Extramarital Affairs: Can There Be a Second Chance?

Most couples enter marriage with intention of savouring long-lasting marital bliss. Nobody expects themselves or their spouse to have an affair. However, the unfortunate reality is that affairs do happen.

An affair usually arises when there are perceived or real unmet needs in a marriage. Lack of intimacy, poor communication, unresolved anger, undercurrent issues, and emotional distance are all common traits of a marriage in crisis, according to Larry Lai, Head of Counselling and Principal Psychotherapist at Focus on the Family Singapore.

“There is usually something missing in the marriage relationship that has resulted in one or both parties feeling frustrated or helpless and instead of resolving the issues, one party chooses to fulfill their unmet needs outside of the marriage” he adds.

There is usually something missing in the marriage relationship that has resulted in one or both parties feeling frustrated or helpless.

Having personally known couples who have journeyed through infidelity, Larry has also witnessed, first-hand, their successful recoveries. Here are some of the key factors necessary for healing after an extramarital affair.

Be prepared for the long recovery journey

The first and foremost thing is for the wrongdoer to admit and accept responsibility for committing the affair, acknowledge the hurts and injuries they have caused, and seek forgiveness. The next and very difficult step, especially in the case of a long-term emotional affair, is for the wrongdoer to commit to ending the affair and restoring the marital relationship.

Larry emphasises that both parties must be prepared for the tough and long-drawn process in an affair recovery and restoration journey.

“Realistically, it may take 1-2 years, if not longer, for both parties to fully heal, through the help of individual and couple therapy,” said Larry.

Be willing to forgive 

Forgiveness is another key ingredient in moving on after an affair. Reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness.

Reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness.

This is arguably the hardest step to take for the wronged spouse. When your spouse betrays your trust and causes you deep emotional hurt, you may have a strong need for vindication or justice. Forgiveness is likely to be the last thing you want to extend.

However, it is important to realise that forgiveness not only frees the wrongdoer from shame and guilt and allow him to start afresh in rebuilding the relationship, it also frees you to focus on your own healing process.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting but it does mean not using the incident against your spouse in the journey ahead. It also doesn’t mean that the pain and hurt automatically vanish; you will still need the time and space to grieve as your marriage has changed irrevocably.

Rather, forgiveness facilitates your own internal healing process. It is only through forgiveness that you can free yourself and focus on restoring and strengthening your marital relationship without the encumbrances of the affair.

Seek good counsel

Working with a counsellor can help facilitate the healing and restoration process. A counsellor will generally work with both of you, through individual and couple therapy, to identify the unmet needs in your marital relationship, and guide you in the work needed for healing and restoration.

For instance, it may be necessary to establish new boundaries for re-building trust in your marriage with regards to interactions with the opposite sex and improve on the accountability and transparency in your marriage.

Take it one day at a time

The best thing you can do for yourself during the recovery period is to take things one day at time.

For those with children, the challenges might seem even more overwhelming because it will be hard to hide your stress. Be honest with your children about the difficulties that you are going through but only provide them with age-appropriate information. Don’t weigh your children down with the details or play the blame game.

Do take care of the parts of your family life that you still have control over to provide a semblance of security and stability for your children.

Be honest with your children about the difficulties that you are going through but only provide them with age-appropriate information.

Infidelity does not have to signal the end of the road for a marriage but with the willingness from you and your spouse to forgive and work on your relationship, your marriage can be given a new lease of life.

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

If you have unresolved issues in your marriage, or are dealing with marital infidelity, speak to one of our counsellors today.

How to Understand Your Teenager Better

Teenagehood – that awkward and angry phase of development that we’ve come to view with trepidation and confusion, but did you know that adolescence is marked by three different stages? I read about this concept, and I saw it happen in my children. In fact, my three teens are roughly at each of the three stages now.

Early adolescence

My youngest, who is turning 13 soon, is in the early adolescence stage – he is still emotionally attached and dependent on us. However, he experiences sudden outbursts of anger and frustration, and is often short-fused.

