Lissy Ann and Francis Puno with their children Lanz and Luis.
How to stay happily together
WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

In this day and age, a lot of married couples try hard to stay happily married or strive to make their marriage last forever.

For others, one of the easiest ways out of an unhappy marriage is to cool off or leave the marriage, but my advice would still be to save one’s marriage at all cost. It is important that you and your spouse read books, pray a lot, and find the right psychologist or psychiatrist that you and your spouse will be comfortable with.

Let me introduce to you Singapore-based Lissy Ann Puno, a counseling psychologist with more than 28 years of extensive experience practicing counseling and psychotherapy in the region. Her work has covered the US, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and now Singapore. She offers psychological health and wellness services for children, teens, adults, couples and families. She also conducts talks, trainings and workshops. Her special interest is in parenting, relationships and marital enhancements, mid-life transitions and the Imago relationship therapy. (Imago relationship therapy is a framework used in counseling couples in relationship that promotes effective communication and problem-solving  strategies to promote deep understanding and maintain a loving connection.)

She is a certified presenter for the internationally known “Getting the Love You Want” couples workshop, and the “Connected Parents, Thriving Kids” workshop for parents, teachers and other youth caretakers.   

Lissy holds a degree in Psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University and a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her further training includes a clinical fellowship from Harvard University at McLean Hospital. She is a registered psychologist in Singapore and in the Philippines and is currently in private practice as the founder of the International Counselling & Psychology Centre in Singapore.

Her first book titled Affairs Don’t Just Happen: Protect, Repair, Recover was launched in the Philippines and in Singapore in November 2016. “My interest to do this book stemmed from years of working with couples in relationships that were ending sooner due to infidelity. I was motivated to find a way to prevent this from happening by offering skills and strategies to keep a relationship committed and mutually satisfying,” shares Lissy. In 2018, she launched a second book, Stay Connected, which is the first interactive couples journal published in the Philippines.

In March 2019, Lissy launched Couple Goals to help young people in partner selection as the world of dating apps take over.

Lissy is a member of the prestigious KeyNote Women Speakers-Asia in Singapore, the world’s leading directory of female public speakers and is sought after for her topics of interest.

Lissy and her husband Francis Puno, who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in December, are an expatriate couple who left the Philippines 22 years ago. They are parents to Luis and Lanz. Living abroad as a young family allowed them to develop the closeness and support towards each other.

When their sons left home to pursue their studies, Lissy and Francis, an entrepreneur focused on business interests in medical wellness after an executive corporate career in pharmaceuticals, are proud to say that they are not empty nesters but connected-nesters as they strive to keep their “connected-ness.”

What are Lissy’s pieces of advice to strengthen one’s relationship with one’s spouse or partner? She says her tips are based on the eight Cs described in her book Affairs Don’t Just Happen as the ingredients to a strong marriage.

“The eight Cs (Centered, Curious, Connected, Caring, Calendar, Communicate, Cherish, Commitment) are recommended to ensure a strong marriage that feels loving, secure and committed. These are important for maintaining a relationship that will see you through years that are filled with distractions and busyness in this fast-paced life,” Lissy explains.

1. Know yourself so that you know what you need from your partner and from a relationship and can ask for it clearly. Manage your thoughts and emotions in a positive way so you can keep the atmosphere of your relationship safe for each other. Center or ground yourselves in what you want in life and bring out the best in each other.

2. Stay curious about each other.  How you are both growing and changing as individuals? Express admiration for each other in all that you do — in your work, in your interests, homemaking, parenting, among others. Discover new things about the other. This will keep the attraction for your partner through the years.

3. Regularly connect in close and loving ways. Maintain five one-minute moments of connection daily. Your partner should be the very person who knows you the most and you want to be with the most. 

4. Keep yourself attractive for your spouse. Be mindful of adequate hygiene, good grooming, and that you are pleasant to the eyes. Practice self-care so that you can maintain a healthy and attractive personality that is engaging, fun-loving, and energized.

5. Gestures of affection and love should be offered daily. These should be gestures that your partner wants to receive not what you want to give. The Five Love Languages by author Gary Chapman gives us an idea — do you feel cared for the most by hearing it in words, receiving gifts, spending time, offering acts of service or physical affection?  Let your partner know which is the most important for you to receive.

6. Safeguard couple time. Ensure that you plan and calendar your time spent with each other as a couple. Culturally, we have many social obligations with extended family, friends, church and community. This can take away time from each other. Make time for the two of you to talk at the end of the day for at least 20 to 30 minutes, gadget-free. And talk not only about your children.

7. Date nights on your own or with like-minded couple friends. Have fun with one another. Calendar time as well for sexual intimacy because before you know it, you have lost it.

8. Stay interested in each other’s lives and communicate. Spend time talking about yourselves, your dreams, your passions, your thoughts, your feelings. Talk about the easy, fun stuff and the hard, challenging ones as well. Know and be reassured that the other is there to listen, support, and offer kind words if necessary. Learn how to dialogue and use effective communicating tools. Aim to have zero negativity towards each other.  Avoid criticism, belittling, lecturing and the silent treatment.

9. To be truly special in someone’s life is so meaningful. This is what it means to be cherished. There is so much closeness and purpose in being in each other’s lives. Together, you grow in all areas of intimacy.

10 .Keep a life-long perspective of your relationship in mind. The image of commitment is what will help you stay within the boundaries of your marriage. During your wedding anniversary, set aside time to sit down and share a relationship vision for your future. What are your goals as an individual and as a couple? How can you help each other achieve it? Have things changed? Are there new things that you want to introduce in your marriage? Keeping your marriage strong has a greater social responsibility. Connected couples create strong parents that raise strong children and a strong family leads to a stronger society, which we badly need at this time. As the life span extends, giving most people an opportunity for longer lives, so, too, will marriages last for more decades than before. Let’s make them work one couple at a time.

(Watch out for Lissy Ann Puno’s “Getting the Love You Want” workshop in Manila. For more information, visit, @stayconnectedlissypuno and @ affairsdontjusthappen on Instagram or e-mail

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