I met my husband in a website where foreigners are looking for Filipina brides. There I said it! I would often see eyebrows raised when I share our love story in the past but I am glad that the tide has changed and instead of getting knowing looks, I am now inspiring other women in my circle to believe that love is out there, if not around the corner then might be across the oceans.
I’ve had my profile in that site since 2004 and I have met and talked to quite a few – mostly from the United States, one from Belgium, another one from Canada, and the last match I talked to in 2011 was from Denmark. Yes, I can say that after being in the site for more than 5 years, I’ve gotten pretty good at weeding the undesirables and those who aren’t one bit serious at all as well as the “catfishes”. My “Great Dane” was the last because after a little over a year of knowing each other we decided to take the leap of faith and get married. On the 24th day of October this year, it’ll be our 4th anniversary.
Our story was a cookie-cutter example of 1 plus 1 equals 2. I was in the dating site to look for my future husband and he was there to look for his future wife. I must admit though that if our relationship did not work, I was ready to raise my arms up and say goodbye to dating altogether. It’s not true that online dating is easier than the real world scenario. In fact, it is a little bit harder because apart from the risks involved, it took a lot of work to communicate with someone on a different time zone. It took a great deal of adjustment and it ate a good chunk of our time. To cut the long story short, my online match booked his plane ticket from CPH to MNL after only two weeks of talking to each other and I brought a friend with me on our first date. I’m glad he was okay with it and we’ve been together ever since. It wasn’t all bells and whistles, it wasn’t even love at first sight but because we both had good intentions, we just hit it off.
We knew that as soon as we decided to get married, our lives will never be the same again. Our lives just became more interesting, more challenging, more fulfilling. But there’s a twist! My husband works as a seafarer and I had a corporate job in the Philippines. Who’s going to move to another country? Who’s going to sacrifice more? Who’s going to give up his/her career? See, marriage is no joke and really and truly life-changing. Neither my husband nor I gave up our careers. My husband decided that since he is not always home in Denmark and that he would be sailing for 2-3 months at once, the best decision was for us to build our family in the Philippines and travel as often as our finances permit to Denmark. In retrospect, I think we made the right decision.
Four years into our marriage and we both still feel like we just got married yesterday. We even have an insider joke that we will forever be on a honeymoon stage until he retires from his job. It might be an exaggeration but it’s the best way to describe how wonderful it is to be married to that one true love that I waited for 29 years. Today, I am going to share the things that I’ve learned from my Danish husband.
1. Long distance relationship works.
Yes, it does and distance is what keeps our love burning. We always look forward to seeing each other again and we use the time apart to enrich ourselves by pursuing our individual interests which in turn makes us feel more complete. Being away from each other also sharpens our communication skills because we aim to communicate effectively from afar to avoid any petty misunderstanding. Distance allows us to appreciate each other more. We also do not fret over small things, small bumps along the road, and small hiccups we encounter because our situation has taught us to look at the bigger picture more often than not. Oh and yes, I don’t feel guilty being alone when we are apart when my husband is hard at work in a tanker ship’s deck because I get to appreciate the value of the time we spend together more. I remember watching Sex and The City about how guilty Carrie felt when she asked for two days from Mr. Big so she can write her article for Vogue Magazine but later realized that the time they spent apart allowed her to think and be more productive and seeing her husband again made her love him that much more.
2. Appreciate the Danish cuisine.
My husband loves his smørrebrød (open-faced sandwich made with rye bread and different toppings) just as much as I love my adobo (pork or chicken cooked with soy sauce and vinegar) and sinigang (seafood or pork cooked in tamarind-based soup with vegetables). And of course, he loves potatoes and I am having a hard time breaking up with rice. But I always remind myself that I specifically included to learn how to cook Danish food in my wedding vows so I have to love the food he grew up loving because it is the only way for me to be able to cook authentic Danish food. The Danes have so much pride in their cuisine and so I beam with so much joy when my husband appreciates the food I serve him. After all, the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I believe that with conviction!
3. No mobile phones at the dining table.
My husband sent me an e-mail telling me that he would want us to do away with our phones on the dining table when eating. He wants us to enjoy our food and be able to talk and be physically and mentally available. He wants us to be able to connect and he wants us to show our little daughter appropriate table manners. I find it endearing that he had to tell it to me via e-mail. He actually did it because he thought about it while he was in his ship cabin and didn’t want to forget about it.
