Singaporebrides | Relationships

September 2021

12 Tried and Tested Ways To Build A Strong Marriage

Learn about the tried and tested ways you can use to build a stronger foundation for a longer lasting marriage.

When you said your “I do’s”, you imagined marriage to be a bed of roses with some bumps along the way. After all, you’re in love with the one person whose values, dreams, wants and vision align with yours – everything that you need for a strong and long lasting marriage.

While you’re not wrong to think that, it would be naive of you to assume that having that level of compatibility is enough to prevent conflicts and difficult situations, and sustain a loving and stable marriage. The truth is, while love and compatibility are important, the things you’ll learn about yourself and your spouse, and what works in the best interest of your marriage throughout the years are essential in keeping your marriage strong and stable.

We speak to a handful of our married colleagues, some of whom have been married for more than two decades, and ask them to share tried and tested ways on how they strengthened their marriage throughout the years, to help newlyweds and other married couples like themselves build a strong, loving and long-lasting marriage.

1. Always Remember to Communicate With Each Other

Jia Min and DarrenJia Min and Darren’s Local-Themed Wedding at Si Chuan Dou Hua by Thomas Tan Photography

The key to building a successful relationship is to communicate your every thought, every opinion and every emotion, and listen to your partner’s, even if it is hard or upsetting to hear. Disagreements and fights are part and parcel of marriage, which is why it is important to be as transparent as you can with each other during times of conflict so you can listen and understand the root of the problem, talk about it and come to a resolution together.

But for communication to be effective, you must practice voicing your thoughts and emotions as well as listen and understand your partner’s perspective. Doing so will help you understand each other and grow closer as husband and wife, strengthening your marriage for the years ahead.

“Communicate everything,” Mandy, Editor at SingaporeMotherhood, says. “Tell them when something they do really bugs you, no matter how minor, instead of keeping it in until you’re upset over something else that really matters.”

Try to adopt the habit of thinking before you speak, although in the heat of the moment, it might be difficult to practice this. To avoid saying something you might regret, if you need to calm your thoughts and emotions down during an argument, ask for a time-out so both of you can gather your thoughts and talk when you are feeling calmer. You’ll find it easier to work things out when you are both not worked up and feeling defensive. It may not come to you overnight, but keep trying, and you’ll soon learn that it is worth it.

2. Don’t judge

Alexandra and James’s Breathtaking Clifftop Wedding in Uluwatu Bali by Terralogical

After living together under one roof for some time, it’s common for married couples to pass judgement on something their spouse did and associate it to how he is. I’m sure you’ve used words like “You are so..” or “That’s what you always do” during your arguments – I know I have.

However, judging your partner based on something he did in the past is not healthy and is potentially damaging to your marriage. When you pass judgment, your mind is set that your partner will always exhibit the same behaviour and nothing will change with time. You’ll be less open to the possibility that he had a good reason for behaving that way or that he is capable of change.

Similarly, your partner will also be less likely to explain his behaviour or change for the better, since you are already convinced that he’ll always behave the same way. When that happens, your marriage will suffer.

Although it’s easier said than done, try not to fall into this trap. Instead, withhold any judgement that you may have and give him the benefit of the doubt. Don’t think “That’s how you are”; instead think “I know you don’t mean to do this. How about…” and be open to a possibility that his actions were triggered by something out of his control rather than something that is ingrained in his character. Practicing this will help strengthen your marriage in the long run, as you both extend your understanding to one another and help each other be the best spouse for one another.

3. Let go of petty things

Jillian and Jason’s Soulful Wedding Photography in Norway in the Dramatic Lofoten Islands by Vegard Giskehaug

While fights are inevitable, some fights are completely avoidable if you choose your battles wisely. Ask yourself if it is an issue worth arguing over or are you arguing simply because you are being overly defensive or sensitive?

Learn to identify the arguments that are worth having and avoid petty fights that don’t achieve anything but hurt feelings. Don’t dwell on petty matters like your partner forgetting to wash the dishes or putting the laundry in to wash, and start a fight over this. Instead, be the bigger person and do it on their behalf to keep the harmony in the marriage. Arguing over why he didn’t do it or how it was the nth time that he had forgotten about it serves to prove and do nothing for your relationship.