During such times, the best thing I can do is to stay calm and tell him we will only continue the conversation when he is calm. I don’t always succeed so sometimes we end up quarreling.

However, when we’re both calm, he would apologise because he knows that he was being unreasonable. He has explained his behaviour by saying, “I don’t know why I am like that. I don’t know what is happening.” I apologise often too, because he is sensitive and easily hurt. His logic of how I offended him is often difficult to understand but his feelings of hurt are real.

It isn’t always easy but I try to shower him with loads of affection even as I continue to help him to cope with his schoolwork and life in general.

I did not have such wisdom and maturity when my first two sons went through adolescence. I was often very hurt and angry with them. I practically trashed my relationships with them. Things only started to turn around when I realised that unless I changed (because they sure were not going to), I was going to lose my sons.

Things only started to turn around when I realised that unless I changed (because they sure were not going to), I was going to lose my sons.


Mid-adolescence is typically characterised by more frequent conflicts and tension between parents and teens. But it’s not just the teen who is at fault. While teenagers may have their angst, we have our fair share too. One of the reasons I think that teenagers are difficult to deal with is that they become disappointed with their parents and act out in disrespect and anger.

One of my sons often said I was a hypocrite and sneered at my declarations of love. I had to wrestle with those words – first to accept that he was right, and then to come to terms with the fact that I would never reach the standard of perfection he expected of me and for which he used to adore me for. I mourned the loss of his devotion and thinking back, it took me more than 3 years to grow out of that angst.

The words of author Paul Tripp, “His selfishness hooks my selfishness,” capture the experience of mid-adolescence well. The teen is as selfish and self-centered as he was when he was a toddler. However, the expectations of the parent are now higher.

On my part, I expect him to consider my needs now because I think he can. But to him, he is not ready to do so and sees his mother’s love as conditional.

Do I choose not to love him because he brings me little comfort, pride or joy? If my son does not possess a single redeeming quality, would I still love him? Interacting with this teenager reveals to me the limits of my love. His selfishness has hooked mine.

If I could turn back the clock, I would have been less exacting on my demands on him and given him the benefit of the doubt – that he was trying his best, no matter whether his best was good enough for me or not. If I had done that, my relationship with him would have been stronger.

If I could turn back the clock, I would have been less exacting on my demands on him and given him the benefit of the doubt. If I had done that, my relationship with him would have been stronger.

Late adolescence

Late adolescence is an enjoyable phase as our teens start to be more aware of the impact of their actions on others and vice versa. I recall how one son recently explained to his brother about how I could get a heart attack from hypertension. Another son also told me how he would ensure he knows the lyrics of the songs (including songs in a foreign language) he listens to.

Now that I am seeing my older children move into late adolescence and adulthood, I realise that many of the anxieties I felt in the past were unnecessary. Someone said this – teenagers nowadays are not much different from those in the past; they still respond to love.

Now that I am seeing my older children move into late adolescence and adulthood, I realise that many of the anxieties I felt in the past were unnecessary. Teenagers nowadays are not much different from those in the past; they still respond to love.

The way they spend their time is very different, but if you are genuinely interested in them, they will respond to you. I saw this happen just recently. My son was on his phone, but a young adult came up to him to chat. She is a youth leader in church who has known him for 3 years. She started talking to him and asking questions, and he quickly kept his phone to talk to her. We did not have to remind, nag or threaten him. He did it on his own accord.

Two lessons I’ve learnt

As our children get older, we need to start relating to them as friends. While we do not abdicate our role as parents, we need to also become people whom our children will choose as their friends.

As parents, we have the greatest advantage as we know their interests and personalities. I may not know as much as my sons about politics or military equipment, neither can I keep up with their computer games, but I can be a good listener.

I find that my children can happily talk to me for a long time about their areas of interest without me actually understanding much, so long as I stay interested.

