Kindness – The Secret Sauce Of A Good Marriage

Kindness is an often overlooked characteristic of a successful marriage.  

Ask any married person what a key ingredient of a great marriage is, and you would receive answers like respect, commitment, honesty, and openness in communication.  

Just like cooking up a palatable dish, if a key ingredient is missing, the dish lacks the “oomph” that has you coming back for more.  

Kindness may not be the fundamental element that holds the marriage, but without generous dashes of it, your relationship cannot flourish.

What is kindness? 

According to the Cambridge academic content dictionary, kindness is defined as the quality of being generous, helpful, and caring about other people, or an actshowing this quality. 

When people think of kindness, they often associate it with acts of generosity such as buying gifts, or acts of service such as taking out the trash.  

But being kind is both an attitude and an action. Do we treat our spouses with gentleness when they make mistakes or are we condescending? Do we insist on our way or do we consider our spouse’s needs and preferences in every situation? 

Of course, it is easy to be kind when things are going well or when your spouse is kind first. It’s a totally different story when things are not going well, or you perceive your spouse to be the one who is unkind or undeserving. Such angsty times are, in fact, opportunities to practise kindness.  

If you match a snide remark your spouse made with your own equally sarcastic comment, what you get at best, is negative vibes for that moment, but at worst, it could spark a cycle of tension and resentment in your marriage.  

However, if you try something different – instead of returning harsh words, you choose to speak with compassion or voice your emotion with an “I” statement, you halt the negativity in its tracks and might even get an apology from your spouse. 

As the saying goes, “Kindness begets kindness.” So, if couples make it a habit to exercise kindness toward each other, they will feel validated and cared for. Over time, it gives rise to an upward spiral of positivity and love, which nourishes the marital bond and fosters intimacy. 

If you are in a relationship that is struggling, conscious acts of kindness may not transform your marriage overnight, but they are a good start. Kindness has the power to change a marriage that has become lacklustre or contemptuous. What is required is effort and time to be a kinder partner.  

However, if you are experiencing abuse of any form or find yourselves entrenched in unhealthy patterns of communication, please seek professional help 

Since kindness nourishes the marital bond and promotes emotional connection, why not flavour our marriages with the secret sauce of kindness?  

If couples make it a habit to exercise kindness toward each other, they will feel validated and cared for. 

Choose to be kind first 

We cannot make or force our spouse to be kind. However, we can choose to be kind regardless of our spouse’s attitude or actions. Being kind does not mean faking a smile when we are unhappy or yielding to demanding behaviour. It does mean we treat our spouse the way we want to be treated. If we want our marriage to be characterised by kindness, we can start by being kind first.  

Give without expecting payback 

Of course, it will not come easy if we perceive our spouse to be undeserving of kindness. That’s when it is helpful to examine our motivation for expressing kindness. If our goal is to give expecting a payback, we would be upset if our spouse does not reciprocate. When we extend kindness because it is the right thing to do, then the rewards are more far-reaching and long-lasting: a healthy, vibrant and thriving marriage. 

Schedule time for kindness 

This strategy may be deemed as lacking depth or hollow. But it is worth a try if your priority is to strengthen your relationship by becoming a kinder person.  

Random acts of kindness can increase good vibes and make your spouse feel validated. But they are just that – random. When you schedule time for kindness, your focus will be on ways to express kindness toward your spouse. So instead of ruminating over petty grievances that could potentially make you feel worse and zap your energy, set aside a little time on a regular basis – whether it is ten, twenty minutes, or whatever timeframe you are comfortable with – to do something thoughtful for your spouse.   

Daily acts of kindness not only nourishes your relationship; they can keep resentment taking root in your marriage. 

Tip: Embark on a 30-day kindness challenge to help you kickstart your journey of   kindness.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Aesop

Show kindness the way your spouse understands 

Our idea of acts of kindness may differ from our spouse. We may think that buying a gift is a kind act whereas our spouse experiences kindness when we refrain from using harsh words during a conflict. When we understand how our spouse wants to be treated kindly and express kindness from his/her frame of reference, we will likely have a happy spouse and relationship.

Kindness has the power to change a marriage that has become lacklustre or contemptuous. What is required is effort and time to be a kinder partner. 

Kindness in marriage matters. Without it, our marriage cannot flourish. If we want our marriage to be thriving, we can choose to be kind, and make conscious effort to show kindness to our spouse.  

What is one act of kindness you can do for your spouse today?  

 © 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Make Love Last with a Growth Mindset

We’ve all heard the adage that marriage is hard work. But how often do you see couples putting in this ‘hard work’ intentionally and regularly?

How often do we sit down and reflect on our relationship with our spouse, understanding what makes him or her tick, and figuring out ways to strengthen our marriage?

In our hectic world, it can be challenging to make time to tend to our relationship, especially after kids enter the picture. But I think it is crucial that we try.

Healthy marriages allow room for change and growth. You may have heard of Carol Dweck’s work about the growth mindset, but can you imagine what will happen if we apply this same growth mindset to our marriage?

