Connect2 Marriage Preparation Workshop


Connect2 Marriage Preparation Workshop aims to help couples address issues that they may face as newlyweds, build a solid foundation in the early years and learn how to really love each other — for life!


Session 1: Thursday, 11 Apr 2024 , 7:00pm – 9:30pm, online on Zoom
From This Day Forth – Laying the foundation for a strong marriage

Session 2: Thursday, 18 Apr 2024, 7:00pm – 9:30pm, online on Zoom
For Better Or Worse – Working through differences to become one

Session 3: Saturday, 27 Apr 2024, 9:30am – 12:30pm, in-person at the Focus Singapore office
Till Death Do Us Part – Ensuring love for a lifetime

Who should attend:
Couples who are considering marriage
Couples who are engaged
Couples in their first year of marriage

Fee: $380 per couple

The fee is inclusive of:

  • $70 rebate* upon completion of the workshop
  • Marriage resources
  • Participants’ workbooks
  • Couple Checkup™ – An online relationship assessment (find out more)
  • An English-speaking licensed solemniser (if required)

Please note that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) requires the following for the $70 rebate:

  1. Full attendance at the workshop
  2. Both parties must be above 21 years old
  3. One or both parties must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident

*Please note that the rebate may take an estimated 2 to 3 months to be processed.

For more information on the mandatory Early Marriage Support Programme for minor couples, please refer to the MSF website.

Withdrawal Policy

There will be no refunds for cancellations or no-shows upon confirmation of registration. Request for transfer of registration to another workshop/date must be communicated via email at least 5 working days before workshop start date.

Frankie and Tina

Frankie & Tina have been married since 2001 and are passionate about supporting young couples in establishing a positive and flourishing marriage. They have been mentoring young people and young couples for more than 10 years. They also believe in supporting men and women in their personal journey of identity and personhood. 

What to expect

  • Understand what love, marriage and your vows symbolise
  • Identify each other's differences and love languages — how to engage in effective communication
  • Manage healthy conflict and have a good grasp on your family finances
  • Understand sexual intimacy, the importance of romance and family planning
  • Learn how to manage expectations from your spouse, children, in-laws while balancing work-life


  • Facilitated by a trained husband-wife couple
  • Insightful & practical tips
  • Group discussions (6-10 couples)
  • Activities for individual couples

Full Capacity for April

Check out our other dates or register your interest for future sessions here!

Connect2 is an initiative by Focus on the Family Singapore to help married couples nurture and grow their relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions? We’re here to help.

Our curriculum is based on universal values that are applicable and essential to helping marriages thrive, regardless of participants’ religious background.

Our participants have shared that they particularly enjoy the interactive and experiential style of learning we offer at our sessions. They also value the practical tips shared which they feel can be readily and easily implemented. Participants also appreciate the opportunities given to them during the sessions to have deep and honest discussions about topics that are not usually raised in usual conversations that couples have prior to marriage.

The shifting of roles in marriage will be addressed in the group marriage preparation programme through activities and discussions. Each couple will be given opportunities to discuss and align expectations that they have towards each other regarding parenting responsibilities, distribution of household chores, management of the household budget and a myriad of other issues that will help them establish a firm foundation in order for their marriage and family to thrive.

To ensure positive workshop dynamics especially during the group discussions and activities, there will be a minimum of 6 couples each workshop, and a maximum of 10.

We do not advise this. The programme is effective only if a couple attends the session together.

There will be no refunds for cancellations or no-shows upon confirmation of registration. Request for transfer of registration to another workshop/date must be communicated via email at least 5 working days before workshop start date.

Impact Stories

Here are what some participants had to say after attending this workshop

Register Your Interest

Connect2 Podcast

Candid conversations about relationships and marriage

Connect2 Podcast


Married life can be filled with twists and turns, especially with the day-to-day priorities, and stresses in life, including the times we run into conflict with our spouse.

No matter the state of your relationship today, we want to help your marriage thrive.

Join us as we figure out life and love together, and go deep into the conversations and questions (often unspoken) about the toughest topics on connection, intimacy and lifelong love.

While there are no perfect marriages, there is always room to grow to be the best spouse we can be. With practical tips, a whole lot of vulnerability and even a dose of humour, we hope that these episodes will provide hope and encouragement for your marriage.

Thank you for listening!

If you have enjoyed listening to the Connect2 Podcast, please leave us a rating and review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. It'll be very helpful for others to find our podcast. 

You can also support us by giving monthly. We appreciate your generous giving as every dollar helps to sustain our efforts in producing content and resources to strengthen families.

Connect2 is an initiative by Focus on the Family Singapore to help married couples nurture and grow their relationship.