When they become teenagers, they need their own space and freedom to try out life. That should be celebrated because they will not learn wisdom and discernment otherwise.

The second thing I’ve learnt is that I need to cultivate my own interest and circle of friends. Children take up a lot of our time and energy, and they give us a joy and comfort. However, when they become teenagers, they need their own space and freedom to try out life. That should be celebrated because they will not learn wisdom and discernment otherwise.

However, this means we suddenly have excess time and energy for ourselves. This may seem like a good thing at first but it can be hard to deal with the emotional void that used to be filled by our children.

When I have my own pursuits and friends, I am firstly emotionally fulfilled and more able to deal with their angst, and secondly, more interesting to be with when we spend time together. I have something to share with them – my life, my friends, my passion and my dreams. I no longer need to live through them, nor need them to fulfil my dreams.

I always remind myself that while I chose to have children, they did not choose to have me as their parent. While they might be alive because of me, I do not ultimately own them. I cannot demand devotion from them just because I choose to give them my love.

My job as a parent is to help them to be successful and at peace with their chosen path. While I pray that they will grow up sharing my values and be counted among my soul-mates, I can only do my best and leave the outcome to God. I am content now to just treasure every moment I have left with them.

Think about:

© 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.

How to Break the Ice In A Cold War with Your Spouse

Bring back the sweet nothings

“Why are you always tired the moment I want to talk to you? I only wanted to…”

Before I could even breathe a word more, my husband pulled the blanket over his head and snapped, “Good night!”, cutting me off in the middle of my sentence.

As I lay in bed staring into the dark, I began reminiscing our courtship days when we would spend hours on the telephone. Even though my then boyfriend, and now husband is an introvert, he was comfortable baring his soul and revealing his innermost thoughts and feelings to me.

Fast forward 15 years later, the man who promised to give his heart wouldn’t even lend me his ears.

Just how have we gone from whispering sweet nothings to saying nothing?

Fortunately, we arrested our communication breakdown before it headed further south. While there are still days when unkind words are said in anger and we get defensive at the slightest suggestion of an on-coming conflict, we have also learnt to be quick to apologise and reconcile the next day.

Rebounding from a communication breakdown

A lack of communication has been cited as one of the top reasons for marital breakdowns, ranking even higher than infidelity. A girlfriend once said that she’d rather quarrel with her husband than be caught in a cold war.

When both parties have reached a stage where they couldn’t care less to even quarrel, they have grown emotionally distant, which is a slippery slope downhill.

When a couple stops communicating, it usually stems from the woman feeling unloved and the man feeling disrespected. How can we communicate better so as to break the silence and reconnect as a couple?

3 ways to ace communication with your spouse

We can use the acronyms A.C.E to remember 3 practical ways on how to ace communication with our spouse and restore the relationship.

A: Apologise and mean it

We don’t like to feel patronised when our kids give us half-hearted apologies, yet we are guilty of doing that when we say, “I’m sorry but…” and attempt to justify our wrong-doing.

Although saying sorry is the first step to break the silence, especially if we were the one who triggered the cold war, anything less than a sincere apology makes us appear begrudging.

Between my husband and I, I struggle to apologise as I expect him to give in to me. (I blame Korean dramas for my unrealistic expectations.)

However, being the first to apologise doesn’t mean we are weak. It shows that we care more about mending the relationship than the need to be right. Laying our egos aside to apologise wholeheartedly is never easy, but for the sake of our marriage, it is worth it.

Being the first to apologise doesn’t mean we are weak. It shows that we care more about mending the relationship than the need to be right.

C: Choose not to be offended

Whenever my husband hints that the house is getting too untidy, my first response is to feel attacked. Once this self-defensiveness is triggered, I shut out my emotions and retaliate by being critical.

We feel the need to protect ourselves, but the danger is when we go all out to win an argument only to realise too late that it comes at a heavy cost.

