Karan and Abha Singh
Lifestyle People

Kiss & Tell: 5 Couples Share Their Secrets for a Successful Marriage

February 5, 2021

What makes a marriage successful? Couples who’ve been together anywhere from one decade to nearly six weigh in

By Leena Rao

Partners In Work and Life

Martin Rawls-Meehan and Lisa Tan, married 9 years
The setup: The couple met and dated in college at Princeton University; they later reconnected in New York City.
The wedding: Dec. 30 2011, in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Martin and Lisa

Meet the Couple: Martin and Lisa are CEO and CMO, respectively, of Reverie, a Bloomfield Hills-based company that makes customizable beds. City of residence: Birmingham

What’s been the biggest challenge in your relationship and how did you overcome it?
Martin: We can go days without talking to each other about work, and we forget that when big work issues come up that we do need to discuss. We have to remember that we probably haven’t kept each other in the loop as much as we think we have. It has been a learning process that requires patience and constantly reminding yourself not to take communication with your spouse for granted.

What do you most admire about your relationship or each other?
Lisa: Working together has given us a more comprehensive view of each other, which has strengthened our relationship. I get to fully witness Martin’s intelligence, creativity and drive when I see him operating at work.
Martin: Lisa’s amazing talent and intelligence. She does so much so well, and so many things better than I do. In many ways she has sacrificed amazing opportunities for herself so that we could work together and grow Reverie, which I admire and appreciate. 

Martin and Lisa

What’s your best marriage advice?
Lisa: Be intentional about the time you spend together. We don’t strive for “work-life” balance, per se, just balance. Just as we need to take time to talk about work, it’s equally important to carve out one-on-one personal time. This year, we re-established date night, even if that’s just giving our kids free rein [on] their tablets for an hour while we have a real dinner conversation.

Dream Collaboration

Craig and Jennifer Kolstad, married 17 years
The setup: Both from Canada, they met at architecture school at the University of Calgary — and were engaged six weeks later. “We had fantastic chemistry from the start, and we both wanted to see our life together through the lens of architecture and design,” says Craig. “It’s been a true partnership in every aspect.”
The wedding: July 19, 2003 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Craig & Jennifer

Meet the Couple: Craig is the principal and design director HKS Architects in Detroit; Jennifer is the global design director for Ford Motor Company. City of Residence: Bloomfield Hills

What’s been the biggest challenge in your relationship and how did you overcome it?
Jennifer: Marriage is not a cakewalk — it’s inevitable you will be tested. One of our biggest struggles was when we were first married in Chicago. We had no money, student loans, and were just starting our careers as architects. We were considering moving back to Canada. But Craig and I really talked about our goals, and we decided we were all in on our careers until the wheels came off.
Craig: We both got opportunities to move to Abu Dhabi for work in 2008 — we withdrew our 401(k) money and moved to a foreign country.  And it changed the entire trajectory of our careers. Our strength as a couple is that we are open to taking on new challenges. 

Craig & Jennifer

What do you most admire about your relationship or each other?
Jennifer: I think because we are both designers we are perpetually optimistic and we are always dreaming forward together. We can always see ourselves out of a situation or see ourselves in the next play.
Craig: We are always collaborating, whether it be business or personal. As architects, we’ve made our marriage a creative exercise, and something where we are building something in a large scheme. 

What’s your best marriage advice?
Jennifer: Don’t invest in a wedding — invest in a marriage. It breaks my heart when I see people so focused on the wedding. The marriage itself is where the good stuff is.

An Unbreakable Bond 

Chris and Kim Casteel, married 33 years
The setup: They met on a bike ride.
The wedding: Sept. 19, 1987 in Saline

Chris & Kim

Meet the Couple: Chris and Kim are the owners of Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics in Detroit
City of Residence: Detroit

What’s been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Kim: In 1988, nine months after we were married, Chris was in a motorcycle accident and lost his left leg below the knee. We had our one-year anniversary in the ICU at U of M hospital. In addition to losing his leg and independence, it was difficult for us to re-establish our relationship and hierarchy, for lack of a better word. I had to handle all decision making, bill payment and coordination of our lives while Chris was in the hospital for more than a year. We had to develop a “life game plan” and work together as a team, which was difficult at first: I was forced into wearing both “pants” in the family. But the accident solidified our relationship as we relied on each other for emotional and psychological support during Chris’ many years of healing and walking again. 

Chris & Kim

What do you most admire about your relationship or each other?
Chris: We were just idealistic kids in love when we were married. Our relationship has grown with lifetimes of experiences. Kim has drive, tenacity and compassion that I admire and often attempt to emulate.
Kim: Knowing we’ll always be there for each other, in both trying times and joyous ones. We were brought together for a reason, and are, for lack of a better term, soulmates. 

What’s your best marriage advice?
Kim: We appreciate every day that we are together and are grateful for the unbreakable bond that we’ve built from the challenges we faced early on in our marriage. We begin and end each day with a hug, kiss and a conversation in between.

Working Toward Happily Ever After

Karan and Abha Singh, married 53 years
The setup: The Singhs were literally a setup: “Our marriage was semi-arranged,” says Karan. “We met a few times and then we decided to get married.”
The wedding: Dec. 28, 1967 in New Delhi, India

Karan and Abha Singh

Meet the Couple: Karan is a retired engineer for Ford Motor Company; Abha worked at a bank and doctor’s office. City of Residence: Livonia

What’s been the biggest challenge in your relationship and how did you overcome it?
Abha: When we were first married, we didn’t really know each other. And we had just come from a new, very different country. But it was nice to have a lot of other young couples in the area who were also from India, and understood what we left behind. We became like a family.
Karan: When we first moved here after we were married, I was working a lot and she had to learn a lot on her own. She had no help or family around. But the wives of our friends were very helpful to her.

Karan and Abha Singh

What do you most admire about your relationship or each other?
Karan: Without Abha’s help, I would be lost. When she leaves, I miss her.
Abha: I rely on my husband and he is always there for me. 

What’s your best marriage advice?
Karan: Marriage is a give and take, and you need to compromise.
Abha: Marriage is a work in progress — it’s not happily ever after. You need to keep working at it. 

They Have Each Other’s Backs

Dr. Ron and Harriette Gillum, married 57 years
The setup: The couple met at Western Michigan University through friends
The wedding: Dec. 21, 1963 at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Detroit

Dr. Ron and Harriette Gillum

Meet the Couple: Ron, now retired, was the director of adult education for the Michigan Department of Education; Harriette, also retired, was a nurse and social worker at East Lansing Public Schools. City of Residence Holt, Michigan

What’s been the biggest challenge in your relationship?
Harriette: Getting used to our individual idiosyncrasies. There are some things you can’t change about somebody and you have to know if you can accommodate their differences and accept your own. 

Dr. Ron and Harriette Gillum

What do you most admire about your relationship or each other?
Harriette: He’s got my back — it’s a comfort level like no other. We function as a unit. Also, Ron wrote me love letters. I keep them in my nightstand and read them.
Ron: We may hurt one another now and then but deep down, we know there is a bond that won’t be broken in this lifetime. 

Dr. Ron and Harriette Gillum

What’s your best marriage advice?
Harriette: You have to be good friends and you have to like each other. There are so many decisions you have to make together and you have to have a basis of trust in one another.
Ron: I gave this advice to my daughter [NBC Local 4 anchor Rhonda Walker] and her husband on their wedding day in 2019: Love is not never having to say you are sorry. Love is being able to say you are sorry. You are going to make mistakes in marriage and you have to be able to say I’m sorry. 

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