Married Couples Tips On Maintaining A Relationship
In fairy tales and Korean dramas, marriage is often portrayed as the happy ending, after which the couple presumably lives happily ever after. But in real life, getting married is just the beginning of a new journey. It takes work to maintain a relationship, and even more so now that many couples are finding themselves in the same space 24/7, going from the Circuit Breaker and into WFH arrangements. We spoke to 8 married couples in Singapore and asked them for their top tips on how to maintain a relationship when you’re living together all day, every day.
1. “Focus on the positives of your partner rather than the negatives when you are annoyed”
Married for 1.5 years
“We’ve been married for 1.5 years but have been living together for about 4.5 years.
I actually expected to get annoyed at him being around 24/7. But surprisingly, I really like that he’s around. Working from home can be mentally draining and very isolating, so it’s nice to have him around for company.
At the start of the Circuit Breaker, he would do things like vacuum or do chores while I was working, which was unavoidable but annoying. After a while, we learnt to stay out of each other’s way if we know the other person is busy, whether it’s work or playing Dota.”
Top tips: “Don’t hold grudges. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If your partner apologises, accept it. Don’t prolong your anger or frustration, or else you’re the one who’s going to feel crap about it the whole day.
Accept your partner’s apologies, flaws and habits. Try to understand their rationale of why they prefer things a certain way, and that certain habits of theirs simply cannot disappear 100%. If you’re the one being pointed out for having a bad habit, try to fix it yourself but don’t hold it against your partner for pointing it out.
Focus on the positives of your partner rather than the negatives when you are annoyed. For example, when I get annoyed about always having to clean up after the cats, I remember that he takes the initiative to throw away the trash and tidy up the house. There’s always a give and take; and sometimes when we’re stressed or tired from work, we feel like we’re tanking all the burden. But by feeling this way or not looking at it from a different perspective, we might miss out other important and caring things our partner does for us.”
2. “Close one eye if possible and let it go”
Married for almost 6 years with 2 kids
“My husband and I are both working from home, so we spend 24/7 together. We have 2 kids and don’t have a helper, so everything has to be done by the 2 of us.
We don’t really fight anymore because we’ve been married for almost 6 years, but have been together for 16 years. So whatever you can fight about has already been done many times over. If you are still fighting about it, you probably would have broken up by now.”
Top tips: “Let it go. If you can close one eye, close one eye; or if you can close two eyes, close two eyes, especially when it’s about petty things such as not switching off the lights. If you keep nagging about it, the person who hears it will also get fed up and you will feed the negativity. Just switch it off for them and forget about it. Then, everyone forgets it.
If you cannot let it go, cool off for a while then speak firmly and objectively to the person about why you are unhappy in a neutral tone. Make it a statement, then engage in a constructive discussion. Even if the other person doesn’t want to engage you, at least they have a higher chance of thinking about what they did wrong. Apologise if you feel that it’s your fault. If it’s partly your fault, apologise as well, then tell the other person that you would appreciate it if they could apologise too.”
3. “A clean home doesn’t make a happy marriage. A happy partner does”
Married for 3+ years with 2 kids
“My husband and I both have our own preferred ways of doing things. I think my method is superior and organised, he thinks the same about his.
I get annoyed by the mess he leaves around the house and wonder why he doesn’t do things in a better way, without realising that, in reality, I have my own quirks and my way isn’t the best way.
This was one of my biggest pain points, and sometimes still is. I’ve learnt to keep quiet about it because you can’t really change the way someone likes to do a certain chore but you can accept that that’s the way it will be, and if you don’t like it, you can do it yourself.”
Top tips: “Respect is key to a happy marriage. I’ve learnt to respect that my husband is a messy guy, and if I don’t like the way he does things, I can do them my way, or just let it be. We tend to pick on the small things on our purposeless journey to a perfect life/home/marriage, but a clean home doesn’t make a happy marriage. A happy partner does.
It’s hard to hold back your true emotions, but if you learn to control them, you’ll fight less. If he is in a bad mood, it doesn’t mean I have to be. If I flare up at him for treating me unfairly, the situation never works out well. He gets angry, and we both end up shouting. If I tell him in a respectful manner that he shouldn’t be taking his work stress out on me, and that it hurts my feelings, he almost immediately apologises and gives me a hug.”
—Kimberly Lauren Wong
4. “Be more easy-going and accepting of each other’s habits”
Married for about a month
“Like 800 other couples or so, we got married on the popular date of 10/10 this year. We’ve been living together since 2012 when we were still in university in Melbourne. I would say we mostly grew up together while living together.
We have relatively different levels of cleanliness. I’m the “clean one” who likes making sure things are always in place and he’s the “messy one” who doesn’t immediately wash up his dishes. It sounds super trivial but can be frustrating if you don’t share the same mindset.
