It was hardly love at first
It was hardly love at first sight
It was an arranged marriage – there was no other way of explaining it. I was 19 at the time and my parents’ intentions were clear: they wanted someone who was decent and responsible for me, so they spoke with my family from their home country overseas to find that person. It was 1994, a time when this tradition was rather outdated. I was born and raised in Canada; a country far more progressive in comparison to where my parents came from so naturally, I wasn’t pleased that we were going down this path.
We never know how destiny will be shaped or what fate has in store for us. As a young girl, I always hoped that there was someone out there, meant to be with me, who would appreciate and respect me. When I realized what my parents had planned, I doubted this was destiny’s way of weaving its threads and revealing to me who I was meant to marry.
I had always listened to my parents, no matter what – even if I didn’t agree with them. I was disappointed and frustrated about the situation, but I didn’t say a word.
My family found someone overseas. Coincidentally, our families were connected (but not related). My dad knew his dad along with his family from a long time ago and I recall my dad saying they were highly regarded and admired. And so, we made plans to travel overseas to meet this guy in the summer.
Three days after our arrival, we met this gentleman and his parents at my cousin’s house – neutral territory so to speak. I remember my mom telling me that he was 22, and that he was running a small business.
I was bursting with tension, and my heartbeat wildly as I walked into my cousin’s home. I went into the living room and greeted a tall, attractive man with brown hair, brown eyes and a friendly smile. I noticed he was wearing dark green dress pants, and a short-sleeved blue shirt as I sat opposite of him. I behaved as though everything was normal, not once giving away the fact that if our parents had their way, we would be husband and wife – and that terrified me.
Our parents chatted in an easy going and friendly manner. Given that our fathers knew each other, there was no need for awkward small talk. My “future husband’ added to the conversation and made a couple of jokes, and moments later the room was filled with laughter. I watched silently, not participating in the dialogue because I wasn’t comfortable communicating in my mother tongue. I avoided making eye contact with him, but it was hard not to notice him. He sat casually in his seat with his hands folded across his lap, glancing shyly in my direction a couple of times.
When we finally had a chance to talk in the next room, I noticed he was composed and relaxed, with a warm smile, whereas I was the complete opposite – my hands were shaking, and my palms were sweaty. Simply put, I had never been so nervous in my life. I remember thinking that I needed my mom there - she always had this ability to calm me down whenever I was nervous and sure enough, she appeared as if she had read my mind. She then told him our “conditions”; first, in the fall I was attending university for a 4-year program and would receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. Second, he had to move to Canada – under no circumstances was I to move overseas, no matter how successful his small business was.
He nodded in agreement and without hesitation, agreeing to both conditions and making it clear that he wanted what was best for me.
While he said the right things, I remained uneasy. I grew up speaking English, so there were times when I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
Then my mom left, and we talked for a few minutes alone. I asked how old he was, and he told me was 25.
I immediately froze; my mom initially told me he was 22. My 19-year-old, juvenile brain was telling me that I shouldn’t be with him, even though he had done nothing wrong, had said nothing to offend me. So, I refused, and I was thankful that my parents didn’t push me – it was hardly love at first sight.
I thought of him throughout the duration of my trip. I wondered if I had made the right decision; he seemed genuine, but I couldn’t shake the hesitation and anxiety that overwhelmed me.
Many weeks later after we had returned to Canada, I had a conversation with my mom about him. I always had an implicit understanding that my mom would spare no effort to make certain I was happy. Speaking with her, I realized how confident she was with him, and she genuinely believed he was right for me. I trusted my mom, so I decided to give him another chance.
We began talking several times a week on the phone and in the following spring, I went overseas again. I was irritated that I continued to feel nervous around him; only this time I noticed he felt the same way. We went to several different places together, but I was still holding back - almost like I had put up these walls between us and I couldn’t figure out why. I believed he was too good to be true and I was afraid we weren’t clicking.
One day, the walls came down. He reached out to me in a moment when I was sad. We went out for a walk, and he quietly reached out for my hand. I was pleased but somewhat startled that it felt right. He spoke softly and told me not to worry and unexpectedly, I felt better. In that instant, my instincts were telling me he was right for me – he cared for me, I could see it all over his face.
The more I got to know him, the more I appreciated and respected him. He was thoughtful and kind, and always had a way of looking at the positive side of things. He was dedicated to his family and had a wonderful sense of humor.
And he loved me, I was sure about that.
There are no regrets. Nearly 28 years later we are together with two kids (22 years old and 17 years old). We’ve had many differences and we’ve made compromises for each other. Relationships are never simple; they take time and a lot of hard work.
But I still see him the way I saw him all those years ago – a devoted man who would do anything for those he loves, especially me.
Eventually I realized that it didn’t matter that it wasn’t love at first sight – because I gradually fell in love with him after our first meeting. I discovered that fate has a funny way of weaving its threads, showing us that everything happens for a reason - even if we don’t understand it at the time.
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