State of the Family 2024

Empower Emerging Families

In light of recent policy changes and various national conversations on Family and its values, there is an urgent need to sow the seeds of healthy identity and family aspirations to strengthen Emerging Families.

Who makes up Emerging Families? These are young families (i.e. parents with young children), young adults and youths who are in the process of forming attitudes and aspirations about dating, marriage, and their future families.

At this upcoming State of the Family (SOTF), we seek to dive deeper into trends and national conversations that affect Emerging Families, and explore ways that we can come together to shape the relationships in the next generation. We will also be unveiling findings from a local research on the impact of fatherhood involvement and marital strength on the family aspirations of the next generation.

SOTF 2024 aims to shine the spotlight on the Emerging Family:

1. Connect the dots on how the state of current marriages and families shapes the desirability of marriage and future of families that would emerge from our children and youth.
2. Discuss how the child’s first relationship with their father/mother shapes their understanding of gender roles and masculinity/femininity, and how these impact identity formation, interpersonal relationships and marriage. 
3. Better understand the aspirations of youths for their future families, considering shifting priorities and the dwindling importance placed on having children.


DATE: 21 February 2024, Wednesday

TIME: 7.00pm - 9.30pm

VENUE: Capitol Theatre

17 Stamford Rd, Singapore 178907


Mr. Masagos Zulkifli
Minister for Social and Family Development
Second Minister for Health
Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs


Ms. Delia Ng
Focus on the Family Singapore


Mr. Nicholas Gabriel Lim

Head, Graduate Diploma in Youth Work and Professional Life Coaching Programmes, SUSS

Mrs. Judith Xavier

Working Mum of 
Two Teenagers

Mr. Luke Ong
Undergraduate in Social Sciences,

Youth Advocate



With like-minded
Family Champions



 Robust discussions as we
unpack national trends and conversations


 Opportunities to collaborate
and strengthen 



This event is by invitation only. We welcome like-minded Family Champions to register.
The Organiser may contact you to verify your registration details, before confirming your registration. 

No event fees are required but a love gift is always appreciated to help defray the costs of the event. 

As this is a by-invitation-only event, recordings of the session will not be made available. Please mark the date in your calendar to not miss this event.

We encourage you to make all necessary arrangements to be able to attend the event after you have signed up. An event reminder will be sent to you closer to the date.

Should you be unable to attend the event after signing up, please let us know by contacting us at

*The Organiser reserves the rights to cancel or reschedule the event due to unforeseen circumstances. Every effort, however, will be made to inform participants as soon as possible of any changes. 


For any further enquiries, please contact us at

Managing Change As A Couple, After Baby Arrives

I remember the day when my wife and I discovered that we were going to have a child. It was a whirlwind of emotions for us. After all, we had been longing for a baby for such a long time, so when the news came, we almost couldn’t believe it.  

The day finally arrived. Baby came, and our lives changed forever.  

Before baby arrived, we had our time and space as individuals and as a couple. But once our first child arrived, it seemed to be one amorphous blending of day and night, especially given baby’s erratic feeding cycle, which continued regardless of whether we were awake or asleep.  

The arrival of a child is a major change in the life of every couple. There is an exponential increase in the things that need to be done around the house. From preparing for the feeding needs of the child to taking care of clothing and diapering. On top of this, the regular office work and household chores do not decrease. What’s worse is that leaving one area of the household unmanaged could snowball into other areas of life very quickly.  

Many couples have highlighted sleeplessness as another major factor affecting their physical and emotional wellbeing during the early weeks. Disrupted sleep leads to tiredness and crankiness between husband and wife, which could increase spousal tension, especially due to differing expectations on how the workload in the home should be shared.  

And then there is marital intimacy, or lack thereof. A decreased desire for sex is a common experience, and this could have a negative impact on the closeness felt by both husband and wife.  

Disrupted sleep leads to tiredness and crankiness between husband and wife, which could increase spousal tension. 

Transitions and change

The arrival of a child is a huge transition. For the marriage to withstand the challenges, you may need to process the transition well.  

What does this mean? According to author William Bridges, a transition is an inner psychological process that people go through as they come to terms with the changes they are going through. Bridges highlighted three stages in his transition model – Endings, Neutral Zone and New Beginnings.  

Endings is when people come to terms that their situation has been changed forever. This encompasses aspects of grief and loss, and individuals need to accept that the status quo they had been used to is now gone. In the arrival of a baby, both husband and wife need to realise that their situation has changed, and the family now has to incorporate the routines of the child.  

The neutral zone, which is the second stage, is an in-between period when there is a need to recalibrate, especially since the old has gone and the new isn’t quite established yet. There is a need to reconsider old ways of doing things and develop new strategies to manage the changes that have occurred.  

