The Emerging Family Report

Introduction

The Emerging Family Report presents a summary of the discussions held at State of the Family 2024: Shaping Next Generation Relationships. State of the Family is Focus’ annual event which aims to provide our key partners with an analysis of emerging trends impacting the Family.

Who exactly are the 
Emerging Families? They consist of the young families of today and the youth of our nation, both of whom represent the future of Singapore.

Key highlights include the results from Focus’ 
Fatherhood Involvement and Marriage Aspirations Survey and FamChamps® #FamilyForTheWin Survey, which were both conducted in 2023.

The observations, discussion questions, and insights presented in this report aims to help you think through the trends surrounding 
Emerging Families and determine how you might be able to apply these in the your context.

Research Findings

When Your Marriage is Overcast

Faced with gloomy skies, a person’s energy level drops and there can be worry about what those dark clouds can bring. Things can feel bleak when your marriage is in this weather. 

On the surface, everything is “business as usual”; some may even say how good your marriage seems! But you know that something’s not right in your relationship.  

Cracks in the marriage have widened into chasms. It could be that disagreements have peaked and can now threaten to break your marriage. Healthy communication may have come to a standstill, and you are in the quicksand of resentment or disappointment.  

Neglect is the key contributor for marriages moving into Overcast weather. Perhaps you both went on autopilot – life was busy and you were occupied with different things. There have been little quality and quantity time with each other, much less time to work through disagreements or unhappiness. 

Couples in this weather face one major decision: do we avoid the issues and let our marriage wither away? Or do we choose to have crucial difficult conversations, dig deeper to remember our “first love”, and commit to move out of this stalemate together? 

Think of it as the ultimatum. There’s just no waiting around, hoping the weather will turn for the better by itself. 

The hope in an Overcast marriage 

Are you too busy? Decisively cut out inessential social activities, commitments, or time-draining hobbies to make time for each other.  

A wife who feels unloved and unappreciated will feel rejected. A husband who doesn’t have his wife’s trust and respect will withdraw and disengage. 

What are some things that have undermined mutual love and respect in your marriage? 

If negligence drove your marriage to the edge, then making intentional decisions to nurture your marriage is necessary to turn it around. 

Are you too busy? Decisively cut out inessential social activities, commitments, or time-draining hobbies to make time for each other.  

If you feel that your relationship lacks fun and excitement, find common activities that both of you can enjoy. Or you can take turns to do what each other likes. This shows your spouse that you want to enter into their world and it can also help you better understand and appreciate what they are like. 

Pick up a marriage resource or attend a marriage enrichment programme to communicate better. 

Start small, but start somewhere. 

This is also where plugging into a healthy and strong community that supports your marriage is important and necessary. Is there a trusted couple you both are comfortable sharing your marital struggles with? Arrange to meet up, and invite them to journey with you and your spouse out of this weather. 

Overcast skies are here. But keep calm and start doing things differently, because all is not lost; there is hope for a turnaround. 

Making the best of an overcast marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • Conserve your energy (and word bank) for your wife, especially if you are a man of few words. Make effort to have conversation with her every day. 
  • Look out for the little things and let her know that you noticed them. Maybe she had a haircut or added a new ornament to the house; acknowledge them and compliment her. 
  • Learn new communication strategies to connect with her healthily. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Guard your heart. When you feel distant from your wife, it is easy to be drawn to other friendships where you feel understood and accepted or activities that take your mind off things or energise you. 
  • Do not look for quick fixes to your problems. In the same way that your marriage did not hit this rut overnight, it will take time and intentional effort for you both to walk out of it. 
  • “Cave time” may be necessary for you to recharge, but don’t retreat to it whenever things get tense. That can come off as stonewalling to your wife. Your presence speaks volumes of your commitment to her in the marriage—through thick and thin. 

Avoid slipping into the blame game and always making it “his problem.

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Be quick to apologise if you are at fault, and be ready to forgive (and forget) when he apologises for his faults. 
  • Notice the small acts of service he does for you, your family, or in the home. Express gratitude, and tell him that it matters to you. 
  • Initiate intimacy with your husband and let him know that he is still attractive and desirable. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Avoid slipping into the blame game and always making it “his problem”. Your husband will naturally become defensive and may choose to disengage. 
  • Do not compare your marriage with “better” marriages you see around you or on social media, or let your mind wander with the “what ifs”. 
  • Eliminate negative talk – which could come across as criticism, sarcasm, or ridicule. Speak kindly, even when you are upset, so that he will be encouraged to communicate with you. 

Couple conversations for this weather

  • When were the best years of our marriage, and why? 
  • What bothers you most about the current state of our marriage? 
  • What is one thing that you would like me to do to make you feel appreciated and loved? 

A thriving marriage in every weather

This is a difficult weather for you and your spouse to be in. Hold on to each other because there can be a turnaround in your marriage. 

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part. 

