Loving someone - what does that mean? A lasting marriage goes beyond saying, “I love you.” Two married men, Mr. Jason Wong, chairman of Focus on the Family Singapore, and Mr. Kua Soon Khe, Council member of Families for Life, gives us an up-close peek into their decades-long (and still loving) marriages, dishing out some valuable tips for all couples.

To Give and Take is Key

Married for more than 26 years, Mr. Wong acknowledges that there is plenty to give and take in a marriage.

How does one give and take? It starts with the simple, seemingly non-significant stuff. Mr. Wong shares how his wardrobe space and shoe rack space are predominantly occupied by his wife. Yet, he triumphs on the book space where only 20 percent of it is occupied by the missus.

From Mrs. Wong’s neat table and organised nature, anything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ would be promptly discarded. Her skills would probably on par with famed Japanese home-organising consultant, Marie Kondo.

On the other hand, Mr. Wong’s table is in a state of “organised mess”, preferring to hoard various trinkets he collects over the years, many with sentimental value.

In some aspects, The Wongs appear to be polar opposites.

“We don’t fuss over the small stuff,” remarks Mr. Wong. It doesn’t matter that one party is more task-oriented than the other, what matters is that both put in the effort required to work at the marriage, such that “two becomes one.”

Years of courtship and marriage cannot eradicate inherent personality differences. Mr. Kua liken personality differences to habits. Instead of being a liability in marriage, both parties should accommodate and accept each other’s different personality, quirks and way of doing things.

For example, research shows that as many as one in three couples struggles with settling on a sleeping arrangement that appeals to both parties.

Similarly for the Wongs, having slept on the same bed for more than 26 years, they have yet to find a foolproof solution to their ‘It’s too hot – I need the air-conditioner (Mrs. Wong) versus ‘I can’t sleep when it gets so cold in the middle of the night – I’m going to switch off the air-conditioner’ (Mr. Wong) dilemma.

No matter how Hollywood tells it, sharing one blanket is not nearly as important to the Wongs as long as they sleep on the same bed. Rather, a good night’s sleep is the of utmost importance for the couple.

Couples experiencing the same problem should give and take - tweak the arrangement around and consider using separate blankets of different thickness to suit your personal needs. Ta-dah!

Empathy Begets Empathy

Mr. Kua asserts that friction between couples arises from good-hearted sentiments and hence, should not be shunned.

“It is normal to have different opinions on parenting, social engagement or work-life balance. But our own opinions are always in the best interests of our family and our children. Remember to have empathy for your loved one. Marriage is a never-ending journey for both, husband and wife – ups and downs are inevitable,” affirmed Mr. Kua.

One of the challenges Mr. Wong faced was the different values he and his wife upheld when it came to the children’s education. While he prioritises imparting good values, she values hard work and the attainment of strong academic results. He also believes that failure is the mother of success. Mrs. Wong disagrees and remains adamant on avoiding failure in a bid to protect her children.

Ultimately, they chose to listen, and respected each other’s perspectives, and agreed to meet each other halfway. For Mrs. Wong, her husband’s calm nature eased gave her the assurance she needed to into letting go of her stressful tendencies.

Court Each Other Everyday

It is endearing that Mr. Wong confessed to loving his wife more now than he ever did. “Remember why that you chose to marry the one you love, so you should love the one you marry,” reiterated Mr. Wong.

Treat your spouse as if you are still in courtship every day. Simple gestures such as calling or texting each other every day to arrange lunch or dinner dates can show that you are always thinking of him or her.

Yet, Mr. Wong admits that love can feel like a battlefield at times, so it is wise to always know when a timeout is required.

“Cool off for a while then revisit the issue a couple of days later,” recommended Mr. Kua. Give each other some time to “walk a mile in each other’s shoes” to calmly dissect and rationalise an issue. He too, encourages couples to court each other every day.

Go beyond just saying “I Love You” to show your spouse that you love and care for him or her. As encapsulated by Mr. Kua, “Two individuals who grew up in different families are bound to have conflicting perceptions in many matters. It will take a lot of patience, effort, and mutual understanding to consistently work towards a blissful marriage.”

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.