The third stage of the transition process is one of new beginnings. It involves new understandings, which is associated with a shift in values and attitudes. This in turn sparks a new release of energy, and individuals then operate with fresh perspectives, managing their new roles with more confidence and security.  

For the couple with a new baby, this is often accompanied by a new sense of purpose and they are propelled in a direction that they have never experienced before. This stage is also marked by new norms and traditions. 

The key to dealing with a newborn is to accept that life as you know it has changed forever. 

Managing change 

I remember our first year as parents. We seemed to be always tired, always running around in circles, and feeling like headless chickens, not knowing what we were doing from one moment to the next. There were, however, two things that helped us during that difficult time. 

  • Embrace the changes 

The key to dealing with a newborn is to accept that life as you know it has changed forever. You need to mourn the loss of your childless existence and recalibrate your life as a couple, coming to terms with your new status as parents.  

For us, it took acknowledging that we would never be able to go out again without a diaper bag and a whole inventory of baby accessories. This also meant that unless we made prior arrangements, our baby would follow us wherever we went. It also meant adjustments to our social life so that we could allow our child to have an early night. 

  • Don’t forget your spouse 

In the hustle and bustle of a child’s arrival, it is not uncommon to neglect tending to the wellbeing of your spouse. And while it is important to reorientate your life to cater to the needs of your child, it is also crucial to care for your spouse.  

For men, this means expressing love to your wife in a way that she would understand, in accordance to her love language. For us, this included taking the early feed before I went to work, so that my wife could sleep in a little later after caring for our child during the various night feeds. It also meant shouldering more of the household chores.  

As for women, loving your spouse could mean acknowledging the important role he plays in maintaining the financial integrity of the household. It could also mean showing love to him in his love language, and making the effort to have some regular couple time. 

A new normal 

The tumultuous days after the arrival of a child will not last forever, but as you continue to love each other, and embrace your new roles as parents, the early days of parenthood while challenging can also strengthen your marriage.  

For it’s not how much you do as parents that matters, but it’s how much you choose to love that keeps the family together. 

What Changed My Mind About Having Kids

“The most we’ll have is one child, and if not, none. It’s just too expensive to have kids in Singapore.” 

In this day and age, it is common to hear such a narrative. Increasingly more youth and young adults are either indifferent towards having a child or do not want a child. A primary reason is having to deal with the high costs of living in Singapore.  

Parenting also involves a significant investment of time and energy. It is little wonder then that fewer married couples find it desirable to have children today.  

What struck me about the words above was that they were spoken to me by a family member who loves children. Although he and his girlfriend enjoyed being around kids, they felt it was too costly to have their own. This got me thinking: If even people who love kids aren’t keen on becoming parents, why would anyone still want to have children today?  

The real costs to raising children 

Many people whom I’ve met have the impression that I’m a “family man” through and through. While it is true that I am passionate about family life today, it was not always so!  

Growing up, I could not understand why anyone would invest so much of their lives in their children only to have so many outcomes beyond their control. I even used to wonder why people would congratulate parents on the arrival of a new baby! 

Now as a father myself, I can appreciate the sacrifices that parents make to give their best to their children. Before my son was born, I had invested much of my time in martial arts. I had the ambition of becoming an instructor, a goal that seemed attainable given my passion and dedication to the art.  

But as the date of my son’s birth drew near, I grappled with the fact that commitment to martial arts would mean being away from my family quite often. Even my attention at home would be compromised as I had to spend time practising when away from the gym.  

After months of deliberation, I ceased my gym membership. I tried switching to other martial arts with a lower time commitment, but a few weeks in, I realised that my family would still feel my absence at home. I decided it was best that I quit the hobby altogether for my family’s sake, though I did so with a heavy heart.  

This is just one example of the many choices parents make at their own expense to give their best to their children. Indeed, the costs involved in raising a child are very real. 

Children are our best teachers, and they remind us that there is so much of the world around us to explore and enjoy.  

But there are also real joys   

If the cost is so high, what then could have convinced me to cross over to this side of the fence? 

My turning point came during an encounter with a neighbour several years ago. This next-door neighbour was very young, no more than two years old at the time. That afternoon, I was re-entering the house after disposing trash in the common chute when he peeked out of his gate, curious to see what I was doing.  

I smiled and gave a little wave. Just before I shut the door however, he gave me a big smile in return. It was the first time I had experienced such a moment of connection with a child. I’d never thought of myself as child-friendly before, so I was surprised the boy wanted to interact with me at all. Though the interaction was fleeting, the pure joy of being greeted by his smile softened my perspectives towards children. 

As the years went by, and with more interactions with other children, I slowly began to understand the joy of being with kids.  

