My boyfriend and I started off as friends. We talked every night on FaceTime all throughout ninth grade, but it was purely platonic. In short, the start of our relationship went like this: I liked him, he liked someone else; then later he liked me, I didn't want to like him, and was talking to someone else who I didn't care about. By the end of July, we both admitted to liking each other and that's how that started.
However, I kept out two important details: I wasn't "allowed to date until marriage," according to my very traditional, very Filipino father, and his family didn't exactly like me.
We both decided to keep our relationship on the low, since I didn't want anyone to accidentally mention it to my family. It worked for the first few months, with only a few people catching on, but it just got difficult. We were miserable trying to keep our relationship a secret because you just want to show off that you're happy with someone, sometimes. I, for one, wanted to be that obnoxious girl in a happy relationship for once.
Other problems arose when I realized I had to meet his family, too. I was worried. I didn't know what they'd think of me. I wasn't sure if they were going to like me. Would they not approve of me because I'm not Chinese? Would they look down on me for growing up poor? Long story short, I met his parents at one of his basketball games and I had every reason to worry. My boyfriend emphasized multiple times that it wasn't my fault and it was just them being overly judgmental.
That summer was difficult. We fought for the first time, too. Because his family didn't completely approve of me, we weren't able to see each other as often as we'd like, which only made it harder. Plus, my family didn't know about us so I couldn't ask to hang out with him alone without them questioning it. I didn't have my family to turn to, since they had no idea about my relationship. I thought that for relationship problems and boy troubles, I could go to my mom for advice, but I couldn't have that. Instead, I had doubts wondering if the relationship would work out. I was stuck.
If it wasn't for each other's constant reassurance, we would've never made it this far. We realized early on how to deal with arguments and the importance of communication and maturity. Our arguments were never to attack the other person, it was always to understand our different views and feelings.
This was also the summer of our first anniversary, which we couldn't even celebrate together, sadly. So, you can imagine the arguments and the tears we went through.
This was the year when our differences really shined through. It was grueling to say the least. We fought a lot since the puppy-love stage vanished and the two of us made many mistakes. They weren't like "red-flag" mistakes that were worth breaking up over. They were mini ones like accidentally saying the wrong thing to the other person or not always being available for the other person.
The biggest underlying issue was, again, our unsupportive families. I wanted his parents to like me and he wanted my family to know. So, we made a plan to try and get my parents to approve of him. That wasn't easy because my parents were very busy people, especially my father who worked two jobs every day. When they finally met, my parents said I was too young, and I had to focus on my studies before I worried about boys. We didn't break up over that, we just had to continue to keep our relationship a secret.
We learned a very important lesson because of this. My studies weren't affected by me having a boyfriend, I was never distracted. I weighed my options: end a two-year relationship over the possibility that my studies would be affected, or keep my relationship a secret, continue to do well in school, and prove my family wrong. I, of course, chose the second one. We learned how to prioritize different parts of our lives and understand that we can't always be there for each other as much as we'd want to.
This was a year like no other: our senior year. We both wanted to move away for college and live our lives more independently. The problem was inevitable: long distance. He was focused on playing baseball in college and I was focused on finding the cheapest mainland college. That meant that finding a college that satisfied both of our needs was near impossible. By this time, our families were warming up to us and it got better. Sadly, we realized we'd soon be moving away from each other and we just got our families to approve of us.
Then, the pandemic hit. Which was yet another issue. In the first few months, we couldn't see each other, and it just felt like there was a countdown to the number of days we had left with each other before going off to college. Neither of us ended up leaving though, so we had nothing to worry about.
Our families are finally accepting of each other and we no longer need to hide. Yet, that doesn't mean I can tell my parents everything I need to tell them about our relationship. It's still difficult. If I were to tell my mom about a fight he and I had, she'd just say to break up with him if I'm not happy. I still couldn't be open about my relationship.
We just celebrated our third year together and are still adjusting to our families actually being supportive. It's just not something we thought would happen and neither of us knows how to feel. Obviously, as a couple, we're still growing, and our future is still uncertain. However, I learned a lot from this relationship, even if I had to keep it a secret for a long time. I learned how to handle difficult arguments, to understand our differences, the importance of priorities, and how to get over the fact that not everyone will accept us. And learning to accept these realities is what has kept our relationship so strong these past few years.
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