Tag Archives: Relationships

Men and Destinations

couple driving on the road

Photo Credit: penelopejonze via Compfight cc

I’ve found that on road trips and holidays, some men can be a tad too particular about getting from Pt A to Pt B on time.

If we drive at 110km/h we can reach San Francisco in 6.5 hours.

“Honey, look, let’s stop for pastries at Solvang. The town looks pretty.”
“We can’t. It will throw our timing off and we will get caught in the traffic.”
“Honey, look, let’s stop by the beach coz it has a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.”
“Please, we don’t have time coz we’ll be late.”
“Late for?”
“Late in getting there in 6.5 hours.”

Years ago, there was a cruise ad in Australia targeted at widows that read “Taking you to places your late husband wouldn’t stop at.

Sometimes we can be so focused on getting to our destination that we fail to enjoy life’s beauty along the way.

I’m learning to do more of that. Now when I’m late in picking my wife, I tell her I had to stop to enjoy the moment.

Gary is the resident “blogger of few words” whose brevity and takes on love, life and daily interactions with his son are rather popular with readers. He loves his wife and son dearly, and enjoys jamming together with them as a family band.


5 Secrets to Relationship Longevity By Happily Married Couples

Elderly couple walking

It’s a joy to find someone to journey through life together with, so how can we build a healthy and strong relationship that will last?
Whether you are dating or are married, these 5 secrets from couples who have been happily married for a long time will certainly help strengthen your relationship:

  1. Keep a lid on your anger.
    It’s easy to blow your top and complain about your significant other on social media. But have you thought of the ramifications of doing so?Take Action: Choose to speak to one or two trusted confidantes who can help you work through your anger and give you constructive feedback on what you can do better in future. This gives you a safe space to let out the emotions, and is a proactive way of learning how to deal with such issues.
  2. Make time for each other.
    Anyone can say “My spouse comes first!” but if you are consistently putting off having a nice date together because you are consistently pulling in late nights work late and are busy with other appointments, the sad truth is that your spouse is not first.Take Action: Carve out small pockets of time together. Perhaps having a quick lunch date, or going for a run together at the park – these are the little things that matter. And remember – these pockets of time should be screen-free so you can truly focus on each other.
  3. Apologize.
    We don’t need to say much about this – this is a consistent challenge for couples no matter what stage or phase in life they’re at!Take Action: Often times when faced with having to apologize, we tend to say “I’m sorry but…” – an apology followed by justification of our action taken. Instead, simply say “I’m sorry.” No and, or, if or buts. Those two little words alone “I’m sorry” can make a lot of difference in your relationship. This also relates to the next point…
  4. Deal with tough topics.
    It’s easy to sweep things under the carpet, but healthy couples know that it’s not going to benefit in the relationship in the long run. A healthy relationship is built on trust and openness.Take Action: When talking about a tough topic, think of it as a boulder standing in front of both of you. How can you deal with it together? The key here is the word “together” – take responsibility for the problem AND the solution as a couple.Go into the conversation with the right frame of mind. It’ll help to make the tough topic a little bit easier 🙂

    And a bonus for married couples:

    + NEVER give up.
    At the wedding, most couples recite vows that go something like this: “.. to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part.”Honor your vows by holding each other’s hand as you journey through life. There will be ups and downs, and perhaps, a few storms. Remember: you may not have it together, but together you’ll have it all.

This post was first originally published on our Facebook page. Click ‘like’ and then hit ‘Follow’ to get daily updates from us!

When Love Speaks a Different Language

How come you don’t love me anymore?”  Soo Eng questioned Eng Kiong.

“I have constantly told you that I love you, why do you still say that I don’t love you? Can’t you see my love? I have bought you so many presents.” Eng Kiong retorted.

Soo Eng gave him no chance to continue, “But I don’t feel your love, I don’t care for the presents you have given me. All I want is some time with you alone.”