4. Explore the world through travel.
Travel expenses take a huge chunk of our budget. We see to it that we travel to Denmark and other neighbouring countries at least once a year. Traveling allowed me to immerse myself deeper in the European culture. See travel is an important part of a Danish family and so we do it. When our daughter is a little bit older and we’re done building our house, we plan to do a bit more traveling so we could collect more memories and not material things.
5. Collect memories, not material things.
Yes, you probably saw this coming after reading about why we make it a point to travel. When we travel, we enjoy long walks and talks, as well as getting in touch with history and indulging our interests. Shopping is not on top of our list so to speak. My husband has instilled in me that you feel a different level of happiness when you gain intangible things through the pursuit of gathering memories and not after buying new shoes for that matter. Ever wonder why Denmark has always been the country of the happiest people on Earth? Now, you know why.
6. Affection can take many forms.
My husband is not the most expressive man on Earth and in fact he does not say “I love you” every day. However, he finds different ways to show me how much he loves me. Knowing that made me appreciate even the littlest things he does for me. Voluntary back or foot rubs, words of encouragement, letting me decide what clothes he should wear sometimes, doing the dishes among other things are a few of his languages of love. There is no mold for the perfect love therefore it is important for us to learn how to show our affection early in the relationship and in turn appreciate our spouse’s languages of love.
7. Be emotionally and physically available for your spouse.
In marriage, it is easy to get lost into the swing of things so much so that at some point we neglect to provide the intimate needs of our spouse. My husband has thought me the value of always making yourself available to satisfy this need. That does not mean that you have to do it for hours on end but sometimes a kiss or hug is all that matters. Being emotionally and physically available makes your partner feel more special and appreciated. Of course, there will be times when you just don’t feel like doing it and when that time happens do not just simply shrug it off or shoo your partner away. Find a way to communicate so you don’t directly hurt each other’s feelings.
8. Respect each other’s privacy.
I am puzzled why some wives insist on knowing their husband’s Facebook password or demands access to their husband’s email account. I don’t! It’s not because my husband doesn’t want me to check on him but because my husband did not and does not give me any reason to doubt him. My husband has taught me to feel 101% secure in our relationship through his actions. Through him, I learned that love is respect and respect is love. Privacy is very important in marriage but secrecy is not so learn to distinguish between the terms and you’ll be set.
9. Appreciate what is there and don’t worry about what is not.
I learned through time to never ever compare your relationship to another couple’s relationship because what works for them may not necessarily work for you and I apply that to my marriage. I put more focus on the things that we agree upon and I do not dwell on trivial things. My husband has taught me to love him for who he is because he loves me for who I am. We don’t keep a scorecard of what we do for our spouse in the same way that we don’t keep a tally of each other’s faults and shortcomings. We feel that if we appreciate what we have, we would be in a happier marriage. In that way, we get more out of our relationship.
“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” – Dave Meurer
10. Happiness is a choice.
I know I need not marry to know this but my husband has reinforced this in our marriage. Sulking and being bitter about anything will not do you any good. He may not know this yet but he made me realize that I don’t own all the problems in the world thus I deserve to be truly happy and in order to be happy I have to choose the positive instead of the negative all the time.
Being married to my Danish husband also helped me discover that I am capable of giving and receiving a selfless kind of love. A love that doesn’t make me lose sleep because of worry but rather a love that continue to nourish me to look forward to each tomorrow and just as we vowed to each on our wedding day – all our tomorrows will be for each other. And to that I say skål (cheers) to happy ever after.
Note: I am not a relationship expert at all. I’m also not saying that you have to marry a Dane to be truly happy or to find bliss in your marriage. Maybe I’m just lucky that I found “The One” and couldn’t be any happier that “The One That Got Away” got away. What I am saying is, relationships should always be a two-way street, full of giving more than taking and yes, long distance relationship can work if you make it work.
About the Writer
KESSA THEA NIELSEN
Kessa has retired from the corporate world and is now a full-time, stay-at-home mom who dabbles in blogging, graphic design and daydreaming about her next travel destination. Kessa grew up in the southern part of the Philippines and moved to the country’s central business district after finishing her degree in Accounting. She loves to cook and bake and watching Masterchef is her guilty pleasure. She’s married to a Danish national and is a doting mom to her daughter who’s a bundle of energy. She loves hiking in forests, supermarket shopping, mixing spices, kneading dough and collecting beautiful stationery and porcelain.