When the marriage hits a rough patch, or when you and your spouse no longer enjoy each other, consider how you can live out your vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love. 

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder 

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be. 

When Your Marriage is Sunny

The joys of a Sunny marriage 

It’s hot. You’re sweaty. But it’s fun because your days are packed with activities. 

The sense of newness that marked a Breezy weather in marriage has developed into a deeper intimacy with each other. You and your spouse have tackled some difficult issues together and have grown through it. 

Differences still exist, but there is a deeper understanding of each other’s needs, wants, and temperaments. That feeling of fulfilment is not dampened even when things are not perfect. 

You may not have met all your #couplegoals and are still working through the daily grind, but you and your spouse share a deeper connection. 

When misunderstandings occur, they are less likely to side-track you both. You and your spouse take on challenges with new ease. There’s little second guessing about each other’s actions or motives – you are stronger and more stable as a unit. 

You are satisfied and secure in your spouse’s love. 

The stresses of a Sunny marriage 

Your past experiences and upbringing may affect your capacity to give wholly in the marriage.

In hot and humid weather, flowers and fruits flourish; so do less pleasant things like mould and bacteria! Is there hidden mould in any corner of your marriage? Or are there any areas in each of your lives that exposes the marriage to bacterial growth? 

Your past experiences and upbringing may affect your capacity to give wholly in the marriage. Or there may be a deep-seated issue threatening the trust in your marriage. An addiction, perhaps? Or a certain friendship with unclear boundaries that you have been turning to for comfort and acceptance? 

Let your marriage be the safe space for you and your spouse to be most vulnerable and speak honestly. Choose to work through the matters that are hard to talk about. 

Seek out other married couples or mentors for counsel and support. On your own, the problems may seem insurmountable, but in the company of like-minded friends, you may gain new perspectives and encouragement to keep going in your marriage. 

The sun is out! You want to enjoy what you can do in this weather, so let’s work hard at enjoying each other more. 

Making the best of a sunny marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • Keep up the romantic gestures and break out of daily routines to surprise her. Be attentive to your wife’s needs as your lover, not just a great friend. 
  • Compliment her, making her feel attractive and good about herself. Find ways to fill her love tank so that she is not running on empty. 
  • Make time and initiate constructive ways to work through issues that come up. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Avoid treating your wife like a great housemate (or, if you are parents, as just the mother of your children). 
  • Pay attention to your personal grooming. Just because you are very comfortable with your wife doesn’t mean that your physical appearance shouldn’t matter anymore. She still wants to be attracted to you! 
  • Enjoy intimacy with your wife. It is about sex, and much more. Emotional intimacy is important to a marriage’s longevity. 

Take every opportunity to keep up with date nights, and make them special. 

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Encourage your husband to find a few good guy friends to confide in. While it is easier for women to share openly with their girlfriends, husbands may not have such close male friendships. 
  • Maintain intimacy in your marriage. Communicate your expectations and be proactive in meeting his needs as well. 
  • Take every opportunity to keep up with date nights, and make it special. Couple time is scarce in this weather, so be intentional to schedule it—and keep to it, even if it is shorter than what you both prefer. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Do not seethe over bothersome issues. Choose honest and respectful conversations with your husband instead. 
  • Criticism is toxic in any marriage. Many men “shut down and tune out” when they feel disrespected. 
  • Beware of unhealthy communication habits, like expecting your husband to know what you are thinking. He may grow to understand you better, but he is not telepathic; you still need to verbalise what’s in your heart. 

Couple conversations for this weather

  • What brings you most joy in our marriage? 
  • What is one thing you would like me to do regularly to show how much I appreciate you? 
  • How can we grow in the areas of physical and emotional intimacy in our marriage? 

A thriving marriage in every weather

Marriage is hard work, but worth it. 

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part. 

When the marriage hits a rough patch, consider how you can live out your vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love. 

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder 

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be. 

When Your Marriage is Stormy

The thunderstorm is raging, with ominous thunder and wild winds. In this weather, you feel like it is time to call it quits.

The warmth of the sun is no longer present – your words, your actions are cold and harsh. You look around your home and marriage, and feel like everything has been in vain. There’s no trace of love or positive things to show for the years you put in.

Your conversations are functional at best. Your interactions are equally distant. Perhaps you both feel that it is better to spend less time together because that means less likelihood for conflict.

Separate beds, zero intimacy – each with your own lives despite living under the same roof.

Some settle for marriage as a living arrangement for the children’s benefit; as soon as the children are independent, they want to go their separate ways.

Your marriage may unexpectedly enter into Stormy weather with the discovery of infidelity or it may gradually drift into it from prolonged periods of negligence and inaction.

Yet what is more important than the current circumstances is how couples choose to respond.