For me, parenthood takes this joy to a deeper level. When I became a father, I was awestruck by the miracle in my arms as I observed the movements of my son’s tiny chest and his peacefulness as he slept safely in my embrace. 

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve now experienced tossing a ball and running freely in the park with him, and I realise these moments of fun and discovery with our children provide a sense of respite from the toils and complexities of our grown-up world.  

Raising my own kids has opened my eyes to the meaning of life and the joy of family. And I feel so privileged to be able to carve a strong and precious bond with my children in their early years, a bond that will hopefully anchor our family through every season of life.   

Children are our best teachers, and they remind us that there is so much of the world around us to explore and enjoy.  

How do you value children or count the joys they bring through their adorable smiles, hearty laughter, and pure wonder? 

The true value of children 

It is hard to put a price tag on children; after all, how do you value children or count the joys they bring through their adorable smiles, hearty laughter, and pure wonder? 

On the flip side, because we live in such a pragmatic society, it is easy to calculate the costs of raising a child. 

The truth is, having children is not a fully rational decision you make. We can budget and count the cost beforehand, but we will never be able to comprehend or behold the joys until we get there. 

As parents, our desires and hopes are often very simple. Ask any parent what they desire most for their child, and the likely answer you’ll get is: “For them to grow up happy, healthy and strong.” Few would say, “I hope they will become the next CEO of a multi-million dollar company.”  

And yes, while there are day-to-day challenges to overcome, I think my biggest takeaway as a father is that my children open my eyes to the joys of life, and anchor me to the present moment. And the love we share helps me find the strength to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Bedroom Talk: How to Grow in Sexual Intimacy

Communicating your desires in the bedroom can be a daunting and awkward affair -and certainly not the regular fare of topics that most married couples would readily jump into!  

Many couples probably may not perceive this to be an important facet of marriage life. However, just as how engaging in regular communication on different aspects of life with our spouse helps make a great relationship — communicating our thoughts, feelings and emotions about sexual intimacy is no exception.  

The ability to talk about sexuality to our partner could be the key to enhancing marriage intimacy and relationship. 

The truth is a healthy sex life in marriage is a great gift, and it is something to be enjoyed and nurtured through open and honest communication. Studies have shown that couples who talk more about sex have more satisfying sex lives and are more in tune with each other in real life. Knowing how to please your other half also builds relationship confidence and has good ripple effects for your marriage.  

How can couples work towards achieving good, open communication in sexual intimacy?  

For example, you may not be interested in sex because you’re overburdened with housework or worried about meeting your sales target. Yet instead of sharing about the source of frustration honestly with your partner, you send signals of irritation that could be hurtful or misconstrued.  

Creating a safe environment to be open and honest with each other about potential roadblocks to sexual desire forms a good foundation for sexual intimacy.  

Joyce Brothers puts it aptly, “Real intimacy is only possible to the degree that we can be honest about what we are doing and feeling.”

Despite this, many couples find sharing their sexual needs and desires more difficult than actually having sex. This is because one needs to be vulnerable to share your feelings, express what you like, and be open about what pleasures your body.  

Some may worry about being rejected or hurting their spouse unintentionally or are simply unsure of how their spouse may react to their preferences.  

If there are issues in your sex life, talking about it honestly and sensitively with your spouse might be needful in order to strengthen your relationship and mutual understanding, while working towards ways to meet each other’s needs.   

I remember that with each new child we welcomed into our family, bedroom activity would take a dip for a period of time while we adjusted to our new family dynamics.  

Sex was the last thing on our minds and the first priority was to get as much sleep as we could – without waking the baby! It really helped that both of us were on the same page in understanding the ebb and flow of family life and gave each other space to adjust our expectations in the midst of transitions.  

Here are some common areas that might be worth checking in with your spouse about:  

Changes in sex drive

Desires for intimacy can be affected by circumstantial changes such as health issues, e.g., sexual dysfunction or mental health issues like depression. They could also be affected by important transitions in life, such as welcoming a baby, post-partum recovery, transiting to a new job, periods of heightened work stress, etc.  

These are periods when new levels of understanding need to be forged and when the affected party may need more support from their other half.  

If your spouse is experiencing challenges, do be attentive to their emotions and feelings. Your spouse will appreciate your listening ear, and validation of their feelings. 

Mismatched libidos 

It is not uncommon for one spouse to have a stronger desire for sex than the other. This may be an obvious statement but sex SHOULD be enjoyed. If sex is not enjoyable for one party, it could lead to resentment or avoidance.  

If your spouse expresses discomfort or seems to be making excuses to avoid sex, it may be time to have an honest discussion about what needs to be added, changed, or altered for both husband and wife to have an enjoyable experience. Check in with each other on ways to come to a compromise in meeting and satisfying each other’s needs.  

