Getting married can be wonderful and exciting, from planning the wedding to getting a house and bringing up the children. But what happens when we fall into the cracks while trying to build or maintain a picture-perfect family?

As someone who has advised many Singaporean spouses over the past two decades, I’ve seen many who had rushed into marriages only to end up ill-prepared in the face of marital challenges.

Issues stemming from overly involved in-laws to poorly managed finances are just some of the common problems married Singaporeans struggle with and have divorced over.

If you’re dealing with them as well, here’s some advice you may want to consider:

Taking charge of your marriage while building good ties with the in-laws

Marriages are unions of not just two individuals but two families as well, which is why taking charge of your matrimony independently is as important as keeping a good relationship with the in-laws.

However, many Singaporean couples run into problems when the parents tend to control their lives even after they are married. This is especially so if your spouse is the eldest or only child of the family. Parents visiting the children too frequently or meddling with their children’s marriages can sometimes create unnecessary conflicts and stress.

It is important to set boundaries with the parents and to communicate this as kindly as possible without hurting their feelings. There are times where parents don’t even realize that they have been intrusive with their children’s marriages.

Communicating with the parents can be challenging for some, and may take a while. But trust that it will be a worthwhile process.

Setting boundaries with the parents is important because it frees up space for the husband and wife to navigate their marriage independently and without influence from their parents.

It may also help when spouses learn to navigate conversations with the parents in a direction that is as neutral as possible.

For instance, when parents give comments about the husband or the wife’s behavior, or begin to compare between the marriages of siblings, try to steer them into another discussion where there is a lesser chance of parties being hurt or offended.

Don’t stop talking to your spouse

This might sound like a no-brainer but it is very important to keep talking to your spouse no matter how long you’ve been married.

Married individuals tend to stop expressing themselves as the marriage becomes consumed by children and household-related matters, leading couples down a slippery slope to disaster.

When couples stop expressing their individual needs and wants, it could cause miscommunication, making it very difficult to reconcile differences.

Go out on coffee dates, take a stroll in the park or catch up with friends. It is good to have mutual friends so that everyone can spend time together – something few married couples do as most of them tend lose contact with their friends.

For those who maintain their social circles, they should avoid abandoning their spouses at home too often.

No matter how busy you are, it is important to clear out your schedules to check in on your spouse.

Be clear about who spends on what

Disputes over financial expenses due to lack of communication can be detrimental to a marriage.

Husbands and wives tend to spend on things without telling the other, creating undesirable consequences such as overspending and straining the family’s budget.

Clear rules should be set out when it comes to who spends on what so that both parties can avoid unreasonable spending.

Make time for the kids

It is very common to see workaholic Singaporeans with very little time for their children. To make up for lost time, spouses get into the unhealthy habit of spoiling their children with gifts and money in a bid to keep the children happy.

However, many don’t realize that doing so neither teach the children the value of those items nor cultivate a meaningful relationship between parents and children.

Gifts should not replace a parent’s love and attention. Children want more than ever to have their emotions understood and their successes recognized.

Keep working hard on your marriage

Beyond the wedding bells and honeymoon, marriages are hard work and should not be rushed into if you are not ready. Getting married to satisfy peer and family pressures will not do you any good in the long run.

It is also important to be emotionally and financially ready, and be absolutely sure that you truly know the person you are marrying to prevent unpleasant surprises in terms of personalities and lifestyles in the future.

Learn to solve marital problems on your own instead of running to the parents for help.

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