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A long-lasting marriage needs commitment, great communication, and a good dose of love.
The following pointers for a happy marriage from Theresa Bung, principal therapist with the Family Life Society, have been proven to work in a wide variety of relationships, including ones in which couples haven’t yet tied the knot.
1. Communicate effectively
As good communication is the essence of all relationships, it is important that you and your spouse are able to express your thoughts and feelings freely and candidly.
Giving each other undivided attention shows that you respect and value each other’s opinions.
You must be comfortable asking questions without getting on each other’s nerves. And think before you speak. Waiting before responding to something that has annoyed you can reduce bickering.
Count to 10. It’s better to discuss difficult issues once emotions are not so high.
In time, you will both come to understand and sense each other’s underlying feelings and needs.
2. Set goals
Dreaming about the future you will have is exciting. Setting goals together will ensure you make progress towards that future.
It gives you a path to follow, and pushes you to improve – both individually and as a couple.
This will strengthen your marriage and make it easier to take on new roles, like becoming parents.
3. Always keep your cool
Disagreements happen, so be mindful of your partner’s feelings when there are differences in opinions or thoughts.
Carefully pick your battles, and let the other ones slide.
Remind yourselves that you are both special, and it is this uniqueness that brought you together.
Learn to embrace each other’s strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to conflicts.
4. Make friends with your in-laws
Getting along with each other’s families does not necessarily mean you have to meet all their expectations.
Be clear from the start about how much influence you wish each other’s families to have on the family you are starting.
Discuss and agree on how you will accord due respect to your respective in-laws.
5. Overcome financial difficulties
According to the 2012 Marriage Statistics, financial issues are a common reason why marriages break up.
It isn’t necessarily the amount of money a couple has that creates friction. It’s the differences in your spending habits and especially your lack of communication when it comes to dollars and sense.
Understand each other’s perspective on money and materialism before tackling problems.
You should discuss and agree on all major financial decisions, including how much to save, what bills go under whose care, significant expenditures, as well as long-term investments – and appreciate the other person’s contribution. Budgeting wisely also goes a long way towards avoiding future finance-related conflicts.
6. Appreciate strengths, embrace weaknesses
There will be differences between every couple, and you should make it a point to communicate them clearly.
Reach a compromise in a way that draws on both of your strengths, while encouraging work on any weaknesses.
This way, you will both be a source of encouragement for one another.
7. Learn to laugh
Laughter is healthy for a marriage, both emotionally and physically. It can help defuse stress and tension in awkward situations, stimulate the immune system, and reduce blood pressure.
Laughter also lifts your spirits, brings joy, keeps a relationship fresh, helps one cope, and brings you closer together.
8. Trust and respect
Honesty, trust, and respect are important pillars in the foundation of any relationship.
Along with love, understanding and friendship, they are also the building blocks for emotional security and psychological stability in a strong marriage.
9. Become role models
As you begin to think about setting up your own family unit, you’ll need to take on different responsibilities, and must be prepared mentally and emotionally to grow into your new roles as parents and role models.
Your children will eventually adopt many of your individual values and behaviour patterns, just as you have been influenced by your parents.
They will notice and respond to the way you deal with problems, express feelings and celebrate special occasions.
Another important reminder: Disagreements about kids can be very corrosive to your marriage. Keep discussions private, so they do not know you disagree.
If you need to, get professional advice to help you coordinate and respect your different views. It’s nothing to be ashamed about.
10. Agree on family goals
If you’re going to have kids, it’s best to discuss the following key questions as soon as possible:
• Will you be passing on a genetic condition? Hereditary illnesses are sometimes passed down from parents to their children, so have a doctor go through your medical histories before you even get pregnant.
• What are your mutual goals when it comes to parenting and family? For instance, do either of you wish to further your education before making babies?
• If you can afford it, would you prefer that one of you stays home for the kids?
If you’re both working, you will need to agree on a primary caregiver (for instance, the helper, one or both of your own parents, or a childcare centre).
Family Life Society is a non-profit charity that aims to empower families, strengthen marriages and uphold the dignity of human life. Visit www.familylife.sg for more details.