How to go about family planning   

This could be an important aspect to discuss for those who may feel the pressure or desire to conceive for a variety of reasons. Discuss each other’s priorities in your current season in life and how that may affect family planning and intimacy.  

For example, a wife may feel her biological clock is ticking whereas her husband prefers to focus on his career and financial security before starting a family or having more children.  

Both concerns are valid and each couple needs to navigate that so that these conflicting desires do not affect intimacy. Are both spouses ready to grow the family with ongoing responsibilities at hand and what are the support systems in place? Knowing the “whys” will help couple’s understand their shared goals and align themselves as a couple for that particular season of life. It can also help relieve the pressure once there is understanding and acceptance from the other.  

Always the one initiating sex  

This could be a sensitive topic to deal with especially since we may have certain expectations while having autonomy over our own bodies.   

Sexual rejection can fuel personal insecurities about attractiveness and value as a partner, with thoughts like: Does “no” mean “I’m no good”? or “Is my spouse no longer attracted to me?  

The key issue is learning how to negotiate sexual boundaries and learning how to say “no” without damaging your relationship. Reassurance is key in affirming and showing our spouse that they are loved, wanted and needed. Compensating with relational intimacy, affection, talk or cuddle time could be one way to reinforce this to our loved one.  

It can be awkward embarking on this journey with your spouse, but think of it as an area of growth for you both. With practice and intentional investment, you will reap the rewards of a fulfilling sex life! 

How to Create an Emotionally Safe Space in Your Marriage

In a recent survey conducted by Focus on the Family Singapore, couples were asked to respond to one of the statements: “It is difficult to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with my spouse.”  

It is noteworthy that a significant percentage (30% of total respondents) indicated that they strongly agreed/agreed with the statement. 

Interestingly, more wives (32.3%) compared to husbands (25.6%) strongly agreed/agreed with the statement. 

There are many reasons why husbands and wives are afraid to be vulnerable and engage in authentic conversations. But perhaps the root cause is the lack of emotional safety in the marriage. 

In an emotionally unsafe relationship, there is a feeling of distrust, disconnect, and defensiveness. You are afraid to speak your mind or show your true feelings because there is an undercurrent of anxiety, wondering how your spouse would react.  

In contrast, when couples feel secure and trust each other, they let their guard down and express their thoughts or share their fears, hurts, or deepest longings without worrying about being judged or invalidated. Of course, no one is perfect, so it is impossible for couples to always be responding perfectly to each other. But if we want greater intimacy with our spouse, we need to be intentional about fostering emotional safety in our relationship. 

How do we cultivate such a safe space through our daily life and actions? 

Consider the following S.A.F.E.R strategies. 

Set a positive and uplifting tone  

What is the first thing you say when you meet your spouse after a long day at work? Is complaining or making snide remarks a default way of greeting each other? Once you allow negativity to set the tone for your conversations, the atmosphere no longer feels safe for sharing. 

Be deliberate about how you greet each other after being apart for a good part of the day. Regardless of the kind of day you had at home or at the office, make it a point to greet each other with a kind word or caring gesture.  

A workshop attendee once shared a strategy – when he drove home after a long day at the office, he would turn off his car ignition switch, but he would not get out of the car immediately. He would intentionally do a “mindset switch,” reminding himself that he is going home to his family, and they deserve the best of him.  

Regardless of whatever had happened at the office, especially if he had a bad day, he kept to his commitment to be loving and gracious in his words and body language. It created a warmer, reassuring atmosphere at home, which in turn allowed for enriching and deeper dialogues as a couple 

Avoid absolute language 

“You are always looking at your smart phone.” 

“You always interrupt when I am speaking.” 

“You never ask for my views or opinion on any issues.” 

These are examples of absolute language that couples often use when they are upset with each other. In intimate relationships, absolute language is ineffective because it tends to put couples on the defensive. If one spouse is bombarded with absolute language on a regular basis, it is a sure-fire way of causing him/her to withdraw emotionally.  

Focus on listening to what your spouse is saying instead of making your point 

It is not uncommon for couples with strong personalities to want to make their point instead of listening to what their spouse is saying.  

Even if we disagree with our spouse or believe our perspectives on issues are far weightier than theirs, it does not warrant harsh judgment or criticisms. Having a self-righteous attitude hinders genuine connection. We listen to know our spouse better, not to convince our spouse that we are right in all matters.  

Try this instead: Replace judgment with curiosity. Ask questions to understand why our spouse holds a certain view or assumption. When our spouse knows we are accepting and open to differing views, they would be more willing to engage in deeper conversations. 

We listen to know our spouse better, not to convince our spouse that we are right in all matters. 