So let’s make a conscious effort not to take every comment personally. Instead, we can accept our spouse’s feedback graciously, perhaps asking, how can we do it together or do it better. More often than not, my husband who is a fixer, jumps at the opportunity to solve the problem, resulting in a win-win outcome for everyone.

We feel the need to protect ourselves, but the danger is when we go all out to win an argument only to realise too late that it comes at a heavy cost.

E: Express your wishes

Women expect men to be mind-readers. However, men just want us to get to the point and tell them straight up.

After 12 years of marriage, I’ve learnt to express my wishes to my husband by using “I would love it if…” statements.

For these statements to be effective, they would need to be positive and future-focused. For example, “I would love it if you consulted me before agreeing to go out with your friends tonight” or “I would love it if you offered to take the kids for their classes, so that I can rest tomorrow.”

The idea is not to use them as angry or sarcastic statements to pick a fight. So statements like, “I would love it if you stop being a pain” is not going to be helpful.

Having an occasional timeout is necessary, but don’t allow the cooling period to overrun its course. Keep the lines of communication open and nurture your marriage by using the A.C.E strategies shared above.

This article was written by Susan Koh. Susan is a self-confessed C+ mum who lives for coffee, chocolate and heartfelt connections. As a mum of one she believes that the best parenting style is parenting with intention and shares her motherhood journey on her blog A Juggling Mom.

Think about:

  • Which part of A.C.E. would you apply to your own marriage?

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

Raising A Responsible Child Does Not Need Harsh Methods

The 7-year-old hurriedly deposited the bag of goods at the kitchen table. He then dashed off to his room to play with his brother. But not before he heard a shout from the kitchen.

“E! What happened to the eggs! Why are half of them broken!”

As the 7-year-old returned to the kitchen, he was met with a frown on his father’s face. The bag of eggs was open, and it was not a pretty picture.

“Why are the eggs broken?” asked the father in an upset yet calm tone.

“Er…. I don’t know,” came the reply.

“Well, I saw how you had thrown them on the kitchen table. You were too eager to go to your room and play.”

The boy did not reply. His eyes turned to the ground and he attempted to avoid his father’s stern glare.

“Who is responsible for the broken eggs?” asked the father.

“Sorry Daddy. It’s my fault.”

“I accept your apology. But E, do you know who is ultimately responsible for the eggs?”

The little boy looked at his father, expecting him to yell at him for not properly handling the eggs.

“I am ultimately responsible. You are still a young boy, and I chose to let you carry the eggs. So although you are partly to blame for breaking the eggs, but at the end of the day, as your father, I am the one who is ultimately responsible for the eggs.”

The little boy was surprised at the response, his eyes taking in the weight of all that had just been said; and all at once there seemed to appear a gleam of gratitude on his face.

“I understand, Daddy. If you don’t love us you wouldn’t spend so much time training us and teaching us to be responsible….”

Our philosophy is that children should be treated as “persons-in-training,” individuals to be groomed as early an age as possible.

Building Healthy Habits

Since our children were young we have been teaching them the importance of being responsible for their actions. For instance, since the age of 5 or 6, our kids have been carrying their own plates to the table after we place our orders at the food centre. We are aware that they could possibly drop the plates, but we have decided that even if they did that, it’s still okay. And at home, we have used regular crockery and other utensils from an early age, instead of the plastic cups and plates which are usually used by many other kids. Our philosophy is that children should be treated as “persons-in-training,” individuals to be groomed as early an age as possible.

Many of these ideas have come from 19th century educationalist Charlotte Mason, whose writings on classical education have shaped the minds of many. A prominent teacher and writer, Mason believed that a parent’s chief duty was to “form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving.” To that end, habit formation was one of the key principles that she advocated.

I remember one of her analogies about habit formation. She noted that the train goes around a fixed railway track each day. Would it then be possible one day for the train to suddenly decide to go off track? Likely not; the railway tracks have been established from the start, and the train would not travel in a route that was not there before. Likewise, when we lay the rails of a child’s life, we establish set patterns and habits that the child will follow from the beginning of his or her life. Consequently, we need to help our children develop healthy habits as early as possible.

