Successful marriages seem to be an increasingly rare commodity in society these days, with statistics showing a growing number of marriages falling apart and high divorce rates. How can couples make their marriages work amidst juggling work commitments and other family responsibilities?
We approached leading matrimonial and divorce lawyers practicing in Singapore to share with us their perspectives and candid advice on how couples can strengthen their marriages and ensure that they stay together, even in tough times.
After all, having heard so many stories of failed marriages, divorce lawyers are undoubtedly the best source for marriage advice!
Below are the different perspectives:
1. Know Your Marriage Basics
- Communication – take the time to understand your partner’s work life and social life, as well as how his or her relationships with their respective relatives are going, and take an active interest in your partner’s hobbies and interests
- Effort – making the effort to spend time with your partner or surprise your partner with a special meal, home-made gift or a plan a trip
- Be careful of the ‘D’ word – when faced with the urge to argue or explode in anger, take 3 steps back and count to 20 (or even 100 if need be!). Words once spoken can never be taken back. You will be surprised to hear that a lot of divorces take place when parties start to utter the ‘D’ word during arguments
- Seek marriage counselling – Do not be afraid to seek marriage counselling or mediation from a trusted relative or mutual friend.
- Be fair – Always ask yourself how you would feel if your spouse says what you intend to say or does what you intend to do. When the shoe is on the other foot and you find out that what you are about to mete out is intolerable, then think twice before you act or speak. Being fair and reasonable is important in a relationship.
Tan Siew Kim, Kalco Law LLC
Matrimonial Specialist with over 22 years of experience in her field
2. Family Comes First
“What keeps a marriage strong? Appreciate what you have. Many divorced couples regret the things they did or say that caused the marriage to break up. They had forgotten to cherish the thing that is most important to them – their family. By then, the damage is done and it may be too late to save the marriage. Nothing should matter more than your family, so remember to put your family front and centre of everything you do.”
Lim Chong Boon
Director, PKWA Law Practice
3. The Importance of Setting Boundaries
“Set boundaries within and without your marriage to create an environment for your marriage to have love, freedom and responsibility. Boundaries within the marriage protect yourself and ensure responsibility and respect to come freely and lovingly from your spouse. Boundaries without the marriage protect your marriage from external things which come between you. This could include work, parents, children, etc.”
Ronald JJ Wong
Advocate & Solicitor, Covenant Chambers LLC
4. Communicate – you are on the same team!
“This may be a cliché but communication is key. Set aside time to talk about all the hard stuff – your parents, children, money, different belief systems etc. Don’t sweep things under the carpet for too long. Even if you cannot come to an agreement immediately, it is good to still talk so that you understand where each other is coming from and you can agree to disagree. Be honest about your feelings and work towards a common goal, or at least reach a happy compromise. Always remember that you are on the same team.”
Managing Director, Eden Law Corporation
5. It Is Both of You Versus The World
“Unfortunately, I have seen too many cases where couples’ long-standing disputes can be attributed in one way or another to some form of 3rd party involvement (and not in the sense of an extra-marital affair!) Be it big decisions such as the raising of children or even daily run-of-the-mill arrangements such as arranging furniture in the home, numerous “stakeholders” (parents, grandparents, cousins and even friends and colleagues) will all have their opinions on how things should be done.
Couples who place too much weight on these external views will inevitably open the door to conflict entering their marriage. At the end of the day, if the couple does not function, the marriage does not function. Remember that the most important view is always that of your spouse.
Teo Jin Huang
Partner, I.R.B. Law LLP