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Communication in marriage and relationships: My story of how two opposites can attract

Updated on May 11, 2016
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Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

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Love is not an easy emotion to fathom. It can leave anyone completely nonplussed and with fewer hairs on the head than they had at the beginning of the day. It is a humongous task to keep two souls together. Cultural differences and other obstacles can sour any relationship and make marriage more trying than it should be.

Still, two people who are diametric opposites can come together in the most unexpected ways. You will always need to bridge gaps in your marriage. It is the willingness to overcome obstacles and the big “C” word - communication - that will refuel passion.


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Love and Marriage

How two total opposites came together - a personal experience

The ten years I have spent being married to my husband of just over ten years, Kok Kiang, have been the most challenging yet pleasant ten years of my life. My husband is the total opposite of myself in terms of social and cultural background, languages we speak, beliefs and likes. He was brought up in a very different cultural environment from myself and staying married meant overcoming a host of challenges.

Social and Cultural Challenges

The very first challenge to us as a couple was how we met - ours was an internet romance. Ten years ago, such relationships were still seen as rather avant garde and were to a certain degree frowned upon, especially by our parents who had less knowledge in terms of computers and computer technology. Friends, too, were a little skeptical of whether our relationship would work. After all, it was a risk getting involved with someone whom I had thus far only interacted with over the internet. I had to very much keep our first meeting a secret lest tongues wagged.

Being a Peranakan Chinese who has straits born ancestry, I was brought up in a primarily English Language and Malay speaking environment. Chinese, as such, was a language very much learned at school and practiced among friends rather than at home. My husband’s background comes in a totally different shade of color. He grew up in an entirely Chinese speaking environment and spoke English only in school. For us and our families, communication was, and still is, a very interesting phenomenon, Both of us understand and communicate fluently in both English and Mandarin. Till this day, though, he speaks to me in Mandarin and I would respond rather gutturally sometimes in English. Nonetheless, we still get whatever we need to done!

Overcoming parental objection was yet another hurdle. His parents speak little English while mine speak hardly any Mandarin! My parents did not really approve of her prospective son-in-law at the time because they were afraid of the communication barrier. I would say that his parents felt very much the same way! Coming to terms with these social differences was a hurdle that took a long time to over come.

Educational difference was another hurdle we had to overcome. I graduated with an English Language degree while my husband had a Diploma from a Polytechnic in Singapore. The educational difference was frowned upon by our families, and this took a long time before being resolved. Thankfully, he is a hardworking man, and became a systems engineer with an honors degree over the years.

As with all married couples, we have had our personal differences to resolve. My husband has a taste for Animae - I prefer watching CSI or drama serials on HBO. I would clamor for spicy food, while good old hubby would insist on Japanese. Being the thrifty party of the two of us, he would grumble when electricity bills go up while I would go into a sulk at his nagging. We still get into arguments over who does the housework.

Married couples would definitely attest to the fact that marriage entails the willingness overcome hurdles together. My husband became a wonderful pillar of support for me when I had a relapse of brain tumors a few years ago, both emotionally as well as financially. It would have been tough to survive the ordeal if not for his presence and practically speaking, financial help.

All these hurdles make for a colorful marriage! Yet, overcome the cultural, educational, social and even financial boundaries, we did. We recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, with many good years ahead. We have bridged many gaps over these ten years, and for us, it was with the most effective bridge of all - communication. It is an element that becomes ever so important in relationships which need to transcend cultural boundaries.


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Communicating in a marriage

Suggested ways to improve communication with your partner

As shown in the example of my own marriage, there can be many challenges to communication in any relationship. Parents may object, or friends may shake their heads. There needs to be compromise over personal likes and dislikes. Finding common ground where there are educational differences can also be a challenge.

Many couples who have stayed the course of marriage throughout their lives would say that their success can be attributed to good communication, a difficult yet necessary art to master.

How do we improve communication with our soul mates?

Learn to listen

When two parties come together, it can mean the merging of two very different perspectives. Learn to listen to each other without insisting on who has the more superior viewpoint. It is also important not to interrupt your partner when he or she is saying something he believes is of importance. Give him or her sufficient airtime, and you can then have yours!! More understanding can be achieved when both viewpoints are expressed.

Kok Kiang and I have had to listen to each other all the time over the years. Our viewpoints on life and even in simple things like managing the household can be very different. I have found that listening plays an important role. If I kept insisting on having my own way with him (he can be very stubborn) we would get nothing done around the house!

Don’t attack your partner.