Emotions – be aware of your emotions and choose wisely  

There may be times when you’re having a discussion with your spouse, and you get triggered by something he/she said.  When this happens, you may feel a wave of strong emotions, but remember you always have a choice on how to respond. 

An unempathetic approach is to verbalise what is on your mind without being sensitive to your spouse’s feelings.  

A more gracious approach is to turn your mind to what your partner has said and pay attention to your emotional reaction. Ask yourself what you are feeling – Is it fear (because your partner hit a raw nerve), embarrassment (because she is more knowledgeable than you), or pride (because you can’t lose to her/him)?  

If you notice your emotions riding high, and you are combing your mind for a rebuttal, hit the “Pause” button. Let your spouse know that you are losing your cool, call for a time-out to regain your composure, and pick up the conversation when you are ready. 

If you notice your emotions riding high, and you are combing your mind for a rebuttal, hit the “Pause” button. 

Respect each other’s boundaries 

There are times when your spouse is unwilling to share his/her thoughts and you are unsure of the reasons. It is important to accept his/her need for space and not insist that he/she express her views or share her feelings.  

Before it becomes a pattern that either one of you is not interested in engaging in heartfelt conversations, consider creating a dialogue around emotional safety. Share with each other the behaviours or words that make you feel safe or unsafe during conversations with each other. Identify ways to improve trust in the relationship to facilitate authentic conversations with each other.  

Emotional safety is a key building block of flourishing marriages. When it is present in your relationship, there is a deep sense of closeness and connectedness as a couple. Be purposeful in creating and maintaining emotional safety, and you and your spouse will reap the rewards of a trusting and fulfilling relationship. 

What is one thing you are willing to do in the next week to increase the presence of emotional safety in your marriage relationship? 

How to Have Healthy Expectations in Marriage

Let’s not be shy about admitting it. Marriage is hard. Often, it’s made even harder by the one thing that floats beneath the surface, only surfacing in the midst of quarrels.  


Whether said or unsaid, expectations, when unmet, can leave couples feeling dissatisfied, disillusioned, and disappointed with marriage life. 

Expectations are not wrong  

One common misconception about expectations is that it’s wrong to have them. But renowned marriage therapist Donald Baucom found that people often get what they expect. He found that people who had low expectations for their relationships tended to be in relationships where they are treated poorly.  

Knowing this, how can we communicate our expectations in a healthy way?  

Focus on the Family spoke to Ivan and Kerin Lau, who have been married for one and a half years and are parents to a 7-month-old baby, to find out more.  

Expectations allow you to uphold certain standards, but grace allows for flexibility when one party doesn’t meet them. 

Balance your expectations  

As Kerin reflected on her expectations of Ivan, she realised that expectations need to be balanced with grace. Expectations allow you to uphold certain standards, but grace allows for flexibility when one party doesn’t meet them.  

She wasn’t always like this. As they are still waiting for their home to be ready, Ivan moved into her home after they married. Being neat and tidy, she expected him to continue keeping the space exactly how she wanted it to be. She would even remind him, “No handprint” whenever he touched the mirror.  

But one day, she realised that by nit-picking on every little thing, she was not allowing him to feel free to be who he is.  

Ivan laughed upon hearing Kerin recount that incident. He believes in communicating what you want, but also showing understanding and grace to your spouse. “In that way, while we might not be there now, we can move towards where we want to be and avoid blaming each other.”    

Learn from every argument  

Kerin admitted that they often find out more about each other’s expectations after an argument. Ivan agreed, saying that arguments are “opportunities to learn more” about each other. But it’s not simply enough to have an argument and expect to magically understand each other 

One day, after quarrelling repeatedly over how their newborn child, Arabelle, should be cared for, Kerin had an idea.  

She realised that she could not possibly resolve every conflict on the spot, so they began to have regular debriefs after every argument. They would share their feelings with each other, and think of ways they could improve. 

“What you said, made me feel this way. What I said, might make you feel this way.  

How can we do better?” 

With this nifty trick, the couple could then go on with whatever they were doing and wait until later at night or the next morning to have the debrief. This was usually when they were not as tired and emotional, and could better discuss what had happened. 

The journey is more rewarding when it’s more than me, myself, and my needs.

Recognise the unchangeable  

While there are things that can be changed and improved on, Ivan is clear that there are certain things that he needs to accept. He has learnt “to come to terms with reality, and to acknowledge that it’s never going to work in the way I want if I insist.”  

This does not mean that he has had to sacrifice all his ideals; rather he has learnt to temper his expectations in a way that makes them “realistic and workable.” 

