Just a few nights ago, I was on Twitter, and as I was scrolling through my feed, I clicked on a link to an article from Time written by Aziz Ansari, an American comedian, about modern love. You can find the essay here. In a nutshell, he wrote about his parents’ arranged marriage and how they eventually learned how to love and care for each other with time. He also contrasted that to what we see every day today, where we are able to look for “The One” through a mobile dating app like Tinder, OkCupid (or Grindr, if you swing that way), and how we are able to filter who we want to be matched with based on our preferences (like, for example, are you a dog or a cat person?). Back in the old days, you actually had to first strike up a conversation with someone before you decide if you’re interested in them, but today, it seems to be the exact opposite. I’m no Tinder expert, but based on how other social networking sites work, it usually starts by skimming through one’s interests, political inclination, et cetera, et cetera, and that is when you decide if you’re interested enough to strike up a conversation with said individual.
What stood out to me about his article was the last segment, titled “passion and patience”, where he chronicled his parents’ happiness despite having an arranged marriage, because of their persistence and patience in learning to love each other. The one quote that hit me like a truck was this,
“With luck, if you allow yourself to invest more in the other person, you will find a beautiful life companion.”
Watching my parents’ relationship over the past 22 years opened my eyes to a lot of things. There were many times when I questioned the sanctity of the institution of marriage just from watching the growth and fall (and growth again) of my parents’ relationship, and there were many instances where I felt that the guys I met were all just “fillers” of my time, and I never saw any of my past relationships in both my near and distant future.
As I grew older, I became shockingly less realistic about the type of man I wanted in my life because I knew that it was imperative to have a man I would be happy with for the rest of my life, lest watch my relationships crumble just like my parents’ did once upon a time. I found that a man I would truly be happy with for the rest of my life must be mature, intelligent, caring, honest, loyal. He must share the same values as I do, and even a similar sense of humour. He was to be ambitious, goal-oriented, and a hard worker. That, among many others, became the criteria I felt that I needed in a partner. What I had yet to learn was that it takes time to truly love someone. That love does not come at first sight, neither does it come the moment you say “yes, I want to be your girlfriend.”
In 2012, I made a decision to embark in a relationship with someone I didn’t love, simply because I didn’t know how to love him yet at that time. He only had a few of the characteristics I really wanted in a man, but somehow, in a twist of fate, I decided I would still pursue the relationship anyway. He was younger, and he had a lot to learn. It was his first relationship, but it was definitely not my first. We were different, yet similar in many ways. I remember that for the first few days of being together, I questioned why I rushed into it, why I didn’t think about it more, and even told myself that we could not last more than half a year.
We passed the 6 month mark with more fights than I ever had with anyone else. We passed the 1 year mark with us still unable to fully trust each other. In retrospect, I think it took us about a year or more to actually truly get to know each other, and it was only after the second year of our relationship when I felt that this guy was truly someone I could see myself being with for the rest of my life. It was uncharted territory for both of us.
Passing the third year mark still doesn’t feel real to me. As mentioned, I expected it to last only 6 months. At one point in my life prior to this relationship, I even asked myself if I was a person with commitment issues because none of my previous relationships lasted more than half a year.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in a long-term relationship, is that love is a lifelong process. It requires determination, dedication and a lot of effort. The problem with many of us Gen Y’s is that we romanticize relationships way more than we actually should. Sure, it is important to have passion and romance to keep the fire burning, but no one ever talks about the difficult parts of love. The “for worse”, “in sickness” and “bad times” parts of wedding vows are often overlooked because people are just so wrapped up in achieving happiness now, and they lose sight of long term happiness. In a new world of limitless options, it is virtually impossible not to seek greener pastures, but I think it is important to remember the commitment that binds every friendship, relationship and marriage.
My relationship is the furthest from perfect. In reality, there were so many times when I felt like I wanted to give up because of our individual differences. We took a lot of time apart just so I could clear my conscience, and he stood by me through all my doubts. 3 years definitely doesn’t compare to a lifelong commitment, but I do feel that it is a step up for me. We have a lot more to learn individually and as a couple, and I can’t say that it will be an easy road. What I do know is that there is no one else I would rather spend my time with, to tell my heart and soul to, and to share experiences with.