Since Halloween just past, here are some rather shocking numbers:
(Source: The 2016 Prudential Relationship Index)
- Singapore ranks 7th out of 10 Asian countries for relationship satisfaction, with money, children and housework causing the most arguments among couples.
- In any given week, 24 per cent of married people in Singapore think seriously about leaving their spouse (i.e. divorce).
- The ‘Digital Divide’ is definitely disrupting Singaporean’s lives, with partners competing with phones for love and attention. 32 per cent of couples in Singapore say their partner sometimes prefers their mobile phones to spending time with them.
- 48 per cent (nearly half!) say they spend more time messaging friends than actually talking face-to-face.
- Singapore has the highest proportion of singles in Asia, with nearly one in four (23 per cent) who are unmarried and do not currently have partners.
- Singaporeans are the most likely in Asia to scold, get upset, and argue with their children.
In short, we one of the most affluent countries in Asia materially but when it comes to relationships, we are one of those with the highest ‘deficits’. Could this be attributed to the fast-paced, high-pressured, media-craved world we live in or are there factors within our control which we can do something about?
Singaporeans DO Treasure Relationships!
The silver-lining is that Singaporeans DO treasure relationships. In the same survey, Singaporeans polled said that they enjoy relatively strong ties with their children, with a relationship score of 46/100. The average score for parents is 44/100, while best friends get 41/100. Colleagues, however, score just 23/100, even though 42 per cent of working adults in Singapore said their best friends include their work colleagues. Therefore, it seems that while we are not devoid of relationships, it’s the quality of relationships that is of concern here.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on relationships since turning 40. My two children are growing up and becoming more independent. Soon, my functional role as a Daddy will slowly erode. My wife Angie and I are also getting older and ironically, the older we get, the less independent we may become as age (and ailments) take over our bodies. The need for more meaningful, longer-lasting relationships hence becomes a necessity and we have to form lasting networks that are co-dependent.
Being Truly Human
We witness relationships in the animal kingdom too. Lions and wolves hunt in packs, geese fly in flocks and fishes swim in schools. But the relationships that animals have are largely functional, task-oriented ones – nothing beyond the basic need for day to day survival. What sets us apart as humans is the quality of relationships we enjoy with family, our friends, our work mates and our loved ones.
Deep and Long-lasting
I believe our relationships happen at different stages and intensity. Beginning from purely transactional / functional or task-oriented ones to relationships that are deeper, often involving an intimate network of trust that transcends time, situations and settings. Here is where spousal, family and long-term companionships form. But sadly, relationships sometimes regress, if we don’t sow into them. In our busy-ness, we sometimes neglect relationships to the extend we don’t even realise they have started to strain. So how do we rebuild these relationships?
‘Demons’ and Derailers:
The internet is rife with tips on relationship building. But there exists some ‘personal demons’ that are insidiously embedded into our way of life that have become our ‘blind’ spots. If left unchecked, they will threaten to derail our relationships. Here are some of my personal observations.
It’s About Me:
Yes, let’s start with the ‘man in the mirror’ – ourselves. We inherit some character traits and unhelpful thinking styles that will colour our judgement of others and affect our relationships.
- Our own backgrounds (including our upbringing), our Asian heritage which are steeped in traditional values such as respect for elders, recognizing authority, need for privacy etc., and our religious beliefs may influence how open we are in our relationships and how we receive feedback from our superiors, co-workers, friends and even spouses. Our own relationships with family and friends will determine how much trust and openness we are prepared to give and receive. Our parenting styles are also largely dictated by our own experiences growing up. Recognizing our own ‘personal demons’ may help us manage our relationships with those whom we interact on a daily basis.
Having ‘Me’ Time:
Whether we like it or not, we can’t run away from having multiple facets in relationships. From pure business relationships to working relationships with colleagues; from kinship with family members to intimate relationships with our spouses, they tug at many sides and happen at many levels. At times, we need to include ‘me’ time to decompress and recharge before we can once again, reconnect with others in a meaningful way.
It’s NOT About Me:
“No man is an island”. Just like financial savings, deep relationships are those that we need for those proverbial rainy days in our lives. Humans are the only ones blessed with the abilities to laugh, cry, to converse and to empathise. We have to invest time to cultivate those deep relationships that will play a critical part whenever we need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. In relationships, the only currency that matter is time. The more time you invest, the richer your relationships.
- Listen to Understand: Often, we fall into the trap of listening to reply or respond quickly. Seek rather to understand the perspectives and the underlying issues or emotions a friend is experiencing. These usually may not surface so readily so we should practise emphatic listening so that we can understand them better.
- Appropriateness: When planning an activity, plan an appropriate one so that both (or all) parties can meaningfully be involved. This is especially relevant when we plan activities for our children and even for our spouses. While we may feel like going cycling as it’s a bright sunny day, our children may just feel like having an ice-cream and talk about their recent problems in school. Come to a consensus on what’s the best use of the time on hand, don’t rush into an activity for an activity’s sake.
It’s About Now:
In a world where multi-tasking is expected in virtually every sphere of our existence, what can we do to deepen our relationships?
- Cultivate Mindfulness: Our smart devices distract us and compel us to stay ‘online’ every minute of our day. Make a mental note of your impulse, then set a limit to resist and control it. The ability to focus on the present moment in time when you are with your loved ones is key to appreciating them and giving them all the attention they deserve. I too have to remind myself to keep my family moments sacred. The online updates on social media can wait.
- Cultivate Meaningfulness: Spending meaningful moments together create core memories which deepen relationships. These moments need not be extravagant or elaborate. For example, bringing your children to the hawker centre on weekend mornings to buy some ice-coffee to bless the security guards and cleaners in the estate makes for a simple parent child activity that nurtures compassion and empathy. It’s do-able, meaningful and memorable.
‘Demons and Detailers’:
The list above is not meant to be exhaustive. It just serves to remind myself that there are other factors that I may need to work on if I am serious about building deeper and stronger relationships with those I care about.
Given the importance of relationships in our lives, Prudential started a conversation with 5000 Singaporeans to survey how satisfied people are with their primary relationships. They were interested to find out what draws people together in this densely-populated island we call home, what divides us and more importantly, what can be done to improve the quality of relationships. The inaugural Prudential Relationship Index has uncovered some interesting facts. Find out some of the highlights from the study here.
Do visit Prudential’s Facebook Page to find out more about what other telling information the Prudential Relationship Index reveals about Singaporeans’ relationships and feel free to share your thoughts with us too.