or not.

"Try to get know him/her well first," Agustin said. "If you find any differences (in views or expectations), as long as both of you are willing to adjust yourselves through an intensive relationship, the differences will be resolved."

In this case, we might have to listen to a Javanese proverb: awiting tresno jalaran soko kulino (love comes from intensive contacts). (asa/sim)