Life is so fast-paced in Singapore that we sometimes feel frustrated over little things while we juggle a never-ending to-do list. Problems that arise in our relationships are often chucked aside and neglected due to other more pressing demands of life. Nonetheless, let’s not forget that though love is a feeling, staying in love is a choice!

Below are three habits that couples should cultivate for a long-lasting, loving marriage:

1. Listening versus Hearing
A strong marriage starts from active listening. Listening is a process of hearing, understanding, and reflecting. Remember, you have to choose to listen. When you listen, you make a conscious choice to focus on the other party.

Have you been in a situation where your spouse is venting to you about work and you hear his or her voice clearly, but fail to pick up on what he or she needs? You were hearing, not listening.

Start by paying attention to your body language during conversations. Simple head nods, and uttering words such as “right” and “yeah” will convey that you are invested in the discussion and actually listening.

Even if you don’t agree with something, try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Don’t express your disdain or scoff at their opinions simply because you differ in your views. Your intention should always be to understand your spouse and to support him or her. This means providing a safe space for him or her to be open in their sharing.

2. Be Pro-Active about Having Conversations
Remember those times you shunned having a conversation with your spouse because you were too physically and mentally drained to deal with the issue?

Don’t assume that the other party can understand you through telepathy.

Be pro-active in initiating a conversation about unresolved issues. It can be as simple as scheduling a 15-minute conversation after dinner.

The conversation could start out light and casual to set the tone for a pleasant and fruitful conversation. Perhaps ask questions like, “Where should we go for the weekend?” or “What was it you wanted to speak to me about last night?”

When the conversation reaches a more intimate level, ask deeper questions such as “What are the things I do or words I say that hurt you?”

Be prepared that such conversations can be taxing emotionally or mentally, but there is a reward for those who keep trying. A stronger emotional bond will be formed when you give your undivided attention to your spouse. Resist interrupting with solutions or opinions when he or she is voicing out their thoughts. Instead, be right there in mind, body and spirit to let them know that you are sincere in making this relationship work out in the long term.

3. Reconnect Beyond Familiar Surroundings
Years of marriage and child-rearing may make your marriage appear monotonous. Each day is but another emotional, mental and physical challenge as you try to balance work and family.

It is easy to lose that intimate connection in a marriage. Ask yourself, when was the last time you did a spontaneous activity together with your spouse? Why did you fall in love with him or her in the first place?

Maybe it’s time to rekindle your love through a couple retreat! Go on a holiday or staycation, and disconnect yourself from your digital devices, so that you can really spend quality bonding time together. Try to discover new things about each other during your food and scenic adventures.

As the saying goes, “Time and tide waits for no man.” This is the opportunity to take a step back from the realities of day-to-day life and reflect on your goals as a couple. Think about how you can face potential adversity together. Think about activities that you can embark on together so that you can walk towards achieving your family’s purpose and vision.

This article was written in collaboration with Focus On The Family Singapore, a local charity with IPC status, dedicated to empower families in Singapore with skills to build strong families and raise resilient kids.

"I Still Do" 2019

"I Still Do" is back to celebrate a lifetime commitment of love and marriage. The road to a long lasting marriage may have its ups and downs, but the promise to never give up on each other is everlasting. Click here for more "I Still Do" tips and couples' events to spark joy in your marriage!