Fluttering feeling… stomach churning… will she accept my proposal to marry her?
Heart beating, what are the signs… when will he propose to me?
I believe these are some signs and questions from those in a relationship. When will this next level of relationship be? Will it be soon? Is he or she the right one for me? Can I commit in this relationship for life? What can I expect in marriage?
According to Singapore’s 2022 statistics, 61.8% of the population are in a marriage and 4.7% are divorced. When we decide to marry, we want to stay in a healthy marriage.
Entering into a marriage is like sticking two pieces of paper together where at any point in time when one tries to tear one apart from the other, remnants of the other party will stick onto you. There will be good and bad memories when such things happen. What attitude do we bring into a marriage before we enter into one? Divorce appears to be more accessible especially during the pandemic. With less tolerance for character flaws and the stress of various commitments, one will or may decide to draw the sword and severe the relationship. Are there ways I can prevent it?
Save your marriage before it starts.
Question: What are the key ingredients one needs in preparation for a lifetime journey?
Answer: Here are some useful and non-exhaustive key points:
Flexibility is the ability to adapt to each other life’s situation. As a couple moves through life, there are changes to navigate through such as health, education, career or children. Each of these are ever changing, thus how do both of you work out the differences in expectations and adapt when one of the components shift. For example, how does your partner encourage you when an overseas work or study opportunity arises? Do you defer this opportunity to a later time to accommodate family planning?
Respect is to accept your partner as who they are when their values differ from yours. We are all unique individuals born to unique families and after we marry, we may come to expect our partner to change. Is this realistic? The foremost is respecting your partner’s family culture. Each family culture is unique. Only with understanding and accepting one another’s family culture, can you blend your own family culture and co-construct ‘your own unique family culture’. This is an example of respecting each other.
Empathy is about being aware of where your partner’s experiential level is. It is moment by moment and it changes from time to time. It is really learning to attune to your partner’s needs and feelings. It is a tall order. However, it can be done with the two next ingredients which is mentioned in this article. It requires one to be authentic and a good listener.
Authentic means to be real and be yourself. Be who you are rather than pretend to be someone that your partner likes when you’re dating. Say what you need to say with kindness and openness. This brings us back to the point about being emphatic and how your authenticity can influence your partner’s authenticity and vice versa. This will enhance knowing each other gradually and deeply as you both journey on together.
Listening. It is such a big word in communication. It seems like such a simple word to understand. Here I mean reflective listening. It is a practice of expressing how you feel and inviting your partner to clarify how you feel. This process helps increase emphatic understanding of one other.
Self-awareness. Self-awareness is an ongoing self-discovering journey as we grow through life’s milestones. However, the more you are self-aware, the more aware you become of your trigger points. How you experience yourself goes a long way determining how you interact with your partner. Take for example, a conflict; where stress runs high and you overlook how angry you’ve become. You talk louder and faster without stopping and eventually hurling hurtful words on to your partner. This often ends with regret. If you are aware of what you’re experiencing within yourself, the first thing you might do is to acknowledge your own anger and tell your partner that “I am angry and I’m not in the right mood to have a conversation with you. I need walk away and come back when I’ve cool down.” By expressing yourself and helping your partner understand you, your partner responds to you emphatically.
Part of my work as a relationship counsellor with more than eleven years of experience is to help couples navigate through their relationship with the above key points in mind and with the hope that couples come away with more awareness and realistic expectations going into marriage.