Should you put your partner’s needs above your own in a relationship? Is love a feeling or a choice? Are regular ‘date nights’ necessary for married couples to keep their love alive?
I Love Children interviewed three real-life couples to help answer these questions and more.
Read on for tips from a couple who have been together for 23 years, another who’s been married for a decade, and a couple in a long-distance relationship on how to have a healthy, successful relationship.
When you’ve been together as long as Lily Kew has with her husband David Ong, it’s easy to take each other for granted.
The couple, who have been together for 23 years and married for 12, run their beauty business Kew Organics together, making it all the more challenging to keep their love alive.
How do they do it?
“We see each other almost every minute, so we have to find a way to make ‘love’ work,” says Lily. “We do not hold grudges and we do not keep record of each other’s wrongdoings. We forgive and forget and we make sure we are gentle with each other.”
Understanding their partner’s love language – physical touch, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service or quality time – is also important to the couple.
“It’s not just about telling them you love them but doing something for each other, based on each person’s love language,” she adds.
Simple acts of kindness also go a long way in their relationship.
“Love is not an emotion but an active choice. We often remind ourselves that if we can be nice to outsiders, we should be nicer to each other. And we consider the other party’s feelings before doing something,” she shares.
While the couple doesn’t organise designated ‘date nights’, bonding time is very important to the pair, given the fact that they work and raise two daughters (a 3-year-old and a two-month-old) together.
“We need time together to know each other better and more in-depth, in order to bond together to make a better team. We steal pockets of time for coffee or go for a walk where we will communicate and share our thoughts.”
Lily and David’s love advice:
1. Respect each other.
2. Be spontaneous: Do things just for fun. Be random. Play. You don’t always have to act your age.
3. Communicate: Pay attention and listen to what your spouse has to say.
4. Compliment each another: Find something nice to say to your spouse, then find nice things to say about them to other people. This honours them and communicates to others your affection for the one you love.
5. Show your affection: There should certainly be limits to what is done in public as a sign of respect to other people, but a little bit of public affection would do your marriage good.
In similar vein, ‘love’ isn’t just lip service for Wong Kai Yi and his Malaysian-born fiancée Chin Yi Wen, who has lived in Melbourne, Australia for the past 15 years.
“It’s the actions which underpin it that matter,” says the transport reporter.
The pair have been dating for four years and are planning to get hitched early 2021.
Long-distance relationships certainly come with their fair set of challenges and communication is key to making it work, believes Kai Yi.
“We’re in different time zones, and our jobs occasionally demand long hours so we make sure that communication is the cornerstone of everything we do,” he explains.
The couple makes time for love by travelling to see each other a few times a year, for two to three weeks each. And they make the most of that bonding time together by planning getaways, staycations and road trips to rekindle their love.
“It’s especially exciting when either of us gets on a plane and flies to meet the other because it signals the start of a memorable time together,” shares Kai Yi.
In between, they text and speak frequently throughout the day, and end each day by sending the other a goodnight message before they sleep.
On significant occasions like birthdays, they buy each other a present and either ship it over or gift it when they are reunited again.
Depending on one’s perspective, there can be an upside to long-distance relationships too, though.
“Being in a long-distance relationship is both good and bad: Bad because you can’t see each other when you want to, but good because it forces you to work hard at building the foundation of your relationship, which can only be a good thing in the long run,” he explains.
For Kai Yi, ‘love’ actually means connection; one that needs to be constantly refreshed by commitment and communication.
Kai Yi’s love advice:
1. Always compromise and never give in: These are contradictory notions, but there’s a reason. If a challenge presents itself to both of you, and you know that it requires compromise to be solved, find a solution that satisfies both of you. It may be an imperfect solution, but you can find a way to make it up to each other later if need be. And never give in if it requires selling out your values. Your partner is with you for who you are as a person, so stand firm when need be.
2. Communicate: Put down your phones and talk, even if it’s just about each other’s day. Look into each other’s eyes when you do it. Reduce distraction. Talking creates a powerful connection that will sustain the relationship. Communication is vital to the life of any healthy relationship because it promotes the exchange of emotions as much as information. And when you talk to each other, you can see their facial expressions, body language, and so much more. That two-way exchange is so important.
3. Don’t forget your anniversary.
Like Lily, Michelle Goh and husband Edwin prize the importance of knowing each other’s love language – and responding in kind.
“As my husband’s love language is quality time, we always try to create dating time once a month. And every night before we sleep, we spend some time chatting about each other’s day,” says Michelle, who runs dating agency CompleteMe.
With such a busy work and family life, couple bonding time is certainly important for the pair, who have been married for 10 years and have an 8-year-old son, Isaac.
“We place special occasions such as our wedding anniversary and birthdays above all else; my husband will take leave from work and I will avoid planning any agency events on those dates. We will have a good lunch then a massage, movie or shop together followed by family time with our son during dinner,” she shares.
Husband and wife also take the opportunity to go on casual dates whenever Isaac is engaged with school programmes, enrichment classes or having a staycation with his grandparents.
Michelle’s love advice:
Many people tend to love their partner in the way they wish to be loved, but it’s more important to find out how your partner likes to be loved.
If your partner’s love language is ‘Physical touch’, a simple kiss and hug before you leave for work works wonders;
If it’s ‘Words of affirmation’, always remember to say “I love you” and let them know you appreciate them;
If it’s ‘Receiving gifts’, surprise them with gifts that they like. It need not be expensive;
If it’s ‘Acts of service’, offer to help them with cleaning the house, for example – even before they ask for it;
If it’s ‘Quality time’, spend some time together each day with focused communication – no distractions by mobile gadgets.
* Relationship advice provided in this article are personal recommendations from real-life couples and do not necessarily represent the views of I Love Children. They should also not be regarded as a substitute for professional relationship advice.