“Am I not spending time with you now?” Eng Kiong replied, getting frustrated.

During chat sessions with couples, I’ve heard many of them expressing sentiments similar to Soo Eng and Eng Kiong. More often than not, their problem is not the loss of love for each other. In fact, they still truly love one another and “express” their love to one another frequently. Alas, love expressed but not received equals no love expressed!

This happens when love speaks a different language.

Michelle and I take Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages seriously. We fully subscribe to his teaching and practise “speaking” the right love language to each other daily.

If your spouse complains that you are not showering him or her with love when you have been doing it constantly, go read that book immediately. It will do wonders for your love life as it did for Michelle’s and mine.

For those who have yet to be introduced to Chapman’s love languages, let me quickly summarize what he teaches. Humans respond to different expressions of love – 1. words of affirmation, 2. acts of service, 3. receiving gifts, 4. quality time and 5. physical touch. Each of us has an innate way of feeling loved and thus expresses love in the same way to others. For example, my innate love language is receiving words of affirmation. It simply means that I will feel loved when someone uses words to encourage or build me up.

So, when Michelle says to me, “Steven, you are great and I am so proud of you,” I feel loved. For the same reason, I will naturally express my love to Michelle in the same way. It seems a little myopic but most of us are like that; live life with a filter of our heart.

The problem arises if Michelle’s love language is anything else but words of affirmation. Let’s say her love language is physical touch, which means she feels loved when I hold her hand, hug her or give a pat on her shoulder. If that is how she feels loved, then no matter how much I shower her with encouraging words or presents, she wouldn’t perceive that I love her.

Thankfully for the both of us, our top two languages of love happen to be the same – words of affirmation and physical touch!  And so, we encourage each other a lot and  give each other strong physical expressions of love constantly – we even hold hands to sleep!

One husband came to me and said that his wife has been asking him to go for supper after the children go to bed. He is not in the habit of having supper and has rejected her many requests. But one night, he finally relented. What he could not fathom was that when he finally brought his wife out for supper, she said she was not hungry and did not want to eat!  He got quite frustrated with that.

I told him to check what her love language was. I suggested to him that it could be quality time and “having supper” was just her way of wanting to spend quality time with him; the eating wasn’t key.  He took the test with his wife and the results were exactly what I predicted. And ever since he understood her love language, he has been spending quality time with her. He told me recently that they are much happier now.

Do you want to discover what you and your spouse’s love languages are? Take the test (www.5lovelanguages.com) together with your spouse and learn what love languages you both “speak”.

And once you know your spouse’s love language, start “speaking” it to him or her immediately. I guarantee that when you do so, you will experience an immediate improvement in your relationship and it will save you a lot of unnecessary pains and troubles.

Let not your love speak a different language.

Gary’s Musings on Relationships

Recently, we discovered that a Focus friend has started a series of very inspiring and educational FB posts on relationships and we thought you would like to subscribe to his page too – Gary’s Musings on Relationships

Here’s a teaser:

Women and Randomness
Women may appear to be very random at times, but to them it’s not.

Relationship Point No. 5 (Read the other points on Gary’s Musings on Relationships)
Let me explain from my simple illustration:
Women are relationship experts. You can have 8 ladies (a lady mentioned to me that 8 was too much but she could easily do 5) all talking together at the same time on the following topics – children, work, secondary school, Les Mis, domestic helpers, ambitions, etc. And everyone knows what each person is saying. They then end it with a group hug. Individually, her brain is also thinking of many things and connecting everything together. It is a super highway of communication and data exchange.

Guys on the other hand, can only communicate effectively with one other person at a time (as seen is the second illustration). Even then, it takes considerable effort to hear what the other person is saying if it has nothing to do with sports or personal interests. It is a one way traffic. On their own, man have the ability to think about absolutely nothing (something which women will never understand). Men just stare into nothingness and brain waves come to minimal. But that’s another topic.