Difference between the growth and fixed mindsets

Dweck found that there exists two different mindsets. People either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

The growth mindset says:

  • You are still growing.
  • You can learn from your mistakes.
  • We all have strengths as well as areas to improve on.

The fixed mindset says:

  • Don’t even try.
  • My spouse is always like this, things will never change.
  • Don’t take the risk.

People with fixed mindsets tend to judge constantly—themselves as well as others. Their firm belief is that people and character traits are often unchangeable.

Those who practise the growth mindset are observant of others, but refrain from judging. Instead of accepting the status quo unquestioningly, they are always asking: What can I learn from this? How can I improve? How can I help my partner do better?

Moving from a fixed to a growth mindset—according to Dweck—entails “changing the internal monologue from a judging one to a growth-oriented one”.

It is healthy to notice the good and even great things that you’ve achieved in your marriage or family life, and be grateful for them.

Here are some growth mindset tips that we can apply to our marriage:

1. Remember to enjoy the good things

It is healthy to notice the good and even great things that you’ve achieved in your marriage or family life, and be grateful for them. Perhaps it is the strong family support that you’ve built, or solid friendships; whatever it is, remind each other that you’ve worked well together in this aspect. And think about the different areas that you want to grow in this year.

2. Seek to understand your differences better

When something about your spouse irks you, seek to understand the root of this habit. There have been times I have been annoyed by my spouse’s tendency to plan everything, right down to the details. While I prefer some fluidity and can handle a high degree of ambiguity, he needs all the data and facts.

When we talked through it, I realised that it boils down to his need for security and control. Without the information, he feels things are out of control or not planned well. After I understood this, we were able to sidestep unnecessary arguments and tension, and focus on meeting each other’s needs.

3. Praise your partner for effort

Encourage your spouse when he or she tries something new or challenging. Try not to focus on the results alone. For example, if you’ve been asking your husband to help with cooking a meal, don’t put him down the first time he tries; this will stamp out his motivation. Instead, let him know that you see (and appreciate) his effort to show love in this novel way.

If your wife tries out a game that you love to play, give her space, patience and affirmation to reach your level. Your guidance and the time together will make the relationship grow in new ways too.

4. Focus on your own lane

Sometimes social media can feed our feelings of envy and jealousy. Pictures of exotic family vacations, or frequent expensive dinners and gifts that others enjoy can trigger feelings of discontent in your marriage.

We should become aware of how certain media, people or environments make us feel, then be vigilant to allow into our minds only what is good for ourselves and marriage, and what helps us feel grateful for what we have.

5. Transitions can offer opportunities for growth too

A new baby, a new home, a business investment, or a change in career—sometimes big changes make us feel stressed out and uneasy, and we may take it out on the ones dearest to us.

They may bring stress, but change also carries opportunities for us to clarify our thoughts, feelings, even our values; more importantly, it lets us seek our spouse’s support. So choose to lean closer, and not pull away due to tensions or stress.

With the growth mindset, we can focus on developing the positive qualities that cause the relationship to flourish.

What growth mindset in love looks like

When we apply the fixed mindset to love, it seems like life should reflect what we see in movies: Love is easy, perfect, and simply “meant to be”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ask any couple who have clocked over 10 years in marriage what their secret is, and the answer will likely be: pure hard work.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for our marriage is to decide that we will do whatever it takes to make it work.

When we look back on our past, do we see that we have changed too? Sometimes for the better, sometimes in not so good ways. But it shows us that if we can change, our spouse can change too. With the growth mindset, we can focus on developing the positive qualities—both within ourselves and in each other—that cause the relationship to flourish.

Let’s remember that you’re on the same side, and you’re walking this journey together. Tempers will flare and someone will be annoyed from time to time, but as long as we continue to work on our weaknesses and improve ourselves for our spouse, we will experience the grace and strength to keep going.

Take action:

  • Choose a growth mindset tip and apply it to your relationship this week.

Top Conflict Triggers in Marriage and How to Resolve Them

My wedding – 12 years ago – was one of the most memorable days of my life. I still vividly recall the overwhelming feelings of elation like it was yesterday. The excitement from a wedding can propel most newly-weds into marital bliss for the ensuing few months, at least. However, once the honeymoon period is over and the realities of life set in, those once intense feelings of bliss may fizzle out.

We had our first child a year after we got married and as a result, our marriage relationship underwent a sea-change. From dreamy newly-weds, we morphed into sleep-deprived, barely functioning parents.

Even though we had discussed parenting goals before marriage, actually becoming parents was a totally different ballgame. We found ourselves having to talk through and resolve multiple points of conflicts in our relationship.

Our 12 years as husband and wife has brought about an awareness of the conflicts that we easily, and sometimes, unwittingly trigger as we walk through this journey of life together. I would like to believe that we have learnt (and are still learning) to navigate our differences, appreciate the complexities of each other’s personalities and create a loving home life that looks beyond being just functional.

