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Adopt These Attitudes For A Happy, Fulfilling Marriage
A happy, fulfilling marriage is no accident. Just because you have exchanged vows does not mean that you should stop working on your relationship with each other. Our writer, Jaclyn Lim, lists five attitudes you should adopt to keep the spark alive.
I got hitched in May last year. It has been 10 months, and our married life has since settled into a reassuring routine. We line weekdays with kopitiam breakfasts before heading to work, shop at the neighbourhood supermarket for groceries, pay bills at the AXS machine together, have quiet conversations before bedtime, and sneak in some quality time during Sunday brunches.
In the humble and ho-hum, my marriage mirrors the steady flow of a river. As we dated for seven years before he got down on one knee, we have long passed the initial “madly in love” stage. In fact, we have discovered the best way to live with – and not annoy – each other. I understand how he needs regular doses of “alone time” and do not resent him for wanting to escape to a café with a novel in hand. Meanwhile, he knows exactly how to cook instant noodles the way I like it, knows not to complain when I ask him to take out the garbage and quietly endures my mood swings.
The writer Robert Johnson calls this “stirring the oatmeal” love. This means that instead of the emotional upheavals of a tender, thrilling romance, we infinitely prefer the calm, nourishing and down-to-earth blend of daily companionship, true friendship and intimate love. That said, we are both aware of the need to actively maintain our marriage so that we do not end up as a divorce statistic. Here are five attitudes that we have consciously adopted to build the kind of marriage we want to have.
Attitude #1: Be fully present.
Hands up if you are a switched-on, tuned-out and plugged-in technophile who is constantly fiddling on your Samsung smartphone or Apple iPad. There is a problem with our increasing obsession with the latest gadgets – “iSolation”. According to professional ethicist Dr. Bruce Weinstein, we have “swapped electronic connection for personal relationships.” But connectivity has its price – you could be sacrificing your emotional connection with your significant other. So, it is time to be fully present whenever the two of you are together.
First, set boundaries. Determine when you should put away your gadget, such as during mealtimes and movies. Next, focus on each other. For my husband and I, dinnertimes are not meant to be spent staring at the small screen while scooping rice into our mouths. Instead, we would leave our gadgets in another room, play a piece of vinyl record and have conversations over a simple, home-cooked meal. It may not seem like a big deal, but the truth is that being fully present makes you a better listener and lover. Nobody feels neglected, and this builds a long and lasting marriage over time.
Attitude #2: Be affirmative and affectionate.
It takes more than just saying “I love you” to cultivate a blissful marriage. So, be sure to pepper your sentences with affirmative phrases like “thank you” and “I really appreciate you” instead. For instance, I make it a point to show my appreciation whenever my husband does the dishes or walks our dogs. He, on the other hand, says “thank you” whenever I set the table. Not a single day goes by without us reaching out to each other with such positive affirmations.
Besides verbal affirmations, the power of human touch should not be underestimated. According to recent research by the University of California, Berkeley, momentary touches – whether it is an exuberant high five or a warm hand on the shoulder – can communicate a wider range of emotions than gestures or expressions. And in romantic relationships, couples who touch more report more satisfaction than those who don’t. So, be sure to hold hands, hug and even give each other a neck rub!
Attitude #3: Be open to trying new experiences – together.
Somewhere along the way, married couples tend to lapse into a mundane routine of daily work and household chores – and lose the romance they once had. But while we are all creatures of habit, there is no need to get stuck in a relationship rut. Rich Walker, a psychologist at Winston-Salem State University, looked at over 30,000 event memories and over 500 diaries, before coming to the conclusion that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimise negative ones. In fact, doing so can reignite that spark in your marriage.
So, give it a shot and make it a point to try new experiences together. Make a reservation at a new restaurant serving your favourite cuisine. Or, pick up a new skill together. Although my husband is your typical basketball-loving dude, he had no qualms heading to a trial session of Bikram Yoga with me. He didn’t shy away from trying his hand at floral arranging either. And these have done wonders for our relationship because we could talk – and laugh about – our experiences after!
Attitude #4: Be committed to having fun.
Embracing the realities and responsibilities of married life is never easy, and in the process, couples inevitably forget to have fun. In fact, many research studies show that couples have the most fun when they were dating. But the demands of career, children and caring for a household soon take a toll on the marriage. If you don’t learn to have fun with each other, marriage – and life – may end up stressful and unsatisfying.
So, if you have already forgotten what fun means for the both of you, start thinking about the activities you enjoyed together while you were dating. Then, commit to a date to have fun together. In fact, adopting a sense of child-like fun – like taking turns on the swing at the neighbourhood playground – can sometimes work wonders to soothe your overwrought adult minds and boost your marriage.
Attitude #5: Be forward-looking.
Even before we exchanged vows, my husband and I agreed to look only to the future – and never dwell on the past. This means we made a conscious effort to leave certain fears and doubts behind. Like how I worried at first that I would walk in my parents’ footsteps and be trapped in a tumultuous marriage before ending up in a messy divorce. But now, the ring on my finger only serves to remind myself to look forward to the future with the man that I love.
One way my husband and I achieve this is to map out our future as a team. We discuss renovation plans for our Build-To-Order flat that will arrive next year. We consider the number of children we can afford to have – and the way we want to bring them up. We talk about taking sketching classes together. Doing so helps us to focus on the future – and the potential to grow as a couple keeps the marriage stimulating. After all, marriage should be an exciting journey for both parties involved!