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Communication in marriage and relationships: My story of how two opposites can attract
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.
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.
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.
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!
Other relationship articles by Michelle Liew (midget 38)
- How to assert ourselves without burning relationship bridges: Reasons why people find it difficult t
Saying "No" to others can be a really difficult thing to do. Here are some tips and phrases for saying "No" without saying No and burning the bridges!
- How to start and maintain an engaging conversation: common errors in conversations
An article about making conversations and the common mistakes we make while being in conversation
- How do you know that he is indeed Prince Charming?
Prince Charming is not exactly the hero you expect from the fairytales. He is much more than that!