Gary Chapman in his book The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage has this to say: “All couples face difficulties, and all couples have differences. These differences may centre on money, in-laws, religion, or any other area of life. Couples who fail to negotiate these differences will find themselves in [a place] created not by the difficulties of life but by how a couple responds to those difficulties. When one or both marriage partners insist on ‘my way or not at all’, they are moving their marriage toward [a cold, harsh, and bitter marriage].”

In a Stormy marriage, problems seem big and solutions appear far away. You are hurt, lonely and discouraged. There are regrets and you’ve replayed many “if only” scenarios in your mind. You yearn for a marriage in better weather, but it feels like it’s not going to come.

The hope in a stormy marriage

It takes only one party to put the marriage into Stormy weather, but it will take both to move out of it.

Can hope be restored in this storm?

Desperation can bring out tenacity, which we didn’t know existed in us before—a desperation that drives us to fight for our marriage.

It takes only one party to put the marriage into Stormy weather, but it will take both to move out of it.

Be open to seek professional help from a marriage counsellor or family therapist. Do not isolate yourself from friends and other married couples; your community and support system are crucial for you and your spouse to walk out of this rough storm.

Remember, the weather can change. The storm is here, but it doesn’t have to last forever. You can make a change.

Making the best of a stormy marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • If the relationship is so tense that you are no longer speaking to your wife, write down your thoughts on how you want the marriage to improve and pass it to her. Communication is key in rekindling your marriage.
  • Taking proactive steps to show love and appreciation to your wife may not feel so natural right now, but persisting in it can soften her heart and cause her to be tender towards you again.
  • Listen attentively and engage her through eye contact when she is speaking to you. You may not be ready to respond, but choosing to stay and listen shows her that you still care for her.
  • Find a male mentor or coach whom you can confide in and take advice from.

Things to watch out for:

  • Draw clear boundaries so that you don’t try to find intimacy in other friendships. This would only complicate the issues that you and your wife have to work through.
  • Avoid replaying the blunders in your mind and rehashing pain from the past. It can become a vicious cycle, making it harder for you to forgive and move on.
  • Habits can be hard to break. Don’t go back to old ways of dealing with conflict, but consciously choose healthier patterns of communication, even if it feels counter-intuitive.
  • It may feel easier to focus on your wife’s faults than perceive the good things in her right now. Be intentional to write down what you are thankful for about her.

Surround yourself with friends and family members who will support and encourage you in restoring your marriage.

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, and guard yourself against the downward spiral of rumination or despair.
  • Taking proactive steps to show love and appreciation to your husband may not feel so natural right now, but persisting in it can soften his heart and cause him to be tender towards you again.
  • Spend time recalling and noting down the better days in the marriage. How was it like? What did he do that you loved? Share these memories with your husband.
  • Surround yourself with friends and family members who will support and encourage you in restoring your marriage.

Things to watch out for:

  • Protect your heart and mind, so that you don’t try to find love and acceptance elsewhere. This only drives you further away from your husband.
  • Be careful not to put down your husband in front of your family or friends, whether within earshot or not.
  • Habits can be hard to break. Don’t go back to old ways of dealing with conflict, but consciously choose healthier patterns of communication, even if it feels counter-intuitive.
  • It may feel easier to focus on your husband’s faults than perceive the good things in him right now. Be intentional to write down what you are thankful for about him.

Couple conversations for this weather

  • What were the dreams and goals we had for our marriage?
  • How have I hurt you the most in our relationship? How can I make amends in ways that would meaningful to you?
  • What does it mean for us to “forgive and forget”? How can work on our marriage together to move forward together?
  • What are some things we can do for each other that would give each other hope and motivation for a better marriage?

It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love.

A thriving marriage in every weather

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part.

When all hope seems to be gone, take a moment to consider your marriage vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love.

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder

There can be beauty and growth in each weather your marriage is in. So, hold tight to the good, work hard at the difficult, and commit to journey through life together.

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be.

Your marriage can survive this weather, and thrive.

Signs of an Emotional Affair and how to Avoid one

Jack awoke to the sound of his phone’s alarm. Feeling lethargic because he did not get a restful sleep due to the built-up stress of overseeing an important work project, he decided to hit the snooze button.  

As he reached for his smartphone, the thought of Jenner put a big smile on his face. He has been working together with Jenner on a company project. Jenner often has a kind word for everyone on the team, especially Jack, plus she has a knack for reframing problems, which has helped Jack tremendously.  

Jack has often experienced fuzzy-wuzzy feelings whenever he was in Jenner’s company, a special warmth that he could not find in his marriage of 6 years. 

Soon, Jack and Jenner find themselves spending more time together over work lunches and dinners without the other team members; their conversations have become more personal too. A team member even commented that Jack’s relationship with Jenner seems too close for comfort but Jack instantly laughed it off saying they were “just friends”. 

Is there anything wrong with the relationship between Jack and Jenner? Are both “just friends” or are they sliding into an emotional affair? 

The truth is, whether you are happy, fulfilled, or dissatisfied in your marriage, nobody is exempt from having an emotional affair. 

