10 little things we do to keep love alive


Maintaining a healthy, happy marriage is not easy. (Anyone who’s been married for more than 4-5 years will tell you that.)

Let’s face it. Beyond the initial romance and fireworks, marriage boils down to real hard work and commitment. The differences that so attracted you at first will turn into opportunities for rifts, blame, and fights. The sparks that once flew will settle into a whispering ember. The forgiving that once came easy now becomes a lot harder.

They often say familiarity breeds contempt, and I sometimes see that in my own marriage too. How do we break out of that cycle, and change that familiarity into something good? Here are 10 little things we do that has helped us so far.

1. Remind each other to rest and relax

Some days once the kids are in bed, the hubby gets on the computer. And I do the same. Occasionally he reminds me to shut down, relax with him on the couch and watch TV, or have a light supper together. It’s nice to just sit together and chat after a long day, even if we don’t talk about anything serious.

2. Make time to talk

During a recent couple retreat, we made up a rule that anyone who talks about the kids first gets a demerit point. At the end of the retreat, we tallied points and the one who lost had to buy a nice treat. I have to say, it was very difficult to have a conversation without bringing up the kids! But it forced us to focus on each other and not get distracted.

I sometimes find it easier to connect while jogging, having a meal, or enjoying the sunset. So find an activity (simple is best!) that works for you both, and start chatting and bringing each other up to date about our lives.

3. Laugh together, do something fun

When was the last time you did something fun/new? Make time to do new things together; maybe learn dancing, pottery, golf, or travel to new places. We like to check out new cafes and restaurants. And sometimes, we go on a dessert date in the spur of the moment. We share a wunderlist of places to check out, so whenever we come across anything interesting, we just add it into the list. It certainly helps on those days when we don’t know where to go!


4. Support (don’t judge) during the low moments

When you’re having a hard day, the last thing you need is criticism, questioning, and someone offering unwanted advice. The only thing you need is a listening ear, and some empathy. Try some affirming words that communicate to your spouse “I believe in you.”

5. Think good thoughts, say good things

Negative thoughts about our spouses come to mind quickly, but good thoughts require some conscious rewiring. I find that in our culture, we tend to lack sorely in the compliments department. There is a bible verse that goes, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

The more we think about the good things, the more we’ll actually say it. The more you say it, the more affirmed the other person feels. Words are important to me, and I try to remind the hubby to be kind with the words he chooses to use. It takes practice, but we’re getting better at it.

6. Appreciate your differences

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve married an alien from Mars. He’s so different from me that I often struggle to comprehend it all. But…I remind myself of those times his different perspectives have helped me through difficulties, and it helps me to appreciate him better.

7. Give each other social space

On evenings when he has catch-ups with his friends, I cover for him. On some weekends, I may attend some short courses or meet up with friends too, and he covers for me. It’s healthy for us to each have our own social space. Plus isn’t it better that we ladies have someone else besides the men to air our thoughts /emotions with?

8. Find support in friends

A shared community is helpful as a couple needs accountability, trust, and encouragement when the going gets tough. I found this to be one of the biggest struggles as young parents because our leisure / social time shrank during those years. Thankfully we managed to keep in touch with some couples in church, and also with an older couple who walked us through pre-marital counseling. I often tell him I wish we had a couple mentor, people we can emulate and learn from, and navigate life with. But I think God has provided us with many godly figures to learn from too.

9. Touch daily

By this I mean, hug, kiss, cuddle, or give a shoulder rub. Of course, sometimes these lead to more physical intimacy, which is a good thing. These days, I find the man hugging the kids more often that me, so I let that be a visual reminder for me to hug him more, and not run into deficit in that department.

10. Renew your vows

We renew our vows every year on our anniversary. Every time I say my vows again, my spine tingles and I get transported back to that fateful day when we were wed. It’s a simple act that doesn’t take more than 5 minutes, but it reminds us of how sacred marriage is, and helps us want to be better at it.

10 little things

So there you have it. Our 10 little things. It’s really the little things, done often, that adds up to a great marriage.

What has helped to make things work in your marriage? Do share with us in the comments below!

8 great reasons why you should go on a holiday without kids

reasons-couple retreat

Some moons ago, I wrote a piece sharing 20 reasons why you should lug your kids on holidays. Today I thought it’s time to do a piece on reasons why you should do the opposite.

The hubs and I just came back from a trip to Phuket and I must say it’s made quite the difference in the way we treat each other and communicate. So yes…this post is inspired by that.