Problems in any relationship are for many reasons and blame should not be laid on the other party alone. Put things in perspective and do not lay blame; or this would dig a deep hole of hatred and lack of forgiveness that is difficult to get out of.

As a couple, Kok Kiang and I try to assess any problems from an impartial perspective. It will not solve every problem, but it helps us to realize that, more than once, no one is really to blame for anything.

Say what you are thinking

Honesty is necessary in every relationship. It is not fair to expect our better halves to second guess what we are thinking. They would not know unless you tell them so.

I get a bit peeved when my husband does not tell me what is irritating him and instead flies into a temper. I have to remind him constantly to tell me what he is thinking because it is not fair for him to be angry with me unless I know how I have made him mad. Rather than sulking, tell your partner what is wrong. Both of you can resolve issues together.

Play fair

Do not hit below the belt when arguing with your partner. Try not to assign blame and insist on being right. Ask questions instead if you disagree and try to understand the other person’s perspective. After all, there is no one way about things.

Rather than insisting that Animae is childish or silly, I would ask my husband what draws him to it instead and try to appreciate what makes it so popular with him. I tell him why I dislike it as well, and viola! All he needs to do is watch it in another room!

Think before speaking

In a fit of anger, it is easy to say the things that really hurt. Again, it causes any rift to become wider and wider. Be tactful and do not rub things in.

Overlook any small peculiarities.

I believe that if I had not gone past Kok Kiang’s passion for animae or he my passion for pets and music, we would not have been able to stay married! That is just the way it is when two people come together. I still have to tolerate his messy desk which I constantly remind him to clean up! These are, after all, small things which can be sorted out when we put our minds to it.

Try to understand the in-laws

A marriage or any relationship cannot be between two people alone. Someone once said that if you marry a person, you end up marrying his or her entire family, and to a great extent, it is true. We have to bridge any communication gaps we have with our in-laws.

I found that I had to do this with much patience. They would be very slow to do things and I would grumble to my husband about their more traditional ways of thinking. Over many years, I have thankfully come to realize what great and generous people they are, and have become much more appreciative when they stop by.

To myself, communication one of the most important factors in any relationship, and it has helped my husband and myself, two totally opposite characters, live in unison for the past ten years. To all couples, a romance to last eternally, and happy communicating!

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    • superhealth profile image

      Nzekwe francis 3 years ago from Lagos State

      Dear writer I'm happy you know it that one who marries married also his or her inlaws also at least to some extent...to some ladies they feel every other person should stay away...

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes. There would be far fewer misunderstandings with proper communication, Kasman! Thanks for sharing.

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      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      Great job on this midget! I love the story of you and your husband. I have a friend of mine from England who's absolutely in love with the Chinese culture and speaks decent mandarin. I have yet to go, although I want to, but my sister and my cousin have gone and loved the country.

      You are so right about communication. I think it's probably the world's number 1 problem right now and maybe for all time. So many issues would be resolved with proper communication skills.

      Voting this up and sharing! Great job.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I have been married for about the same length of time, barbergirl, and yes, communication always needs work. People change and we need to update according to the relevant concerns of the time too. Thanks for sharing, and my blessings to you and your hubby as well!

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      Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      This is a great hub and useful for all couples whether they are polar opposites or soul mates. Communication is vital and it is important that we work on this every single day. My husband and I have been married for 12 years. It has been an amazing 12 years, but I will admit, sometimes our communication needs work!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Dingerd, I am sure that you and your wife have a great relationship. Every relationship has its challenges, but we get through them with a little faith and determination! Thanks for sharing!

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      Darrel Dinger 4 years ago from Tennessee

      I thought this was very good information. Thank you very much for sharing. I am going to try to get my wife to read this also!! haha

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks so much, fpherj48! So glad for the rally positive sharing about your own relationship too! Blessings and many more years to come! Thanks for coming by!

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      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      midget....Love this hub. Very well-written.....awesome realities...I truly got into this hub and enjoyed your views on this topic. My hubby and I are living proof. We are polar opposites, in nearly every way and couldn't be happier. Our partnership, friendship....relationship is as nearly perfect as can be......a really close and comforting bond. Thank you for this great read...UP++++

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, indeed it is, Cathy! Thanks for coming by!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Miss Mimi, communication is indeed important in a marriage. I guess it's harder to communicate honestly with our partners because there's a lot more at stake. Thanks for the wishes!

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 4 years ago from NJ

      Great advice. Love is hard to find, being opposites makes things a little harder, but holding on to true love is worth the strugglel.

