Jennie's Marriage Decision: 5 Reasons Why I Married Him

Jennie here. 

If it hadn’t been for Japan, Ivan and I would have never met. It was pure coincidence that we both ended up studying abroad in Kyoto in the fall of 2008. A few weeks after we met, the global financial system imploded (and our scholarships lost 40% of its value overnight). We were 20 years old. Just kids. Looking back, it’s still crazy to think about.

When Ivan and I started our relationship, I had no intention or plans of getting married. We thought it was just a summer fling, but after a few months together, I realized there was something more.

We were a pretty unlikely couple. From the outside, what most people saw was two people who were constantly at odds and pushing each other’s buttons. We had a lot of fun but there were a lot of tough times too. We struggled through jealousy, loneliness, and misunderstandings during our times together and apart. 

While I’d like to tell you we now understand each other completely, that simply isn’t true. We’re constantly growing, changing, and re-adjusting. A marriage isn’t easy but Ivan ticked a lot of my personal criteria that I knew would make me happy in the long term. 

A very real and intimate photo of us right after we exchanged wedding rings at city hall. I was so happy at that moment.

A very real and intimate photo of us right after we exchanged wedding rings at city hall. I was so happy at that moment.

So, how did I know that Ivan was the right partner for me?

1. He challenged me constantly.

From the very beginning we challenged each other’s beliefs, philosophies, and actions. On the outside, it looked like a lover’s (or hater’s) quarrel. And because Ivan is well-read and analytical, he liked to question everything that I said or did. We used to argue over everything, from why we made certain choices to what made good books, movies, or music, etc. And although that’s still part of our daily routine, it’s become more of a fun routine of verbal and intellectual sparring; it keeps us alert, makes us stronger as individuals and has actually made our relationship better.

2. Life together would be filled with adventure.

Traveling and exploring different cultures has been the one constant in our relationship. One particularly memorable moment was when Ivan took me on a date to Heian Shrine (平安神宮, Heian-jingū) by bicycle - except we got lost and never made it there. He has the worst sense of direction of anyone I've ever met (and had too much ego to ask for directions). What should have been a 45 minute bike ride turned into three hours of aimless wandering. I remember feeling so exhausted and frustrated by this “date” that when it started raining (during the hot and humid Kyoto summer), I just broke down and cried. Ivan felt so bad that he said he would do whatever I wanted to make up for it. Randomly, I told him to dip his feet into a random fountain in front of a love hotel. And he did it. We never made it to the shrine together but looking back now, we found out so much about ourselves and each other. I laugh just thinking about it.

3. Even the small, mundane moments became meaningful.

A few summers ago, Ivan and I took a train ride from Florence to Cinque Terre in Italy. It was a long train ride and eventually, Ivan fell asleep while I read a book. Having him there by my side made the entire experience better in some way. I didn’t appreciate it as much when I was younger but I recall a lot of long walks together or trains or bus rides. Some of my favorite moments are when we would sit there in silence, watching the passing scenery.

4. We have similar priorities in life

Deep down, I wanted to be with someone who had their own ambitions and goals in life. Someone who was as independent as me who could appreciate the urgency of living life and achieving something real. When I met Ivan, we often clashed but I knew that our Type A personalities would lead to interesting experiences because neither one of us could accept failure. We wanted to be “high-achievers” in our own right.

5. He accepted the entire Jennie package.

There was one evening early on in our relationship where I remember laying out our individual intentions, flaws, and past memories. There was a lot of personal stuff that we shared that made me realize that Ivan was unapologetically himself, and it made me feel comfortable to be that way too. I’m a perfectionist who is also bossy, petty, sarcastic, spiteful, ambitious, high-strung, an occasional bullshitter, and arrogant. I have positive attributes as well but Ivan has to put up with the negative stuff on a daily basis because it’s just part of the Jennie package. Somehow he manages to understand the intentions behind my actions and loves me all the same.