Our 12 years as husband and wife has brought about an awareness of the conflicts that we easily, and sometimes unwittingly trigger.


A conflict trigger that appeared fairly early into our marriage – even before the children arrived – involved how chores around the house would be divided and the expectations we both had.

From the onset, my husband and I agreed that I would do the cooking and he would do the washing up but we didn’t consider that we would have different points of view with regards to even the most basic of these chores. When it comes to dishes, I like to do them right away. My husband, on the other hand, likes to do them later.

In the beginning, every time I walked past a sink full of dirty dishes, I cringed but would keep silent because I wanted to appear as the gracious, understanding wife. I soon realised that not addressing the issue only caused my resentment to grow.

Thankfully, we’ve discovered that our conflict about household chores was easily resolved by honestly sharing our expectations of each other. My husband was unaware of my irritation over a sink of dirty dishes and I realised that he was not intentionally leaving those dishes unwashed. I made it a point to trust that he was putting in his best effort to get the chores done while he made it a point to get his portion done as soon as he remembered them.


My husband and I grew up in very different family environments. He came from a Chinese-Eurasian family and spent his formative years overseas, while I grew up in a strict Chinese-Peranakan family.

These differences came into play especially after we had children. We have disagreed on multiple occasions, ranging from disciplinary strategies and childcare arrangements, to even nutrition!

Over the years, we’ve learnt that resolving conflicts over parenting is best done without the children present. This is not always easy especially when you are in the heat of the moment and want to work out an issue then and there. Whenever possible, we try our best to hold off resolving our conflict until the children are out of earshot.

Resolving conflicts over parenting is best done without the children present.


When it comes to finances, my husband and I are still a work-in-progress. In the last few years, however, we have learnt that discussions over finance work best for us when we deliberately schedule an appointment with each other. We usually do this after the children have gone to bed.

Setting aside a specific time to discuss decisions and issues concerning money helps us stick to the plan and reduces the temptation of talking about more light-hearted matters. It allows us to share our expectations, concerns and values openly with each other. We have also used this time to discuss important life decisions (for example, career choices) together.

Although these are the top three stickiest issues for us, and perhaps for many couples out there, at the end of the day, we need to understand that marriage is a journey of a lifetime.

Every year together brings new and exciting discoveries about our spouse. We can use these as opportunities to appreciate each other better. When we begin to see each other as a tag-team and work towards resolving conflict as honestly and lovingly as we can, our marriage relationship is strengthened and we find ourselves in a better position to create a safe, secure and loving home environment for our children to grow up in.

This article was written by Sue-Ann Lee. 

Life is a journey, and we want to walk with you. In need of a listening ear? Come speak to our qualified counsellors today.

6 Great Ways Couples Can Prepare for Parenthood

Parenthood is an exciting and fulfilling journey, but it is also fraught with challenges, conflicts and many a sleepless night.

Is it possible to prepare ourselves well for parenthood?

And can we approach parenthood with a positive mindset?

Here are 6 practical strategies that have worked for me in my own parenthood journey.

1. Communicate your fears and dreams

If you’re planning to try for a child, it is vital to communicate with your partner what your hopes, dreams and even fears are about parenthood.

Sharing your feelings and thoughts in a transparent manner can help to build trust between you and your spouse, and also surface any challenges or differences in opinion, ahead of time, so they can be resolved before baby arrives.

Sharing your feelings and thoughts in a transparent manner can help to build trust between you and your spouse.

2. Anticipate challenges

We’ve all heard of the myriad challenges of parenthood: lack of sleep, difficulty securing babysitters and child-minders, and a general sense of overwhelm.

For many couples, juggling the different responsibilities of work and family can be a major challenge. When things get overwhelming, it is common for self-care and time together as a couple to get pushed to the bottom of the list. This can have a negative effect on our emotional health, as well as the marital relationship.

The first step to overcoming these challenges is to recognise that each season of parenthood brings its own set of difficulties, and to commit to working things out as a team.

3. Remember your spouse’s needs too

Finding a balance between caring for your spouse and your child can feel more like an art than a science.

However, this might require a slight mindset change on our part. We’ve found that when couples prioritise their marriage, the whole family thrives – including the children.

Make time to spend one-on-one time together regularly as husband and wife. You can rely on these scheduled couple dates to emotionally connect and communicate with your spouse.

They don’t have to be elaborate or expensive – even watching a movie at home together or playing your favourite computer game counts! The important thing is taking time to talk heart-to-heart, laugh and have fun with each other.

If you struggle to find time for intimacy, just schedule it and mark it down on the calendar. Remember that when something is important enough, we will somehow make it happen, so find a time that works best for you and your spouse, and get some help if you need to.

The important thing is taking time to talk heart-to-heart, laugh and have fun with each other.

4. Talk about household responsibilities

Different couples work out household chores differently. If you feel that you’ve been doing most of the heavy lifting, it may be good to discuss some possible ways that your spouse can chip in.

