IN SINGAPORE'S high-pressure urban society, marriages can come unhinged if couples are not alert to the signs that they may need help.
The loving relationship that led to wedding bells can degenerate gradually into lacklustre partnerships where husbands and wives become emotionally detached and indifferent to one another.
Jobs get in the way. Having children adds new stresses. In-law issues may simmer and fester. Husbands and wives can pull apart, their sex lives may deteriorate, and arguments replace the sweet nothings of only a few years ago.
When marriages are stressed, many couples - including Catholics — regard divorce as a ready option.
The Couples Empowerment Programme developed under the auspices of the Family Life Society seeks to help couples focus anew on their vocation as spouses and parents.
It aims to empower them to strengthen their marriage through active listening, handling conflicts, appreciating differences, building intimacy, and allowing their spouses to influence them.
The skills imparted are as important for couples in happy marriages as they are for
those experiencing difficulties.
CEP aims to bring about change in participants. "We tell them that they cannot love their spouse and children without the willingness to change their attitude and behaviour, and that the only person that they can change is themselves." said Mrs Ying Thio, who with her husband, Bernard, co-ordinates the programme. "CEP also teaches life skills that help
the couple to build a more emotionally intelligent marriage and family."
Couples who have participated in the programme are amazed at the changes they can make to their lives and their relationships if they choose to.
Many find the inspiration and courage to put the skills they learn into practice.
A participant who completed the programme described it like this: "Being a couple has its trials and challenges but if we stay united, we can support each other through the good and difficult times. Unity and love is very crucial to a successful relationship. It takes effort on both partners to work on their marriage."
Asked what makes running CEP most rewarding, Mrs Thio said: "It is seeing couples happier and more confident about their marriage and family."
About the Couples Empowerment Programme
What it is: CEP is a programme for young married couples facing multiple challenges juggling jobs, parenthood, dealing with in-laws, maintaining an intimate and loving relationship, and exercising parental authority balanced with a healthy respect for each child coping with a competitive education system.
The programme: Ten sessions are held over seven weekday nights and a weekend. Each session comprises Catholic Church teachings brought down to a practical level as well as interesting and fun life skills developed by contemporary marriage psychologists and psychiatrists.
Where it is held: CEP is run at parish level and is currently on at the Church of St Vincent De Paul. A child-minding service is provided too. Participants pay $180 per couple and $20 per child.
For more information:
Who's Who at CEP
Spiritual director: Father David Garcia, OP Co-ordinators: Bernard and Ying Thio Registration: Victor and Annabelle Ong