When we lay the rails of a child’s life, we establish set patterns and habits that the child will follow throughout life.

No Need for Harsh Consequences

What then about responsibility? Many parents have chosen an approach known as classical conditioning. If the child does something right, they are rewarded. But if they do something wrong, they are punished. This model of teaching responsibility is borrowed from psychology, and many parents today practise this method.

However, if we were to draw from Mason’s principles to teach responsibility, we would see responsibility as an extension of habit formation. So if we teach our children how to be responsible from an early age, they will start practicing good habits and take ownership of their day-to-day responsibilities.

As such, there is no need for an external stimulus like a reward or a punishment to drive our kids. Instead, our children are motivated by an internal desire to be responsible for their actions.

They can begin by learning to be responsible in small ways such as watering the plants and clearing the dinner table daily. As your kids get older, you can scaffold their responsibilities and entrust them with chores such as washing or hanging of laundry, or vacuuming and mopping the house.

However, as parents, we should bear the ultimate responsibility for what happens under our care. As such, we need to monitor whether the plants are being watered or if the dishes are being cleaned properly, continually guiding and reminding our kids if the leaves turn yellow or if there is leftover soap on the dishes. There is therefore no need for harsh punishment. We instead replace this with regular training.

What if the child refuses or forgets to do his chores? Chore refusal is a behavioural issue and needs to be resolved accordingly, with an appropriate punishment such as a “time in” or a withdrawal of privileges. As for forgetfulness, we all forget things from time to time; we can simply remind the child to do the chore, regardless of how inconvenient it may be for them.

“Daddy,” said the 9-year-old, “It’s already evening and I have yet to water the plants. I’m very tired and I really want to go to bed.”

“Yes, Z. I know it has been a long day for you.”

“But Daddy, I know I must water the plants. It’s my responsibility.”

“Yes, Z. You are absolutely right. Why don’t you ask your younger brother to help with the lights?”

And so the younger child reached out and switched on the balcony lights, while the older child proceeded to water the plants. The younger brother then completed the task by switching off the lights.

“You know Z and E, you have both done very well. Daddy is very proud of both of you!”

And the boys beamed a brilliant smile, even as they headed to bed.

Think about:

  • What is one way your child can help out in the home this week?

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?

Help Your Child Overcome the Fear of Failure

“Just tell me if my answer is correct.”

My daughter was getting increasingly exasperated as she knew I wasn’t feeding her with the answers without ensuring that she understood the thought process to solve her Math questions. To her, mistakes are a sign of failure and she wanted to stay a mile away from them.

At the tender age of 10, she is already painfully aware of how negative being labelled as a failure can be. In school, non-performers have been put down by classmates, while praises were lavished on the top scorers.

In contrast, I’ve also heard of schools giving out medals to everyone for participating at Sport Day so no one feels excluded. Both extremes give failure a bad reputation; why do we make failure out to be a dead end?

While we want our children to be successful in their endeavours, the last thing we should do is shield them from every obstacle that come their way. If children are never taught how to deal with setbacks, how can they build the resilience to recover from them?

Very often, the fear of failure is worse than actual failure itself as it creates anxiety and hinders our children from trying new things. In order for children to overcome the fear of failure, we must equip them with a healthy perspective of failure.

1. Teach them that failures are building blocks to success

What if we taught our children that failures are essential to success? And that in order to succeed, failures have to be part of the equation.

We can take on the role of a coach. Instead of taking over their problems, help them to evaluate the problem, brainstorm possible solutions, and gently point out their blind spots or where they can improve.

With each experience of failure, our children will be less fearful of making mistakes. They will likely also learn to approach difficult situations from different angles, helping them to be more creative and persistent at problem-solving.

