10 ways to have a happy marriage that will last the test of time

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1 Set a shared vision and mission statement

What are you striving towards in your marriage and what is your purpose for being married? "Get together with your spouse to come up with a shared vision and mission statement or even a statement of core values for your marriage," says Claire Nazar, marital communication skills trainer and council member at Families for Life. "This helps you to build a sense of 'us' and the future you'll have together."

Both of you should come away from the discussion with the same idea of what you want and need from your marriage. Working towards a common purpose and goal strengthens your marriage and makes it more resilient.

2 Set the ground rules

You both need to be specific about your expectations for your relationship, and set up realistic boundaries. "The set of rules helps to minimise conflict in the household," says Claire.

You can start with pertinent issues like balancing family and work, keeping the spark in the marriage alive and managing finances. According to a 2016 poll by Families for Life, these are the top three issues that Singapore couples typically struggle with. Make sure there is compromise and that you're meeting each other halfway.

3 Understand your spouse's needs

"You and your husband have different personalities and you will love and feel loved in different ways too," says Claire. "Learn how to love him in the way that he prefers."

Let your spouse know what your love language is. There are five: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Now, strive to apply this knowledge in daily life.

Let's say Hubby needs affirmation through words. Elvira Tan, marriage specialist at Focus on the Family, suggests taking a minute or two off your busy day to drop him a text that reads "I love you" or "Can't wait to see you tonight". "This tells him that you are thinking about him," she says.

Claire adds: "It will make him feel appreciated and help you to see the relationship from his perspective."

4 Carve out we time

While there's a shared laundry list of financial and household responsibilities to take care of after work, you still need to make time to connect emotionally with each other too. "This is so that you have the opportunity to share light-hearted moments and on a deeper level, have meaningful conversations with one another," says Claire.

Intersperse more serious, practical discussions with deeper more emotional conversations. You can even create a schedule for when to address different topics, so that you don't mix heavier household matters with heartfelt conversations.

Elvira also suggests finding a common hobby. "You already spend enough time apart when you're at work. It's important to spend time doing something you both enjoy."

15 cheap and good dating ideas for you and your man

  • 1. Go back to your first date: Retrace your steps and revisit the place where it all began.
  • 2. Visit a library: Make a date at any of our excellent libraries, borrow some romantic literature (better yet, if they come with steamy scenes) and get into the mood, literal-ly.
  • 3. Play Pokemon Go together: It's free, it gives you a nice workout and you can squeal in excitement together when you finally catch that illusive Snorlax.
  • 4. Give each other a massage: All you need is your favourite massage oil or body lotion.
  • 5. Pack an atas picnic: Stretch your dollar by buying top-notch food from Garcons at Essen At The Pinnacle, an atas food court.
  • 6. Make origami together: Working on a mini project together, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, is great for bonding.
  • 7. Bake a cake together: Get your hands dirty so the outcome will be so much sweeter.
  • 8. Be a tourist in Singapore: Take the train – don’t forget to hold hands – and pretend to be broke youngsters during your early courting days.
  • 9. Go fishing: An hour or two of chilling out with a fishing rod can be a great time to catch up, while (hopefully) catching your dinner.
  • 10. Visit the Zoo: Check out all your favourite animals, share how you used to visit the Zoo on your school excursions… And for once, take photos WITH each other, instead of OF each other.
  • 11. Go on a Shameless Selfie Adventure: The rule of the day: To take as many selfies together.
  • 12. Go Speed-dating: Ask each other the same questions you’d ask someone at a speed-dating event.
  • 13. Try something you'll never usually do: If your hubby is a durian lover but you’ve never touched the thorny fruit, get out of your comfort zone and try it for his sake.
  • 14. Write each other a love letter: ‘Forcing’ yourself to focus on this love task will help you remember all the sweetest moments that you have shared.
  • 15. Declare a 'Surprise Day': Your only rule – keep to the $20 budget.

5 Work as a team

Marriage is a team sport, and you and your husband have to contribute for it to succeed. Elvira says this includes getting to know each other's friends, presenting a concerted front to the kids and managing different tasks around the house, such as cleaning or paying the bills.

"You can even work on different aspects of the same task," adds Claire. For example, split the workload when planning for a date or a short getaway, instead of relying on one person to do everything.

