A couple I met in Fiji two years ago got married over the weekend. After a week of grey sky and falling rain, the clouds parted and the sun came out on the day of their wedding. I remember thinking – as I watched them exchange vows under the white gazebo in the St. Kilda Botanical Gardens on that sunny afternoon, the groom looking smart in his suit and the bride glowing in her beautiful long, white dress – that the Universe is indeed looking out for them. I remember thinking also that it’s nice to be part of their story, to be part of their journey towards happily ever after.
That night, after a day of celebration, I left the festivities with a belly full of food and a heart filled with contentment, and hopped into a cab on Collins St to go home. As I nursed my aching feet, the cab driver asked me, “Finished for the night?”
“Yes,” I replied, looking at my watch. It was ten minutes to eleven. “I’ve been partying since 1 p.m. today!” I laughed. He laughed as well.
I told him I had been at a wedding and he asked which side of the family I knew – the bride or the groom.
“I know them both,” I said. “We met when we were in Fiji a couple of years ago.” The conversation halted there and we both sat in silence as he made a right turn down King St.
“Are you married?” he asked me. I told him I wasn’t.
“Can I ask you something?” he asked after moments of silence.
“Sure,” I replied.
“How long do you think a couple should know each other before they get married?” he asked.
I thought for a moment, and said, “To be honest, I don’t really know. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules for that.” I then went on to tell him about friends I’ve known who have met their spouses, gotten engaged and then married all within a year, and then there were others, high school sweet hearts who have been together for ten years or more before they tied the knot.
“I think people get married sooner when they get older,” he had said. He told me that he was single, and available – all that with a shrug of indifference.
“How do you know if it’s the right one?” he had asked me later.
“I don’t,” I replied. “I’ve always wondered that myself.” We exchanged theories as the cab moved steadily down the road, heading in the direction of my home. I told him I had asked several of my married friends the same question, and the answers inadvertently always comes back to, “I just know.” He found that difficult to accept. I don’t blame him, I did too.
Our conversation came to an end as the cab drove up to the front gate of my apartment building. I paid him and bade him goodnight. Just as I was getting out of the cab, he said to me, “I don’t think I’ll ever know.”
“I think you will,” I assured him as I closed the door behind me. He laughed and drove off.
That night, I was up late sitting in front of my computer chatting with some friends over the internet. We talked about my article on Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior and compared notes on how that showed up in each of our upbringing, how our parents were strict on academic achievements, and how they never allowed us to have boyfriends when we were in school.
I often wondered, when I was in my twenties, if my life would have turned out differently if that was the only thing that my parents did allow - having a boyfriend. I went through all my schooling years, believing my parents were right when they said that boys were no good because they would distract me from my studies, and I would fail miserably and do poorly in life. I opted to go to an all-girl high school, studied very hard, worked diligently on my extracurricular activities, and – apart from a crush on Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street – did not allow myself the luxury of the thought of ever having a boyfriend.
When I was younger, I had a very poor image of myself. I was overweight and not particularly bright. I used to believe that no one would ever love me and want to marry me, so I decided early on in life, that maybe not everyone gets their happily ever after, that I have to be strong and independent because there would be no one else that I could depend on when I grow up.
Sometime between leaving high school and moving overseas, something within me changed. I found that there was a yearning in me to find my prince charming, to find my soul mate, the elusive The One. By then, I was light years behind my peers, having never even been on a date until I was in my twenties. I knew nothing about dating, about relationships, or about love. But I never felt that I was at a loss, instead I thought that time was on my side, that I was still young and have the luxury of learning through experience. What I didn’t realize was that experience came at a cost, and that I was emotionally ill-equipped to be in a relationship and to face what happens when it doesn’t work out. It was a hard lesson to learn, one that costs me many sleepless nights, a lot of tears, a million pieces of my broken heart and years more spent growing a new one.