Often, you’d find that your spouse is willing to help, but isn’t clear on how to go about helping. Figure out some of the things you’ll be happy to split, such as one puts clothes in the washing machine to wash and hang, while the other takes it down to put it away, one gets the groceries while the other plans the meals, or taking turns for baby’s night feeds on weekends.

Once you’ve agreed on a plan, and both parties understand the expectations, caring for the home (and the baby) will likely be a smoother and more fulfilling process.

5. Strive to balance work and family

The early years of raising a child may feel more intensive as young children are more reliant on their parents. However, this is just one stage of parenting; you’ll have more time for personal interests and advancing your career as your child grows and becomes more independent.

Work and family responsibilities will be a constant juggle, so it’s best to take time to discuss your family and career goals with your spouse. When you’re both in agreement, it becomes a lot easier to work as a team towards achieving those aims.

Make time to review these goals as a couple, perhaps on an annual basis, and celebrate your progress, or consider if any of your goals need to be changed. Finding work-life harmony is a shared goal for both husband and wife – and it will take both of you to make it a reality.

When you’re both in agreement, it becomes a lot easier to work as a team towards achieving those aims.

6. Be part of a community

Being in a community of parents can provide much-needed support and encouragement for new mums and dads. Indeed, when challenges arise, it can be reassuring for new parents to realise that they are not alone; other parents have had similar experiences too.

Whether it’s an online forum or a new mums’ support group, try to seek the support and fellowship of more experienced parents around you. This way, you are setting yourself up for success in your journey towards parenthood.

Think about:

• What is one challenge that you can better prepare for before baby arrives?

This article was written by Joanna Koh-Hoe. 

© 2019 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Why Do Husbands Need Respect and Wives Desire Love?

“I can’t believe you just said that about me in front of all our friends! How could you humiliate me like this?” Sean spat at his wife.

Xue Ying was baffled. “It was just a casual remark. Anyway I was just telling it like it was. You do behave like that often, even when I’ve told you not to.”

“Did you have to tell everyone and make me lose face like that? I don’t know how I can face them again!” Sean stormed off.

For the rest of the evening, Sean gave Xue Ying the cold shoulder. He knew they should talk it out but he was still fuming. Besides, he thought, she probably wouldn’t care about being apart for just a few hours. He just needed some space to cool off.

Xue Ying didn’t understand why Sean was this bothered and treating her this way. She texted her close friend and cried confused tears as they chatted. “He’s been ignoring me since the afternoon. Does this mean he doesn’t love me anymore?”

This is a fictional scenario, but does it sound familiar? The wife did something she believed was harmless, but it affected her husband in a way she didn’t foresee. The husband acted in a way that he thought was inoffensive, yet didn’t know it would upset his wife this much.

The Crazy Cycle

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.” This explains why Sean felt so embarrassed by his wife’s joke about his behaviour, and Xue Ying felt so hurt by her husband’s subsequent silence.

Men hear criticism as contempt while women feel silence as hostility.

He calls an exchange like that the “Crazy Cycle”. Here’s how it works: when a wife doesn’t receive love from her husband, she reacts by not giving her husband respect, and when a husband doesn’t feel respected by his wife, he reacts by withholding love from her. And the crazy cycle repeats itself!

Why do men value being respected so much, and why is feeling loved so significant to women?

Men and Women Have Different Needs

In her surveys, Shaunti Feldhahn — a social researcher and author of many bestselling books on relationships — found that men and women have different inner insecurities.

She found that “[w]omen tended to have deep, hidden questions like, Am I special? Am I loveable? and thus needed to feel special and worthy of being loved for who they were on the inside.”

On the other hand, “men…really didn’t have those questions. Instead, they worried, Do I measure up? Am I any good at what I do? In other words: they deeply need to feel noticed, able, and appreciated for what they do on the outside.”

Different insecurities lead to contrasting emotional needs in men and women.

Different insecurities lead to contrasting emotional needs in men and women.

Give Our Spouse what is Needed

Feldhahn urges that understanding these sensitive areas helps us avoid hurting our spouse, and stop thinking that they’re being ‘oversensitive’. This lets us care for our mate in the way they need.

She points out that “men’s private doubt about whether they measure up is the reason why [their wives’] respect…matters so much to them.” For women, because their “latent insecurity [is] about whether their man really loves them and even whether they are truly lovable,” they “need to be reassured [by their husbands] often that they are beautiful and they are loved.”

This doesn’t mean a husband only wants his wife’s respect without love; neither does a wife only long for her husband’s love without respect. It’s just that a man needs to feel respected more, while a woman needs to feel loved more.

Dr. Eggerichs observes that just as a wife desires unconditional love from her husband, a husband needs unconditional respect from his wife. When we meet our spouse’s emotional needs, that’s when a couple enters into what he calls the “Energising Cycle”.

The Energising Cycle

Imagine that Sean and Xue Ying have learnt about each other’s insecurities and emotional needs. What can he do to meet her desire to feel loved?