It is not uncommon for a married person to be involved in an emotional affair without realising it. Here are some warning signs to look out for.

What is an emotional affair? 

An emotional affair involves having non-sexual intimacy with someone who is not the individual’s romantic partner. It often starts innocently as a friendship or working relationship.  But if a person intentionally or unintentionally invests emotional energy and time in a friendship outside of their marriage, a deeper attachment is formed.  

Some believe that such a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex is harmless because there is no sexual intimacy involved. However, the deep bond shared outside of marriage can seriously threaten the person’s intimacy with their spouse.  

Emotional cheating can act as a gateway to a full-blown sexual affair. For many, the most hurtful part of a spouse’s emotional infidelity is the sense of being betrayed.  

What are the tell-tale signs of emotional affair?

In his book Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship, author Gary Neuman shared the following warning signs of emotional cheating: 

  • Anticipating alone time or communication with your friend 
  • Beliefs that your friend understands you better than your spouse 
  • Decreasing time with your spouse 
  • Giving your friend personal gifts 
  • Keeping your friendship a secret 
  • Lack of interest in intimacy with your spouse 
  • Preoccupation or daydreams about your friend 
  • Sharing thoughts, feelings, and problems with your friend instead of your spouse 
  • Responding to confrontation about the emotional cheating with, “We’re just friends.” 
  • Withdrawing from your spouse 

Frequent contact makes it possible for intimacy to develop. 

In today’s connected world, and with advanced technology like the internet, it has never been easier to meet, interact, and bond with others.  

At work, we are often required to interact with members of the opposite sex and exhorted to cultivate good working relationships to complete a project or to achieve the organisation’s goals. 

Frequent contact makes it possible for intimacy to develop. This is where we need to be honest with ourselves: If you begin to feel more excited about seeing your colleague than going home and spending time with your spouse, then you’re likely treading on dangerous ground.  

Protecting your marriage  

No marriage is affair-proof. It is possible to get involved in an emotional affair if we allow our marriage to slide or to remain stagnant.  

But there are several ways we can protect our marriage from such temptations: 

1. Commit to your spouse. It has been said that while compatibility brings a couple together, commitment enables a couple to “stick” together. Indeed, commitment is the glue that holds the relationship in good and bad times.  

 Tip: Put a photo of your spouse or your family on the home screen of your digital devices to remind you of your commitment to stay faithful.  

 2. Shower your marriage with tender loving care (TLC). Prioritise your marriage, make time, and put in effort to meet each other’s important needs.  

 Tip: Do a 30-day Marriage TLC challenge. Do one simple gesture or kind act daily to strengthen the relationship OR take the “5 love languages” quiz if you are unsure how your spouse wants to be loved. And love him/her according to his/her love language. 

3. Control your social media environment. The images we look at, the information we receive, the people we follow, and the posts we like/comment can influence us, for good or for worse, and in more ways than we care to admit.   

Tip: Declutter your social media platforms. Delete apps or websites that do not add value to your marriage or unfollow someone who is taking too much of your head space.  

 4. Set boundaries about how you will interact with the opposite sex. Keep phone messages and conversations business-like. Avoid sharing innermost thoughts or feelings that should be reserved for your spouse only.  

Tip: When someone shares (intimate) personal information that is too close for your comfort, graciously end the conversation.  

 5. Be honest with yourself  

If you find yourself attracted to someone, admit it to yourself. If you receive feedback from colleagues or family that your friendship with the opposite sex is “crossing the line”, do not be too quick to rationalise by saying “we are just friends”. Instead, ask yourself tough questions about the friendship to determine if you are walking down a slippery slope.  Honesty is the key to preventing a relationship from escalating into an affair. 

 6. Choose to work through marriage issues with a therapist. If you are struggling with issues in your marriage, instead of confiding and seeking support from an opposite-sex colleague or friend, consider seeking professional help. 

 It is not uncommon for a married person to be involved in an emotional affair without realising it. Emotional affairs can inflict as much pain and hurt to a couple and do damage to a marriage as sexual ones. Watch out for red flags and find ways to safeguard your marriage from deception and temptations. 

What is one thing you can do to protect your marriage? 

State of the Family 2024

Empower Emerging Families
 

In light of recent policy changes and various national conversations on Family and its values, there is an urgent need to sow the seeds of healthy identity and family aspirations to strengthen Emerging Families.

Who makes up Emerging Families? These are young families (i.e. parents with young children), young adults and youths who are in the process of forming attitudes and aspirations about dating, marriage, and their future families.

At this upcoming State of the Family (SOTF), we seek to dive deeper into trends and national conversations that affect Emerging Families, and explore ways that we can come together to shape the relationships in the next generation. We will also be unveiling findings from a local research on the impact of fatherhood involvement and marital strength on the family aspirations of the next generation.