“It’s important to give and take in a relationship,” Angela (not her real name) reveals. “There’s no need to win all the time. Sometimes, stepping back a little is a win for your marriage.”

Instead, by choosing not to fight over petty matters like these will make both of you appreciate the understanding and graciousness shown over time, strengthening your love and bond for each other.

4. Find strength in your differences

Hui Min and Tiong Li’s Modern and Intimate Wedding at Si Chuan Dou Hua by alone-together

They say, opposites attract, so don’t expect your spouse to always act, think or understand things the same way as you do. Instead of ending up in a tug of war with your partner when they behave differently from you, try to put yourself in his shoes and see things from his point of view to understand where he is coming from. Similarly, he should do the same for you.

Try to remember that being different isn’t a bad thing. It is something that you have to learn to work with and make it work for your marriage to flourish. Use your differences positively to complement each other and help your partner be better or encourage them to step out of their comfort zone to try new things or see things in a different light.

5. Explore and enjoy new experiences together

Stephanie and Li Ming’s Rustic Wanderlust Styled Pre-Wedding Shoot in Coney Island by Bridelope Productions

The first few years as a newlywed are undeniably exciting as you experience many firsts together as a married couple. Your first time building and furnishing your new home, the first time you did chores together, the first time you hosted family and friends over at your abode, the first time you returned home from a holiday together – these first time experiences, no matter how trivial or mundane it may seem to others, are milestones in your marriage that help you to bond with one another.

Over time, these first times will eventually become second, third and fourth times until you stop counting as the newness fades away and the mundane of everyday life starts to set in. To ensure that you continue to find excitement and first times throughout your marriage, try to explore new and different experiences together so you can bond and build precious memories.

Sign up and train for a marathon together, or go for a yoga retreat as a couple. You can even sign yourselves up for an experience as simple as a baking class to help you bond as a married couple. Regardless of what kind of new experiences you’d want to explore as a couple, never stop trying for that feeling of newness with your spouse.

6. Set aside time for date night

Amelia and William’s Dreamy Destination Pre-Wedding Adventure in Indonesia by Fire, Wood & Earth

This is especially important for married couples with young children. It is easy to get swept away by the responsibilities of parenthood and focus all your time and attention on your children, neglecting the other person you’ve sworn to love once upon a time.

Take some time out of your busy schedule, be it due to work or being a parent, and go on date nights regularly, without distractions (like phones) and without children. Arrange for a babysitter for your children and spend some couple time with your spouse to reconnect. No matter how short your couple time is, it’ll help you build a closer relationship.

7. Don’t forget to assure/show your spouse love

Ivy and Julius’s Epic Mountaintop Pre-Wedding Shoot on Trolltunga, Norway by Juanmoley Fotologue

There’s something about settling into a comfortable daily routine after you’ve said your “I do’s” that tends to kill off some (or all) of the romance in a marriage. Whether it is due to complacency, or the thought of ‘We’re already married, so why the need to?”, forgetting to romance your partner is a surefire way of dulling your affections for each other, which inevitably spells trouble for your marriage in the long run.

It’s always good to know that you’re being loved and to show love to the person whom you’ll be spending forever with. Proactively assuring or showing your love for each other will help you keep the affection and butterflies you used to feel during your courtship days, and banish any doubts and insecurities you may have about your partner and marriage.

Besides, hearing your loved one tell or show you that he loves you never gets old, no matter how cheesy it sounds or how many times it was being said. So, don’t assume that your spouse knows that you love them, tell them how much you love and appreciate them, just like you used to in the early days.

8. Don’t take anything for granted. Know when to express your gratitude

Lynette and Kelvin’s Intimate and Colourful Wedding at Candlenut by Darren and Jade Photography

Being grateful and saying “thank you” will do wonders in any situation, especially in a marriage. More often than not, most married couples find themselves at a stage where they take each other for granted after a few years of marriage. They become so comfortable with each other that it becomes second nature to expect their partners to support and take care of them without remembering to show or voice their gratitude.

Over time, the absence of showing or voicing out gratitude will turn love into bitterness as resentment grows from being taken for granted. By expressing gratitude, you are letting your partner know that you acknowledge, appreciate and are thankful for his help and support. It tells him that you are not taking him for granted and treasure the fact that he went above and beyond to help or support you.