Some things Sean can do include:

  • making it a point to spend quality time with her
  • sharing his joys and difficulties with her
  • listening to her and being empathetic when she shares her feelings with him
  • apologising when he has done something wrong toward her
  • speaking well of her in front of others
  • being physically affectionate with her in public

As for Xue Ying, to help Sean feel respected in their marriage, some things she can do to meet his emotional needs include:

  • expressing her appreciation for his efforts at work
  • affirming his commitment to protect and provide for her
  • not putting him down about his accomplishments or how much he earns
  • recognising that his desire to solve problems is his way of caring for her
  • responding to him when he desires sexual intimacy
  • encouraging him to spend time alone to recharge

Love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man.

Of course, every person is unique, so each couple needs to figure out what most satisfies their spouse’s primary desires. When we remember that “love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man” (Dr Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs), we’re off to a good start! Be energised in loving each other as you meet your spouse’s emotional needs.

This article was written by Raphael Zhang.

© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women (Revised and Updated Edition) by Shaunti and‎ Jeff Feldhahn.
For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men (Revised and Updated Edition) by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Love and Respect by Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs.

Build Your Marriage By Asking These 5 Questions

After 16 years of marriage and six children, my husband and I thought it timely to park some couple time aside this year and signed up for a marriage retreat. It was obvious to us, that after a season of coping with parenting young children in our twenties and thirties, along with career and family transitions, our marriage had lost some of its initial shine with the daily wear and tear of life. 

Marriage too is subject to seasons. The early years of marriage, while sweet, felt akin to walking a tightrope in order to balance each other’s expectations. Midway, in trying to establish financial stability, the demands of work and hopeful ambition ate into our attempts at real connection.

After children came on the scene, marriage became not just about “us”. Our time was mostly consumed in taking care of their needs first, leaving us with barely enough energy and time to address each other’s. Our moments were no longer exclusive but shared – our children would tag along with us to celebrate our wedding anniversaries.

To be fair, all marriages go through change. After all, some of our initial conceptions of our spouse and ideas of what marriage would be like will evolve. Adding to that, our personal experiences and emotional growth may shape us into different people from the original two starry-eyed individuals who had vowed to stick together for better or worse.

It was a timely weekend; Covenant Marriage Retreat 2019 in Singapore taught us some practical handles on how to iron out the kinks and rev the engines of love that would sustain our marriage in the decades to come.

If you can identify with what we have experienced, here are five specific questions that will help our marriages go the distance:

1. How can I focus on the good in our marriage? 

As the years go by and we see the person we married for who he or she really is, it may be easier to magnify their weaknesses and flaws than recognise the good. Focusing on the good means accepting your partner for who he is and where he’s at. It is also about choosing to acknowledge your partner’s efforts and strengths.

My husband is not a natural romantic who plans surprises or buys me flowers. However, I’ve learnt to appreciate him for the practical hands-on husband that he is, rather than focusing on what he is not. I appreciate his quiet ways of expressing love: Allowing me to take a bath first after a long day, swapping dishes with me when his order looks better than mine, doing the dishes without being asked and changing nappies. These are the many sweet ways he makes me feel special and loved! 

I’ve learnt to appreciate him for the practical hands-on husband that he is, rather than focusing on what he is not.

2. How can I fill my spouse’s emotional fuel tank?

Craig Hill, founder of Family Foundations International and author of Two Fleas & No Dog: Transform Your Marriage from Fleadom to Freedom, reveals that men and women perceive value totally differently. “Every person has an emotional fuel tank and Value is the fuel.” Men perceive value through respect and women perceive value through love.

For a woman, practical love means ensuring she is given high priority, that attention is given to address her feelings, and responsibility is taken when her spouse hurts her. For a man, practical respect translates to acceptance, admiration and appreciation of his work and efforts for the family.

Understanding this difference helps us do what matters most to our spouse and fills their emotional tanks. We need to consciously and intentionally fill our spouse’s emotional tank so that marriage becomes a safe harbour for them to rest and refuel instead of a battleground.

3. How can I better communicate to my spouse his or her value?

Most of the communication failures in a marriage arise from the things we say and…the things we don’t. While words can be used to accuse, tear down and manipulate emotions, sincere, affirming words have the power to build up our marriage relationship regardless of how we feel.

For every gripe we have about our spouse, think of three things we can thank and honour him for. Choosing to speak life-giving words will feed the heart and soul of our marriage. At the same time, “Only 7% of a communicated message is contained in the words spoken. Another 38% is in voice intonation and 55%, body language,” says Hill. That means a whopping 93% of all our communicated messages are non-verbal! We must be mindful that our tone and bodily gestures, such as touch and eye contact, have a direct impact on our relationship too. 

Sincere, affirming words have the power to build up our marriage relationship regardless of how we feel.