Here goes. 🙂

1. To reconnect
It’s easy to lose touch with your spouse amidst the stresses and busyness of daily life. Work demands, kid demands, and so on can really drain the energy and quality of the marriage relationship. Taking time to intentionally draw close to each other – emotionally, mentally and physically – is really necessary in today’s context. The trick is to leave the phone behind or forget about asking for the password to the hotel’s free wifi; instead take the time to just focus on each other.

2. To remember you are first husband and wife, then parents
When the kids came along, I recall being so caught up in the demands of child-rearing and devouring all the parenting books with a vengeance. Now that they are a tad older, and we can breathe a little, go on date nights every fortnight, etc etc, I find myself seeking out more marriage-related books and wanting to invest more energy into building my marriage.

I think it’s a normal process that we go through when kids enter the picture. Their needs are pressing and their voices are loud. But we also need to remember that marriage came first, then kids.

3. To have the conversations you’ve been meaning to have
There are times I’ve shelved a discussion I’ve been meaning to have just because of lack of time or mental energy to deal with it.

But sometimes the conversation is important enough for you to plan ahead and to get it off your chest. For instance, if there is a family issue that’s been bothering you, and you don’t know how to resolve it.

When you’re relaxed and rested during a holiday, it might just be the best time to deal with it head on, in partnership with your spouse.

4. To enjoy each other
When was the last time you had fun with your spouse? When you could laugh at each other, and just do wacky, silly things together? A holiday provides you with ample opportunities to go on exciting mini-journeys and day trips, and seize the day and do (or learn) something new with your mate.

Of course, physical intimacy is an important part of the whole package. For a couple of days you get to be like crazy honeymooners who are madly in love. Need I say more?

5. To make a baby
Friends will laugh at this one, because they know we’ve officially “closed shop” in the baby department. But lots of people take time off to “make babies” and let’s admit it it always sounds glamourous to say, “Oh this baby was made in Bali / Koh Samui / Tokyo.”

6. To forgive and heal from past hurts
An idyllic resort getaway provides an ideal setting for married couples to work through a rough patch, to hone their communication, and to seek restoration of friendship, love and trust. It’s no wonder that lots of churches organise marriage retreat programmes to help their members work through and resolve marital problems.

You don’t have to wait for a big issue to arise before retreat-ing as a couple. Taking time off regularly  helps build a healthy loving relationship, and that should put you in a better place to deal with life’s hurdles as they come.

7. To envision a better future
What are our goals as a family? What steps do we need to take to align everyone to these goals? Which activities do we take on, and which do we say no to?

Most families these days have to deal with very hectic routines and schedules. We all become great do-ers and runners, but it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Time is a precious resource, and we want to invest it on things that matter. In order to know what matters, and what doesn’t, it’s essential to take a step back to evaluate your purpose and goals, and to plan concrete steps on how to achieve that ideal life for your family.

8. To recharge for the journey ahead
Parenting is a life journey – people say it gets easier but I think the truth is, there will always be challenges; they just change from stage to stage.

One thing is for sure. That we’re all in it for the long haul. And every seasoned sojourner will tell you how important it is to rest and take pit stops at regular points, in order to finish the race well.

What do you love most about going on holidays sans kids? I’d love to hear your views!

Love never fails

Vera surprised me one evening with this drawing of the hubby and I. It had a bold caption: Love never fails.

There were flowers in a vase on a table. A big cross stood out in the middle of the table.

It reminded me of this verse in 1 Corinthians.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

I asked Vera why she chose to draw the cross. She said it means that Jesus is in the house.

I then asked why she chose to write the words “Love never fails.” She said it was papa who gave her the idea. She originally had in mind some other words to write, but she thought daddy’s idea sounded better.

I was glad for this gentle reminder to keep God in the heart of all things, including our humble home.

As for everything else, Love never fails. His love, that is. Our human love may wane or fade or grow cold over time and trials. But His love never does.




Keeping love warm – Thoughts from our 7th anniversary celebration

Every wedding anniversary is a time to celebrate the years that have been marked, the milestones that have been ticked off, the accomplishments…

But it is also a time to think about the future.

What kind of life do we envision? Who do we want to become, and stand for, as a couple?

In a couple of years, the kids won’t want to be around us so much. We won’t be needed so much. We will finally have some free time.

What will we do with each other then? Will the flaws show up? Will we start to nitpick? Will we get bored?



