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Supporting Transnational Couples in Our Midst

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Did you know that more than one in three marriages involves a non-resident foreigner and a Singaporean citizen? With our open borders, marrying foreigners has become commonplace. Most transnational spouses are women from Asia.  Transnational marriages come with unique challenges. Besides having to adjust to a different country, foreign spouses may speak a foreign language and observe different habits and culture. According to AWARE, the top five problems faced by transnational wives are family violence, divorce, children’s custody, uncertainty over their right to reside in Singapore and housing.

What are some problems faced by transnational wives?

Mui is a 32 year old woman from Northern Thailand. She married Raymond in December 2019. Shortly after marrying, the couple was recommended for counselling at Fei Yue’s Project Family as Raymond was consistently verbally harsh towards Mui. He got upset whenever Mui could not perform her household tasks according to his standards, such as not cleaning the coffee table well and placing the kitchen utensils carelessly.

Being newly married, Mui struggled to adjust to the new way of life in Singapore. She missed her loved ones back in Thailand dearly. When confronted with the slew of harsh criticisms from Raymond, she felt increasingly disempowered and was on the brink of giving up on the marriage. It was Mui’s buddy, Utra, who learned of her marital dispute and encouraged Mui to seek marital counselling.

The couple finally came forward to seek help.  Through the sessions, Raymond realised that his harsh verbal remarks had created a great level of fear and insecurity in Mui.  This led to Mui forming negative impressions of him and suffering a sense of helplessness that made her want to leave the marriage.  Through counselling sessions, the couple was coached on how to de-escalate conflicts.  One such strategy was calling a time-out when emotions ran high and speaking positively by giving “one praise a day” to cultivate healthier communication patterns.  Their marriage was finally then on the road to recovery.

What can we do as members of the community?

We can extend our care and concern to our transnational neighbours. If you witness or suspect that someone is experiencing family violence, play your part to help by:

  • Assuring the victims that help is available;

  • Referring them to Family Violence Specialist Centres (see below)

  • Alerting the police if there is immediate danger.

What are the available resources for transnational wives?

  • Child Protective Service Helpline

  • Tel: 1800-777 0000

    Operating hours: Monday – Sunday 7.00 am – 12 midnight

  • Child Protection Specialist Centres

  • These are specialised agencies that work with families with child protection concerns. They provide community-based intervention to keep children safe within their families.

  • Big Love

    Tel: 6445 0400 / Email: [email protected] / Website: http://www.biglove.org.sg/

  • HEART@Fei Yue

  • Tel: 6819 9170 / Email: [email protected]

  • Family Violence Specialist Centre (FVSC)
    FVSCs provide services for perpetrators, survivors and vulnerable family members such as children and the elderly in dealing with violence.

    • PAVE: (65) 6555 0390, Blk 211 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 #01-1446 Singapore 560211

    • TRANS SAFE Centre: (65) 6449 9088, Blk 410 Bedok North Ave 2 #01-58 Singapore 460410

    • Care Corner Project StART: (65) 6476 1482, Blk 7A Commonwealth Ave #01-672 Singapore 141007

Written by: Tiffany Lee Yanyi and Isabelle Ng


AWARE. (2020, June). Transnational Wives in Distress. https://d2t1lspzrjtif2.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/AWARE-Report-1-June-2020-Transnational-Wives-in-Distress.pdf

Population in Brief 2019.  Retrieved from https://www.strategygroup.gov.sg/files/media-centre/publications/population-in-brief-2019.pdf