With each experience of failure, our children will be less fearful of making mistakes.

2. Emphasise on progress, not perfection

Children often get disheartened when they see that they are not doing as well as others, but we can help them to focus on the progress they have made. Recognise the efforts they have put in and assure them that if they continue trying, they will be able to get there.

Encourage them not to give up just because they have not achieved their goal yet. It just means that there is room for improvement and growth.

3. Temper our reactions towards failures

Acknowledge our child’s disappointment but also give them space to articulate their frustration and disappointment.

Instead of saying, “You just need to try harder next time,” we can be more empathetic in our response by saying, “I know you trained hard for the trials and I’m sorry you didn’t get into the team. Do you want to talk about it?”

Our reaction to the setbacks that our children experience shapes their mindset towards failures. If we are always looking for someone to blame, children may try to find an excuse when things don’t go as planned. By responding with more compassion, we are teaching them to take personal responsibility towards failure.

Growing their self-awareness will also put them in a better position to pick themselves up after a fall. If they were unprepared for their test, ask if they felt they had put in enough time and effort on their revision, and if not, what they can do next time. If they were overlooked for a leadership role, ask what areas they think they can work on for the next round of selection.

Acknowledge our child’s disappointment but also give them space to articulate their frustration and disappointment.

4. Emphasise that they are not defined by failures

For self-esteem to flourish, children need to know they are not defined by their success or failure. Similarly, we must recognise that our children’s success or failure do not define us as well.

While we may worry about our children failing at school, being overly caught up with grades can be suffocating and disempowering for children when they feel they are not measuring up.

As parents, we have to have a realistic view of our children’s abilities and set our expectations accordingly. By learning what motivates them, we can activate our children’s inner drive instead of making them do well to please us.

We can also be vulnerable and share our personal stories of disappointments we face at work. Insodoing, we are normalising failure and modelling to our kids so they can see how to cope with and overcome setbacks.

Failures can be painful but learning to change the conversations we have about failure will help reframe how our children perceive failure. With a more positive and growth-oriented mindset, they will be in a stronger position to overcome challenges in the future.

Think about:

  • How will you talk about failure with your child this coming week?

Working From Home with Kids

What first comes to your mind when you think about working from home? Do you imagine it will be more difficult to get work done or do you think it will be a less pressurising way of working? While telecommuting has its perks, like time saved from travelling, it definitely has its own set of challenges as well.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, many working parents are now working from home. With students doing home-based learning, our school-going kids are home at the very same time we are figuring out this new work arrangement. Distractions and interruptions can come more easily, potentially impacting our productiveness.

As you work towards a new norm with work and family life, consider how these 6 Rs could help you create a more successful and less stressful environment for everyone in the family!

1. Ritual

Before the new measure of working from home was implemented, the “ritual” of getting ready for the day and commuting helps us to shift to “work mode” by the time we get to our workplaces. It would be helpful to create something similar even when we work from home—stick to a standard waking up time for everyone, continue to do the usual morning rituals of showering and breakfast with the kids.

Some people find it helpful to change into clothing that’s slightly more like their usual work wear. Pro-tip: wearing pajamas won’t help you feel productive!

Others mentally prepare themselves for work while doing some exercises or having a cup of coffee before they start the work day. Continue these morning rituals, set a time for work or school to start and keep to it every day as well as you can.

2. Room

There are those who can get productive work done when propped up in bed, but for most of us, that may not be conducive—especially when the kids or work kept us up late the night before!

Set up a well-lit designated workspace in your home that allows you to have good sitting posture and minimal distractions. Try to avoid spaces that might draw you toward doing something else, like the bedroom or kitchen. Parents of younger children may need to work near their children, so as to keep an eye on them as they play or nap, while parents of older kids can use a separate room as their “office”.

In the same way, we can set up a space for home-based learning for our kids. Make sure they understand that it’s a space for them to focus on online classes and homework, and not for playing or other activities.