4. How can I put his or her needs first? 

Our marriage can run the risk of becoming transactional if we choose to prioritise our individual happiness above our spouse’s. The world has conditioned us to think that every relationship should offer some kind of payback.

“What’s in it for me?” “Can my spouse provide me with enough money?” “Will we be able to afford yearly holidays?” reflect attitudes that can prove toxic to a marriage.

Instead, we can shift gears by asking questions like, “How can I serve my spouse?”, “How can I make his or her day special?” and “How can I prioritise my spouse’s needs first?” The adage, “It is better to give than to receive” is definitely applicable to how we treat the one closest to us. 

5. How can I prioritise my marriage more?

Are there any hobbies, people, activities that might be competing with our desire to spend time with our spouse? The year-end holiday season is a good time for couples to reconnect and spend time together. Go on a short vacation or just take time out away from work or the kids.

It is easy to confuse building our families with building our marriages. They are complementary but not the same thing. In fact, spending time to intentionally improve our relationship with our spouse will ensure that our children and family relationships benefit as well. 

Think about:

  • Which marriage question will you mull over this week?

How to Overcome Personality Differences in Marriage?

I attended two weddings at the beginning of the year. As I witnessed these two lovely couples (both of the bridegrooms were my mentees) entering into holy matrimony, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own marriage and the years that my wife Donna and I had been married.

How did we survive those years?

How is it that I now love her more than when we first started?

Well, one thing is for sure. It is not enough to marry the one we love. We must love the one we marry. 26 years ago, I married the one I loved. Today, I am still loving the one I had married.

Meltdowns are not manipulative, and are usually not within the child’s control. 

‘A lot of give and take’

When I was asked at the second wedding to say a few words to the married couple, I looked into their eyes and offered this advice: “You must learn how to give and take.” I went on to say, “Kenny, you give and she takes.” Almost everyone in the room burst into laughter.

I explained, “When it comes to wardrobe space, you give her 70%, and you make do with 30%. As for shoe rack space? She 80 and you 20.”

I love books, so in our case, 80 to me, and 20 to my wife.

How did our marriage last 26 years? The answer: A lot of give and take.

We are so different, yet we managed to live under the same roof and sleep on the same bed, for all these years. Speaking about sleeping on the same bed, I didn’t know that the number of blankets is also an issue for discussion between married couples.

A few days after the first couple got married, I met with them and 3 other friends for lunch. When I asked the newlyweds how married life was, my mentee asked, “Do you use 1 blanket or 2 blankets?”

One immediate response was, “Why would you want to use 1 blanket? Having a good sleep is more important.”

We had a healthy discussion and managed to reach a conclusion before our food was served. The conclusion was this: As long as we sleep on the same bed, whether we use our own blanket or share a blanket is not so important.

All this while, I was listening with fascination. The reason is that my wife and I don’t use blankets. We use the quilt. I shared with them that my problem is not with blankets or quilts, but with the air-con. My wife can’t stand hot and I can’t stand cold. So this is what happens on some nights – my wife will switch on the aircon. When it gets too cold (for me), I’d get up half asleep and switch off the aircon and go back to sleep. A while later, my wife will get up and look for the remote control to switch on the aircon again. An hour or so later, I will get up to switch it off. I am fine with this except on those occasions when I can’t find the remote control in the dark!

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Donna and I are exact opposites in many aspects – she likes to throw things away, I like to keep stuff; her side of the table is neat and tidy, my side is usually messy; she is an extrovert, I an introvert; she can’t stand the sun, I enjoy the outdoors; she manages money well, I can’t even write a cheque.

Over the years, we have learned to work things out. For example, we have learnt to like what the other person likes. I didn’t like raw food when we first met. Now, I love sashimi.

Importantly, we don’t fuss over the small stuff.

Over the years, we have learned to work things out. Importantly, we don’t fuss over the small stuff.

Appreciating differences

My wife is a go-getter and is very task-oriented. Now she is more patient and does not see the need to be in control all the time.

What happened? Well, as the saying goes – “the two shall become one”. For Donna, my calm demeanour has helped her to be less stressed. I reckon I am also a better man now as her constant reminders has helped me to be less laid back and relaxed.

As for cleanliness, I have become neater, as my wife is a very neat person. On the other hand, she has also learnt to tolerate a bit of messiness by sharing the same room, cupboard space, study table, and shelves with a “not so tidy” man.

For Donna, my calm demeanour has helped her to be less stressed. I reckon I am also a better man now as her constant reminders has helped me to be less laid back and relaxed.

Walking the middle ground in parenting

Our children, Sarah and Samuel, are now 23 and 18 years old. Right at the start, Donna and I agreed that we should give them these three things:

  1. Values to live right
  2. Music to worship
  3. Language to communicate with different cultures

We did the first two reasonably well. However, their Chinese is just as bad as ours. I guess the lesson here is that we do not just need common goals when raising children, we also need to be realistic. (We don’t even speak Chinese at home so how can we expect them to do so?)

There will be disagreements when raising children, especially when it comes to academics, tuition, and time for studies vs other things in life.

