On love, commitment, and marriage
Two years ago, I was on a dating rampage. As my roommate at the time would testify, I was going on 3–4 dates a week, scotch-hopping all over the city, often with different guys each time.
Suffice it to say, I wasn’t looking for much stability or commitment in life. The only kind of connection I wanted was the transient, fleeting kind.
The best part about it was that, unlike many of my single friends, I never felt lonely without long-stead companionship; I never felt wanting for that intimacy or stability. As far as I was concerned, I was made for this life.
I didn’t exactly covet the life of coupledom. I didn’t want to spend my evenings cuddling up on the couch and rewatching old movies. I didn’t want to have the same mundane conversations every evening about “how work was that day.” I didn’t want to retreat into an insular, silo-ed life with my S/O, where old friends are long forgotten relics.
Not for me. Hard pass.
And then, I went down to California for 3 weeks and met Sam. I didn’t really know what to make of Sam initially. He was best friends with my best friend, and by pure virtue of that, we hung out a lot together. Out of mostly boredom, I spent those 3 weeks flirting shamelessly with him. From what I could remember, I was pretty aggressive, and surprisingly, he wasn’t (too) turned off by my overly-forward, obnoxious nature. Somewhere in the midst of that, we actually took a real liking to each other.
The next bit was a blur. I came back to Toronto after that Cali trip. Sam came up to visit me in Toronto a few times. I went down to LA a few times. We talked about trying for a relationship, I repeatedly veto-ed it. Eventually, I begrudgingly agreed to give this long distance thing a try, and so ensued a year of endless back and forths between LA and Toronto.
In that first year, I finally experienced loneliness. Sam and I were slowly developing the emotional intimacy of a typical relationship, but our day-to-days weren’t typical of a relationship. The days, weeks, and months went by, but we were never physically there to share in each others’ lives. I felt like I could only look into Sam’s life from outside a glass box, and him mine. That really hurt.
Then, within one year, Sam, in all his bravado, decided to pack his bags and move up to Toronto. He said it was because he wanted a change of scenery, but of course, it was for us.
And that’s when it became real for me — I had officially traded the single life for the committed one.
I became anxious. It wasn’t too long ago that I was living young, wild and free, and there was no going back as soon as Sam moved up here. I knew the intent was forever. I poured all my anxiety and doubt onto him, but despite that, Sam forged on without a second thought.
And so, we embarked on the second chapter of our story. Here in Toronto, we started building our lives together, and it was nothing like I imagined. Before long, all my anxieties washed away. I was sharing my favourite parts of the city with him, my closest friends were growing to become his closest friends, and my parents were getting to know him and welcoming him into their household.
Our days were spent walking and exploring neighbourhoods downtown, conversations for hours. Our evenings were spent eating and drinking our way through the city, and hitting up the same club Friday after Friday with friends. Our summer weekends were spent jetsetting to Chicago, Boston, New York, Montreal, and wherever else we could get from Toronto within a 90 minute flight.
In our first year living together, we grew to learn the kind of things about each other that we couldn’t have learned without spending every day together. He learned that I hate having the TV on when we eat. I learned that he needs at least an hour of rolling around in bed to really wake up in the morning. He learned that I don’t consider it a real meal without vegetables, and I learned that he doesn’t consider it a real meal without meat. We both learned that we can’t ever effectively work from home together.
As it turns out, even though Sam and I may be compatible in many ways, like all couples, we weren’t perfect for each other. In our past year of living together, we slowly started to weed out our fair share of differences in habits, opinions, lifestyles, and even values.
But we grounded ourselves in working though those differences, chipping away at them, day after day, growing and learning to be better for each other.
Sam’s grown to understand when and why I get heated in the midst of our discussions, and how to contain my fire. I’ve grown to understand how to actively support him in his career, and treat his success as seriously as my own. He’s grown to accommodate my need for existential and philosophical talks by becoming quite the formidable conversation partner. And in turn, I’ve grown to accommodate his need to turn down and chill out by spending evenings just sitting on the couch and catching the game (yes, my biggest fear in life… becoming a homebody.)
Through all this, something beautiful started to happen.
We became not only better for each other, but better as individuals. The work we put into building our relationship gave us the opportunity to constantly practice selflessness, honesty, self-awareness, and empathy. We learned to hold each other and ourselves accountable, to never take the easy way out, and to live by the standard that we aspired to. The time and effort we invested in each other became the fodder for our growing love for and commitment to each other.
Fast-forward through all of this… my life now is nothing like the life I had two years ago. But when I look at what I’ve been blessed with in this life, I can’t imagine ever going back.
The way I see it, life is all about tradeoffs.
I’ve traded breadth of experience for depth of experience. I’ve traded a lifestyle that was filled with fleeting and temporal experiences for one that’s consistent and long-lasting. I’ve traded a life where I can pick and choose which parts of me to show others, to one where I am completely naked and vulnerable and still accepted for all of who I am.
On June 12th, Sam and I officiated our union in front of 60 of our closest family and friends and took the biggest and final step in our commitment to each other. And with 99% excitement, 1% trepidation, I turn the page to this chapter of my life.
Oh, and married life isn’t what I feared it would be. Sam and I are still hitting up the town, spending time on our personal projects, and sharing the best parts of life with our friends and family. I still wake up every day feeling excitement and passion for life, only with someone that I can come home to and share it with at the end of the night.
There are babies that need making and mortgages that need paying, but that will all come with time. For now, I’ve found happiness and joy here— building a life together with my better half.
For more of my thoughts, here’s some of my other stuff on Medium:
Having left China when I was too young to remember any of it, I never identified with being culturally Chinese for most…medium.com