Marriage involving a Singaporean and a foreigner less likely to last?


Data released by the Ministry for Social and Family Development shows that among marriages registered in Singapore in 2009, 7.9% of those involving a Singaporean and a non-resident ended before the 5th year. This is higher than the 6.4% for “resident marriages”.

See: Theresa Tan, “Marriage to foreigner less likely to last”, The Straits Times, 30 October 2016

In the Straits Times report, the author discussed about “mail order brides” from developing nations who came to Singapore to find a husband. The author interviewed marriage counsellors and divorce lawyers who said that “many of these transnational couples do not have a strong foundation for marriage” as many of them do not know each other well prior to the marriage. Many realise that they are not compatible and some are not even able to speak each other’s language. One lawyer in the report pointed out that “cultural differences and challenges of adapting to life in Singapore” can further strain the marriage.

Personally, I feel that the report may be misleading in some ways. For instance, not all “non-resident” marriages involve a foreign spouse from a developing nation or “mail-order brides”.

However, there are points in the article which I agree with.

An inability to communicate and understand each other can lead to a marriage breakdown. As a divorce lawyer, I have come across many divorces involving “resident marriages” and “non-resident marriages”. Many of them have drifted apart due to a lack of communication. They may be preoccupied with other aspects of life- children, careers or hobbies. Others might have communicated to each other in a negative manner – engaged in quarrels, shouting matches– and failed to understand each other’s concerns. To make marriage work, both parties need to understand each other’s concerns and learn to communicate in a positive manner.

The day-to-day stress experienced by one/ both parties of the marriage may also affect one’s marriage. Foreigners will need time to adapt to life in Singapore. Residents will need to cope with the additional responsibilities that come with marriage and progress in life. It is important for couples to remain supportive to each other.

Marriage is not a sprint; it is a marathon. It is not about rushing to finish the race, but  learning to support each other throughout the journey.

As a divorce lawyer, I see common reasons for divorce in both “resident marriages” and “non-resident marriages”. It is not really a matter of where one’s spouse hails from. It is about how much effort one is willing to invest in the marriage.

You may also be interested to read more about:

1. Divorce and Separation

2. Annulment (Nullity) of Marriage

3. Children’s Issues

4. Matrimonial Assets

5. Maintenance Issues (Alimony)

6. Family Violence

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