Overseas love story ends with schoolmates happy together

By Phan Duong   February 3, 2024 | 08:00 pm PT
Tri and Thuong led separate lives for 35 years until fate brought them together from opposite sides of the ocean.

In September 2020, Ho Chi Minh City businesswoman Nhat Thuong received a new friend request on social media from someone named Tri Nguyen. Assuming it was her brother's best friend creating a new account, she accepted. However, upon realizing that Tri was a mechanical engineer in America, not her brother's friend, Thuong didn’t initiate any conversation.

A few days later, Tri commented on one of Thuong's recent photos, remarking, "Why do you look so familiar?" Intrigued, she visited his personal page and discovered they shared several dozen mutual friends, all of whom were elementary and middle school classmates from Di Linh District, Lam Dong Province, in the Central Highlands.

The happy bride and groom. Photo courtesy of Tri and Thuong.

Bride Nhat Thuong and groom Tri Nguyen. Photo courtesy of Tri and Thuong

Their first conversation revealed that for the last decade, their lives had been incredibly close with so many shared connections, but they had never bumped into each other. Thuong was attending Advanced Placement class, while Tri belonged to a regular class, but hung out with a few students from Thuong’s class. Thuong's mother had worked for Tri's grandfather for many years, while Tri's aunt and uncle knew Thuong from her banking days in Lam Dong Province.

As they shared stories of school and childhood memories, the two former schoolmates grew closer.

"We were leading completely separate lives for so long, but just when I started losing faith in love and relationship, our paths crossed," Tri mused.

Tri was often "glued to the screen" whenever he talked to Thuong. He would feel anxious when she didn’t response to his messages quickly enough. All these emotions overwhelmed the grown man and left him longing.

However, Tri wasn't Thuong's "type." She preferred older businessmen living in Vietnam. Only seeing him as a platonic friend, Thuong spoke with him about her dating life, about the pain of losing her father and she freely shared other intimate details of her life without concern. She even give Tri dating advice on how to flirt with other girls.

And it was in this carefreeness that love came to them naturally. Eventually, he told her that a day without receiving her messages felt like a whole year apart. He told her he felt a sense of familiarity when he looked at her photos, as if she were his "wife from a previous life."

Towards the end of the year, Tri sent Thuong flowers and a love-filled letter, concluding with the words "I love you."

While she was still feeling the surprise, she received a call from him, saying: "When I return to Vietnam, the first thing I want to do is marry you."

The revelation shook Thuong. Despite having several relationships, Tri was the only one who expressed a desire to marry her. From that point on, their love story began.

Tri soon discovered the challenges of long-distance love as COVID-19 prevented him from returning to Vietnam. Their only means of contact was through phone calls, leaving him unable to comfort his girlfriend in person during disagreements.

Tri and Thuongs beach wedding in Ninh Thuan Province. Photo courtesy of Tri and Thuong.

Tri and Thuong's beach wedding in Ninh Thuan Province. Photo courtesy of Tri and Thuong

During Tet 2022, Tri wished Thuong's mother a happy new year and pledged to return home to ask her for Thuong’s hand in marriage. Unfortunately, two weeks later, he received news of Thuong mother's passing.

Externally, Thuong put up a strong face to focus on caring for her family, but only with Tri did she feel safe enough to be vulnerable and show her frail human parts that were hurting and damaged by the loss. In response, Tri stopped his regular football outings with friends and started calling her immediately after work to provide emotional support.

The loss of both parents brought out Thuong's sense of recklessness. At times, she contemplated staying single forever to avoid the pain of separation. Immersing herself in work and travel, she sought to stay busy and distract herself.

Tri told her this wasn’t necessarily how to live life to the fullest, and he encouraged her to find healthier ways.

"Your parents are gone, but you still have me. I will give you a new family," Tri reassured her. Gradually, Thuong regained faith in life and began eagerly awaiting the day Tri would return to marry her.

In October 2022, Tri Nguyen anxiously prepared for his return to Vietnam. Nhat Thuong nervously anticipated meeting her lover. Upon seeing each other at the airport, they felt an instant familiarity.

The next morning, Tri took Thuong by the hand to fulfill his promise. They headed to the embassy to apply for a certificate of single status. With the paperwork in hand, they returned to their hometown to officially register their marriage.

Friends found the love story of Tri Nguyen and Nhat Thuong to be unbelievable but destined. During a gathering in Di Linh District, Tri surprised everyone by introducing himself as Thuong's husband.

Their wedding on a Ninh Thuan Province beach in June 2023 was marked by the groom describing their love as "challenging" but "sacred." Tri, who had moved to America in 2014 for studies and work, described his life as black and white, full of perseverance and endurance. In contrast, Thuong's life was colorful - she laughed when happy and cried when upset. Since they got together, she had brought positive energy to Tri's life, he said. It was a moving speech.

Tri confessed that every time he saw a shooting star, he secretly wished to meet the love of his life. Finally finding Thuong felt like a miracle, he said.

"Thuong has mended my broken heart."

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