My wife places a much heavier emphasis on academics than I do. Because of my background as a prison officer, I know that there are some very smart people locked up in the prisons too. So to me, good values are more important than excellent grades.

My wife is protective of our children, and does not like to see them experience failure. As for me, I believe in giving my children permission to fail, and to learn from failure as it builds resilience.

Over the years, we have come to a middle ground and my wife has learned to let go. I have also learned to provide the emotional support to enable her to do this.

Negotiating our differences and coming to a compromise isn’t an easy task. But it helps that we share our thoughts with each other in respectful ways, and give grace when we falter.

It is not enough to marry the one we love. We must love the one we marry.

I asked this question at the beginning. “How is it that I now love her more than when we first started?”

The answer to that is perhaps my biggest lesson of all: It is not enough to marry the one we love. We must love the one we marry.

Also, having two aircon controllers help.

This article was written by Jason Wong.

What Happens When We Truly Listen To Our Spouse

Thriving in your marriage is not a science, it’s an art.

Like all relationships, marriage ebbs and flows through time and personal challenges and growth.

Through all the changes, the art of listening can affect a marriage’s strength. Gaius and Herng Wei, married for over 8 years and parents to two children aged 4 and 6, share with us their own insights and tips into this art.

1. Turn towards, not against

When the couple discovered their firstborn would be born with a congenital heart issue, they were thrown into a period of distress.

“When we received the diagnosis during the pregnancy, Gaius supported me in very practical ways like making sure I have my meals. I remember days when I said, ‘I don’t even feel functional today,’ and he would come back to make sure I have my lunch,” shared Herng Wei.

Gaius said, “That was a challenging time but thankfully, we chose to walk closer and not apart. It was a subconscious decision but looking back, thank God, we decided we could express our vulnerabilities and fears to each other.”

The fact that they had each other to turn to and communicate with was the reason this difficult season somehow got transformed into – in Herng Wei’s words – “a bonding time” instead.

When going through periods of stress and fear, do you turn towards your spouse or turn against them by shutting down or taking out your emotional turmoil on them?

Learning to express our emotional needs in a way that helps our spouse understand and support us will enhance the love in our marriage.

2. Expressing yourself authentically

The art of listening and communicating functions much like a mirror. If one is willing to listen but the other is not committed to share their feelings on a deeper level, the connection will still be lacking. But when one spouse chooses to communicate vulnerably, it can spark a desire in the other to do the same. This can form the beginning of healthy emotional connection that strengthens the foundation of your relationship.

Expressing yourself in your marriage should go beyond talking about routine matters, like what’s for dinner, who’s picking up kids, or what did the kids do in school.

Learning to express our emotional needs in a way that helps our spouse understand and support us will enhance the love in our marriage.

As Gaius shared, “There have been multiple occasions when she would say, ‘Hey, we are not connecting.’ The fact that it crops up so many times means I have not got it yet. Whenever she tells me we need to connect or I need you to listen to me, I would try to find the time to listen to her. I think of it as a cry to listen to her thoughts. If the other spouse can’t listen, then we have to ask questions to find out if there are other reasons like emotional or physical needs not being met.”

“When someone listens to me, I feel loved. It tells me that what I’m feeling is valid,” explained Herng Wei.

It is also important that no one takes these requests personally or as an accusation that one is not working hard at the relationship.

“We have to respond in a manner that’s appropriate and respectful to consciously create a safe place for the other person to talk,” added Gaius.

The magic phrase, “We will talk about this later” helps them fix a time to discuss the issue again while giving each other space to calm down.

3. Carving out quality time

But of course, expressing yourself at the wrong times can be unhelpful. Like talking about an issue during the early morning rush to get out the door, or when one spouse is obviously tired and you “won’t have them 100 percent”.

Gaius and Herng Wei shared how they have adapted their communication style after marriage and kids.

“When we were still dating, we coined this term, ‘RTC’ or real time communication. Maybe because we were still dating and we had more time to address any issues immediately because we hoped to see the whole picture and get to know each other,” said Herng Wei.

“Now, there’s some delay,” laughed Gaius.

But on the flip side, this also works to help each other become calm to ensure a conversation is gainful.

“Gaius once shared that he realised after marriage, his highs are higher and his lows are lower,” said Herng Wei, adding that the magic phrase, “We will talk about this later” helps them find a time to discuss the issue again while giving each other space to calm down.

Gaius pointed out a universal challenge that every modern-day couple probably faces – time. He shared, “The challenge has always been to carve out a window of time. People don’t ask you ‘are you available to listen’? They just say, ‘Papa, this or that’ or ‘darling, this or that’, and I need to prioritise them.”

He manages his priorities by recognising that work and other demands will always be there, but we still have to carve out time for our marriage.

What has really helped Gaius and Herng Wei is fixing a time daily where they can connect.

“We try to do evening walks every day. That’s our undistracted time to talk. It’s about 45 minutes each time and we don’t have our phones with us,” said Gaius.

