My smile was radiant. His was dazzling. It was my day. Our day. Our wedding day. Thirteen years ago, today, we tied the knot: a Chinese woman and a Caucasian man. No language barrier. No cultural inhibition. Two individuals, overcome with joy, love and passion, greeted each other at the altar. Eyes met. Tears welled up. The intense emotion we felt towards each other.
Thirteen years later, it seems like yesterday. Gone with the It-can-make-you-blush romance. Come along with the I-know-what-you-need/How-you-feel rapport. Perhaps we were destined to meet. As a Chinese saying goes, we are connected by an invisible red thread. The thread can be tightened or tangled, but will never be broken.
But we could have chosen other mates. Perhaps someone of the same culture, the same skin color, or the same religion. Perhaps someone richer, younger, or more attractive. What makes us click then? Curiosity? Shared interests? Love at first sight? Deep connections? Willingness to open up to each other? Yes. All of them, and a lot more.
If I were to come up with a few qualities in my husband that I am most attracted to, I would list the following:
His intelligence. Vast and deep. From politics, history, art, literature, to science, engineering, architecture, and everyday life. He can carry a conversation on any topic. Fact based. Well informed. Witty and nonjudgmental. He has the vision and wisdom of a global thinker. He is the Wikipedia of our family.
His passion for life. Genuine and earnest. In his words, “the fun in life is what makes all worthwhile.” He loves what he does and does it well. He enjoys travel. He is into nature. He lives in the present. He appreciates every day. Fatherhood gives him the opportunity to share and cultivate the same sense of adventure and fun-loving spirit in our 12-year-old son. We travel together as a family to see the world and to experience life. He embodies “living life to the fullest.”
His sense of humor. Witty and wry. He is funny and fun. His self-deprecating jokes often show the humble side of him. I laugh at them. A lot. But most importantly, he never ceases to amaze me with his ability to laugh in good times and bad. It would be easy for me to get frustrated and distracted by small bumps and hiccups in our daily lives, but he sets life priorities, and rolls with the punches. He is a beacon of light, an ultimate optimist.
Last but not least, his humanity. Compassionate and inspiring. It manifests in the lives he touches and the people he loves. His colleagues. His friends. His family. He takes young people under his wing, mentoring them with passion and sincerity. He cares about his elderly mother. Never missed a single time talking to her on Sunday evenings. His loving relationship with our son is what I am most proud of. Deeply involved in every aspect of our son’s life, he teaches him not only life skills, but also life values and lessons, big or small. Largely because of this, our son has grown into a kind, loving and empathetic gentle soul on his own terms.
I am proud of my husband. I also feel good for myself. I am lucky to have found the right man.
But finding the right one is only half of the equation in a marriage; learning to live together as one is the other half. It is much harder.
We all come into our relationships with our own baggage; perhaps a failed courtship in the past, the idiosyncrasies of our upbringing, the differences in our beliefs, our rituals, or our habits. We are who we are- weird, flawed, and self-centered, each in our own way.
There is a cynical line about marriage in a hugely popular, Chinese social-satire novel called Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu. I can recite that line by heart: “Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out.”
Truth be told, after 13 years, we can be not so kind to each other at times. We are both head-strong, stubborn, and particular in our own way. We’ve got shares of our fights, sometimes each unyielding to the other with fury and frustration.
With two careers and a family to juggle constantly, we are tempted to wonder if our lives would be simpler, easier, but not necessarily happier, if we were still single. After all, grass always seems mysteriously greener on the other side.
But we haven’t given up. We haven’t “consciously uncoupled” ourselves. We still choose each other. For thirteen years.
What makes us stay together then? Money? Our house? Our son? Our commitment? Yes- all of these tangible and practical considerations. But more importantly, it’s our unshaken love, friendship, respect, and shared values that keeps us united.
It has to do with acceptance. Appreciating each other’s strengths. Accepting each other’s flaws. Since the day we met at the altar of marriage, we have accepted ourselves as the best possible mates for each other; we have accepted our marriage as the best possible union for us. With this conviction in mind, the myth that “Grass is always greener on the other side” will always be, well, a myth.
It has to do with compromise. I am a firm believer in shared responsibilities in marriage. But this does not equate to 50/50 division of labor. With a more time-demanding job he has, I take up the lion’s share of our household chores. He appreciates my endeavor and always puts forth his best effort to support me. His rock solid love for me and our son makes all my sacrifice worthwhile.
It has to do with forgiveness. We all have flaws. We all make mistakes. If you believe love is in the eyes of the beholder, you should also believe love is patient, kind and deliberate. Thirteen years of marriage. We both have made many mistakes, big or small. But time again, we have forgiven each other’s mistakes. Shared reciprocity.
Marriage is a dance. It requires partnership, with each taking turns and supporting the other. Sometimes it is waltz, smooth and joyful; other times it is tango, passionate and sensual; still others, it is cha-cha, lighthearted and fun.
Marriage is a shared journey. We accept and appreciate who we are. We inspire and encourage each other to be better. We laugh and cheer each other on in good times and bad.
To me my husband is the one whom I can always count on. From here to eternity.