We believe in arguing

Dr Isaac Lim, 71, and Dr Shirley Lim, 69, have been married for 46 years. Over the years, they have learnt to turn conflicts into chances to learn about themselves and each other.
Dr Isaac Lim, 71, and Dr Shirley Lim, 69, have been married for 46 years. Over the years, they have learnt to turn conflicts into chances to learn about themselves and each other.PHOTOS: TIMOTHY DAVID, COURTESY OF THE LIM FAMILY
Dr Isaac Lim, 71, and Dr Shirley Lim, 69, have been married for 46 years. Over the years, they have learnt to turn conflicts into chances to learn about themselves and each other.
Dr Isaac Lim, 71, and Dr Shirley Lim, 69, have been married for 46 years. Over the years, they have learnt to turn conflicts into chances to learn about themselves and each other.PHOTOS: TIMOTHY DAVID, COURTESY OF THE LIM FAMILY

In marriage, arguing can be a good thing, say Dr Shirley Lim, 69, and her husband, Dr Isaac Lim, 71.

"We learn to turn conflicts into chances to learn not only about ourselves but also each other, as well as the issue being discussed," says Dr Shirley Lim, founder-president of Research Communication International, a leadership and management consultancy.

She adds: "We emphasise collaborative relationships. That's why we believe in arguing - it's not wrong to put forward your view."

They have been married for 46 years.

Dr Isaac Lim, a vice-president at the company and an ordained pastor, is a past president of the Trinity Annual Conference, the body for Singapore's English-speaking Methodist congregations.

The couple have two children and four grandchildren.

One example of a time when they had to negotiate their differences was when Dr Isaac Lim joined his wife's company.

 
 
 
 

He says: "All my life, I've been a leader. But the company is her brainchild. She has to lead, so I began to learn from her. My role is to support her projects."

Being open to each other's views can change one's mindset, the couple say.

Dr Isaac Lim, for instance, was used to spanking being used as a form of disciplining children, but his wife did not agree when their son was still a child.

He decided to try communicating more with the boy instead. Eventually, he decided against spanking as punishment.

Still, Dr Shirley Lim says some personality traits cannot be easily eradicated. "Don't try to change each other. I tried to change my husband, but even after 46 years, it's not possible," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 23, 2018, with the headline 'We believe in arguing'. Print Edition | Subscribe