2 Things I Learned About Love after 2 Years of Loving Across Countries and Continents
In August 2012, Rapha and I, a Brazilian and a Vietnamese, met for the first time in Moscow – somewhere in the middle. After that, he went to Beijing, and I returned to Ho Chi Minh City.
In Taiwan, December 2012, we met again for a week at another AIESEC conference. There, in the midst of all fears and uncertainties, we chose love.
In February 2013, he somehow got the money to come to Vietnam to visit me for few days. Then in June 2013, I came to Beijing to see him before flying to The Netherlands to work at AIESEC’s headquarter.
In October 2013, he got a job at DHL in Germany. We were again in the same continent. We took 4-and-a-half-hour trip in which we changed train at least 3 times - either I to Bonn or he to Rotterdam, every other weekend. It was the first time that we met once or twice a month. And we were very happy.
On 11 August 2014, I came back to Vietnam. Rapha is still working in Germany. This story is published on 11 Dec 2014 – exactly 4 months since the day we kissed each other goodbye and whispered “We will be fine,” at Frankfurt International Airport.
It’s funny how I have lived through an experience without noticing its wonders. And one day without warning, it dawns on me with all of its joy and poignancy. 5 Dec 2012 - 5 Dec 2014, 2 years of loving across continents, countries, nationalities, religions, loving despite fears, uncertainties, distance, differences, and everything else that could have broken us apart.
Though I’ve not written much about romantic love, I believe this is a splendid subject to discuss and understand, especially when we are young.
Life without love is a terrifying place, and love expands beyond romantic bond. However, there is much to learn in this specific form of love – the love between two lovers. I wrote down my learnings in the past 2 years in the hope that, whether you are in a relationship or not, they invite you to reflect on your own journey, and maybe, help you to love again.
“Enough” here means a high sense of worth, self compassion and emotional stability. This is so important, please follow carefully.
Romantic movies often use the word “incomplete” to describe someone who seeks his true love. We watch too much movie and walk into a relationship with a poverty mentality that we are “not enough”, not yet. We hope that “the-other-half” will make us feel “complete”. At the beginning of the relationship, we think we succeed. Like the final scene of a Disney movie, we feel so happy. By the end of the honey-moon period when adrenaline in our brain have lessened, we are desperate again. Like a quivering mess of insecurity, we cling onto our lover, and soon our world revolves around him or her. But we never feel enough, so we cling onto a little more. We form an invisible chain between our neck and his. That’s how the relationship becomes a parasite, sucking away the energy and dream of its hosts. Love becomes a cage, where two birds imprison each other, and perish. I can write this down because I was in such romance. Maybe you were too, or you are.
There is no 0.5 + 0.5 = 1 in romantic love. If you and your lovers are 0.5 when the relationship begins it will be 0.5 + 0.5 = 0. I see my relationship as teamwork when 1 + 1 = 3 – we are two 1s, complete and enough without the relationship. But when we are together, there is a chemistry that sparks something magical, something greater than us. I do what I love and enjoy my life, while I give space for Rapha to do what he love and enjoy his life. We are two birds flying free together.
Those are the words of Stephen Covey and one of the biggest things I learned from him. We thought love is an emotional state that we “fall in.” Maybe it is, for the first few months. But when the dreamy effects wear off, we are faced with our lover’ flaws, things we disagree with or dislike. We want the person to change. If not, he doesn’t love us enough. We don’t know that forcing our lover to change means that we’re ignorant of love.
In the past, sometimes I was irritated by very small things Rapha did, with reasons I didn’t even know. I wanted him to change this and that. I looked at all the things that he did wrong according to my taste, and ignored all of his many sweet, wonderful acts. One day I choose to look at him through different eyes, with compassion and tenderness. Slowly, my love overflows and embraces all his little flaws, clumsiness, silliness. “There is only love,” in the words of the happiness author Gretchen Rubin.
Be careful not to confuse this with surrendering to our lover’s bad characters. In this situation, to love means to confront him – patiently, tenderly, compassionately – to help him realize his lack of awareness.
To love someone also means to support that person to reach his dream. Life Written and what you are reading now wouldn’t have existed without the bond between Rapha and I, and the unbounded love in him. He encouraged me to apply for AIESEC International. He used to laugh and say “I have a writer girl friend,” even when I hadn’t written anything. He bought this blog’s domain. He spent the entire evening with me to brainstorm dozens of possible names for my blog. He asked: “Mili, what are you waiting for?” And he gave me a push to begin: “Mili, I think you don’t need to read more books on writing.” He is my first reader, first fan, first critic, first everything. He kissed me goodbye 4 months ago as I set off on a new adventure in search for passion.
This takes courage because we fear uncertainty. What if he doesn’t come back? What if it’s gonna hurt? Whenever these questions emerge, I remind myself of what I learned from The Fault in Our Stars, that to love means to be able to choose who can hurt us. My choice is Rapha, always.
I sometimes think of the love between us in the lyrics and melody of a song by Glen Hansard:
If we're gonna make it 'Cross this river alive We need to think like a boat And go with the tide
And I know where you've been It's really left you in doubt Of ever finding a harbor Of figuring this out
And you're gonna need All the help you can get So lift up your arms now And reach for it And reach for it
And take your time babe It's not as bad as it seems, you'll be fine babe It's just some rivers and streams in between You and where you want to be
And watch the signs now You'll know what they mean, you'll be fine now Just stay close to me and make good hope Walk with you through everything
Walk with you through everything