Back to randomness, I remember talking to a lady friend and the conversation went something like this:
Me: I have to do a talk at the zoo for parents tomorrow afternoon.
Friend (smiling): Oh.
Me: I don’t like the heat and I can imagine myself being miserable in it.
Friend (smiling): Ooo so nice.
Me (beginning to wonder): It’s tough trying to get the attention of all the parents and their kids in the open atrium, in the heat.
Friend (smiling): That’s lovely.
Me: Hello! What are you talking about?
Friend: I’m having my wedding near the Mandai area, and having an outdoor one. It’s going to be a lovely evening, and my guests can see the lovely gardens.
Me: Hey I’m talking about my talk.
Friend: Ooooh. I’m a gal.

The point is this, while it may frustrate the men at times, learn to cherish the uniqueness of these ladies. It makes life a little more colourful and gives men the opportunity to roll their eyes and talk about women.


Gary Koh is an accidental relationship expert on Facebook who may write a book someday if his enthusiasm doesn’t wane – or when his wife needs the money.

Do note that some of the posts are Gary’s insights from reading and attending various relationship books and seminars by the real experts, with his personal touch of humour and conviction (after being married for more than 10 years) added.

Saying ‘Yes’ to Marriage

I can’t remember exactly when I decided that getting married would be a good idea. But I do remember why. Growing up, my parents modeled a loving marriage for us kids, and over time, it seemed like a natural progression that I would want to find a soulmate of my own and have children. Don’t misunderstand, my home was what my husband (lovingly?) calls a crazy circus. Both my parents worked full-time, and they definitely struggled to find that elusive work-life balance. I remember my father rushing home on his lunch break to read Sleeping Beauty to me before rushing back to teach his afternoon classes. I rarely saw my mum before 7pm on weekdays, but she worked hard to cook special meals for us even before setting off for work everyday. They had a punishing schedule, but they worked in tandem – almost like one body, making it all happen. While there were harsh words spoken and impatient sighs as in any home, there was a mutual respect and love that blanketed it all. Now, well into their 60s, my father still tells my mother she looks beautiful every time they step out together. And my mother’s voice and demeanor soften when she speaks of him.

I wish we had more examples of such healthy marriages. Because it was this, and not the government’s financial incentives which convinced me that maintaining a happy marriage was viable. Even as I worked impossible hours, had personal dreams and goals I wanted to pursue – and the world was telling me not to put it all on hold for a man and a baby, my parents had shown me all my life that with some savvy-thinking, sacrifice and good scheduling, it would be possible to fit marriage into an already full life.

I learned a precious lesson. Marriage is not marrying the perfect spouse, or even having a conflict-free relationship but about exercising love, respect, forgiveness and patience. And above all, taking time to connect and communicate to keep the ‘spark’ alive.

Marrying relatively young at 26, the best decision we made as a couple was attending a marriage preparation course that my home church offered. In the 4 years that we spent staring moony-eyed at each other over countless cups of coffee, not once did the Husband ever mention wanting five children (FIVE!). Or that he felt a mother should stay home with the kids for the first few years at least. He was equally stunned to hear that I expected him to do the housework and grocery shopping – but nothing quite beat his expression when he heard how much I spent on grooming each month. The course was a good neutral ground to thrash out our issues and come to a compromise.

A definite upside to marrying young is that we’ve had our kids Micah and Ezra early on. These early childhood years are the most exhilarating and exhausting I’ve ever experienced, but the Husband and I agree, as we collapse in bed each night , we are glad to have the energy and spirit to run, skip, hop and crawl (don’t ask) with them.

Thank you Papa and Mummy for the life lessons! 🙂 I hope I do as good a job with my family as you did with us.

Judith Xavier is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about Family-Life issues. Together with her husband of 6 years, she spends her down-time exploring new playgrounds with her two young sons, Micah and Ezra.

