When it comes to love, embrace your differences as strengths

November 17, 2021 | 09:00 pm GMT+7
I’ve been married to a Vietnamese woman for 13 years, and in a relationship with her for 15 years.

We married young, both students in Vietnam before we had two pennies to rub together.

While we both came from the countryside—myself from coastal Massachusetts, she from Ninh Binh—we could not have had more different upbringings.

She spent the first few years of her life without electricity and remembers the first light bulbs brought to her village. She was beautiful and strong-willed, fantastically funny and tough.

She was highly skilled in the rural work of her community, intimately aware of the ebb and flow of growing seasons and the natural world.

On the other hand, I was an awkwardly tall suburban American who couldn’t tell poison ivy from a blackberry bush, who could not have been more useless in rural Ninh Binh.

We were initially very distrusting of each other, but so enjoyed the fun of each other’s company, of adventures and travels together.

Over time, however, we grew inseparable, and saw our lives together as being a journey of growing trust, acceptance, and discovery.

We trusted each other before it made sense to do so, and this investment paid off with a deep friendship that has only grown over time.

We decided to marry and moved to the U.S.—a process that took many months—still two poor students without jobs.

Thirteen years later, she is the same strong woman, but now a mother of three, living in New York City, deeply integrated in her local community, surrounded by countless friends of all races and colors, and employed as an official in an international organization.

Our children have parents who in their hearts celebrate two countries as home. In every stage of her life, she has grown, found a passion and a challenge, and has excelled spectacularly.

For me, there has been no downside. It was a lesson in loving someone for who they are, with overwhelming warmth, and accepting them without any desire to adjust or modify.

These are always going to be challenges, differences to overcome and misunderstandings to bridge, but they are challenges of the spirit that bring growth and mutual respect.

I secretly feel proud that I saw her potential back when it wasn't as obvious as now.

Marrying someone from a different background requires patience, mutual respect for each other as you are, for each other's traditions, and an unshakable sense of excitement that this is something that you want, that makes sense.

Everyone reaches into their past to find a sense of meaning in their lives, and by embracing each other's backgrounds without restraint—by taking an interest in the unusual things you will both do, driven by a sense of love and curiosity—you can better navigate the journey of aging together.

So many people offered us warnings. We ignored all of them, and we were right.

Sean Lovell

 
 
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