She explains that working together to achieve the end result of a task can help you both foster a stronger bond and provide a sense of accomplishment as one unit. "In doing so, you respect and recognise each other's contributions and strengths to the marriage, and make up for each other's weaknesses," Claire adds.

Top marriage myths debunked

  • Certain qualities in a person can be changed, but for those that cannot be changed, try to be patient and tolerant towards each other. After all, no one is perfect.
  • While it is definitely good to have things in common, having everything in common could make things dull.
  • Differences are common and arguments are inevitable. Instead of raising your voice, try to sit down and calmly discuss the issues you're facing, and be as rational as you can.
  • More often than not, parenthood drives spouses apart due to the lack of time for anything other than caring for the child. Try to work together and support each other during trying times.
  • ...of affection, and it's all downhill from there. Your wedding day is just the start of the rest of your life with your spouse, so be optimistic about it!
  • Your in-laws may sometimes seem difficult, but they may also be able to offer support in times of need, so do try to maintain a healthy relationship with them.
  • No one can think straight when it's late. Go to bed and talk about it the next day when you're both more alert and able to be rational and logical about your issues.
  • If you have a serious argument and need some time apart, sleeping on separate beds might really help.
  • Sex is an act of intimacy that maintains the connection between a couple. Do it to keep the connection. Besides, it also helps you de-stress.
  • Try out new things in the bedroom and spice things up with your partner to make things interesting. Explore new things instead of sticking to the usual routine.
  • There may not always be sparks, but companionship and deep mutual understanding will keep it going.
  • Some time apart will be good since both of you see each other everyday. Take a vacation with your best friend to recharge! It will be helpful for your marriage too.
  • While you should be as open as possible with your spouse, it is better to have someone else to confide in should there be issues from your marriage.

6 Never pick a fight

When you're upset with Hubby, it's tempting to try and get back at him with equally nasty words or actions. "When you try to inflict the same pain you are experiencing, you won't achieve empathy or sympathy, and certainly not intimacy," warns Claire. Over time, this will only wear down the relationship.

Give yourself a one or two-minute timeout to figure out how you want to respond, and think about the consequences of that response. What also helps is reminding yourself about the good times you've had with your husband. "After thinking it through, you might find yourself silly for wanting to react in that way," says Claire.

7 Listen when dealing with conflict

Fights happen when you fail to understand one another. And often, they're rooted in issues buried beneath the surface. Take for instance, a common source of conflict: money.

"Conflict over money is rarely about money," says Elvira. "For example, if he's overspending, it's probably because of some underlying unmet emotional need that he is trying to fill. Figure out how you can help him manage them."

Most important, says Elvira, is to "listen in a loving manner with a desire for greater emotional intimacy".

Read also: Indian woman's tips on finding the right life partner draws huge responses online

8 Be humble

"There is no room for ego in a marriage," says Claire. "You must be willing to apologise and to ask for forgiveness when you have said or done something hurtful."

If you just can't admit wrongdoing or are unable to back down from a fight, this means you're putting yourself first in the relationship. To overcome this, think of ways you can empower your spouse. He's your lifelong companion and will always need your support.

And here's the most important advice of all: never criticise your spouse in front of others, especially your own parents. You can always correct him in private later.

9 Talk openly with your in-laws

If your in-laws are an integral part of your lives, you need to have an open line of communication with them to ensure you're always on the same wavelength. This way, you will spare your spouse the mental stress of being caught in the middle between his parents and you.

Always make the extra effort to do something nice for them, says Elvira. "Do so even if your actions may go unnoticed."

Read also: 10 ways to maintain a healthy relationship with your parents-in-law

10 Build a network of support

Don't keep your marriage isolated. Involve friends and family who can support it and keep it healthy and strong. Claire explains: "Like-minded couples and family members can draw from their personal experiences to share about matters ranging from family planning to pregnancy to parenting, as well as tips to communicate more effectively with your other half."

Older couples, in particular, are a treasure trove of advice and experience. They may even help you to pre-empt various marital challenges so you can be better prepared to face them.

Also consider attending marriage talks and workshops with your spouse, such as Families for Life's Marriage Convention in February, a series of seminars and workshops that caters to couples at various stages of their marriage. These help you learn more about your other half and your marriage, and how you can be a better spouse. For more information, visit www.familiesforlife.sg.

Or, you can take part in Celebrate Marriage Challenge, organised by Focus on the Family, and supercharge your marriage. For details, visit www.family.org.sg.


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