THE institution of marriage in this modern era is sadly getting more and more overlooked. As reported by Sarawak Islamic Affairs Department and National Registration Department, the divorce rate in the state has been skyrocketing since 2010 especially among younger couples.
Many factors have caused married couples to abandon their relationship at the first sign of constraint without trying to save the relationship. This leaves the younger generation confused about the real definition of marriage and the responsibility that should be taken in marriage.
Therefore the Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development has been collaborating with Alpha Malaysia (Sarawak branch) to help bring down the number of divorce rate and strengthening family institution through the marriage preparation course for couples organised by regional coordinators Dr Wong Howe Tung and wife Gan Chuei Lian.
Founded by Nicky and Sila Lee from London, the couple have been actively developing and producing resources to help support family life over the last 30 years. The marriage course, including parenting courses, is conducted at 123 countries in 44 languages.
Recently, 26 couples who attended the seven-week marriage course had graduated with renewed promises and an exciting future together. Nicky and Sila graced the event to congratulate the couples while sharing their experience on how marriage worked.
The marriage course is for any married couples and those planning to get married and it works on the idea like going out on a date. Nicky said it should be relaxing and provide a lovely atmosphere while improving on communication skills, resolving conflicts effectively and discovering how each other feels loved.
“Working out how we are with somebody who is quite different from us is part of the challenge of marriage. So what makes a marriage work?” questioned Sila to the audience during the graduation party at Imperial Hotel last week.
She said good marriages did not happen by chance but in the effort of couples to put on love in the relationship. She described love as a deliberate action in which there were three practical ways to put on love in marriage.
According to Sila, the first way was spending special time together just as a couple. Research shows that the amount of fun couple have in their marriages is the key predictor of the overall happiness of a marriage.
The marriage course provides the impetus that is needed to break old patterns and start to build new patterns of spending regular special time together. Having been married for 38 years, Sila said investing in the regular weekly marriage time protected the relationship and marriage from the down pouring routine every day. It also keeps the love, the romance, the fun and friendship alive and growing for the whole course of the marriage. The second way is to identify and accept the differences between partners.
“When we first fall in love, it’s so easy to be attracted by things that are different about our partner but a little while into marriage, those things that at first are really attractive become extremely annoying,” said Sila.
Nicky told a laughing audience that “there are always things about partners that irritatea us, accepting the differences between us is essential because they believe there are something that people are never able to change about their partners.”
Third way of putting on love is to discover the way partners feel loved. The marriage course focuses on five ways through which people feel loved, this is called the love language. The love language can be shown through words, time, touch, presents and actions. The love language is not gender stereotyped and different people can have different love languages.
Nicky ended by saying to nurture marriages and make it work, couples needed to remember to spend special time together, not taking each other for granted but discovering what was important for each other, talking about feelings and listening to each other. These are the habits that need to be continually practised for marriage to flourish.
Dr Liew Shan Fap and Liew Mei, who are married for 13 years, shared how the course had restarted their marriage as they were able to love each other more and understand each other by their love languages. After starting marriage time, they learnt to communicate better and to accept their differences as well as to appreciate each other more. They have become a better listener to each other. Previous problems are usually swept under the carpet, and cause further strain but now they are able to voice out.
Another couple, Michael Than and Olivia Boris, have been married for 15 years with three children. They join the course after seeing so many of their friends and families facing divorces. Olivia said the course was an eye-opener to them and they have learnt to prioritise marriage time. Through the course, they were able to reflect on their upbringing and be more understanding to each other.
“You cannot change your past but you definitely can shape your future,” said Olivia.
Julian Lai and Lynda Phua are alumni from the marriage course. They said after joining this course, there were a lot more in-depth understanding of their spouse. Phua said it was very important to understand the love language of partners.
“Through that understanding, you know them according to their language. I think it is a very good platform for every couple who are willing to improve their marriage. We strongly encourage anyone to attend this course,” said Phua.
The marriage course has successfully seen many couples graduating with good results. Women and Family Department director Noriah Ahmad, who attended the party said the department would continue to support such noble effort from Alpha Malaysia.
The public is welcome to join the marriage course whether as a refresher, enhancement for marriage and preparation for a good married life. Alpha Malaysia (Sarawak) can be reached at 082-234 302 or 019-886 4030 or 017-220 4030.