The Joy of Marrying Young – Our Story [Part 2]

Enjoying parenthood

My eldest daughter was born just months before I was promoted to the rank of Captain. I had served the Army for 6 years then and was rather ahead of my cohort.

A day after my promotion, I started my studies in NTI (now known as NTU). My daughter was 6 months old when I went for my first class in July 1984. It was tough; I had to contend with time for studies, for my daughter and for Michelle, who was suffering for postnatal depression after I left to stay at the university hostel. It was by God’s grace and strength that both of us were able to overcome those challenges.

Five years on, my son was born. And in 1990, we were gifted with our youngest daughter, the same year I was promoted to a Major. Girls and promotions seemed to come in pairs. 🙂

As our three children were growing up, my soldiering career was also on the fly. Despite my busyness, we took time to go on short family holidays frequently. Usually three days at a time but four times a year. We did this for many years. We did not go to exotic or faraway destinations; it was Desaru, Malacca and places nearby. But many of our children’s and our fond memories of the family came from those short but wonderful holidays. The family bonded.

Michelle and I truly enjoy our parenthood. We had to go through cycles of tears, joy, hope, disappointment and anger. Nothing unusual; these are normally associated with “provisionally licensed” parents.  Parenting is a lifelong learning experience; 24/7 and 365 days non-stop. Along the way we made our mistakes, but did not give up, we recovered and moved on.

Deciding that family comes first

I left the SAF for the industry after 15 years and joined a local listed company. I was responsible for their international business. That meant lots of time spent on planes and hotel rooms. But I made it a point not to travel over weekends. It was another deliberate decision. I wanted to spend family time over the weekend. I told my CEO my position and promised him that my performance would not suffer. It did not and instead, I performed better!

I worked hard. Michelle worked harder as a wife, mother, daughter-in-law and businesswoman.

As parents, both of us had to give up even more “rights” but our family thrived! We decided that our family must come ahead of every other interest.  What we did years ago is now commonly referred to as “work-life balance”.

Preparing for our empty nest

Despite spending lots of time on and with our children, Michelle and I did not neglect our relationship. We know for sure that we will be alone again; we consider it our joy to see our children eventually set up their own families. When they do, we will encourage them to spend most of their time with their spouse and children.

As sure as the sun rises every day, our nest will be without the children as they build their own. For this reason, Michelle and I took efforts to prepare for that day, which came sooner than later.

My eldest daughter has been married for more than 2 years now and lives in her own house. My son and youngest daughter are both in their final year in the university and we see little of them as they have projects to finish, friends to meet and a life to live. I don’t think that it will be too long before they get married and move out.

I notice that it is common for children to be the glue to the relationship of aging couples. Without the children, they have nothing more to do together or say to another.

Michelle and I have known each other for almost 40 years now and we still have lots of things that we have joint interest in and to talk about. We are more intimate with each other than when we were first married.

This state of intimacy did not come by itself. We took efforts to develop it. Amongst many other things that fought for our time, Michelle and I chose to spend time to develop our relationship.

We are careful with our communication. We talk about everything that matters to our heart. We learn to say good things about and to one another. We learn not to let our frustrations and anger grow above our love. We learn to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

We constantly enhance our intimacy with activities that we both enjoy doing together; we are into our seventh year of weekly ballroom dancing lessons. Though we still cannot dance well, we enjoy each other when we dance, stepping on each other’s toes and all. We go for Pilates sessions together once a week.

We did and are still doing all we know how to prepare ourselves to turn what others call an “empty nest” to a rejuvenated “love nest”.

Leaving a legacy

When my eldest daughter was dating, she declared that she wanted to marry young and have children, “….just like Mom and you, Dad”, she said.

Why would you want to do that?” I would ask.

Her answer touched me, “I can see how Mom and you are able to enjoy life now.

When she finally got married at 26, she said that she was already late. She saw and experienced the joy of family and she desires it for herself.

Many have called it a foolish decision – to marry young and start a family when my career was just taking off, yet Michelle and I would not have wanted it another way.