Place your partner’s needs above yours 

Kerin and Ivan are very different individuals. Whenever they fight, Ivan would want to resolve it quickly while Kerin would prefer to have some space. Although Kerin has heard advice about how couples shouldn’t go to bed angry, she often needed time to process things on her own. Now, Ivan has come to understand her need for space, and to put her needs above his own. “The journey is more rewarding when it’s more than me, myself, and my needs,” he mused.  

Trust that your partner’s heart is for you, and communicate your heart with your partner. 

Share your heart 

Ultimately, expectations are not wrong. Many times, expectations can be helpful in setting a goal that both parties can work towards. But by communicating those expectations and learning to show grace when the other party falls short, we can minimise conflict and tensions in our marriage.  

As Kerin reminds us, “Trust that your partner’s heart is for you, and communicate your heart with your partner.” 

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

9 Things to Know Before Getting Married

When two people come together in marriage, they often hope for a blissful and exciting journey ahead.  

But sometimes, the experience disappoints, resulting in doubt, anger, disappointment, or even hopelessness.  

 What are the ingredients of a good marriage, one that will indeed be “till death do us part?” And more importantly, what are some things you should know as you prepare to take the leap of faith into marriage? 

1. Things will never be perfect 

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that once we tie the knot, things will be smooth-sailing and that all our issues will work out magically. Perhaps the first thing we should adjust is our expectations on our better half, as well as on this crazy little thing called marriage.  

It will take time, hard work, lots of patience and endurance to run the race well, and to learn to communicate our needs, quirks, likes and dislikes with this person whom we love but can also drive us up the wall. Acknowledging all these is a good first step toward building marital intimacy. 

2. Trust is key 

We know trust and commitment are vital ingredients in every thriving marriage, but what exactly does this mean? As one writer puts it, “[Trust] is made up of the many small things we choose to do (or not do) each day.” It is found in the way we speak to each other, the way we appreciate the things our spouse does, and the way we honour our word.  

Read more about trust here. 

3. Friendship is vital 

The secret to a long-lasting marriage is friendship. It may sound obvious, but it is easy to take your spouse for granted, and to forget even basic manners like being kind and gracious.  

Think about what your best friend would do for you – such as supporting you when you’re feeling down, cheering for you when you are facing a challenge – then strive to do the same for your spouse.  

As friends do, make time to have fun and discover new things together. Build a treasure trove of great memories that you can revisit throughout your lifetime.  

Men often value respect over everything else, and women, being loved. 

4. Men need respect; women need love 

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, a New York Times bestselling author on marriage, points out that “men hear criticism as contempt [while] women feel silence as hostility.”  

At the heart of lies the different emotional needs of a man and a woman. We may want to avoid gender stereotypes, but we cannot deny that men often value respect over everything else, and women, being loved. Once we can understand this fundamental aspect of our spouse’s need, we can set our minds to meeting those needs and creating a positive cycle of interaction, instead of a negative one.  

Read more about love and respect here 

5. Marriage is a team sport 

Regardless of how you sometimes feel, it is vital to remember that you and your spouse are on the same team. Build up your team spirit, improve the way you work together, and seek to understand the innermost thoughts of your spouse. This way, when life hurls its worst challenges at you, you both can stand strong, and support each other well through the ups and downs.   

6. Financial discussions are a must 

Money discussions are not always easy to have, especially when you’re caught in the tailwind of romance. However, money is one of the biggest sources of marital conflict, so it is worth diving into the topic early, and revisiting it intentionally.   

Discuss how you’ll share your finances after marriage, who will pay for what, and the checks and balances that you wish to set in place. Learn more about managing finances here. 

7. Learn to give and take 

In a healthy relationship, both parties need to learn to give and take, and there is a sense of balance and equity. When one partner is in need because of an illness or a demanding project at work, the other plays a supportive role without being asked, and without keeping score.  

Of course, this cannot be to the detriment of one party all of the time, as it could lead to feelings of resentment or being overlooked. 

We need not be overly afraid of conflict, as each fight could lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our partner. 

8. Seek to surprise, with chores 

When the shower drain is clogged with hair, or the toilets need to be scrubbed, it shouldn’t always fall on the same person to handle.  

For some couples, a set list of chores for each person helps, while others may split them based on their work schedules and competencies, rather than divvy them up equally. 

Regardless of whether the chore falls into your domain, remember that it’s always nice to surprise your spouse by taking the initiative to do it.   

9. There are ways to fight well 

Conflicts are part and parcel of married life. We need not be overly afraid of conflict, as each fight could lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our partner. 

Set some ground rules in this arena, for example, no matter how bad the conflict, let’s not say hurtful words or threaten to leave the marriage. Or, let’s keep short accounts and not bring up past mistakes or failures to hurt the other person.  