As you consistently utilise these designated spaces every day, you will be drawing “boundaries” for your kids and they will understand that’s Daddy’s or Mummy’s work room or this is where I sit for school time. This adds a sense of our third “R” to their lives.

3. Routine

Just as it is useful to us to know what’s ahead in our work day by planning a schedule that includes time for work, breaks, and meals, our kids would also benefit from having such a routine.

For older children, plan each day’s schedule with or for them. Tell them that just as they have a set of school tasks to finish, Daddy and Mummy also have work tasks to complete, so everyone will have to work together as a family to get our work done. Think of ways you can increase your kids’ ownership over this schedule, say, by letting them write/type or decorate it. Then put it up where it can be easily seen, and follow it as closely as possible.

For toddlers, printing out visual cue cards can be a great way to communicate schedule. You can print out photos of what you want to fill their day with—whether playing, reading, eating, sleeping—and stick it somewhere prominently. Every time you move on to the next slot, remove the former card and make a big deal about the new card. You can even put a timer on if you like and every time the timer goes off, it signals the time for the next activity.

If you have children who are too young to keep themselves engaged while you’re working, you may need to plan your schedule around their routine, say, naps, meals, playtimes, and baths. This may mean starting work earlier before they wake, taking breaks during the moments when they need you most, and returning to work after they have gone to bed.

There’s no perfect routine—take time to experiment with different approaches before settling into a rhythm that works for your family.

4. Restraint

Self-discipline has been found to be key for those who work well from home. After we’ve planned our schedule, we need to stick to it to concentrate on our goals for the day. That means not doing lots of housework or heading out for a long trip in the middle of the work day!

When we practise self-discipline, we are also setting an example for our children on how to set limits on themselves. It’s important for parents to explain to their kids that when Daddy and Mummy are in their workspaces, they need to be able to focus, and so they cannot be interrupted frequently, unless it’s an emergency (and communicate what constitutes one)!

If you find that they are interrupting your work too often, you can give them a quota on the number of requests they can make when you are at work. Through this, they can learn some self-discipline by deciding which requests or questions they really need to ask and which ones can wait until later.

5. Rest

Let your children know that throughout the day, you’re going to take regular breaks and stick to them. During break times, engage with them—and be present! At the end of each break, remind them that you’ll be going back to work and will join them again at your next break.

Kids who are old enough to work independently can usually concentrate for about 30–45 minutes at a time, with 5–15 minute breaks in between. You may like to use a timer to help you and your kids keep track of time.

Give them permission to have more active indoor activities to release the energy that builds up when they’ve been sitting for long periods of time.

Remember that you need to get away from your desk from time to time, too—a good break does wonders for productivity!

6. Rewards

Finally, remember that this arrangement is new for your children. So be intentional in affirming your children when they have put in effort to stick to their schedule and the limits you’ve set.

Older children are able to understand the principle of delayed gratification: that doing their learning and homework first will have benefits later. Help them to understand the importance of sticking to a schedule to get a reward later on. Then, plan a surprise and spring it on them sometime during the week when they’re least expecting it. This will better reinforce their positive behaviour, which you will hopefully see more of with time.

You can also have a reward system where they get points for age-appropriate good behaviour and they get to redeem rewards (bubble tea, fast food meals, more TV time, etc.) with the points.

And don’t forget to affirm and reward yourself, too! This arrangement is a learning journey for you as well, and there would be tough spots along the way as you figure out what is best for you and your kids. When you hit upon something that works well for the whole family, that’s worth celebrating!

As we work on these aspects of Ritual, Room, Routine, Restraint, Rest, and Rewards, may we also discover the joy in connecting with our children in new ways!

Adapted from Staying Sane while Working from Home with Kids by Joannie Debrito ©️ 2020 All rights reserved. Used with permission from Focus on the Family.

