Couples getting hitched get help avoiding hitches

Dr Faishal (right) with Ms Wong and Mr Koh who attended the programme's introductory session yesterday. The couple found it relevant and practical in helping them to pinpoint and work out issues.
Dr Faishal (right) with Ms Wong and Mr Koh who attended the programme's introductory session yesterday. The couple found it relevant and practical in helping them to pinpoint and work out issues.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

2,800 couples have attended MSF course to strengthen communication, commitment

Three days before tying the knot might not sound like the ideal time to start thinking about what would happen if husband and wife were to argue.

But that was what Mr Darren Koh, 32, and Ms Claire Wong, 29, spent two hours doing yesterday - and they believe the experience will help their marriage run smoothly.

They were among 15 couples who attended a free marriage preparation course run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) that was launched in December 2014.

New figures show 2,800 couples have attended the course since it was launched up to April this year.

The two-hour session is an introduction to the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme (Prep), which is based on research in the United States and teaches communication and conflict resolution skills.

Nine in 10 couples who attended the Prep introduction course said they found it useful and would recommend it to friends.

"The course helped us identify our problems and taught us how to resolve them," said Mr Koh, a system engineer, citing how he tends to withdraw in a conflict, leading the argument to worsen.

FINDING NEW WAYS TO COMMUNICATE

I've been married for 21 years, and I have realised that communication at different points and different phases of married life require different skills and different knowledge.

DR FAISHAL IBRAHIM, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development

The couple have been dating for five years and found out about the course when they filed their notice of marriage online.

They decided to attend the course and find out how they could strengthen their relationship.

In May last year, the ministry also launched the full 12-hour Prep workshop, which takes place over two days. It covers 12 topics, from communication to conflict management and commitment.

As of April this year, 332 couples had attended the full workshop.

Prep trainer Evelyn Khong, 57, a principal consultant at Fei Yue Community Services, said most couples bring up communication issues or want to know how to deal with in-laws.

As part of the full Prep course, she gets couples to discuss commitments, such as how often to visit the in-laws and how much money to give them.

She also suggests thinking of marriage as a business partnership. "You've invested so much in it, in the wedding, you need to make sure that it works," said Madam Khong.

The ministry is studying the impact and effectiveness of the Prep courses in Singapore, and will release the results next year.

Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim, who observed yesterday's introduction programme, would like to see more Singaporeans going for such courses.

"The programme has been shown to be very effective in getting couples to communicate effectively with one another - which is the essence of marriage and any partnership," said Dr Faishal.

"I've been married for 21 years, and I have realised that communication at different points and different phases of married life require different skills and different knowledge."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Couples getting hitched get help avoiding hitches'. Print Edition | Subscribe