Even in the midst of a squabble, set your heart on understanding your spouse. Ask, what is important to him/her when it comes to this issue? Is there a deeper need that they’re finding hard to share?  

Remember – this is a journey of a lifetime, so give yourselves and each other the space and time to grow and learn! 

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Make Love Last with a Growth Mindset

We’ve all heard the adage that marriage is hard work. But how often do you see couples putting in this ‘hard work’ intentionally and regularly?

How often do we sit down and reflect on our relationship with our spouse, understanding what makes him or her tick, and figuring out ways to strengthen our marriage?

In our hectic world, it can be challenging to make time to tend to our relationship, especially after kids enter the picture. But I think it is crucial that we try.

Healthy marriages allow room for change and growth. You may have heard of Carol Dweck’s work about the growth mindset, but can you imagine what will happen if we apply this same growth mindset to our marriage?

Difference between the growth and fixed mindsets

Dweck found that there exists two different mindsets. People either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

The growth mindset says:

  • You are still growing.
  • You can learn from your mistakes.
  • We all have strengths as well as areas to improve on.

The fixed mindset says:

  • Don’t even try.
  • My spouse is always like this, things will never change.
  • Don’t take the risk.

People with fixed mindsets tend to judge constantly—themselves as well as others. Their firm belief is that people and character traits are often unchangeable.

Those who practise the growth mindset are observant of others, but refrain from judging. Instead of accepting the status quo unquestioningly, they are always asking: What can I learn from this? How can I improve? How can I help my partner do better?

Moving from a fixed to a growth mindset—according to Dweck—entails “changing the internal monologue from a judging one to a growth-oriented one”.

It is healthy to notice the good and even great things that you’ve achieved in your marriage or family life, and be grateful for them.

Here are some growth mindset tips that we can apply to our marriage:

1. Remember to enjoy the good things

It is healthy to notice the good and even great things that you’ve achieved in your marriage or family life, and be grateful for them. Perhaps it is the strong family support that you’ve built, or solid friendships; whatever it is, remind each other that you’ve worked well together in this aspect. And think about the different areas that you want to grow in this year.

2. Seek to understand your differences better

When something about your spouse irks you, seek to understand the root of this habit. There have been times I have been annoyed by my spouse’s tendency to plan everything, right down to the details. While I prefer some fluidity and can handle a high degree of ambiguity, he needs all the data and facts.

When we talked through it, I realised that it boils down to his need for security and control. Without the information, he feels things are out of control or not planned well. After I understood this, we were able to sidestep unnecessary arguments and tension, and focus on meeting each other’s needs.

3. Praise your partner for effort

Encourage your spouse when he or she tries something new or challenging. Try not to focus on the results alone. For example, if you’ve been asking your husband to help with cooking a meal, don’t put him down the first time he tries; this will stamp out his motivation. Instead, let him know that you see (and appreciate) his effort to show love in this novel way.

If your wife tries out a game that you love to play, give her space, patience and affirmation to reach your level. Your guidance and the time together will make the relationship grow in new ways too.

4. Focus on your own lane

Sometimes social media can feed our feelings of envy and jealousy. Pictures of exotic family vacations, or frequent expensive dinners and gifts that others enjoy can trigger feelings of discontent in your marriage.

We should become aware of how certain media, people or environments make us feel, then be vigilant to allow into our minds only what is good for ourselves and marriage, and what helps us feel grateful for what we have.

5. Transitions can offer opportunities for growth too

A new baby, a new home, a business investment, or a change in career—sometimes big changes make us feel stressed out and uneasy, and we may take it out on the ones dearest to us.

They may bring stress, but change also carries opportunities for us to clarify our thoughts, feelings, even our values; more importantly, it lets us seek our spouse’s support. So choose to lean closer, and not pull away due to tensions or stress.

With the growth mindset, we can focus on developing the positive qualities that cause the relationship to flourish.

What growth mindset in love looks like

When we apply the fixed mindset to love, it seems like life should reflect what we see in movies: Love is easy, perfect, and simply “meant to be”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ask any couple who have clocked over 10 years in marriage what their secret is, and the answer will likely be: pure hard work.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for our marriage is to decide that we will do whatever it takes to make it work.

When we look back on our past, do we see that we have changed too? Sometimes for the better, sometimes in not so good ways. But it shows us that if we can change, our spouse can change too. With the growth mindset, we can focus on developing the positive qualities—both within ourselves and in each other—that cause the relationship to flourish.

Let’s remember that you’re on the same side, and you’re walking this journey together. Tempers will flare and someone will be annoyed from time to time, but as long as we continue to work on our weaknesses and improve ourselves for our spouse, we will experience the grace and strength to keep going.

Take action:

  • Choose a growth mindset tip and apply it to your relationship this week.