SOTF 2024 aims to shine the spotlight on the Emerging Family:

1. Connect the dots on how the state of current marriages and families shapes the desirability of marriage and future of families that would emerge from our children and youth.
 
2. Discuss how the child’s first relationship with their father/mother shapes their understanding of gender roles and masculinity/femininity, and how these impact identity formation, interpersonal relationships and marriage. 
 
3. Better understand the aspirations of youths for their future families, considering shifting priorities and the dwindling importance placed on having children.
 

Details

DATE: 21 February 2024, Wednesday

TIME: 7.00pm - 9.30pm

VENUE: Capitol Theatre

17 Stamford Rd, Singapore 178907

GUEST-OF-HONOUR

Mr. Masagos Zulkifli
Minister for Social and Family Development
Second Minister for Health
Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs

PANEL HOST


Ms. Delia Ng
CEO
Focus on the Family Singapore

PANELLISTS


Mr. Nicholas Gabriel Lim

Head, Graduate Diploma in Youth Work and Professional Life Coaching Programmes, SUSS


Mrs. Judith Xavier

Working Mum of 
Two Teenagers


Mr. Luke Ong
Undergraduate in Social Sciences,

Youth Advocate

WHAT TO EXPECT


 Connect
 


With like-minded
Family Champions

 


Engage


 Robust discussions as we
unpack national trends and conversations


Discover


 Opportunities to collaborate
and strengthen 
family
relationships

SPONSORS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

This event is by invitation only. We welcome like-minded Family Champions to register.
The Organiser may contact you to verify your registration details, before confirming your registration. 

No event fees are required but a love gift is always appreciated to help defray the costs of the event. 

As this is a by-invitation-only event, recordings of the session will not be made available. Please mark the date in your calendar to not miss this event.

We encourage you to make all necessary arrangements to be able to attend the event after you have signed up. An event reminder will be sent to you closer to the date.

Should you be unable to attend the event after signing up, please let us know by contacting us at Chelsea.Cheng@family.org.sg.

*The Organiser reserves the rights to cancel or reschedule the event due to unforeseen circumstances. Every effort, however, will be made to inform participants as soon as possible of any changes. 

REGISTRATION FOR THE EVENT HAS ENDED

For any further enquiries, please contact us at Chelsea.Cheng@family.org.sg.

How to Rekindle the Sparks of Marriage

We all enjoy a good love story, especially stories of deep, faithful love that is built over the decades. The film Up tells one such story about Carl, an elderly man grieving the loss of his wife and lifelong love, Ellie. A few friends even shared that they teared when watching the prologue of Carl’s journey with Ellie!

Up resonates deeply with us because we too long for a love as enduring and deep as Carl’s. I believe in the possibility and power of such a love. However, it can be challenging to keep the fire going as life gets overtaken by routines and responsibilities.

Here are some things my wife and I do together to rekindle our spark:

1. Revisit happy memories

As much as the present moment is important, looking back helps us remember how far we have come today. My wife and I regularly revisit the happy moments we had together, such as before we got married, before our first child was born, and even joyful moments with our children.

Occasionally, we also involve our children in commemorating cherished moments from the past, such as when we got our son to recreate a photo of us from 10 years ago!

Revisiting the past is not about resisting change or wishing that things were the way they used to be. Rather, remembering our journey together helps us grasp the depths of the love we have built over the years. As we remind ourselves of exciting or warm memories, it inspires us to envision similar possibilities in our future together.

2. Be the safe space for each other

Out of all the skills essential for nurturing a relationship, the ability to is perhaps the most crucial. Listening is not just about hearing; it involves suspending judgment, empathising, and avoiding presumption as far as possible. Many of us appreciate when someone listens to understand and acknowledge us, rather than glossing over what we said too quickly or trying to fix our problems.

One way to nurture a safe space is to practise give-and-take when listening and sharing. It helps to pay attention to how much we have shared, and to ensure our spouse has sufficient “airtime” to unload as well.

When marriage becomes the safest space, it nurtures faithfulness; both husband and wife can return to the marriage to refuel for the next trying day.

3 . Practice admiring each other

When responsibilities and obligations mount over the years, it is easy to forget that our spouse is the one we fell in love with, whether in the passionate romance of days past or even during the wedding!

Though it can sometimes feel unnatural in our stoic Asian culture, we have tried to build a habit of admiring one another. This can be in simple actions, such as a loving gaze, affectionate touch, or saying “I love you” regularly. One thing my wife and I do is to show each other off.We do not withhold praise when we talk about each other’s strengths in public! Such admiration of our better halves helps prioritise our marriage as the number one relationship in our lives. in our lives.

The process of rediscovering each other helps retain a sense of adventure in a marriage.

4. Continue learning about each other

Human beings are endlessly complex. Every individual is shaped by different family cultures, school experiences, work environments, and role models, and the journey of self- and other-discovery rarely ends in marriage!

