You're a pain, but let's get married anyway

March 5, 2005

SINGAPOREAN couples may not be happy with their partners but they will still marry them anyway, a global survey on relationships shows.

The poll of 716 couples who planned to wed showed that 39 percent were unhappy in their relationships, the highest proportion of nine societies surveyed by a US-based marriage and family therapy organisation.

The poll is the latest unflattering survey of ardour in a wealthy population that chases what is known in local parlance as the Five C's: career, condominium, club, credit cards and cars.

Birth rates hit a record low in 2004 and an annual survey by condom-maker Durex has ranked Singapore for three straight years near the bottom of its list of sexually active nations.

In the latest survey, only 14 percent of Singaporeans described themselves as "very happy" with their partners, the lowest of the regions surveyed and compared with 48 percent in the United States.

The polls were conducted as part of a US-based programme known as PREPARE (Premarital Personal and Relationship Evaluation) led by David Olson, a retired University of Minnesota professor and author of several books on family therapy.

Other regions surveyed were Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany and New Zealand. But Singapore's results stood out sharply, said Olson.

"I'm surprised so many premarital Singaporean couples are not as happy with their relationships but are still planning to get married," Olson told Reuters after releasing the findings at a conference in Singapore.

Among those in the survey who consider themselves unhappy, most cited disagreements with their partners on a number of issues, or said they disliked their partners' personality or that there were problems communicating effectively.

In contrast, US couples ready to tie the knot painted a far more blissful picture with nearly half of 1000 surveyed indicating they were very happy in their relationships.

Olson said couples in Singapore -- an island of 4.2 million people -- may be suffering because of a reluctance to speak their minds about problems to avoid confrontation.

"They are afraid to say what they think and are afraid to disagree," he said.