Keeping the sparks alive

Keeping the sparks alive

As marriage experts, three couples say they too have to work hard at their marriage

If a person is having problems in his marriage, chances are he does not want to listen to an expert, who has never been married, tell him how to resolve the problems.

Families for Life council chairman Ching Wei Hong says couples who attend the non-profit organisation's marriage talks appreciate the insights of speakers who are married couples sharing their personal anecdotes.

At its convention last weekend, 11 out of 12 of the sessions were helmed by husband-and-wife teams.

At Focus on the Family Singa- pore, a pro-family charity, marriage preparatory and enrichment workshops are always conducted by a husband-and-wife pair.

Mrs Shelen Ang, Focus on the Family Singapore's head of research and development, says these couples are usually trained in counselling and psychology or have years of experience working with couples.

She and her husband, Mr Jason Ang, have been conducting marriage preparation and enrichment courses together at the charity for the last eight years.

She says:

"Married couples make things more real for other couples because they are able to share their own marriage experience. You can also get both the husband's and wife's perspectives on issues."

SundayLife! talks to three of these married couples-cum- marriage experts to find out if they practise what they preach.

Marriage time to discuss issues

Work control manager Thangasamy Padmanathan, 55 and Mrs Sarojini Padmanathan, 53, chief operating officer at Sinda, have been married for 28 years. They have three daughters aged 27, 25 and 22.

They have been attending marriage enrichment courses since 2009 and, for the last four years, have been sharing their marriage experience with the Tamil community at the annual marriage convention organised by Families for Life.

He says:

"In 2009, we decided to sign up for a marriage enrichment course. We were not having any major problems in our marriage, but when we learnt that even couples who have been married for 50 years were attending such courses, we were curious and wanted to find out what they were all about.

One thing we took away from the courses and incorporated into our married life was 'marriage time' or time specially set aside for the couple.

My wife and I were lucky that we have the habit of keeping in touch with each other every day, be it by telephone calls or text messages, no matter how busy we were, ever since we started dating.

But even then, we found the concept of 'marriage time' very useful.

Now, once every two weeks, on a Sunday, we spend about two to three hours with each other to talk about how our week has been and to discuss any issues that come up, ranging from my upcoming medical appointment to when we should go on a family cruise.

Our children know not to disturb us at this time. If it rains, we would have our 'marriage time' in our room at home. Otherwise, we may go for a walk in the park nearby or go for coffee or dinner at a cosy corner.

There are certain rules we have to stick to. For instance, no party should behave like he is the expert and there is no space for anger. Whoever violates these rules will be reminded by the other.

We also modified it to fit our needs. My wife suggested that we record the issues we discussed every week in a notebook so that we can look through the previous week's issues to ensure that they have been resolved before moving on.

We found that incorporating 'marriage time' into our lives has been really useful. Nowadays, we hardly quarrel and our bond has grown even stronger."

She says:

"I have been facilitating parenting talks for 22 years and, as part of that, I have been talking to married couples about how to have a good marriage.

As a role model, I am inspired to make my own marriage work.

The main challenge in my marriage came about 10 years after we were married, in 1997, when we ran into financial difficulties. We had little savings and spent almost everything that we earned. That was when our children were in childcare, my husband had just started his own business and I was an HR executive.

We had little time together. The only time we had was when he drove the children and me to childcare and my workplace on weekdays.

Initially, I didn't know how to manage the situation and I felt very lonely at times. I decided to turn to the resources I had, which taught me to take a long-term view of our marriage and to understand why he had to spend so much time at work at this point in time.

I learnt that I could support him by ensuring all's well at home, so that he could have peace of mind while he worked."

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