Whether it is taking on new ambitions and projects, exploring a new interest or country, or simply keeping an open mind towards one another, the process of rediscovering each other helps retain a sense of adventure in a marriage.

5. Embrace joy and laughter

At the start of our relationship, I took myself too seriously. I believed that having an austere approach to life was the best way to weather its storms! However, while perseverance and discipline are important for a lasting marriage, I swung too far in that direction. In hindsight, this attitude prevented us from fully enjoying our relationship. Fortunately, my wife has since shown me the joys of loosening up!

Joy and laughter bring a sense of vibrance to relationships. My wife and I value humour in our marriage, and we love injecting joy and laughter into our everyday life. When used in the right moments, humour helps lift the mood and bring new perspectives in trying times.

While not all couples can have the privilege of living out their wildest dreams, we can build each other’s aspirations one step at a time.

6. Envision the future

Just like Carl and Ellie who dreamt about visiting Paradise Falls, dreaming together can help keep a marriage moving forward. While not all couples have the privilege of living out their wildest dreams, we can build each other’s aspirations one step at a time.

This is not limited to just big goals like career changes or moving out of the country. It can also involve smaller goals, such as pursuing small interests and hobbies, or just saving up for the next trip together.

For better or for worse

Over the years, I have heard many share that marriage is a sacred relationship that is not to be taken lightly. The solemness of wedding vows, uttered before a crowd of witnesses, have deep social, legal and even spiritual implications for a married couple. Such a journey requires careful deliberation, preparation, and determination to help us go the distance.

Though such advice is well meaning, it sometimes leads us to think of marriage only as “serious business,” which could be intimidating to many! Indeed, it is undeniable that it takes hard work and sacrifice to build a strong marriage. However, let’s also remember the magic of a deep and faithful commitment to one’s spouse: The sense of adventure from journeying together, as well as the warmth and legacy of a home built together over the years.

What Children of Divorce Feel About Family

Connie, 28, laughed before she started the interview.

“My family is really, really messy. Are you ready?” she quipped.

Her father was married thrice before he met her mother, whilst her mother was married twice before she met him. Even when he married her mother, he was already having an affair outside of the marriage.

It meant that when she grew up, she already had 2 older stepsiblings living with her, and 2 younger siblings to take care of.

Growing up, there were regular fights outside the home. Because their home was small, Connie heard everything.

Even after those fights, her mother would come and recount to her the details. Once she remembered being with her mum when her mum discovered a receipt of something her father had bought for his girlfriend.

Her mother cried.

And even though Connie was only 9 at that time, she immediately advised, “You should leave him.”

When she was 9, her parents separated. She admitted that she had a part to play in that, telling her mother something her father had revealed to her in confidence.

“Yes, in a way, I can say I activated the divorce. I felt sad but also a sense of relief. Moving around my grandma’s and aunt’s places was not easy.”

Connie recalled that much of her schooling years was spent in a state of depression, and she often complained, “My life sucks. What kind of life is this?”

Even at the age of 12, she had to take care of her 4 and 5-year-old siblings, fetching them back from school, and cooking for them.

She began to see how divorce had affected her childhood, forcing her to grow up much faster, and thus she could not enjoy her childhood like other children could.

Trying to make the best out of divorce

“But I wanted to contribute to this article because divorce can be damaging to young children. And I wanted to share how I bounced back from that difficult period.”

Connie believes that many people hold onto their marriages for the sake of their children.

While this is a worthy cause, and couples should make every effort at rebuilding the marriage, including seeking help, one must also realise that children often can pick up the tensions within the marriage, and it can be difficult for them.

Trying to keep things together just for the children can be like pouring poor-quality glue into a deep crack in a pot. It often takes deep and hard emotional work to resolve the differences and tensions that have built up over the years.

So perhaps what is required of couples is an ongoing, intentional work to grow their marriage and an openness to seek guidance from other, more experienced couples with the issues that may surface along the way.

Jonathan, 28, also saw his parents divorce at the age of 12. He remembered how he frequently went to school crying, because of how hard it was to see his parents separate.

Surprising though, he managed to turn his adversity into opportunity. He worked hard at his studies, so that he could make both his parents proud.

Amanda, a 22-year-old university student, agreed that her parents’ divorce had caused her to grow up faster. As a child, she witnessed her father physically abusing her mum during fights. Eventually, her parents divorced when she was 9.

The importance of communication

Connie did learn something from her parents though.

Her mum communicated the reasons for the divorce to her, rather than keeping them in the dark, thinking that children wouldn’t understand what was happening.

“This helped us in not having an open wound when we were trying to figure out why our parents were leaving each other,” she revealed.

Amanda’s mum also opened up to her when Amanda asked why the divorce had happened. She even explained that she was pushing Amanda so hard in her studies so that this cycle of broken families didn’t have to continue in her generation.

For her mother, education was a key ladder out of the generational cycle of broken families.

