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Singapore Government

Opening of Marriage Convention 2014

Opening of Marriage Convention 2014

Published On
21 Mar 2014

Families for Life Council Members
Ms Sandra Chan, Vice President, Corporate Services, Radio Division, MediaCorp Pte Ltd
Mr Leng Chin Fai, Executive Director, Fei Yue Community Services
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
 

I am delighted to be here with you this morning. This year’s Marriage Convention is especially significant because it is held in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
 
When it comes to marriage, I think we are off to a good start this year. Last month, more than 270 couples got married on Valentine’s Day, which was also the 15th day of Lunar New Year, or ‘Yuan Xiao’ (元宵) - the Chinese Valentine's Day. This is seven times more than the usual number of marriages we see on a weekday. I hope the spark of love will continue to light up many couples’ lives and lead them to walk down the aisle to start their journey of life together.

Marriages in Singapore are Healthy but Facing Challenges

For those who are married have reported greater happiness due to their marriages. In a NTUC U Family’s online survey last November, 9 out of 10 married respondents agreed that marriage contributes to their happiness. This positive sentiment is affirmed by a recent MSF survey that revealed Singaporeans value marriage and a majority enjoyed healthy marriages. Of the couples who responded to the survey, 84% were satisfied with their spousal relationships, and 81% of them listed “being a good spouse” as one of the top priorities in their lives.

It’s great to know that being married bring joy, and Singaporeans not only value marriages, they also wish to be good spouses. However, in today’s globalised world, marriages face many challenges as couples adapt to changing social values. They have to navigate new gender roles and expectations, increasing work demands and stresses, including the evolving role of the extended family, and casual attitudes towards divorce. Couples now have to deal with more complex issues and it takes extra efforts to keep their marriage rock solid.
 
A strong marriage is the foundation for a healthy family.  While marriages remain a cornerstone of the Singapore society, we are mindful of the rising threat of divorce and its adverse impact on the individual, family and community. One divorce is one too many. Vulnerable children often bear the brunt of a breakdown. That is why conventions like today are so important. We must continue to keep the passion of marriage alive, make efforts to strengthen our husband-and wife-relationship, and remain steadfast to our commitment and promise to our spouse. Someone once said, “All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that takes incredible hard work.”

For those of us who have been married for a while, we can easily identify with that. It takes lots of understanding, patience and kindness to make a marriage work. But the rewards are plenty.

Helping Newlyweds Build a Strong Marriage Foundation 

Some of us may recall the early years of our marriage. This is when the courtship period of sweet-nothings slides into the reality of living together. Even a tiny tube of toothpaste could start a major argument.

During the courting days, we have very high expectations of our boyfriend or girlfriend. When we tie the knot, we tend to bring this standard into our marriage, and this often leads to disappointment and unmet expectations. This adjustment and transition is normal, especially for young married couples.

That’s why we want to help young couples not only prepare for marriage well, but also equip them with the sails to ride the waves. We have good feedback from young couples who have attended marriage preparation programmes. In 2012, 9 out of 10 of these couples indicated that the programmes were effective in preparing them for marriage.
 
To encourage such participation from young couples, we have been providing a $70 rebate to those who complete the Marriage Preparing Programmes run by some 25 Voluntary Welfare Organisations supported by the Ministry. Since 2000, the number of couples who have graduated from these programmes has doubled. Currently, MSF gives out an average of 500 rebates each year.

Moving forward, the Ministry will be exploring how we can better support newlyweds through evidence-based marriage preparation and enrichment programmes which are proven to be effective in helping newlyweds

The Ministry recognises the importance of upstream and preventive efforts to strengthening marriages. We place strong emphasis on working with our many partners through FamilyMatters! to offer marriage preparation and enrichment programmes in the community.  These programmes arm couples at different life stages with useful skills to keep their marriage meaningful and fulfilling. The programmes cover topics like communication skills, conflict resolution, roles and responsibilities, managing relationships with in-laws, financial management, sexual intimacy and planning for a family.

I strongly urge married couples, young and old, to invest in their marriages. It’s never too late to learn, un-learn and re-learn skills to make our marriages strong. Like vintage wine that gets better with time, marriages deepen and mature through the years when couples appreciate their marriage, and spend efforts to cultivate and nurture their relationship with one other. As a couple, take part in the many activities, workshops and courses from Families for Life and events such as today’s convention.
 
Important Role of Community Partners

While marriage preparation and enrichment programmes play an important role in strengthening marriages, the support that couples get from their family, friends and the community remains essential to re-fuelling their marriages in the long run. We each can play a part to help make marriages strong – and even more so for marriage solemnisers. You are often the first touch point when young couples embark on their marriage journey. You are uniquely positioned to mentor and guide the couples you meet, and encourage them to make time to nurture their marriage.

I am very heartened by a growing trend of marriage solemnisers going beyond their duties. I hear that they volunteer their time to advise couples and encourage them to attend marriage preparation programmes. Some of them like Dr Peter Chew and his wife, and Mr and Mrs Simon Sim, even mentor the couples they marry.

A couple from Mr Sim’s class now firmly believes and advocates marriage classes. The husband, Mr Lawrence Wong, was smitten after attending one of the marriage courses. He noticed that his arguments with his wife fell by more than two-thirds after he put into practice what he had learnt in class. Lawrence’s enthusiasm for marriage classes was infectious. He convinced seven of his couple friends to attend the class too. Now, he has even become someone other couples often turn to when they face trouble in their marriages. This is indeed a heart-warming story of how marriage solemnisers make significant contributions to healthy marriages. I wish to thank all the marriage solemnisers here for the special role you play in strengthening marriages.

I would also like to thank the many marriage counsellors, educators and other community partners for passionately promoting marriage and family in Singapore. The Marriage Convention is a shining example of the way you have come together to boost and enhance marriage as a pillar of society. The convention is a wonderful platform for marriage practitioners and experts to share best practices and explore new ways to meet the needs of married couples today.  I heartily commend Families for Life and MediaCorp for co-organising this meaningful convention, in partnership with Fei Yue Community Services.
 
Conclusion

It is also our privilege to have with us today, renowned speakers Tina Konkin, Phil and Tammy Hotsenpiller from the United States. They will introduce the R3 Factors of Great Relationships – that is - R3VEAL, R3WRITE and R3NEW. These are great and simple techniques you can use to empower couples to recharge and boost their marriage.
 
We will no doubt learn a lot from Tina, Phil and Tammy. But let me leave you with a quote from Dave Meurer, an author of many books on marriage and family. He said, “A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
 
On this note, I wish everyone a fruitful and enriching seminar. Thank you.

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