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Singapore Government

Opening Remarks at the Marriage Convention 2016

Opening Remarks at the Marriage Convention 2016

Families for Life Council Chairman Mr Ching Wei Hong and Members

Ms Lesley Ngai, Vice President, Business & Operations & Parents Genre, MediaCorp Pte Ltd

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.   I am very happy to see so many of you today. This is a very important occasion  and every year, such an event becomes very prolific because it reminds us of the vows we took years ago; for some, months ago, and the vows that our young people are going to take. I’m very happy to see many married couples here today.   Your presence signifies your commitment towards nurturing a strong and happy marriage.

Beautifully Imperfect
I attended a meaningful event organised by a group of NTU graduating students last month. These youth in their early 20s wanted to run a marriage strengthening campaign!  Even at their young age, they believed in the value of a strong marriage, and wanted to play a part in reminding couples not to take their marriages for granted. I was very heartened by their efforts.

I shared with the participants at the event about the beauty of imperfection in a marriage.  Marriage is between two people who are imperfect, and yet can be perfect together.  A happy, lasting marriage does not happen by chance.   When we recognise the imperfection of being a human being, it is the start of the realisation that we can accept these imperfections and learn how to give and take in our own marriage. 
With this mindset, we can then be encouraged to collaborate and find ways to strengthen our marriage together with joy. I have realized that marriage is not only about filling a gap. Recognising the imperfection of your spouse comes along with an appreciation for each other and loving for each other. And, it is key to be kind to each other. Being kind to each other opens up many doors of love in a relationship. It is important for us to see this imperfection in a positive light, and how it leads to many more good things in our marriage.

Certainly, having shared values and beliefs play a part in sustaining a strong marriage.  Families for Life’s recent marriage poll with 1,200 respondents showed that many couples feel that trust, communication and respect are the most important attributes in a healthy marriage.  I hope this will help to trigger your own thoughts of your shared values with your spouse.

It is also never too early to start thinking about strengthening our marriages.   And it need not be difficult. It can easily be part of our regular routine.  I am fortunate that my children recognise the need for my wife and I to spend some time together. I started this routine many, many years ago. On days when I get home before midnight, I would go for a romantic 10-15 minute walk with my wife in the neighbourhood. As we chat and enjoy the tranquillity of the night, the experience helps to relieve the hustle and bustle of my day as well as help me bond better with my wife. These are the simple and yet, important things that we can do, to bond with our spouses. 

MSF’s Efforts to Strengthen Marriages 
To encourage more couples to take pro-active steps to strengthen their marriages, my Ministry has been working with community partners to offer marriage preparation programmes such as PREP (which is the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme) since December 2014.  These programmes are easily accessible both at the Registry of Marriages (or ROM) and in the community.

The response for the 12-hour PREP workshops has been overwhelming Feedback has been positive so far, with 90% of participants saying the programme has helped them enhance their marriage and that they would recommend the programme to their friends.

Newlywed couple, Tyler and Physilia who are in their twenties, are a positive example of how a young couple has benefitted from PREP. Given their different personalities and family backgrounds, they realised that it was unhealthy and unsustainable to blindly compromise on issues to keep the relationship going.  Thankfully, through the programme, this young couple learnt how to better communicate with each other, better appreciate each other and to resolve conflict in a peaceable manner. As they have shared, “Falling in and out of love is something that’s uncontrollable.  We don't know how it happened.  But it takes two people to work at the relationship, to be able to look deep inside our hearts and say ‘I love you’ even when there are differences.” 

Recognising that couples who marry below the age of 25 may require stronger marriage support, my Ministry will enhance pre- and post-marriage support for such couples through group marriage education programmes, one-to-one marriage assessments and post-marriage support programmes to build a strong marriage foundation.

For married couples, there are bound to be times when there are differences in opinion.  Conflict is common in all marriages, even if we do not like to admit it. 
It is not a question of avoiding it but of how we work together to resolve it.   It does not have to lead to hurtful arguments. 

Certainly, should a conflict become more than you think you can handle, couples should always seek help early. It is heartening to know that 88.9% of the FFL marriage poll respondents are open to seeking professional help if they faced issues in their marriage. There are many avenues to seek professional help from. My Ministry provides marriage counselling services through a network of Family Service Centres.   A marriage counsellor can help you communicate and reconnect with your spouse, as you work to regain the trust and commitment that the both of you started out with.  It is through working together to resolve conflict that we can learn to accept, adjust and grow as a couple.

Conclusion 
It is our privilege to have with us today, Dr Huang Wei-Jen who is internationally renowned for his work on couples’ therapy, relationship education, and multicultural issues.  With an Asian perspective, Dr Huang will share with us crucial determinants that protect and strengthen our marriages, and also practical relationship enhancement skills. I would like to share some tips that we should note in our marriage life – Love; Commitment; Appreciation; Communication and Listening. These are important attributes that will help us strengthen our marriage. 

I am sure we will take back something useful today which we can apply in our marriage.  On an ending note, I would like to share with you some interesting insights from local artiste and Families for Life Council member, Gurmit Singh.  Having been married to his wife Melissa for 21 years, we asked him how he keeps his marriage fresh.   His reply was simply ‘to keep thinking it’s fresh’. 

With that, I wish you a fruitful day ahead at the Marriage Convention.   Thank you.

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