December is always associated with festivities – with Christmas, celebrations, and the advent of a New Year. For us, the month is also associated with our wedding anniversary, which is just a few days before the end of the year.
Every year, we make it a point to go away for our anniversary. This has been the case since we got married 11 years ago. When the kids came, we decided that we would still choose to take a break just to get some respite.
Life in Singapore is busy; with kids around, things can get even more hectic. So we have decided that kids or no kids, our anniversary will be a special time away just for us. We tell them that “Daddy and Mummy love you very much. That’s why we’re going away…so that we can learn how to be better parents and to take care of you better!”
We are also thankful that our parents can help with the kids while we are away.
The anniversary trip does not have to be an expensive one. There was one year when we spent a total of 5 days away without the kids on a mini adventure of our own.
However, for most years it’s just a short 3-day getaway. In fact, during some of our more cash-strapped years, we have settled for an overnight staycation in a simple local hotel.
More important than where we go is the time spent reflecting on our marriage and parenting. It is a yearly ritual for us to find a cosy cafe to relax in and take stock of our lives. Away from the mundanity of life, we ask each other the following questions:
1) What do you love about me as a husband/wife?
2) How can I do better as a husband/wife?
3) How can we be better parents to each of our kids?
You can come up with more questions of course, but do take time to consider them carefully as the right questions can provide us with important insights.
What do you love about me as a husband/wife?
This is a question that has affirmation as its underlying principle. In marriage, it is especially important for us to continually affirm our spouse.
Dr Emmerson Eggerichs has written a powerful book titled Love and Respect. It is premised on the principle that husbands need to love their wives and wives, to respect their husbands. Eggerichs argues that husbands need to love their wife by first understanding what is in their “deepest heart”, while wives are to respect their husband in ways that are meaningful to him.
This is a powerful principle to adopt as we need to continually demonstrate our love to our spouse in ways that they understand.
Husbands need to love their wife by first understanding what is in their “deepest heart”, while wives are to respect their husband in ways that are meaningful to him.
How can I do better as a husband/wife?
This is a question that has growth as its underlying principle. We are not exactly the same person we were when we married our spouse. Yes many aspects have not changed, but we have definitely changed in some ways – we have grown older, our life stage has changed, our family status has changed (we may now have children). As such, we cannot be doing exactly the same things we used to do during courtship or during the early years of our marriage.
Similarly, our spouse has changed too. And the best way to know exactly how to love our spouse would be to ask them how we can do better. When we learn the areas that our spouse would like us to grow in, we can then work on improving in those areas, an act that would strengthen the marriage.
The best way to know exactly how to love our spouse would be to ask them how we can do better.
How can we be better parents to each of our kids?
This is a unifying question. Husband and wife are a team in the marriage and parenting journeys. Parenting is not easy, and it would be so much harder if we are going at it alone. Thus, we need our spouse to be our ally in the parenting process.
We first need to know where each child is at emotionally and mentally, and then come up with a joint plan of action to help them grow in a holistic manner.
This strategic plan has to be drawn up for each of our children, but we do not need to come up with a comprehensive plan. All we need is to reflect and consider one area in which to guide each child, and for both parents to work along the same area. We aim to build on our children’s strengths, as well as to tackle their major weaknesses. But ultimately, we want to achieve growth in their lives.
Marriage and parenting are not easy. But if we have the encouragement and support of our spouse, the journey ahead will not be as daunting!
© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy company which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, counselling, mentoring and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two young boys aged 8 and 6.