updated 17 Sep 2013, 10:59
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Wed, Dec 12, 2012
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1 in 2 married people in S'pore considered divorce
by Jacqueline Woo

About half of married people in Singapore said they had thought about divorce at some point in their marriage, revealed an Institute of Policy Studies survey commissioned by Marriage Central.

However, all the respondents in the study stayed married, citing factors such as support from family and friends, as well as the needs of their children.

Auditor Zachary Lye, 34, has one piece of advice from his mother to thank, for that has helped to keep his three-year-old marriage strong and healthy.

"She told me that I should never let something fester overnight. If not, the seed (of trouble) will grow," he said.

"My wife and I always make it a point to reconcile before the next day."

Help from family members is one factor that can keep marriages going, findings from a study released yesterday showed.

Other factors include the needs of a couple's children, help from friends and religious advisers, and a sense of shared commitment.

These elements were also cited as reasons why the participants in the study were spurred on to remain in their marriages, despite about half of them having considered divorce at some point in their marriages.

The study found that common issues causing stress within marriages include sexual impropriety and infidelity, interference by in-laws, as well as misaligned priorities and different aspirations.

People who often considered divorce tended to have more disagreements over many issues, such as parenting, and often left the house when they were in an argument.

They also desired change in many aspects of their partners, and believed that their partners wanted the same in them.

The survey from February to May involved more than 400 married people. Marriage Central, a working group under the National Family Council that promotes strong and healthy marriages, commissioned the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) from the National University of Singapore to do the study.

The study also found that children were strong triggers for positive change in marriages with problems, especially when parents listened to their young children's pleas for them to be on better terms.

Couples continued their marriages as they feared that their children would be traumatised or affected negatively in a divorce.

Other mitigating factors, such as the belief that marriage inevitably involves sacrifice as well as professional counselling, also helped couples with problems in their marriages.

Dr Mathew Mathews, an IPS research fellow that led the study, recommended that pre-marriage counselling programmes include post-marriage counselling, as well as training programmes for family members and friends who couples reach out to when faced with marital issues.

What eased the strain for couples

- Couples often first turn to their family, friends and religious advisers for help and support when faced with marital issues.

- Couples feared that their children would be traumatised by a divorce.

- A belief in the importance of sacrifice and commitment encouraged couples to continue in their marriages.

- Pleasant memories couples have from earlier on in their marriages motivated them to stay married.

- Taking collective responsibility for marital problems made it possible for progress to be achieved in tackling marital problems.

- Professional counselling was useful for couples who have attended marriage programmes, as they were less apprehensive about seeking help.

- Couples came up with new methods to cope, such as changing their expectations of their spouses or marriages.

- Couples faced practical considerations and difficulties in obtaining a divorce. These issues include alimony and splitting the house.

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