May All Couples of the World Become Lovers in the End
I remember that year. I was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. On the first day of one course, every tiered seating in the vast lecture hall was filled. I was sitting near the left entrance and busily taking notes. Suddenly, the door of the right entrance was opened, and an Asian came in. Arrogantly, that person walked behind the professor from the right to the left side of the lecture hall, went up three steps, passed several classmates, and sat down. With a clean and square face, thick hair over ears, a white, yellow and brown shirt and white bell bottom trousers, I couldn't tell whether that was a male or a female.
When the bell rang for the end of class, TW, a classmate, caught up with me from behind and asked about the group project. Suddenly, the other person approached. It turned out that he was the older brother of TW's friend and was about to graduate with a master's degree. This is how I first met my husband James.
The group of four was established. We met for the first time in the I-House dormitory of James for discussion. Suddenly, a girl with long hair came to hug James, and my heart sank. Fortunately, she was his eldest sister. After our project and final exam were completed, James started dating me.
At that time, I had only been studying in the United States from Hong Kong for two years, and I lived with a Caucasian old lady for free room and board. James, on the other hand, immigrated from Taiwan with his parents when he was fifteen. He finished high school in San Francisco and graduated from Berkeley. He was very familiar with the language, environment, and culture. With him caring about me, respecting me, and listening to my broken English, I don't feel alone anymore. What's more, he called every day, drove me to school, took me to dinner after visiting tourist attractions in the Bay Area on the weekend. He loaned me his sisters' magazines and romantic novels. After dating for a month, I met his parents at a restaurant for the first time. I was so impressed seeing them walking hand in hand in their fifties!
Before finishing graduate school, James found a full-time job, and it seemed that our days together would be ending soon. One day, he said on the phone: "If everything turns out fine, I would like to marry you." I quickly replied, "But I don't know how to cook!" He immediately said, "No problem, we can eat out every day." In this way, after only three months of dating, we got married during my summer break. So the lovers of the world finally got married.
After the wedding, we moved into a small apartment near his work to have a little world of our own! I was not good at cooking, so I made American breakfast and sandwich lunch, and spent a few hours cooking my "specialized" Chinese dishes for dinner every day.
One night, I mustered up the courage to ask, "How do you like dinner?"
His silence surprised me. After a long while, he finally said, "Good, but can we have some variety?"
Not good enough? Didn't you say I didn't need to cook? My heart sank to the bottom, and tears flowed inside. No wonder my mother often said, "Marriage is the grave of love; and all men are unreliable."
Has he forgotten? I grew up in a "son patriarchal" environment. My grandmother was dissatisfied with my mother having two daughters in a row. Later, my father had an affair and gave birth to an illegitimate son and took a concubine. As her second daughter, I stood up for my mother by working hard to be strong, independent, unyielding, and relying on myself in everything, until I met him.
In March of the following year, I graduated from college and also became an engineer. We worked hard to make money and advance our careers, but our relationship was getting more and more distant.
A few years later, our son was born. James and I often disagreed about parenting our only son. I was well respected at work, but when I got home I felt useless. Every time I came home with my son after shopping for toys, the serious face of James seemed to accuse me of wasting money and spoiling his child. I couldn't wait for James to speak, so I preemptively said, "I earned the money, so I can spend it as I like!"
James usually remained calm. He avoided conflicts by fleeing the battlefield. The more silent he was, the louder my voice became. Such a vicious circle! In order to prove my worth, I became a "Silicon Valley workaholic." In the middle of the night, I felt hopeless that life was so meaningless. I have been married for thirteen years, and my son is almost six. Is there no other way but divorce?
Thank God that in my desperation, I met my Savior Jesus and became a Christian in 1989. God's unconditional love unraveled my "being bullied" knot, and healed my anxiety and fear. So I excitedly attended church meetings several times a week. A few months later, James had a serious showdown with me, "You say you are saved, and I can let it be. You used to run away to work, and now you run away to church, still ignoring me and our son. You used to be a workaholic, now you are a church-aholic!..."
It turned out that James was preparing to have a big fight. Unexpectedly, I didn't interrupt at all. After listening to him patiently, I said with tears in my eyes, "You're right. I didn't take your needs into consideration. I was so selfish. I made you angry and disappointed. I'm really sorry, please forgive me." Just like that, we started communicating again.
When I obeyed God, changed myself, and used empathy to understand, accept, and respect James, I realized that he had always loved me silently. To protect me from cults, he accompanied me to church; to find out what I believed, he read the Bible from cover to cover. He and our son soon became Christians, one after the other, showing me God's amazing work!
Not arming ourselves, not avoiding conflict, listening with empathy, sharing each other's observations, thoughts, feelings, needs, and wishes, have brought us closer and blessed our son. James supported me in giving up my leadership position at work in 1995 and becoming a full-time mother. A few months later, he encouraged me to attend seminary. I graduated in 1998 and became a marriage and family therapist in California in 2003. James suggested the name of "Parenting ABC" for the organization I founded!
God's love changes lives. In a blink of an eye, we have been married for decades. Our son has grown up, got married and is raising a family while serving the Lord. Who could have predicted that James and I would become pastor and pastor's wife? Along the way, there are high mountains and low valleys, but we are still connected heart-to-heart and walking hand-in-hand, which is entirely by the grace of God. Conflicts between husband and wife are inevitable. May all couples of the world become lovers in the end.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)
In recent weeks I have been suffering recurrent Sciatica and back pain. It got worse with muscle spasm in my ribcage. Thank God that I have found a good physical therapist and started slow recovery. Please pray for endurance, treatment and recovery. Thanks!
Happy Independence Day!
Winnis Chiang, founder of Parenting ABC and a retired LMFT, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American-born children.