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Couple therapists’ view on How BTO Affects Relationships in Singapore

8 February 2024
Couple therapists’ view on How BTO Affects Relationships in Singapore

What you will learn from this blog:

  • The common pitfalls of making relationship decisions under BTO pressures
  • How to overcome BTO pressures and make a level-headed decision about your relationship

As couple therapists, we see many couples in Singapore who:

  • Feel pressured to tie the knot because of economic factors (to apply for BTO), only to realise they do not know each other well enough
  • Or feel pressured to stay together even though they may not be compatible because of the great economic and social costs of separating (forfeiting the BTO deposit)

In this blog, we explore the problems of economics-driven relationships we see in our couple counselling sessions in Singapore and offer tips on how you can navigate this issue, and build a genuine relationship.

BTO before popping the ring

It is common in Singapore for a couple to be asked after they have been dating for some time: “When are you applying for BTO (build-to-order public flat)?”

The pressure is both economic and social:

  • BTOs are cheaper than other housing options
  • As your income increases as you age, you may no longer be eligible for a BTO
  • You see your friends moving into their new homes and feel behind the curve
  • People keep asking, “When are you applying?” or “Why are you not applying?” or “Which stage of the process are you at?”

This pressure might cause a couple to rush into committing to the relationship even though they may not be compatible or ready for big commitments like purchasing a flat or pursuing marriage.

In our couple counselling sessions in Singapore, we have also seen the BTO issue intensify individual traumas in the relationship:

  • Anxious partners who are driven by their trauma of fear of abandonment use the BTO system to “lock” their partner in the relationship
  • Partners who struggle with fear of commitment feel even more trapped in the relationship because of the BTO process and resort to other means to relieve their suppressed emotions (e.g. workaholism, cheating)

Here are three tips on how you can overcome BTO pressures, and make a level-headed decision about your relationship:

1. Self-awareness

Whether you are deciding if you should apply for a BTO with your partner, or if you should separate and forfeit your BTO deposit, you can use this as a “wake-up call” to come into greater self-awareness.

Put financial considerations aside, and evaluate if this relationship is right for you in the longer term.

Do not assess the relationship solely based on how you feel about the person and logic (e.g. does this person meet my criteria; do our values match; do our families get along; can I find someone better).

Go deeper to ask yourself:

  • Why do I feel a certain way in this relationship?
  • Am I attracted to this person because of my trauma and my need to fill an inner lack or a deeper place of genuine connection?

Be patient, as it can take time to find clarity on this. You cannot find the answer in the mind, you can only find it in your heart.

Here are some differences between trauma-based attraction vs. authentic connection:


  • Feels unsafe; you are unable to fully trust
  • You are not in full control of your desires
  • You feel empty


  • Feels safe; you trust enough to be vulnerable
  • You are fully present and conscious
  • You feel full

2. Communicate with your partner

Compatibility can be assessed more accurately when we communicate openly with our partners.

It is helpful for partners to reflect on themselves and share:

  • What are your wants, needs and expectations in this relationship?
  • What are your life experiences and how do they influence how you act in a relationship?
  • What do you want in life? What is important to you?

Through a deeper understanding of yourself and your partner, you can get a better feel of whether there is genuine alignment with your partner. You do not have to be aligned on everything. Differences create passion and growth in relationships. But it’s important to have some fundamental goals and values that align.

3. Centered decision-making:

Ultimately, ask yourself: “Am I making this decision from a space of Love, or Fear?”

  • Fear-based decision feels contractive, trapped, and anxious. It comes from scarcity and limits our potential.
  • Love-based decision feels expansive, freeing, and calm. It comes from abundance and opens up greater possibilities.

We need to awaken to the fact that our social and political environment is created with specific agendas. Policies are created with specific economic and political goals in mind – to win elections; to create social order; to ensure economic development. Social norms are created to control; to address certain fears.

Throughout history, marriage has been driven by political and economic interests. It was seen as a strategic alliance between families. Although monogamy is the norm now, polygamy was common throughout history – as a show of power, status, etc. Monogamy came about to preserve the inheritance of agricultural land.

Marriage was long driven by practical considerations. The idea of marriage because of love is a very recent concept in the history of mankind. It is thus understandable that many still view marriage as a practical matter.

If we want to truly be in control and live life on our own terms, it is important that we become very clear about what we want – and this includes being clear on what kind of relationships we want; what our values are; what is important to us – and not allow policies and social norms to decide these things for us.

Centred decision-making comes from unifying both reason and intuition, thinking and feeling.

Therapy involves a process of weeding out challenges you are facing and aligning you to who you truly want to be – and having a relationship therapist in Singapore such as us from Intracresco is what you need to help guide you.

Learn more about how you can work with us at Intracresco for Couple counselling in Singapore. We at Intracresco are here to support you through your journey of self-discovery and learning to communicate with your partner as relationship therapists in Singapore.

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