PHOTOGRAPH: The New Paper
Singapore often scores poorly in surveys on marriages and relationships.
A 2016 Prudential Relationship Index, based on an online survey of 500 Singaporeans, shows about a quarter of married people are thinking of divorce.
Also sobering for couples are divorce statistics from last year.
In 2015, there were 7,522 divorces and annulments, the third highest annual figure on record, according to a report by the Department of Statistics released in July.
In the Prudential survey, couples say what they argue over include children and money.
But here’s a startling statistic for those glued to their mobile devices.
One in four couples fight over the amount of time spent on the phone.
Their partners prefer spending time with their mobile phones and not them, said 32 per cent of respondents.
These complaints are all too common to counsellors who spoke to The New Paper on Sunday.
Senior manager and principal consultant with Fei Yue Community Services, Ms Evelyn Khong, shared an example of how a couple in their early 30s witnessed their relationship deteriorate because of the husband’s obsession with computer games.
The husband would insist that the family eat together, but would hurry his seven-year-old child through dinner so that he could get to his computer games. And he would be at it until 3am.
If the child ate too slowly, he would even resort to slapping the child.
The wife was so upset, she sought help.
Says Ms Khong: “Couples should also focus on managing the (technology) that we have subtly allowed into our lives, letting it pull our relationships apart.”
Families in this era face a lot of challenges, more so than before, says Mr Willy Ho, the lead counsellor with The Counselling Paradigm.
He says: “If you go back 20 years, you wouldn’t have parents who needed to play games on the computer.”
He too has seen cases of husbands complaining about the wife who is always on the mobile phone and vice versa.
He says: “If you have your phone all the time, that behaviour can be very suspicious.
“The spouse may suspect that there is a third party involved.
“You need to (make it clear) why you need to have the phone with you. It could be work-related.”
Mr Jason Wong, chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore and founder of the Dads For Life movement, says technology can be a tool to build relationships.
For instance, he uses it to keep in touch with his daughter who is studying overseas.
He says: “I have a personal philosophy: If I am physically connected, I should be digitally disconnected.”
ABOUT THE PRUDENTIAL RELATIONSHIP INDEX
More than 5,000 adults aged between 25 and 55 were surveyed from July 13 to July 31 this year to develop the 2016 Prudential Relationship Index, that was revealed on Thursday.
The index aims to understand the state of personal relationships in Asia.
People from 10 countries and territories — Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam — were interviewed.
The online survey involved 500 residents with household incomes of at least $4,000 a month.
Seventy-seven per cent are in a relationship with a partner, including 59 per cent who are married.
Half of them are parents.
WHAT IS VALUED
- are easy to get along with
- are comfortable in each other’s silence
- enjoy doing things together
- respect individuality
- have honesty
More men than women in Singapore feel that close bonding is one of the most important aspects in a partnership and want their ideal partner to express their love for them.
15 per cent think that an ideal partner would provide financial support.
Singapore has the most number of singles in Asia at 23 per cent.
Of those aged 40 or above, 17 per cent are single, have never married and are without a partner.
In any given week, 24 per cent of married people in Singapore who were surveyed think seriously about leaving their spouse.
One in three (34 per cent) feel their partners upset them at least once a week.
The same proportion also say they argue with their partners quite often, including 20 per cent who say these arguments lead to verbal abuse.
WHAT DO THEY FIGHT ABOUT?
- Children (46 per cent)
- Money (41 per cent)
- Housework (29 per cent)
- Spending too much time on the computer or phone (28 per cent)
- Being inattentive (27 per cent)
WHY DO THEY FIGHT?
Counsellors say that the different backgrounds, cultures and upbringing of couples can cause tension in a relationship.
Different parenting styles and knowledge can also lead to problems, says Mr Willy Ho, a counsellor.
He is not surprised that couple fight about housework.
He says: “If I don’t want to do the laundry, you don’t want to do the laundry, who is going to do the laundry? Having a helper is a way to solve the issue but helpers do require days off, you cannot rely on them all the time. You still need to do some basic things.”
Mr Ho says that couples should seek help immediately when there is a communication breakdown.
“Charged up emotions are disruptive to communication patterns,” he says.
Chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore, Mr James Wong, says couples should spend more time nurturing their relationships.
He says: “Currency for the economy is money. The currency for a relationship is time.”
This article was originally published in The New Paper.