Dad who saved his marriage hopes new MSF divorce portal will have more info on resolving conflict

Mr Goh's wife initially left him and wanted a divorce, but after taking efforts to salvage his marriage, his wife is giving their marriage a second chance.
Mr Goh's wife initially left him and wanted a divorce, but after taking efforts to salvage his marriage, his wife is giving their marriage a second chance.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

SINGAPORE - Mr Goh was shocked beyond belief when his wife of of 11 years left home with their two young children last year and wanted a divorce.

Even though they had fought over issues big and small, and their marriage had been on the rocks for years, the 41-year-old analyst never thought that she would leave him.

"We have different personalities and perspectives and our conflicts were never resolved," he said. "Over time, we had less and less patience for each other and I gave her the cold shoulder. When she suddenly took the kids and left, I was very lost and depressed."

Mr Goh, who declined to give his full name, went for counselling, something his wife had asked him to go for but which he brushed off initially.

He also took an online programme aimed at salvaging a marriage and picked up valuable pointers on how to better relate to and communicate with his wife.

It worked, and his wife is giving their marriage a second chance.

Given his experience, he is suggesting that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) include more content on effective communication and conflict resolution in its upcoming portal that will provide information and support to couples headed for divorce or who want help saving their marriage.

The MSF is in the midst of consulting Singaporeans who have divorced or were on the brink of a break-up like Mr Goh, in a bid to better customise the content for its yet to be named portal.

The portal, which is expected to be launched late next year, will consolidate information and resources related to divorce, including on housing, finance and legal matters.

Among other things, it will offer self-assessment tools to help people better understand their marital situation and their children's needs, and an online counselling support service.

Last month, the MSF conducted an online questionnaire, which had 113 respondents who had divorced or contemplated ending their marriages, to find out the needs of potential users of the portal.

The respondents are in their 30s and 40s and all have children, the MSF spokesman said on Wednesday evening (Oct 21). The MSF also engaged professionals such as marriage counsellors to seek their feedback.

It is now in phase two of its citizen engagement initiative and have had in-depth discussions with about 60 participants, half of them on Wednesday night.

Its spokesman said: "The pre-divorce journey is a deeply emotional and personal one. The feedback from participants will be crucial to refine and nuance the material sensitively so that it can properly support couples in the painful pre-divorce space.

"The feedback will also surface gaps in the content for future phases of development."

It has identified five categories of couples based on their experiences of why their marriages failed. They include those who had problems right from the start to those whose unions crumbled under the pressures of life to couples torn apart by adultery. There is also a group who want to save their marriages.

Ms Vasantha Natalie K. Sashi, a 44-year-old homemaker, felt that videos of real-life couples sharing their experiences, such as in saving their marriages or successfully co-parenting after their divorce, would be helpful.

The divorced mother of two teenagers, who has since remarried, said she could relate better to such examples. Besides, such personal examples may spur those in the same situation to seek help.

The MSF spokesman said: "We hope the portal will save as many marriages as possible, but also, for whatever reason that couples choose to continue with the divorce proceedings, ensure that they, and especially their children, are well supported."