Do more to strengthen marriages

 

While it is a good idea to mandate mediation and counselling for couples going through a divorce, I am concerned about the increasing number of divorce cases in Singapore ("Calming the rocky waters of divorce for more children"; last Tuesday).

As a family physician, I have seen the profoundly negative and painful impact - both emotionally and socially - divorce has on children.

I have seen some of these children playing truant from school, falling into bad company, picking up smoking and binge drinking, and engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour, perhaps in a desperate attempt to get attention, affirmation and acceptance.

I hope more can be done to help couples strengthen their marriages and avoid even contemplating divorce in the first place.

I suggest the following:

Define and develop the concept of "love" among our young. As many married couples would attest, love cannot be based on feelings alone, since feelings come and go. Rather, love is a decision to always do whatever is needed for the good of the beloved. Such a concept of love is far more likely to be constant, and more likely to last.

Develop and provide more marriage preparation programmes and make them more readily available to engaged couples, possibly at a subsidised rate. Incentives (such as vouchers for honeymoon packages) could be offered to those who attend such courses.

Develop and support more marriage enrichment programmes for married couples, with adequate childcare facilities for those who need them. A possible incentive is to give married couples unrecorded leave to attend such programmes, with accompanying tax perks for companies that support this endeavour.

As an institution, marriage between a man and a woman has served society well. It has formed the bedrock of the family - the building block of society. A good marriage helps create a haven for the nurturing of children, who are the future of society.

Neglect it and marriage may be pummelled beyond recognition.

John Hui Keem Peng (Dr)

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