When I was 25, I met the man I thought was to be my The One. He was older, handsome, charming and had a way with words. We shared many things in common and for the first time in my life, I felt an instant connection, a chemistry that drew me to him. He was also newly divorced, with two young children in his stride, lonely and confused, trying to make sense of the old world that had fallen apart, and the new one that he has yet to get used to. He was, at the time, in a place where he was looking for anything but a committed relationship. But Hollywood screwed me up and put the idea in my head that I was the woman who would change all that for him, that he would fall madly in love with me, and would go to the ends of the earth for me.
I was wrong.
We had a big argument one day and he left. When he never came back, the entire world collapsed around me. Just like that, he disappeared off the face of the earth, never to be seen or heard from again. I spent many months trying to make sense of everything that has happened, watching how my world crumbled before my very eyes. For a long time, I was buried deep within its rubble, not being able to see daylight, not knowing if I would ever survive and make it out alive, not knowing if I wanted to survive and make it out alive. When I was not at work, pretending that life was fine, I spent most of my days lying in bed, crying and wondering what I had done wrong, if I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough or good enough for him. I kept thinking that I shouldn’t have had that argument with him, that I would do anything to go back to that moment and stop it from ever happening if I had known that was how it would end. But the thing about regret is this – it is only good for making you hopelessly helpless, nothing else.
All through those months, I had trouble sleeping at night. Every night, I lay awake in the dark, tears staining my pillow case as I wondered why it was that - if he was the right one for me and I the right one for him - we weren’t together. I wondered why God would do such a thing – give me someone so right, and then take him away so quickly and so ruthlessly. I had wondered if he meant every word he said when he told me that he loved me. Maybe he did. Just not enough to make it work - was the thought that kept running through my mind. I had many questions to which I had no answers, and not knowing the answers was slowly killing me.
I realized then that my entire happiness had depended upon him, that I had entered into a relationship expecting him to fill the void that was in my life. So when he left, he took everything with him – my entire happiness, my significance and everything that he used to fill the void inside me. All I was left with were the broken pieces of my heart, a shattered confidence and a truck-full of niggling doubts about my own inadequacies, playing on repeat like a broken record.
In the end, I did make it out of the rubble. But the experience also left a scar on my psyche. I was afraid to fall in love again.
Years later, when I look back at that period of my life, I couldn’t help but be grateful that he left the way he did. That period of my life was a time filled with a lot of pain, but that pain was the mirror that lent itself for my reflection. Through that experience, I realized that I had to be responsible for my own happiness, and that happiness must come from within me so that wherever I am, whether I’m by myself or with someone, nothing and no one can ever take it away from me. I also realized that I was the only example the world has, on how best to love me, and that it was up to me to show others how to treat me by treating myself better. But most of all, I learned that there was only so much I could do to engineer fate, that in the end, the Universe always gets its way. And its way is always in my best interest, even if I don’t see it at the time. As my friend, Haani, wisely puts it – It’s the higher power doing the filtering for me.
I won’t say that I have no reservations when it comes to meeting The One. I have been wrong in the past, so I’m probably the least qualified person to tell someone that they will know when it’s the right one. But I believe that – with a bit of faith and a lot of trust – if I grow to be the person that I want to attract, if I first take care of myself so that I am whole and complete, the Universe will take care of the rest. I also believe that every failed relationship is a mirror from which I learn and discover more about myself, about what is important to me, and about the qualities I look for in a partner so that I am better prepared for the next one, for when the right one comes along, and also to know when someone is not right for me.
Next time, if someone asks me, “How do you know if it’s the right one?” Maybe I would say, “You don’t. But perhaps your soul would, because true love is the soul’s recognition of its counterpoint in another.”
To True Love,
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi
P.S If you are unfamiliar with the quote "True love is the soul's recognition of its counterpoint in another", it came from the movie Wedding Crashers.
P.P.S I’m in the process of preparing something special for members of The Dirty 30s Club for Valentine’s Day, so if you are not yet a member, you might want to be one now. Go HERE to join. I’ll see you soon!
This article originally appeared on www.thedirty30sclub.com.