This omits distractions that can affect quality time together and is a key to keeping the marriage growing.

Said Gaius, “We tend to think what’s before marriage is the same as what’s after marriage but it’s not. We need to set aside time to communicate sometime, someplace, somewhere.”

Food for thought for couples shared by Gaius and Herng Wei indeed. Would you too set aside time today to communicate and connect with your spouse heart-to-heart?

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Are You A Controlling Spouse?

  • Do you find yourself constantly trying to control what your partner does and how they do go about their tasks?
  • Do you get upset or angry if things are not done specifically how you want them to be done?
  • Do you often criticise or are judgemental towards your spouse?
  • Does your spouse complain that you are controlling?
  • Do you get your way by using the silent treatment or threats?
  • Do you often make decisions for your spouse without consulting them?

If your answers are mostly “yes”, there is a high chance that you are controlling the relationship.

1. What’s behind controlling behaviours?

No one likes to admit that they are the “controller” in their marriage.

We get defensive when our spouse says that we are controlling. We may even believe that our controlling behaviours come from a good place because we care about the well-being of our spouse and the relationship.

While our intentions may be well-meaning and our concerns valid, it is important to realise that being overly controlling can do more harm than good to the relationship. No one likes to be micromanaged, especially not our spouse. If left unchecked, controlling behaviour can erode trust and gradually push the person closest to us away.

Controlling behaviours often stem from trust issues and are exacerbated by fear and anxiety. The causes can range from deep-seated personal issues, unhealthy habits, unresolved emotional wounds, negative family modelling, and insecure attachments, to irrational beliefs about others, self, and life.

Perhaps you grew up in a family where you experienced rejection instead of unconditional acceptance. This could have resulted in dysfunctional relationship models that you unconsciously picked up and replicated in your own behaviour.

If you want to maintain a healthy and thriving relationship, you can start by attending to your personal growth.

You may hold irrational beliefs or fall into thinking traps that increase your fear or anxiety to unhealthy levels. For example, you might think that when your spouse disagrees with you on an important matter, it signifies rejection, and damages your self-esteem. So, you may give your spouse the silent treatment or demand that he/she aligns with you instead of embracing the value of differing viewpoints.

Or perhaps your personality is such that you expect compliance from your family. You feel secure and comfortable only when you are in charge.

There can be a variety of reasons why a person exhibits controlling behaviours.

Understanding the root causes of one’s controlling tendencies is not about inducing guilt or punishing oneself, but rather gaining insights into how to address them. It’s crucial to recognise and understand our need for control. Without this recognition, it becomes difficult to engage in the process of change and growth.

If you think you need help to uncover the causes of your controlling behaviour and to make changes to strengthen your marriage, consider seeing a relationship coach or a counsellor.

Instead of trying to control your spouse, learn to accept, respect, and love him/her with all his/her shortcomings and failings.

2. Practical steps to take

There are also practical steps you can take to help you loosen the reins and improve your relationship:

1. Work on yourself first

Being controlling is usually a coping mechanism for anxiety. It is not uncommon that we project our undesirable attitudes onto our spouse when we feel lousy about ourselves. If you want to maintain a healthy and thriving relationship, you can start by attending to your personal growth.

2. Accept your spouse unconditionally

Instead of trying to control your spouse, learn to accept, respect, and love him/her with all his/her shortcomings and failings.

3. Learn to manage stress well

When we feel overwhelmed by life events and situations, we can become controlling towards others as a way of coping with our insecurities. So, if anxiety is fuelling your controlling behaviours, you can alleviate it by working on your stress management skills.

4. Examine irrational beliefs

When you notice that you’re starting to exhibit controlling behaviours, ask yourself: What about this situation is making me scared or worried? What am I afraid of? When you are able to press “pause” and become more self-aware, it will help you to let go.

It takes courage to admit that we are the controller in the marriage, especially if it is feedback from our spouse.

If left unchecked, controlling behaviours often do more harm than good to your marriage. It is thus important to first acknowledge the behaviour is unhelpful, and then identify the causes behind it so that you can work towards positive and sustainable change.

© 2023 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Celebrating Marriage

Keys to intimacy and happiness

Celebrating Marriage

Do you find it hard to express your innermost hopes to your spouse?  

Learn how you can overcome the hindrances and hesitation in articulating your innermost hopes for your marital relationships. And discover the secrets to a thriving marriage as we unlock the keys to greater marital satisfaction!  

Participants will be equipped with skills to:
Understand the emotional and sexual needs of their spouse
Gain practical tips to meeting your spouse’s needs (and work towards having your own relationship needs met!)
Learn effective ways of communication and conflict resolution


Duration:  1 – 1.5 hrs 

Delivery Format: Talks can be conducted either onsite or online via Zoom 

Have questions:
Reach out for more information on this programme!

Connect2 is an initiative by Focus on the Family Singapore to help married couples nurture and grow their relationship.