How to Help Your Teens Cope with Bad News

The news of the tragic incident at River Valley High School (CNA, 19 Jul) brought shock and caused concern to many of us this Monday afternoon. Reading the messages that were sent through my various parent chat groups, I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

“Is this real,” I wondered to myself, as I allowed the weight of the news to sink into my heart. The parties involved are merely teens, youth who belong to families of their own. “What could have possibly gone wrong?”

When tragedy strikes close to home, it is often difficult to detach from the event. We cannot wave this off as something that happened in another part of the world. If as adults, we struggle to deal with bad news, what more for our teens?

Perhaps the only way to cope with this is to walk through it with them.

How to talk about tragedy with your teen

The unfortunate incident happened at an IP (Integrated Programme) school, meaning the children most closely involved in the case or who witnessed/heard about it are aged from 12 to 18 years.

Although some details of the case have not been brought to light yet, we can already start thinking about how we can help our teens process the news. Here, we will need to first consider the different personalities of our teens.

You may be able to identify your child among the following personality types:

  • Doers want to protest or create new laws or programmes.
  • Talkers want ongoing discussions about what happened and the possible core issues.
  • Thinkers process what they know about the tragedy and may form deep thoughts about solutions. This personality tends to be a bit more pessimistic and may make negative comments about the overall trustworthiness of people. You may want to give your thinker some space before approaching them.
  • Peacemakers would love for everyone to get along. They could usually empathise with everyone involved and would avoid conflict and opinionated discussions.

Help your teen understand his/her own personality and how it affects the way he/she processes information. You can also encourage him/her not to rush to a conclusion, and to be open to other points of view.

What can parents of teens say/do?

Kids, especially teens, want to know what to do in response to a tragedy. As parents, we will do well to connect with them at the heart level and coach them to:

Practice discernment together

We live in a culture that thrives on disseminating information quickly. While speed is of the essence when it comes to news, how do we really tell that what we are sharing on WhatsApp or Telegram is indeed true and factual?

We often think it’s just a message and it’s just a small group of people we’re sending it to, but it could end up muddying the facts or worse, hurting the people who are closely connected to the case.

How can we better discern the facts before spreading them?

Look at the events through your child’s eyes

Each child filters news differently according to his or her personality. Kids with more inhibited or anxious personalities may stay focused on worrying while others move toward thoughts of action or fixing. Taking time to understand how each child processes the news will help you craft your approach.

If you have an anxious child under your wing, it may help to give them the space to air their feelings and worries. Or even to write them down in a journal.

Encourage honesty

Encourage your child to be honest with his emotions. It can help to use simple analogies to present the importance of facing our feelings. Take for example a wound. A wound needs to be cleaned and exposed to air (even through a bandage) to heal. It can be painful to clean a fresh wound, but doing so allows it to get better.

A child may develop behaviours that numb their fears or hurts. Social withdrawal, passivity, aggressiveness, rebellion or busyness may be used to push the negative feelings away but they may never be fully resolved.

Pause and listen

Let your child ask questions. Put aside your own world to enter his as he tries to process information. If he feels anxious, reassure him. Don’t brush aside their emotions. Instead, help them identify it and manage it. If we dismiss their emotions, we lose a precious teaching moment.

Practice empathy

Developing empathy helps our kids grow up and expands their world. It’s part of understanding that our own selves and our families are not the centre of the world but there’s a bigger world outside of our home and many people live in different circumstances.

Ask questions like:

  • How do you think they may feel?
  • Is there anything we could do to help?

Such questions help our children learn to feel empathy for those involved in the tragedy, and also think of solutions and to play their part in the larger good.

As parents, we are human beings too—we grapple with the same difficult emotions that our children feel. Instead of thinking we need to have all the answers to the most difficult questions in the world, or that we need to have the solutions, perhaps we just need to be present with them in their time of need and confusion. And face up to our worries and fears together.

Adapted from How to Help Your Kids Process Tragic News by Danny Huerta © 2018 All rights reserved. Used with permission from Focus on the Family.

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.