How Chen Xiuhuan survived the lowest point in her marriage

The ‘Fifty and Fabulous’ actress admits there was a time when she considered divorcing her husband

How Chen Xiuhuan survived the lowest point in her marriage
How Chen Xiuhuan survived the lowest point in her marriage
08 Dec 2017

How Chen Xiuhuan survived the lowest point in her marriage

Photos: Tammi Tan, Elis Ching
Video: Aaron Ho

She recently celebrated her 21st wedding anniversary with a swanky star-studded soiree, but there was a bleak phase not too long ago when Chen Xiuhuan was pondering if she and her husband, a Taiwanese businessman known only as Mr. Tsai, were better off divorced. Gasp!

The 52-year-old actress candidly and casually recounted this turbulent time in her marriage to Toggle during the imaging session for Channel 8 drama Fifty and Fabulous, which will mark her television comeback in a lead role (she also has a smaller part in another upcoming show, Gifted).

“Thankfully, it was only a very short period, but for about six months to a year during our 18th or 19th year of marriage, we couldn’t stand the sight of each other!” she revealed. The once crazy-in-love couple were fighting for seemingly no reason – shocking their poor daughters Shanisse, Shalynn and Shavinne – and Xiuhuan was baffled at how someone she adored could turn into someone she hated. “It might have been because we suddenly felt neglected by each other, which caused some friction.”

It got so bad that at one point, Xiuhuan found herself thinking, deep down inside, about the dreaded D word. “When we got married, we set two conditions: never talk about divorce, and never argue in front of our kids,” she said. While they broke the second rule, she decided to honour the first agreement and never brought up the option of splitting up.

“I’m a very traditional person and couldn’t bear to let my children suffer through [their parents getting a divorce], so we never talked about it, but I did wonder if it would be for the best,” she confessed. “That was personally one of the lowest points in my life.”

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Additional photo: Chen Xiuhuan/Instagram

Chen Xiuhuan: I couldn’t change my husband, so I changed myself
Chen Xiuhuan: I couldn’t change my husband, so I changed myself
08 Dec 2017

Chen Xiuhuan: I couldn’t change my husband, so I changed myself

Instead of wallowing in suffering and self-pity, Xiuhuan shifted her attention to her own interests and enrolled in motivational courses, where one of the lessons happened to be one the keys to healing her marriage. “I observed other couples and finally realised what my problem was,” she said, noting that she hadn’t been aware of behaviour like coming home with a dark expression or speaking rudely. “I couldn’t change my husband, so I changed myself.”

She started with simple gestures, but they worked like a charm. “One day when my husband came home, I said, ‘You’ve worked hard. Do you want to have dinner?’ He was shocked!” she recalled with a chuckle. “I then said sorry for not paying enough attention to him and focusing all my energy on our kids, and he said that was the first time I’d ever said sorry.”

Curious to see what spurred this personality switch in his wife, Xiuhuan’s husband joined the same motivational course as her, and their relationship was soon on the mend. Now, she is able to proudly declare that their union is even more blissful than before.

“When we went out with our daughters in the past, they would be between me and my husband, or he would hold hands with them while I walked behind,” she said. “But these days, my husband and I will hold hands while the kids will be on either side of us.” (Aww, now isn’t that sweet?)

The difficult season also prompted Xiuhuan to change her attitude towards her girls’ studies. “I used to be very strict [with their grades], but now I tell them that even if they don’t get an A, it’s fine as long as they did their best, which is something I would never had said in the past,” she shared. “I’ve learned that the most important thing is for them to be happy.”

Chew Chor Meng and Chen Xiuhuan play a couple in ‘Fifty and Fabulous’
Chew Chor Meng and Chen Xiuhuan play a couple in ‘Fifty and Fabulous’
08 Dec 2017

Chew Chor Meng and Chen Xiuhuan play a couple in ‘Fifty and Fabulous’

Chew Chor Meng and Xiuhuan will once again pair up as husband and wife in Fifty and Fabulous following their partnership in comedy Lucky Boy. The long-time collaborators expressed their joy at being able to work together once again, especially Xiuhuan, who stated that seeing a familiar face would take off the pressure from making her big comeback.

When we asked if Chor Meng will, like Xiuhuan, allow his 13-year-old and 15-year-old daughters to enter showbiz, he said, “It’s up to them. The younger one is more of a drama queen and has the potential, but I don’t think she’s interested at the moment, and I’ve never really encouraged it.”

Edwin Goh may flaunt his abs on screen for the first time
Edwin Goh may flaunt his abs on screen for the first time
08 Dec 2017

Edwin Goh may flaunt his abs on screen for the first time

While those who follow Edwin Goh on Instagram won’t be unfamiliar with his impressive physique, but if the 23-year-old is not mistaken, he will get to bare his bod on television for the first time (well, not counting other occasions when he did so as a scrawny teenager).

“I’ve been too busy with filming to exercise regularly, but I’ll definitely start again,” he said. In Fifty and Fabulous, his character (Xiuhuan and Chew Chor Meng’s son) takes martial arts lessons from a gym owner played by Zheng Ge Ping. “I hope I don’t have to be topless in the same scene as Ge Ping da ge! (laughs)”

Denise Camillia Tan’s attitude to turning 50
Denise Camillia Tan’s attitude to turning 50
08 Dec 2017

Denise Camillia Tan’s attitude to turning 50

“Let it come!” the 25-year-old boldly asserted when we asked if she has any thoughts, fears, reservations etc. about reaching the big 5-0 (although that’s literally twice her current age). “My parents are in their 50s but they’re still young at heart, so I think attitude is important. Age gracefully!”

Fifty and Fabulous premieres May 30, 9pm on Channel 8.

Related:
Jason Oh: “She’s my daughter, not my lover!”
I don’t want to be a stage mum: Chen Xiuhuan

Denise and Xiuhuan will play mother and daughter in 'Fifty and Fabulous'
Denise and Xiuhuan will play mother and daughter in 'Fifty and Fabulous'
08 Dec 2017

Denise and Xiuhuan will play mother and daughter in 'Fifty and Fabulous'

Do you see the resemblance?

Chen Xiuhuan
Chen Xiuhuan
08 Dec 2017

Chen Xiuhuan

Chew Chor Meng
Chew Chor Meng
08 Dec 2017

Chew Chor Meng

Denise and Edwin will play siblings in 'Fifty and Fabulous'
Denise and Edwin will play siblings in 'Fifty and Fabulous'
08 Dec 2017

Denise and Edwin will play siblings in 'Fifty and Fabulous'

Denise and Edwin will play siblings in 'Fifty and Fabulous'
Denise and Edwin will play siblings in 'Fifty and Fabulous'
08 Dec 2017

Denise and Edwin will play siblings in 'Fifty and Fabulous'

Edwin Goh
Edwin Goh
08 Dec 2017

Edwin Goh

Watch:
The cast of Fifty and Fabulous shares their thoughts on turning 50

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