From The Straits Times    |

Our Experts
Vyda S. Chai, clinical psychologist at Think Psychological Services
Kenneth Oh, romance coach at Executive Coach International
Ang Thiam Hong, family coach at Edora Asia Coaching
Willy Ho, founder of The Counselling Paradigm

1 Go on a double date
Heading out for a night on the town with other couples can help spice things up. “When the two of you go out for a movie, throwing on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt may be fine, but when you go on a double date, you tend to take things up a notch. Making that extra effort with your appearance can be very attractive,” says Vyda S. Chai, clinical psychologist at Think Psychological Services. It also opens up conversation topics and creates a new dynamic. “There’s more to talk about, like interests and holidays, and it’s cool to see things from other couples’ perspective,” she says.

2 Stroll down memory lane
Talking about the past reminds you of your shared history and what made you fall for your partner. “Revisit your first date to rekindle the spark,” says Vyda. “Talk about ‘the good old days’, what you both used to enjoy and joke about the things you didn’t like.”

3 Create a tech timeout
Designate a specific time, whether daily, weekly or monthly, to put away all your technological devices and communicate without interruption. “Put your handphone in the car or leave it at home when you go out,” says Kenneth Oh, romance coach at Executive Coach International.

“Having these tech timeouts is critical for a couple to build up their relationship. By making them a regular feature in your lives, both of you will know that there is always time for each other, no matter how busy you are,” he says. Vyda agrees: “Even the simplest things like running errands, doing chores together or setting aside 90 minutes to have coffee on the weekend supports a healthier, bonded marriage.”

4 Try couple apps
“There are a host of apps that allow couples to create their own private world, from sharing daily emotions and keeping track of important dates to archiving memories,” says Kenneth. A popular one is Couple (available at the Apple App store and Google Play), which offers chat, video- and photo-sharing, and allows you to share music playlists, create shared to-do lists and search for restaurants for your dates. There’s even a Thumbkiss function – if both of you touch the same part of the screen at the same time, your phones will light up and vibrate. Fun!

5 Deal with recurring conflicts
According to Ang Thiam Hong, family coach at Edora Asia Coaching, it’s important to address conflicts that recur but that are constantly swept under the carpet. “Not all conflicts can or need to be resolved, the main point is to be aware of the problematic ones,” he says. “Awareness is a powerful condition for solutions to follow. It’s only when we’re aware that we’re able to make our relationship better.”

6 Celebrate what works
Applauding what has worked in your marriage over the past year is a way to lift the mood of a relationship and motivate you and your husband to repeat desirable behaviour, says Thiam Hong. “It focuses on the relationship strengths and the resourcefulness of the couple to make their relationship more fulfilling,” he adds. So whether you have worked together to overcome challenges like helping your child deal with a bully at school or made an effort to spend more quality time together, it’s good to celebrate that.

7 Set common goals
“A complaint I often hear in marriage counselling is that a marriage lacks meaning after some time,” says Thiam Hong. “One way around this is to develop goals at three levels: personal, couple and family goals.” For example, on a personal level, share your thoughts of a career switch with your partner. As a couple, communicate and agree on something you are both excited about. Says Kenneth: “It could be that exotic African safari or saving up to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant.” Family goals could include aiming to relocate to another country in five years, or simply spending more time with your children. Says Thiam Hong: “When we create suitable goals and work towards them, we develop a sense of meaning in our marriage and become closer.”

8 Surprise each other
“Surprises are a sure way to spice up a relationship, no matter how long you’ve been married,” says Kenneth. It doesn’t always have to be about extravagant gifts or lavish meals. Simple gestures are usually enough. “The key lies in doing something that represents a break from the regular,” says Kenneth. “It can be cooking your spouse’s favourite dish, making a card to express your appreciation or bringing him to your favourite childhood eating haunt.”

9 Keep your promises
Whether you agreed to take time off for a short holiday or watch a movie he’s been wanting to see, keep that promise. “If you promised to do something for him this year, act on it before the year is up,” says Willy Ho, founder of The Counselling Paradigm. “Trust is often developed on promises that are brought to fulfilment. A constant practice of trust will allow a relationship to grow.”

10 Affirm him
Vyda says compliments encourage couples to bring out the best in each other. “Compliment him at least once a day,” says Vyda. It could be anything from the way he looks to the delicious meal he prepared. Willy agrees. “Learn to show assurance and affirm each other in areas that were done well,” he says. Even a simple remark like “You’ve done a good job!” can mean a lot to your spouse.

This article was originally published in Simply Her December 2015.