PETALING JAYA: Saying “I do” is the easy part. Staying together for life is the challenging bit.

It is sometimes only after the rings have been slipped on the fingers that spouses show who they truly are, warts and all.

It is common knowledge that it takes a lot to make a marriage work, and for couples who falter, there is a place to turn to for help.

For those struggling with the challenges of staying true to their commitment, good advice and dedicated support are available at Focus on the Family Malaysia (FOFM), a non-profit organisation established in 1997 to help families thrive via counselling services and other programmes.

For founder Lee Wee Min, FOFM is more than just a number to call if one’s marriage is on the rocks.

He founded FOFM out of concern for the deterioration of the family unit, and sees close family ties as being integral in keeping the fabric of society strong.

“We started out with seven objectives, the main one being to create as much awareness as possible on the importance of the family unit,” he told theSun.

Each year, the organisation launches a new campaign that lasts over 12 months. This year, it is based on the theme “I Do! Married for Love. Married for Life” and it focuses on the importance of marriage in the family and society.

The campaign, which was launched on Jan 11, has the support of the National Population and Family Development Board (NPFDB).

It is a timely response to the revelation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob that almost 78,000 divorces have been recorded nationwide since the Covid-19 pandemic began. That works out to one divorce every seven minutes.

Ismail Sabri noted that break-ups have always been an issue, and Covid-19 had compounded it.

“Being forced to be together all day makes one see certain traits in their partners that might not have been visible before,” said Lee, adding that a stable relationship at home could also lead to higher productivity at the office.

“We believe employers can help by sending their staff for programmes such as a ‘marriage weekend’ or a course on parenting rather than a multi-tasking workshop.”

FOFM focuses on three family life stages in its programmes – marriage domain, parenting and youth.

“When a marriage goes through conflict, it is the children who are most affected. Marriage should not be just about surviving. It should be about thriving,” said Lee, who is married and has three children.

“We want to remind the people that marriage can be an enjoyable journey.”

He said such programmes could help to strengthen personal relationships and ensure a stable family structure.

Citing a study by NPFDB, Lee said the main cause of divorce is a lack of understanding between husband and wife.

“When we get married, we have the impression that it is a bed of roses. But we soon start to see each other’s idiosyncrasies. That is when we wonder what we have gotten ourselves into.

“That makes pre-marriage education very important. At FOFM, we urge couples to take a pre-marriage course before they tie the knot,” he said.

“If you struggle through the course, you should consider delaying or even reconsider making that commitment.”

FOFM executive director Benny Kong said a series of videos to inspire, strengthen and celebrate marriage will be part of the year-long “I Do! Married for Love. Married for Life” campaign.

For more information on the campaign, visit