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      Miss Mimi 4 years ago from On the road again

      Such great advice, communication really is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship. Nice tips on how to specifically try to improve communication with a partner. It's funny, isn't it, how much more complicated it is to maintain a line of honest communication with a romantic partner than with a friend. And congrats on your ten-year anniversary, that's wonderful!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Right on the button there, Vellur! Bringing two families together is always difficult! Thanks for dropping in!

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      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      A great write, the hardest part would be getting on with the in-laws I guess!!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Meldz. Glad you like the dividers and that you liked it. Thanks for coming by!

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      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Great information and very helpful. I love your pictures and the dividers too!

      Voted up and more. :-)

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, livingsta! I sure hope that they do...this is meant for them. Thanks for coming by, and I'm so glad you've found it useful!

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      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Love the way you have related your hub to your life experiences. I am sure many will benefit. voted up and useful!!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Ish. Am linking your Prince Charming hub to this as well! Thanks for coming by...and yes, communication is the most important!

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      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      A well-written hub! Here you presented your views very well! I totally agree with you that communication is most important for successful & everlasting marriages/relationships. You & your husband served as excellent examples for this engaging hub! Way to go!

      P.S. I have linked your hub to my hub. Thank you

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & shared

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Most welcome, janisimus!! Glad to share!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Susan, yes, communicating in marriage is a challenging yet rewarding when things are sortied out. Thanks for coming by!

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      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Thank you for sharing the great tips.

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      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi Michelle,

      This is a hub that all couples should read.

      Voted up and away

      Sharing

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for coming by, Jenbeach! glad you like it!

    • jenbeach21 profile image

      jenbeach21 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Very useful tips. Thanks for sharing.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, Critical Message......it is the similarities that bind, always!! Thanks for coming by!

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      Murphy 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Nicely written... opposites attract, yet it is their similarities that will bind them together.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, that is one long relationship, Patty, and blessings for you and the family. Yep, certainly a challenge to be married; one you should accept only if you're very sure of what you're in for and know your partners ins and outs. (difficult even when married) But as you say, with the right person, it's certainly worth it! Thanks for coming by again, my friend!

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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Michelle, Excellent Advice!!!!! My husband and I have been together 20 years...married nearly 18...definitely challenging, but worth the effort!!! I should probably follow some of your advice more than I do such as think before speaking...LOL

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Absolutely, Lipnancy, all it takes is a little effort!! Thanks for the visit.

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      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Marriage and relationships are a constant struggle but they are doable if you work at them.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I am too, Life as a Blog, only too often. LOL! Thanks for coming by, and I'm glad you've enjoyed it1

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Kim, thanks for sharing your really wonderful story. It seems that we have yet one more thing in common! Inter-cultural gaps like the ones we've experienced in our marriages certainly have to be bridged with communication. People are complicated beings by far....and need a lot of persuasion and I can see that you have a lot of patience!! Hugs to you and your family, Michelle

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      Monty Hamilton 4 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Very good advice! I have definitely been guilty of not thinking before speaking. Excellent hub!

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      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      Wonderful advice Michelle! I can relate very much to your story. My husband and I met when I was visiting his city and I just had to give him my number. We talked on the phone a great deal and only saw each other twice during that time. A couple months later I moved out of my mom's house (I was 18) and into my husband's house (he was 30). He is Korean and I'm Italian/American. I know his parents didn't approve of me since I wasn't Korean and my family didn't like the age gap. It's been 5 years now and we're doing well. Communication has been a problem on occasion. Mostly because he's a 'my way or the highway' kind of person so if I really want him to change his mind I've learned to gently guide him to see things differently. Flat out arguing never works and often sparks his stubbornness and makes things worse. What you said about listening is what has saved my marriage a couple times. When he feels like his point has been heard and validated is when his walls come down and he's easiest to actually communicate with. well.. here I go ranting about my marriage ^_^ He's complicated but so wonderful and I love him dearly. I'll keep in mind the other points you've made here. I think they will improve our communication even more... well at least on my side. ^_^ voted up and useful!!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the lovely insight, Annie. I hope this does help couples with marriage problems!! I think it's a matter of losing face in an argument; no one wants to be small or the loser in it. You are so right, the differences actually enhance and give an added dimension to marriage, but life as a whole! Thanks for the comment and coming by....your comments are always so insightful and I so truly value them.