I used to get more worked up about this. But now, there’s a sort of middle ground—I’m more relaxed and he puts in more effort to clean.
My husband has a job that involves many client conference calls throughout the day. It gets especially frustrating since we’re constantly getting food or shopping deliveries, and we have 3 yappy dogs who bark at the drop of a pin.
During the Circuit Breaker, I still had a full-time job that sometimes had very tight deadlines. Yet, during his calls, I would be the one who had to shush the dogs. He would get annoyed that his client calls were filled with high-pitched barks. I would get annoyed that it was on me to stop them, even though I was in the “zone”. It was as if my work was of lesser importance to his.
But that’s just how I felt in the moment. I would feel frustrated about being interrupted, but after the matter, can understand why an important client call takes precedence for those few minutes. In terms of resolution, he’s changed to having the more important calls outside in the balcony or in the spare room so that both of us won’t be frequently disturbed.”
Top tips: “Be more easy-going and accepting of each other’s habits. Maybe you all grew up differently with different practices and routines, but now you’re in it for the long haul, so you’ll somehow have to make it work.”
5. “Don’t sleep on your arguments, try to talk it out before going to bed”
Married for 1 year and 9 months
“As my wife goes to the office from Monday to Friday and I’m WFH, we spend 3 to 4 hours together on weekdays. On weekends, we try to maximise our time together.
There is nothing really difficult about living together 24/7, maybe because we’ve known each other for a long time now. For us, it’s mostly the petty things. Like how I always forget to close the wardrobe when I take my clothes or have my things lying around the room such as my camera bag, guitar or gadgets. But there’s been no tension at all because it’s mostly small stuff.”
Top tips: “Learn to compromise and look after each other’s needs. For example, I’m a night owl and she’s an early sleeper. Before we moved in together, I slept really late and she slept around 9.30pm. But we set a time that we both agreed on. Make sure to have your alone time too. And most importantly, if you have arguments, don’t sleep on it and try to talk it out before going to bed.”
6. “It doesn’t mean you’re weak if you compromise”
Married for 3 years
“I’ve been working from home while my wife is back at her workplace. She is working on shifts so whatever time we can get, we’ll try to spend it together.
To some, having more time together is better but in our case, more time does not necessarily mean that. Sometimes, you need to allow your partner to have some time of his/her own to catch up on other things or even to rest. Personally, I think what matters is quality time and how you choose to spend that time wisely.”
Top tips: “Misunderstandings and bickerings can happen sometimes. My wife and I have one rule—if there is an argument, it should not drag or last for more than a day. We will talk about it and let it go but if your significant other is right about something, accept it and change. It doesn’t mean you’re weak if you compromise.”
7. “Try to be understanding and expect less from each other”
Married for 2+ years with 1 kid
“I mostly work from home while she is a full-time mum. We have been living together in Singapore for the past 5 years even before we got married. And before that, we had a lot of sleepovers in each other’s houses for 3 years. So in a way, we slowly transitioned to living together and got rid of the usual surprises couples get when they suddenly move in together to their own home.
Actually, there is nothing difficult about living together. The usual notion of having your own personal space is just a matter of asking for it. If you’re on the receiving end of that request, just be mature enough to understand it.”
Top tips: “Always remember the term ‘significant other’. They are there to make your life easier and vice versa, so try to be understanding and expect less from each other.
Basic courtesy and always being in control of your emotions will help you avoid any heated arguments like immature high school lovers. Most importantly, living together is the end goal, most romantic movies end there; so enjoy it because the next chapter is both of you having grey hair staring at the sunset and looking back on a life full of love.”
8. “Understand each other’s expectations and try to meet in the middle where possible”
Married for 3 years and 5 months with 1 kid
“My wife and I are both working from home. [I’ve learnt that] when you get into an argument, being too stubborn is no use. Going head-on is no use as well. Someone has to give in and it is easier if I’m the one. I don’t like to leave anything overnight. If it can be settled, settle it fast. Communicate things properly.”
Top tips: “Be accommodating to each other. Understand each other’s expectations and try to meet in the middle where possible.
When you want to get married to each other, you know you’re going to stay with each other for life. Have this in mind and set your expectations accordingly, especially if you have dated this person for a while and roughly know what it will translate into. If you are not ready while dating, you will never be ready to live together. Always know your partner is your best friend, but he/she is also your lifelong partner.”
Married Couples In SG Share Tips & Show That A Happy Partner Is A Happy Marriage
Unlike what Disney and Hollywood would have us believe, marriage is not all fun and games. These 8 married couples’ tips will show you how to maintain a relationship when living together 24/7 by accepting each other’s habits and having proper communication.
All photos courtesy of interviewees.