What are some problems that newlyweds face and how can they overcome these issues? In the first part of this two-part series on marriage, we spoke to marriage counsellors and mentors to find out.
Here’s a joke about marriage: marriage is like a crowded restaurant. There is a long queue of people waiting to go in, while there are ones who are inside that can’t wait to get out.
Unfortunately, there is a fragment of truth to this.
The figures from the Department of Statistics Singapore paint a sobering picture: for every seven marriages that took place in 2021, there were two cases of divorce.
Marriage is an institution ordained by God. The first reference to marriage in the Bible was in Genesis 2. God said that it was not good for man to be alone and that He would make him a helper comparable to him. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2:18)
In describing a Christian marriage, the late theologian Timothy Keller wrote in his best-selling book, The Meaning Of Marriage, that it involves two persons whose individual identities are grounded in Jesus. On top of that, it requires the two individuals to put the other person before themselves. Marriage then becomes a vehicle God can use to continue His sanctifying work in believers after salvation, to make them holy.
Keller went on to note that the Christian couple can choose to reframe the trials in their marriage and see it as a means of dying to themselves. In a sense it is killing two birds with one stone: if you persevere in learning how to navigate married life with grace, you get to preserve the most valuable human relationship you have while growing to be more and more like Jesus.
However, it is easier said than done. Whether Christian or non-Christian, every couple face the same temptations in married life. It is easy for a marriage to fall apart when there is no consistent effort from both parties. The main advantage for Christians is that they can both depend on the grace of God when difficulties arise.
As Proverbs 11:14 teaches, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.”
City News speaks to Aaron Chong and Pastor Veronica Tang, as well as Michael Choy and Teo Meishan, to draw from their experience as counsellors and marriage mentors in CHC.
Besides heading a zone, Pastor Veronica is also a clinical counsellor in CHC’s Counselling team while her husband Aaron serves as a cell group leader. Michael and Meishan started their journey as marriage mentors in 2021, after going through the Bridging Hearts Prepare/Enrich programme.
How can newlyweds establish a strong foundation in their marriage?
The first thing that both husband and wife need to do is to understand that they are on the same team, Michael and Meishan advised. They need to learn to trust and understand each other and be open to sharing their dreams and hopes, as well as their feelings and fears.
The word of God is a good foundation for all couples. Genesis 2:24 teaches that husband and wife are one flesh. Beyond the physical, a couple must also share in spiritual intimacy, to set time aside to love God. The most important thing is to have Christ in the centre of the marriage, because a three-fold cord is not easily broken.
More practically, Aaron and Pastor Veronica noted that couples should allow themselves and each other a period of grace to adjust to married life. A couple starts out as individuals who have their own personalities and characters. Christians do not believe in cohabiting before marriage, so they need to give themselves time to adjust to living with each other’s differences at the start of their marriage.
One example would be that one spouse might prefer an orderly lifestyle when the other tends to be random. This difference would likely affect many areas of their lives from the way they pack their clothes down to how they squeeze that shared tube of toothpaste. It takes time and communication to get used to each other’s habits and preferences.
What are some misconceptions about marriage?
“I can continue to do what I always did before I got married.”
Michael gave the example of how he used to watch soccer matches on Saturdays. This became impossible to do after the kids came along—he had to give it up. It is important to adjust your expectations, and make space for your spouse in your schedule and in your life.
“Oh no! I married the wrong person. I should leave the marriage.”
During an argument, doubts may surface, and you are left questioning if you married the right person. Recognise that the devil is trying to influence your thoughts, banish the negative thoughts, bind the devil in Jesus’ name and give the relationship your best shot by working things out. We must trust that God is a redemptive God and that He can turn bad things around for our good.
“I don’t feel love for my spouse. Our marriage is over.”
A worldly belief is that the feeling of love, even in a marriage, should come naturally. However, love is beyond sentiments and feelings. It is a choice to love your spouse and work at the marriage. It is not enough to marry the one we love, we must also love the one we marry—because we believe our spouse is a gift from God.
“If I spend all my time serving God, my marriage will be fine even if I don’t look after it.”
It is a big misconception for those serving in the church that if we serve God actively, our marriage will look after itself. You should guard your heart with all diligence and remember that your first ministry is towards your family and spouse. Be intentional in building your marriage.
“The husband should rule over the wife.”
Some enter marriage with Genesis 3:16 in mind and believe that husbands will rule over their wives. However, Aaron and Pastor Veronica remarked that CHC’s senior pastor, Kong Hee expounded on this topic in a weekend sermon. He taught that the dominion of the husband over the wife is the result of the curse of sin. Before the Fall, God intended for men and women to have equal value and function. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and restored equality back again. He inferred from Ephesians 5, where Paul wrote about a Spirit-filled church, that in a Spirit-filled union, there must be mutual love and mutual submission. Therefore, each spouse should be free to take charge according to their gifts and talents.
How can couples navigate major life transitions, such as moving into a new home or the birth of a child?
Transitions are merely pressure points in life, said Michael and Meishan. Pressure points may reveal an identity crisis or a misalignment in values between the couple. If issues arise because of these transitions, the couple will need to take time and be determined to resolve the issues.
Take these transitions as an opportunity to realign your identity in Christ and to realign your values to His values. This is also where the couple can figure out a process to resolve the differences while responding with love and respect for one another.
For a couple that has just become parents, the husband needs to be patient and gentle with his wife as she recuperate from childbirth. For the wife, it is always important to show respect toward her husband even when he makes mistakes with the baby. Make time to connect physically and emotionally, to fill up each other’s love tanks.
When it comes to pressure points, having differing viewpoints on how spending money can also become a source of tension in the family. Regardless, it is important to have an honest conversation about what money means to you and your spouse and discuss how both of you can be good stewards of the wealth that God has blessed you with. It is also prudent to let the more detailed spouse handle the finances at home.
Aaron and Pastor Veronica want to remind couples that running a household is about teamwork—both husband and wife need to take on different responsibilities and allocate roles according to their strengths. They shared that when their child first arrived, Pastor Veronica focused on taking care of the emotional needs of the baby, while Aaron did the groceries and the night duty so that his wife could have proper rest.
Michael and Meishan suggested a useful trick: when feeling short-tempered, it is useful to stop oneself from lashing out and remind oneself that one is doing it unto the Lord. On a few occasions, Michael humbled himself and apologised to Meishan before even finding out what he did wrong. By doing that, he was able to make his wife feel valued.
Look out for part 2 of this series where our marriage counsellors and mentors give more marriage tips for couples at different stages of their marriage.