Shoring up marriages

MARRIAGES AND RELATIONSHIPS are under siege today. Factors that contribute to divorces include neglect of the family, physical and emotional absence, adultery, selfish pursuits, financial tensions and a range of other behaviours.

Christian couples and families are not immune and Christian counsellors and pastors share that they are now seeing more cases of marriage break-ups and dysfunctional relationships.

The stipulation is clear on what is expected when a man and woman enter into matrimony. Section 46 of the Women’s Charter states: “upon the solemnisation of marriage, the husband and the wife shall be mutually bound to co-operate with each other in safeguarding the interests of the union and in caring and providing for the children”. It provides that both spouses have equal rights and responsibilities in managing the household and raising their children.

The Holy Bible reveals God’s original plan on marriage, and this is in three phases: the separation of the man and woman from their families of origin (leave), a commitment of the man and woman to each other (cleave) and the construction of life together – physically, emotionally, and spiritually (become one flesh). (David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Marriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context, 2002.)

The responsibilities of reproduction and parenthood are entrusted to both man and woman in Genesis 1:28 when God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and increase in number”; He gave both the responsibility of working together to “subdue (the earth)” and “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground”.

The wife of noble character in Proverbs 31 appears as the godly career wife and mother of today who shares equally with her husband the household management and breadwinning tasks. Both spouses are expected to fully contribute to a marriage, yet no one contribution is inferior to another. This is clear in both the secular law, and God’s law on marriage.

It may appear that the contribution of the breadwinner is “more valuable” because a financial value can be placed on it, while homemaking efforts have no assigned financial value. Yet the highest Court in Singapore has placed breadwinning and homemaking on equal footing, recognising that both roles involved are equally valuable (see Lock Yeng Fun v Chua Hock Chye [2007] 3 SLR(R) 520).

The underlying philosophy is that a successful marriage requires different types of efforts and contributions from both spouses.

The homemaking efforts of a wife may in fact be instrumental to the achievements of the breadwinner husband: the well-loved husband who has a haven for a home is energised for yet another day to face work challenges. The wife who feels cherished by her husband finds strength to nurse her baby through the night and still take on the breadwinning task in the day.

“Contributions” to a marriage come in all forms, including breadwinning, parenting, loving and supporting the other spouse.

Second, the “thinking” spouse who is enlightened by the Word of God and who does not underestimate the stresses on family relationships is better

prepared in safeguarding the marriage. When globalisation is an inevitable modern phenomenon that puts stress on relationships, what can the Christian spouse do to safeguard the marriage union?

How does a spouse flee from the temptations that come from the freedom and anonymity of travelling alone in a foreign country? How does the career mom ensure her business travels do not alienate her from her children who need her nurturing presence?

How does one stay in command of the mesmerising allure of social media, where communication is possible at anytime from anywhere? When do virtual chatting and Facebook interaction become inappropriate online flirting?

Let us not forget to THINK about the impact of these stresses on our precious family relationships.


Picture by Michael Darcy Brown/

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Debbie Ong is an Associate Professor in the NUS Law School and specialises in Family Law. She is a member of Pentecost Methodist Church and has been serving in the Methodist Welfare Services ministry. Debbie is married to Victor, a lawyer. They have three happy children.