9. It’s Okay to Agree to Disagree

Lynn and Zhisheng’s Awe-Inspiring Pre-Wedding Travelogue in Bali by KAI Picture

Have you ever had moments where you argue over the same issues or topics without ever coming to a resolution? Well, you’re not the only one experiencing this. Nearly every married couple has issues or topics that they cannot talk about without ever going into an argument because both of you cannot come to a resolution that you agree with.

Instead of fighting each time you come across these issues or topics, come to an agreement that it’s okay to disagree and leave it unresolved. You don’t have to fight about and insist on who or what is right or wrong. In these instances, determining who is right or wrong isn’t important. Instead, choosing to prioritise your love and marriage over having the last word should be the most important thing to both of you.

10. Apologising is not the same as surrendering. It is another way of saying “I love you”

Kristy and Chris’s Elegant White Wedding in Bali by Starling and Sage

How many times have your pride got in the way of you apologising to your spouse? If you have an answer to this question, don’t feel bad about it as it happens to nearly every married couple. Everyone has an ego and pride, and sometimes it can be hard to put it aside and admit that we are in the wrong or be the bigger person to apologise because it is for the better good.

Don’t confuse apologising with surrendering. Rather, saying sorry means being right or wrong isn’t as important as making peace with your spouse. Learning to apologise means you’ll always choose to prioritise your marriage over being right, and that’ll strengthen your bond as a couple and build a more steadfast marriage than any other thing. In a way, saying sorry is a way of saying “I don’t think I am in the wrong, but I love you more than I care about being right”.

Like many things in marriage, learning to apologise may not be easy at the beginning. But with effort and practice, it’ll soon become second nature, so don’t give up trying! I promise, it’ll be worth it.

11. Learn how to make it up to your spouse

Aliya and Yuki’s Merry Vintage Glam Wedding at The Clifford Pier, The Fullerton Bay Hotel by Caline Ng Photography

Next to learning how to apologise, it is also important that you learn how to make up after an argument or a mistake, because trust me, you’ll be making a lot of them in your marriage. Misunderstandings, miscommunication, unfounded assumptions, arguments and hurtful comments are bound to happen during the course of your married years, no matter how you try to avoid it.

“In a marriage, you now have to work every argument out and think of ways to resolve it and make up with each other instead of walking away from it,” Joanne, Marketing Manager at SingaporeBrides, adds.

Instead of finding ways to avoid it (you can’t, making these mistakes is part and parcel of your growth as an individual and a couple), learn to apologise and how to make up to repair your relationship with your spouse after a mistake or argument.

Don’t leave your partner with a lingering sour taste after an argument, even after you’ve apologised. Find a way to make up with him, whether it involves doing something nice for him or buying him a small gift to acknowledge that you’ve hurt his feelings and have learned your mistake. Practicing these habits of apologising and making up will do wonders in strengthening your marriage in the years ahead, so try to incorporate these habits into your marriage.

12. Don’t forget to be a friend to each other

Hashy Yusof and Marc Than’s Stunning Pre-Wedding Shoot and Inspiring Story of Overcoming Paralysis by Chris Ling International Photographers

As we get older and wiser, we realise that romance is not the only thing that matters or bonds couples in their marriage. Instead of romantic gestures and steamy nights, the friendship between you and your spouse will be the thing that keeps you connected in your marriage years.

“Make your spouse your best friend,” Mandy says. “It may be clichéd, but a real friendship lasts forever, whereas steamy nights and looks don’t.”

Be there for your spouse like your best friend would for you. Listen to their work rants and sit with them through their tears, be the person whom they’ll always turn to for advice and opinions, and trusts the most. Spend time and have fun together, like friends would, even if it is just going down to the nearest coffeeshop to pick up lunch or catching up on your favourite dramas on Netflix. Being there for each other unconditionally, like a best friend would, will strengthen your bond and marriage over the years.

Of course, these tried and tested ways are not the only lessons to be learned on how you can strengthen your marriage. After all, marriage is a life-long learning journey and there are many more lessons on building a strong marriage to be picked up along the way.

“There is no one lesson that is more important. All are equally important,” Joanne stresses. “Everything has to come together to build a strong marriage.”

Credits: Feature Image from Nadine and Owen’s Quirky Vintage Pre-Wedding Shoot at Golden Mile Tower by Fleur and Craft

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12 Tried and Tested Ways To Build A Strong Marriage