Connie also confided in her friend, who was 4 years older. She admits that she would probably be some “bad kid” now if she didn’t have the advice of this older friend.

Having a place where she could rant and find a different perspective helped her to deal with the loneliness of having to settle all these adult affairs alone.

“We shouldn’t perceive that the future will turn out like the past.”

Hopes for her future family

As Connie grew up, she found herself disillusioned by the idea of marriage. She had seen all her immediate family, such as her aunties and uncles, have affairs and divorces.

She felt marriage was just a piece of paper to make things more convenient for all parties. She didn’t believe that it would work.

But then she met her boyfriend, who helped her to see that there was good in love and being loved. And that love is a choice we make, day in, day out. She shared, “We shouldn’t perceive that the future will turn out like the past.”

Amanda added that the tensions within her parents’ marriage helped her to see that healthy marriage needed constant communication, and not a single point of commitment.

She’s thus taken important lessons in communicating with her current partner about their expectations. For example, when to have kids, and how many to have has been a feature in their discussions.

No perfect families

Yet as Connie’s story shows, children of divorce can still try to make the best of their situations, if they are willing to forgive, move on, and recognise that there aren’t perfect parents, perfect marriages, or perfect families.

There are only imperfect ones, brought together again and again, through a willingness to repair ruptures, whatever it takes.

For privacy reasons, pseudonyms have been used in this article.

Relationship Rituals to Re-energise Your Marriage

“What is one or more relationship rituals you and your spouse keep to help your marriage thrive?”  

This was the question I asked many of my married friends.   

BL’s crisp answer caught my attention. 

“Nothing spectacular. We love movies and so we go for movies whenever new ones come out.’’ 

Nothing spectacular. We often think that enriching our marriage requires going to great lengths like organising a lavish birthday party, travelling to exotic destinations, or having fancy dinners at high-end restaurants.  

Yet it is the day-to-day things that we do with or for our spouse on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis that can make the greatest impact in our marriage. 

If these activities are shared and repeated on a regular basis, are they not routines? What is the difference? 

Routines are repetitive actions we engage in every day; they create order and continuity, but they don’t have much emotional meaning. Rituals, while they have elements of routine, are symbolic, driven by intention and meaningful. 

Why are relationship rituals important? 

Rituals are essential in keeping your relationship strong and vibrant. Thus, if your goal is greater emotional intimacy, here’s a look at how these couples have benefited from rituals.  

Rituals strengthen relationship bonds  

Rituals are especially important during uncertain times. Mel, married with two teenage boys, shared her reflection:  

“The covid years where we work from home somehow inspired us to take more night walks after spending many hours working from home.  During these brisk walks, we managed to talk more, and touch on many topics that would have escaped our attention during normal working hours. All the walking created a lot of self-awareness and allowed us to connect at a meaningful level.” 

Rituals convert the mundane into significant moments   

A trip to the supermarket with your spouse or a weekly swim or walk may seem ordinary, but couples who intentionally set aside time to exercise together relish the closeness and enjoyment they experience in sticking to these “boring” rituals.  

Jennifer, married with young adult children, reflected:  

“We hold hands even when we go to the neighbourhood shops or market to buy our weekly groceries. It reminds me of our courtship days where we hold hands when we are out on a date. It certainly makes me feel closer as a couple.” 

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, a New York Times bestselling author on marriage, points out that “men hear criticism as contempt [while] women feel silence as hostility.”  

At the heart of lies the different emotional needs of a man and a woman. We may want to avoid gender stereotypes, but we cannot deny that men often value respect over everything else, and women, being loved. Once we can understand this fundamental aspect of our spouse’s need, we can set our minds to meeting those needs and creating a positive cycle of interaction, instead of a negative one.  

Read more about love and respect here 

Rituals build fond and affectionate memories 

Sylvia met and married her husband while working in Hong Kong for many years. Even after tying the knot and settling down in Singapore, the couple often reminisce their overseas experience. Thus, they establish an interesting ritual to keep their love alive:  

“We love to go out and try new food together. And searching for Hong Kong food is certainly a bonding ritual. This couple activity reminds us of our courtship days and happy moments while we were working and living in Hong Kong.”  

The daily rituals of talking to each other made us feel emotionally connected. 

Rituals create shared meaning and common purpose 

When YJ and her husband decided to take over the household chores after their helper left for her hometown permanently, doing these tasks was indisputably a chore initially. As they continued with this daily routine of maintaining the cleanliness of their home, something shifted in YJ.  

The routine became a ritual of love and shared meaning, as narrated by YJ:  

“Since our helper left, my husband and I took on the responsibility of doing household chores together. Providing a comfortable living environment for our children means a lot to us so we are willing to do the chores on an almost daily basis. I have a greater appreciation of my husband and his strengths. I feel so fortunate to have a partner who can complement me well, and it has brought us closer as a couple”  

Rituals bolster commitment when couples are separated geographically 

Jo and her husband resided in different countries for several months due to work commitments. When I asked how they protected the bonds of their marriage, Jo reflected: 

“We had daily calls to check in on how we were doing, and we expressed appreciation for each other verbally or through written messages regularly. These daily rituals of talking to each other made us feel emotionally connected; it didn’t really feel like we were physically apart. The daily communication was momentous especially when we faced work challenges and couldn’t encourage each other with a hug.” 

