The best stories are always love stories. I want to begin my love story with a confession: I’m married to two people. Some people marry for riches, others for love. If you knew how poor I was, then you’ll sympathize with my decision to marry for wealth. I also married for love, but the story of Anne Marie will be the subject of another post. I will conclude, though, by answering the question that’s probably on your mind: How does one live a life married to two people?
Ironically, my poverty had four facets, like the four corners of a diamond.
First, I was economically poor. My parents were part of the Chinese diaspora that left Vietnam for the U.S. in the late ‘70s. My parents’ poor education left few job options in the U.S. My mother received only a 5th grade education while growing up in Vietnam. My father barely finished middle school. As a result, my mother worked in a sweatshop in the U.S., sewing clothes for just a nickel for every 100 pieces. My father was underpaid for fixing apartment units of rich Chinese real estate investors because he didn’t have a contractor’s license. They struggled for every penny.
Second, I was physically poor. My parents did not have the luxury to read parenting books. They modeled true self-sacrifice, a genuine self-giving love… but in an Asian way – which meant I grew up without any physical affection. No kisses, no hugs, no caresses. Nothing. The only time they touched me was when they spanked me. This poverty of physical affection left a huge wound in my soul. And I tried to heal this wound in all the wrong ways.
One way left me emotionally poor – the third facet of my poverty. I became romantically involved with my best friend. We were best friends for over nine years. After three more years, I realized that I loved her for all the wrong reasons. The break-up left me emotionally poor because I could no longer empathize with others. I couldn’t cry during sad movies and I felt nothing when I heard about other people’s tragedies.
Lastly, I was spiritually poor. I had no grand story. What was the meaning of life? Why am I here on earth? What’s my purpose for living? These were deep spiritual questions that I had no satisfying answers for.
Being poor in so many ways, it was only fitting that I joined in solidarity with the poor in Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer.
It was there, in Guatemala, where I met the two people whom I would both marry. It was 2005. I was just sworn in as a Peace Corps business volunteer in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. (The work experience in Guatemala eventually led me to this career in the Foreign Service.) At the time, I could not believe where I was and did not understand how all the events in my life led me to that moment. I felt overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude. Every good event in my life was an unmerited gift from Him; every bad event, He permitted for my own good. (Yes, a Man. Were you expecting something more scandalous?) He alone had the power to orchestrate all the events in my life. He was the one to whom I should give thanks. My eyes saw the wealth he had given me, the gifts he lavished me with over the years, trying to win back my heart ever since I turned away from Him as a child. The grand story that I was looking for was this: to be married for all eternity to the one man who was responsible for all that is good in this world. So, I left my mother and father and became one flesh with His one and only Bride, the Church, on Saturday, Easter Vigil, April 11, 2009.
How does one live a life married to two people? One word: gratefully. In five years, I went from being lost, to finding myself in the middle of a grand love story between God & humanity; from a crestfallen bachelor to a happily married man with two beautiful daughters; from an unemployed youth to a U.S. diplomat helping hundreds of American companies create more jobs in America. The small tin cup that I was banging on the roadside of life like a beggar is now overflowing with things more precious than gold. I cannot respond with anything else except with thanksgiving. In summary, I love the spouse that I can see in order to thank the spouse that I can’t see.
I invite you to take a look at your own love story. You may be surprised to find your one true love has been looking for you all along.