The Joy of Marrying Young – Our Story [Part 1]

“Alas, we are having too few babies!”

– Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally 2012

This is now a national concern and much has been discussed and debated. Here are my thoughts on this – too many young couples are delaying marriage. When they finally get married, they are unsure if they want to have children. And even if they finally decide to, they worry over the costs of bringing up more than one child.

Our Story

My wife and I have been married for 30 years and we have three wonderful children, aged 28, 24 and 22.

My wife and I met when we were 14 years old. I was a boy scout and she was a girl guide. We both came from single gender secondary schools then. It was not love at first sight; at that age, it would be infatuation at best. We kept in touch through our studies and became a pair when we were 18. Young lovers!

National service separated us for a while but it only made our hearts grow fonder. By that time, I decided that she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Armed with only a diploma from Singapore Polytechnic, I figured that instead of spending 2 years as an NS officer, I might as well take home a regular pay as a full-time serviceman.  The regular job and pay would help me to marry my girlfriend sooner than later.

Marrying the Love of my Life at 23

My first full-time pay as a Technical Officer in the SAF in 1979 was about $700.  She was working as a secretary for around $450 a month. We boldly started to plan for our wedding. Finally, after courting each other for more than 5 years, we tied the knot at a “ripe old” age of 23.

My army colleagues were laughing at me.

Why get married so young?” they mockingly asked.

Some seriously advised me, “Are you sure you are ready to give up your freedom and be tied down? Hey, enjoy your freedom, why do you give it up so quickly?”

I thank God that I did not change my decision. Besides coming to know my Savior, marrying my girlfriend at 23 was the best decision that I have made in all my life.

Giving Up to Gain

Getting hitched is meant to be a commitment for life. It was more than freedom that my girlfriend and I had to give up.

When I made my vow to Michelle at the altar, I knew that I was not only vowing my love to her. It was the same for her.  We knew that marrying one another meant giving up our individual life and rights …. and the two shall become one.

Before I frighten those who are preparing to get married, let me quickly add that Michelle and I gained much more than we gave up in our 30 years of marriage. In fact, we came to the point that we enjoy giving up things for each other.

Not that we gave up everything that we were doing as singles, but I gave up most of my men only outings, weekend golf, the impatience of shopping and habits that irritated her.

Michelle gave up lots of fun time with her girlfriends too; along the way, she had to give up her insistence of doing things her way and many more.

We have lived and behaved as singles for over 23 years before becoming one. We needed time to get to know one another deeply in order to enjoy one another.  So, we decided to deliberately give up individual times to spend time with one another to build up our relationship.

The key word is deliberate.

We deliberately gave up less important things for more important ones. The “more important things” were to build our relationship up as a couple, to build our children up with godly character, to support and be there for one another as much as we can.

We deliberately gave up some things to gain better ones.

Perseverance Builds Character and a Good Marriage

Despite being deliberate and determined to build a good relationship, we also faced many challenges in our early years of “character integration”. This is not unusual. Beyond the over-hyped issues of which end of the toothpaste tube we preferred to squeeze, and which side of the bed we were used to sleeping on, we had serious issues that needed harmonization.

We had to contend with our different mindsets that stemmed from our different family backgrounds and value systems, habits, likes and dislikes. Those did not quite coincide for many years into our marriage. Some of those issues still do not intersect right up to this day.

But we are glad that many of those “irritations” do not irritate us any more. Yes, it was painful when we went through those times.  I remember that both Michelle and I had many times in our early years cried out, “Why, God, why?” and “I can’t take this anymore!”

We are so glad that we persevered.

Our determination to make our relationship work and enjoyable is paying its dividends, and handsomely too. Michelle and I agree that our relationship has never been better and is still getting better day by day.

Perseverance does build character and a great marital relationship!

Then parenthood came along… and our lives were forever changed.

[Story to be continued… stay tuned!]

Written by Steven C