There you have it. These couples show us that rituals do not need to be splashy (although they can be) to help their marriage thrive. These simple rituals of connection that are a regular feature of married life accentuate the specialness of their relationship.  

By engaging in these shared activities intentionally, they’re essentially strengthening, protecting, and affirming their commitment for each other.  

Managing Change As A Couple, After Baby Arrives

I remember the day when my wife and I discovered that we were going to have a child. It was a whirlwind of emotions for us. After all, we had been longing for a baby for such a long time, so when the news came, we almost couldn’t believe it.  

The day finally arrived. Baby came, and our lives changed forever.  

Before baby arrived, we had our time and space as individuals and as a couple. But once our first child arrived, it seemed to be one amorphous blending of day and night, especially given baby’s erratic feeding cycle, which continued regardless of whether we were awake or asleep.  

The arrival of a child is a major change in the life of every couple. There is an exponential increase in the things that need to be done around the house. From preparing for the feeding needs of the child to taking care of clothing and diapering. On top of this, the regular office work and household chores do not decrease. What’s worse is that leaving one area of the household unmanaged could snowball into other areas of life very quickly.  

Many couples have highlighted sleeplessness as another major factor affecting their physical and emotional wellbeing during the early weeks. Disrupted sleep leads to tiredness and crankiness between husband and wife, which could increase spousal tension, especially due to differing expectations on how the workload in the home should be shared.  

And then there is marital intimacy, or lack thereof. A decreased desire for sex is a common experience, and this could have a negative impact on the closeness felt by both husband and wife.  

Disrupted sleep leads to tiredness and crankiness between husband and wife, which could increase spousal tension. 

Transitions and change

The arrival of a child is a huge transition. For the marriage to withstand the challenges, you may need to process the transition well.  

What does this mean? According to author William Bridges, a transition is an inner psychological process that people go through as they come to terms with the changes they are going through. Bridges highlighted three stages in his transition model – Endings, Neutral Zone and New Beginnings.  

Endings is when people come to terms that their situation has been changed forever. This encompasses aspects of grief and loss, and individuals need to accept that the status quo they had been used to is now gone. In the arrival of a baby, both husband and wife need to realise that their situation has changed, and the family now has to incorporate the routines of the child.  

The neutral zone, which is the second stage, is an in-between period when there is a need to recalibrate, especially since the old has gone and the new isn’t quite established yet. There is a need to reconsider old ways of doing things and develop new strategies to manage the changes that have occurred.  

The third stage of the transition process is one of new beginnings. It involves new understandings, which is associated with a shift in values and attitudes. This in turn sparks a new release of energy, and individuals then operate with fresh perspectives, managing their new roles with more confidence and security.  

For the couple with a new baby, this is often accompanied by a new sense of purpose and they are propelled in a direction that they have never experienced before. This stage is also marked by new norms and traditions. 

The key to dealing with a newborn is to accept that life as you know it has changed forever. 

Managing change 

I remember our first year as parents. We seemed to be always tired, always running around in circles, and feeling like headless chickens, not knowing what we were doing from one moment to the next. There were, however, two things that helped us during that difficult time. 

  • Embrace the changes 

The key to dealing with a newborn is to accept that life as you know it has changed forever. You need to mourn the loss of your childless existence and recalibrate your life as a couple, coming to terms with your new status as parents.  

For us, it took acknowledging that we would never be able to go out again without a diaper bag and a whole inventory of baby accessories. This also meant that unless we made prior arrangements, our baby would follow us wherever we went. It also meant adjustments to our social life so that we could allow our child to have an early night. 

  • Don’t forget your spouse 

In the hustle and bustle of a child’s arrival, it is not uncommon to neglect tending to the wellbeing of your spouse. And while it is important to reorientate your life to cater to the needs of your child, it is also crucial to care for your spouse.  

For men, this means expressing love to your wife in a way that she would understand, in accordance to her love language. For us, this included taking the early feed before I went to work, so that my wife could sleep in a little later after caring for our child during the various night feeds. It also meant shouldering more of the household chores.  

As for women, loving your spouse could mean acknowledging the important role he plays in maintaining the financial integrity of the household. It could also mean showing love to him in his love language, and making the effort to have some regular couple time. 

A new normal 

The tumultuous days after the arrival of a child will not last forever, but as you continue to love each other, and embrace your new roles as parents, the early days of parenthood while challenging can also strengthen your marriage.  

For it’s not how much you do as parents that matters, but it’s how much you choose to love that keeps the family together.