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      Annie Fenn 4 years ago from Australia

      Your advise is very practicable and can save a lot of angst and arguments. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to be right or superior rather than listening, acknowledging and understanding the others point of view. I also agree that respecting differences is far better than trying to change someone. I think differences can actually enhance a relationship when mutual respect is applied as it can add a further dimension to a person's character that may have been overlooked before. Excellent hub Midget, thank you.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Yes!

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      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      That is great, Michelle.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Keith, well said! Power Distance and Intercultural Communication play a huge role, especially in an Asian society like ours. Less so now, but is still obviously there. Takes skill to negotiate as you've shown through your hubs as well! Thanks for coming by, my friend!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jhamann. I hope it helps people who are having issues too. It's sad if the only cause of relationship problems is poor communication! Thanks for sharing, really appreciate that.

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      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      Wow, very insightful and informative, once again! Yes, Educational differences plays a key role in how relationships build. I have a professor who is the first in her family to obtain a Doctorate Degree and it definitely created some walls with her family's background. Happy you and your husband are holding strong! Keep up with the communication (intercultural communication first and foremost) and yes, definitely understand how power distance and respect play in the two different cultures. Always look for the similarities before the differences and the intercultural relationship will last!

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      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      This is all very well presented thought out good advice, I am sharing, hopefully this hub can help those out there who are having relationship problems simply because they cannot communicate between themselves. Thank you for this hub I am sharing. jamie

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Communication is a big problem, yes, Shutri. Couples really should spend more time communicating...especially in this rushed modern day and age!! Thanks for dropping by!!

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      shruti sheshadri 4 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Well done again michelle :) A problem that a lot of couples undergo these days.

      Nice to know that you have understood the difficulty and addressed the issue! Voted up !

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Jo, thanks for coming by! Yes indeed, those are the basic ingredients a marriage needs to work. Thanks for the read!! Appreciate you stopping by!

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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      As beautifully done as we've come to expect from you. Yes good communication is a must in all relationships but also the ability to compromise now and again helps, as you've well demonstrated in your relationship with your partner. Thank you for sharing a little of your self with us. Voting up.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Bill! Yes, it was not easy. We have to bridge both language and paradigm gaps as well. Still learning!! Hope to learn more from you and Bev though!! Thanks for coming by!

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great suggestions, all of them. Very interesting hearing about your backgrounds and how you found common ground and understanding. Great hub my friend.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I guess it's like that, Spy. As younger girls we just want the attention....then we get older and realize that it's not all about us, that our better halves have needs to. Mutual consideration and communication! Thanks for stopping by!

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      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Learn to listen.think before speaking..don't attack your partner.. oh those are my weakness. hehehe. when I was young, vest would really put an extra effort to all my whinings and "i want to get what i want".. but now that I'm matured enough to understand, communication does make a great impact for the relationship to stay strong..learned from experience..:)

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It wasn't easy by any means, Mary. We really had it rough at the beginning when we first married, and it took some time before it was accepted. A little bit out of a soap opera!! Unfortunately, I couldn't scan the photos I have. :-( So I had to make do. WIll update once I can do that and repost!! Thanks for coming by!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks carol777!! That is so true, we pick our battles...not wise to sweat over the small stuff. It's so hard when two people come together, it's actually two groups of people coming together!! Glad you've liked this and thank you for the share!!

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      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      What a beautiful Hub. I'm not sure I could have had the endurance you have had to make this type of marriage a success, the language barrier, in -laws, etc. These are all difficult for anyone to overcome. I admire you very much, and I hope you have many years together. I wish you had posted a photo of the two of you together!

      I voted this UP, etc.etc. and will share. Mary

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      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I really enjoyed reading this hub and found it delightful on how you worked out your differences. Marriage is never easy as living with someone under any conditions is a challenge. I have learned to pick my battles and let small things just disappear. I think you have found a good formula and thanks for sharing. Voted UP and Sharing.

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yep, I think little was known of the net then, Janine. Communicating properly will definitely help to sustain a relationship, though the time invested seems to be the hard part! We're often too busy to do it, and it's sad. I'm fine, thank you so much, and thanks for coming by!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, very well written and could relate to the Internet meeting of your husband, because as you know from my past writings this is indeed how Kevin and I met. Back then it was frowned upon a bit more and not as open as it is now. You hit the nail on the head though how to keep your marriage alive with communication being the key goal here. I also must say on a side note that I am glad that your husband was there for you when you had a relapse with brain tumors. I do hope you are better now and thank you for sharing your story here. Voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      With communication, two opposites can come together in a marriage. Here are some tips for good communication in relationships!