I grew up in a small family in a beautiful country called Vietnam. My Dad was a lieutenant in the army; he fought in and survived the Vietnam War. My Mum on the other hand had a business of her own. All I could remember from my family was the fact that Mum and Dad loved each other very much and we had a family that everyone envied.
A few years went by, my parents struggled financially and they let the financial pressure get to them and affect the relationship that they had. They spent less time at home with each other and more time rushing around and getting caught up in making a living. The environment at home was gradually filled with lots of frustration, arguments and bickering.
The financial stress had made my father change in a way that I could never have imagined. He became a strict, cold and controlling father figure that I was too scared to come close to. One day, Dad came home, drunk and annoyed; he yelled at Mum and me for silly things. Before I knew it, I heard a big noise, which was the sound of my Dad’s big hand slapping my face. I was on the floor, terrified, and I cried as if the sky just fell down. I ran back to my room in tears and swore that I would never be with a man who was angry, aggressive, controlling, stubborn and violent, like my Dad.
The relationship I had with my father went down hill from that moment on. I developed this “love / hate” relationship with my father where I hated him for what he did but secretly hoped that somehow he would change and come back to the man I loved and adored, just like before. I grew up craving a lot of love and attention from my father, yet I swore to find a man that was the complete opposite of him.
At the age of 14 years, I was ‘sent’ to Australia to study as an international student. Not knowing any English and without any family or relatives, my first few months in Australia felt like hell. At 14 years of age, I went through a period of depression, feeling abandoned by my own family. So I had to do what I had to do – I learnt how to survive. I started to learn how to take care of myself at such an early age, with a completely new language and culture. Things weren’t very easy in the early days, I couldn’t fit in and was bullied by some kids at school because I couldn’t speak English. Life was like hell at 14! At the time, I would have traded everything just so I could have that close connection with my family. Even though I lived in a big country with lots of people, I never felt so alone.
One day, I met a boy named Andy. He was a few years older and he was also sent here by his family at an early age just like me. I felt like I finally found someone who could understand what it felt like to be in a foreign country. We connected at the emotional level that no one could understand. Not long after that, we started going out. Our relationship was going well and everything seemed so perfect.
After the first year and a half of our relationship, the man I thought was the love of my life turned out to be the complete opposite. He became cold, controlling, aggressive, and abusive. Before I realised it, he turned out to be everything that my dad was! I didn’t understand why this happened. I was so focused on finding a man who was the total opposite to my father that somehow, unconsciously I attracted the same one! I spent the next four and a half years in that relationship getting beaten up and verbally abused. Throughout those years, I wanted to leave, but the fear of facing the world alone seemed too much to bare at the time. So I stayed with the hope that somehow things would change. But nothing ever did, it only got worse.
One day I looked into the mirror and realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. At 21 years of age, I looked as if the joy of life was sucked out of me and I was left with nothing but sadness and depression. Then a little voice came to my head – “If I were to die tomorrow, would anyone remember? Would anyone care?  If I continued to live this way, would life have any meaning?” In that moment, I felt like I never existed. I felt like I never mattered. Out of nowhere, tears came down on my cheek and there was a bunch of mixed feelings; first came sadness and the feeling of being defeated, then there was anger and frustration. Amongst all those feelings, there was hope. It was a little hope that tomorrow could be different, that life could be worth living, that one day I could find happiness and love. Right then and there, I made a decision to leave. I packed what’s left from the relationship, together with all the emotional baggage and walked out of the door.
After leaving that relationship, I made a decision that changed my life forever – I made a decision that I would never again settle for a relationship that was less than what I deserved. So there I was, searching for love and happiness. I started to get very interested in the space of personal development. I spent lots of time reading, listening to audio books and attending many personal development seminars. I realized that everything I was looking for outside was just a reflection of what I was missing inside. I realized that in order for me to find love and happiness, it had to start from within. I started focusing on building a strong relationship with myself – starting from letting go of my emotional baggage, loving and accepting myself fully and unconditionally and embracing vulnerability and change. As I started to grow and change myself, I noticed that everything else also started to change around me. The relationships I had with others also organically changed in a positive direction. I no longer felt the need to seek validation and acceptance for my own existence. I realized the power had always been within me.
Not long after that I met an amazing man in my life, whom is now my current partner – Rod. We started as friends with many things in common, from our interests and hobbies to our values, perspective and life vision. All I knew was that the relationship I had with Rod was completely different from my past relationship. I wasn’t looking for love or happiness but to share love and happiness. I wasn’t looking for acceptance or belonging but to share my own magnificence with another human being. As I focused upon building a strong relationship with myself, my relationship with Rod benefited as a result. There was a level of peace and freedom that I could never experience before. Even at times when I was alone, I never felt happier and loved.
Our relationship wasn’t smooth sailing, we had our ups and downs and each challenge that we faced actually strengthened our relationship. We made a promise to each other that we will continuously work on our relationship, no matter how long we are together, how busy we get or how challenging it might be. We know that in order for us to have the best relationship of our lives, we have to continuously grow and stretch to be the best version of ourselves – so that we can give and contribute more to our relationship. There had been times when it was easier for us to walk away and give up on our relationship. But we stayed and fought our way through as a team because we believed in our relationship vision, we believed in each other. One day out of the blue, he asked me to marry him and I said yes to our ‘Happily Ever After Dream’.
I believe that everyone deserves the best relationship of their lives, no matter what has happened in the past. We all have the power to create what we deeply desire and make that dream a reality.  Never settle for a relationship that is less than what you deserve. Life is full of possibility – but only if you choose to believe in it. I never thought I would end up here to share my story; but the decision I made that day has shaped my life to the level I could have never imagined possible back then. I am now passionate about sharing my story and message as an inspiration for others to start creating their relationship dream.
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