Andrea Low –
is a volunteer contributor who is passionate about storytelling and travelling. A PR communications professional by day, she worships at Christalite Methodist Chapel.
At some point in our lives, we begin to have questions about marriage: What does it mean to me? When is the right time? How do I prepare for it? How do I know I’m ready?
I jumped at the chance to learn more when the Methodist Message invited me to cover the “Marriage for a Lifetime” full-day conference organised by Barker Road Methodist Church (BRMC) this year. There, my boyfriend Darragh and I gained valuable nuggets of information and tips.
We were accompanied by over 120 couples mainly from BRMC. The couples attending were of all ages; some were newlyweds, while others had been married for more than 50 years. The couple with the shortest courtship period of a month had gone on to remain married for 38 years! It was really eye-opening to see that there was no cookie-cutter relationship, and that every relationship is unique.
Here are my seven key takeaways from “Marriage for a Lifetime”:
#1: Marriage takes priority over all other relationships, with the exception of that with Christ.
The Rev Dr Gordon Wong, President of Trinity Annual Conference, drew Scripture references from Genesis 2, Ephesians 5 and Proverbs, to highlight the permanency of marriage and how it is one that takes priority over all other relationships – “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
#2: Living two levels down from what you earn is a good way to start when newlywed.
Mrs Tan Loo Yeh, an active leader in marketplace ministry, shared insights on how to handle financial matters between a couple. My personal takeaway was the importance of not living beyond one’s means, and especially at the start of a marriage, it’s a good tip to spend two notches below what one can afford.
#3: Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti.
Focus on the Family representatives Gary and Joanna Koh spoke on the intricacies of positive communication, showing how men and women communicate differently. Men think like waffles: everything is compartmentalised and they are likely only able to focus on one topic at a time. Women think like spaghetti: each thought is interwoven with another thought, and they find it easier to switch topics quickly. Thus, there is a certain level of disconnect when men and women have a conversation.
#4: Intimacy in a marriage lowers the risk of heart disease.
Dr Fred Toke, Clinical Director of Celebrating Life Resources Centre, delivered an insightful and humorous session on the sensitive topic of intimacy. He noted that sexual intimacy in marriage included health benefits such as lowered risk of heart disease, weight loss, youthfulness and general alertness.
#5: It is possible to raise seven kids in Singapore.
A lively panel discussion covering the topic “God’s Priorities for a Well-Balanced Life” featured speakers the Rev Henson Lim and Serene, parents to seven homeschooled children, alongside workplace minister Mr Choe Peng Sum and his wife Evelyn, and Mr Jamie Lee and Ms Violet Lim, the founders of Lunch Actually, a well-known dating service.
I learnt that it is possible in modern-day Singapore to have seven children and homeschool them, while juggling ministry and home. It got me thinking – how many children would I like to have?
#6: God has the power to heal all wounds.
The final session was an intimate sharing by Francis and Dorothy Chong, whose marriage had once failed due to infidelity, but was eventually pieced back together by God’s grace. Francis and Dorothy bared their hearts, sharing their experiences, hurts, struggles and finally healing. Now, they run a ministry of restoration in broken families and conduct marriage counselling. My takeaway: in God’s eyes, there is beauty in the broken, and He can heal all wounds, and use all experiences to impact others in a positive way.
#7: It’s not about the big day, it’s about what follows after.
After an informative and engaging day of talks and activities, the Rev Malcolm Tan wound up the session by citing how young couples spend months of sleepless nights planning for the wedding day, but place less emphasis on preparing for life together after the big day. It was a good reminder for me for the future.
The day closed with all married couples being invited to renew their marriage vows. Darragh and I were moved not just by the vows spoken, but how they were delivered. We saw wives dabbing their eyes, and husbands embracing their wives, sharing an appreciation that a marriage is for life, through the good and bad times. I personally admire how steadfast and faithful many of the couples are, and how they have weathered years of life together, with God as the guide in their journey.
Pictures courtesy of Barker Road Methodist Church
Francis and Dorothy Chong re-enacting for conference participants their daily struggles before their marriage fell apart – setting the stage for God’s restorative work in their lives.
Married couples closed the conference by renewing their vows to each other “for a lifetime”.
[updated 3 June 2014]