So we celebrated our anniversary over the weekend. It was at our usual spot, the place where we tied the knot. We visit every year, and it’s interesting to see how they’ve continued to do up and enhance the venue and its offerings year by year.

We decided to order the afternoon tea set. I ordered a black tea with a strange name. We sat and ate and chatted for two hours.

Towards the end of it, I realised that my tea was still warm! I examined the tea pot, and lifted up the shiny metal cover. Underneath was some kind of rubber insulation material. Ah-hah. There was the simple magic to keep the tea pot warm.

I thought about marriage. There is so much at stake within a marriage, and yet marriage itself is so much at risk these days.

How do we keep the love warm? What are the insulators that will help us defend ourselves from the many temptations?

In the past, divorce used to be taboo and frowned upon by society. That in itself was a deterrent for married ones to be too quick at calling it quits.

Today, there is pornography and all manner of sexual addictions, there is the temptation of affairs both online and off, there are financial stresses and burdens on young couples, there is the ever present lure of work and shrinking of leisure and family time.

Let’s be honest, it is hard.

We need to take a long hard look at how we are insulating ourselves from the elements. What is our rubber insulation hidden under a shiny metal cover?

  • Are we working on our communication?
  • Are we aware of our own negative attitudes?
  • Are we making time for sex and intimacy amidst our hectic lifestyles?
  • Are we giving attention to each other even while having to give so much attention to our children?
  • Are we leaning on God for help in the areas where we are weak?
  • Are we showing appreciation for the things that he does?

Over the warm tea, we evaluated ourselves and where we’re at. We both agreed that over the past seven years, we’ve been so caught up in the whirlwind of parenthood that we’ve neglected to really put in the work on our marriage.

Our role as parents will diminish as the years go by, as our children grow in independence and responsibility and prepare to face the world as adults. However, our role as husband and wife remains for life.

This year, I hope that we’ll work on creating more quality moments together, and seek to understand more than to judge and criticise. I will work on being a better partner, and on learning how to complement him better.

My prayer is that we’ll not just be life partners, but partners in life, for life.

What are some ways you keep your love warm?

What happens when mummy and daddy fights

The hub was a little pissed off with me one evening. He started talking rather loudly, and was a tad fierce even.

I had something to retort and it was already on my lips. But all of a sudden, Vera appeared from nowhere and slapped him on his back. She said something to the effect of “Don’t talk like that” or “Don’t do that.” Then she waltzed off.

Following her cue, JJ came along and also gave his dad a slap on the shoulders. He said, “You don’t beat mummy” in his fiercest voice. (Funny how he got confused and thought daddy was beating me.)

At this point, I had already forgotten what I wanted to say and started to laugh instead. I felt like the kids had seriously got my back covered.

A smile also appeared on the hubby’s lips. Obviously he couldn’t stay angry for long. He started to play along with them and said, “Of course daddy won’t beat mummy, daddy will tell her nicely not to do it again.”

Trust the kids to help defuse a tense situation unwittingly. I asked Vera later on why she did what she did. She told me matter-of-factly that she thinks Daddy should talk nicely to mummy all the time.

Wow. That’s nice to know, isn’t it.

But seriously, I think it was also because Vera felt uncomfortable seeing her father speak harshly to her mother. (And the reverse also holds true by the way. I recall speaking rudely to the hubby once and she exclaimed “mummy!” in a scolding voice. And once when we were squabbling, she said, “You all don’t talk like that ah!” or something similar.)

So…What can one conclude?

First, I think children feel a distinct discomfort when the parents fight. Or if the situation is tense enough, they could start feeling fearful. If the child is verbal enough, they will express it. For Vera, she expresses it by showing her disdain.

Second, I think she only reacted so strongly because the hubs was pretty fierce this time, and granted, this was actually uncharacteristic of him. (Not trying to give him credit here, just the facts.)

Third, now I know that the kids are always watching. I used to think they can be quite blur, but when it comes to the crunch, it appears they are more in tune with what’s going on around them than we think.

You know how we often say to our children, when you’re happy, I’m happy? It looks like the converse is also true. When we as parents are happy, our children are happy too. When we cry or are stressed, they get affected too.

So we did what responsible adults and parents should do – make up.

I tell you the truth, I was smiling all the way to bed that night.

Now that I’ve discovered I’ve got bodyguards / guardian angels around me…erm, I think daddy had better behave himself from now on. 😉


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