Did I Really Love Her?
My oldest sister is amazing! She is intelligent, creative, driven, and as a professional dancer, she exudes an air of confidence that people are drawn to. She easily attracts the attention of every eye in the room, and many young men have tried to win her heart. She has been proposed to on a few occasions, however, she has always mindfully turned them down. Then, one day, she brought home a new boyfriend. He was a very charming and charismatic person, but he was unlike anyone I had ever met; he was especially unlike anyone she had ever dated.
He was quite a bit older than my sister, and there was something that seemed a little off-putting about his story. He was not from around here, but from the other side of the world, he had legally changed his name multiple times, and was studying accounting at a university on a student visa. My sister had only dated him two months when he proposed to her, and we were very surprised to hear her answer was yes! Especially since she had turned many other suiters away.
We had learned that he would graduate in two months, and that his student visa would expire three months beyond that. We were also told that they were going to be married soon after his graduation, and that they did not want to wait for my brother to be able to attend the wedding. He had been out of the country for a couple of years, and would soon be returning. However, they found it inconvenient to wait for him, and it quickly became a very sensitive subject in our family. Their choice to be married without my brother in attendance, among many others, began to create an awful surge of conflict within me and my family; one that began to tear us apart.
My parents were beside themselves with the thought that their first daughter was marrying a man she hardly knew, from an entirely different culture that we knew nothing about, in only a few short months! We wanted to like her fiancé, but we were also deeply worried that he was only using her to get U.S. residency. It had seemed nothing else could explain his hasty, and very stubborn plans to be married so quickly.
My parents reached out to my sister’s fiancé and offered to sponsor him so that his visa would be extended, enabling them to court and be married a little later. He was not interested in the offer, and pressed forward with their wedding plans. My grandfather quickly got involved in the situation, and offered them $10,000 to wait to be married for the return of my brother, but again, they turned down the generous offer, and insisted on being married that spring. Numerous other offers from concerned family members came forth to coax them into waiting for a better time. However, nothing enticed them more than the thought of being married, and they both began to pull away from us in defiance to my family’s wishes. It was difficult to understand why this was happening, and the only explanation we could think of, was that he was manipulating and controlling my sister, and that she had fallen victim to him, and now so were we.
I began to see my sister’s fiancé as incredibly selfish and careless. How could he not see that his actions were causing our family to divide? Why did he not care that my mom would cry almost every day worrying about their marriage? Why did he have to get what he wanted, when it excluded our only brother from the wedding? Why would he not be honest with us about his motives and intentions? It quickly became the case that everyone dreaded the wedding, and did all they could do to stop it. It even climaxed to my grandfather’s refusal to attend their ceremony on account of his disapproval. My grandfather, who had been an influential father figure to all of us, would now miss this occasion because my sister and her fiancé refused to wait a couple of more months to be married. One would think, if they really loved each other, then it would not matter, right?
If the wedding was not enough to think about, my family and I were also in the middle of a move. It was three weeks before the wedding, and I was in my room packing up a box of books, when I heard shouts and angry footsteps stomping down the driveway. I looked out my window and saw my dad sighing in frustration as my sister walked away, crying. They had been arguing again, something that had become a daily routine. In my head, I began to think that this was all her fiancé’s fault. Then I saw him approach my father from the garage, but something was different about him. He was in tears, and in a soft voice he asked my dad, “what am I doing wrong? Why is she so unhappy, when I love her so much?” In that moment, my view of him began to change. I did not see a manipulative, controlling, foreigner who sought our family’s unhappiness. I saw a man who was far from his home, trying his best under extremely difficult circumstances. I saw that he loved my sister, and now it was a question if I loved her also.
“Why is she so unhappy, when I love her so much?” I asked myself.
During the engagement, I was so caught up in seeing him as an enemy that I never paused to evaluate how my actions were contributing to conflict. The uncomfortable truth was that I lacked loved for not only him, but my sister also, which resulted in my resentment towards her fiancé. How could I ever learn to love him, when I was struggling to truly love her? Because, if I had truly loved her, I would be willing to see things from her point of view. I would have sought her best interest, and spent more time getting to know this man, than I did judging him. In a very humbling moment I realized that I had never asked myself the question… “is she so unhappy because of what I’m doing?” Her fiancé was never the problem, I was the problem, and if I wanted things to change, I needed to change.
Today, I am happy to say, that my sister’s husband is one of my friends. He has become someone I converse with daily, and trust in. More importantly, he has become a brother to me, whose actions do not determine my feelings towards him. I am certainly not perfect at loving my sister, or any of my family members, for that matter. But, I can choose to love them enough to see the burdens, trials, and challenges they are facing and react in kindness and understanding. Because, the truth that matters most is that I lacked love for my sister, and that influenced my view of her fiancé. I allowed that to distort my view of who he truly is, and in doing so I only deprived myself of friendships and relationships.
They may never know of this story I have shared, but I can guarantee they notice a difference in me. The only thing that changed that day on the driveway was me. My sister was still my sister, her fiancé was still who he was, but I was someone else. A new version of me, a version that is accountable of my impact on others, and aware of my ‘love’ towards those that matter most. I had spent too much time contributing to the pain of the conflict, though I should have given more time and effort to making things right, because, I really do love her, I really do love her.