Until you struggle to keep a relationship going, you won’t appreciate how fortunate you actually are to be together.
Years ago, I was forced into a long-distance relationship with my (then) fiancée before we could get married. When we first met on vacation, we had no idea that we would be proposing in just a few short months.
It’s funny; we were so head over heels that we wasted no time closing the distance.
She lived thousands of miles away, so it made sense to choose the visa for fianc(é)e process as it was quick and easy.
I thought, “How hard could it be?”
Unfortunately, it was a nightmare. The journey was so painful that it actually made us question whether we were supposed to be together at all. Imagine how unsettling that thought is for a love-struck young couple separated by time zones.
Our story of overcoming obstacles is worthy of being in a movie; we literally had to earn the chance to be together. Even though it was a time we wanted to forget, it taught us a valuable lesson we carry to this day: we will never take each other for granted.
It is crucial to do the visa process correctly.
Without getting into details of how the process works, let’s just say that immigration is a serious matter. There’s tons of detailed paperwork to prepare, mountains of evidence to collect, and a life-changing in-person interview to attend where months of your efforts culminate into a “yes” or “no” decision.
For us, this interview approval meant everything. My fiancée would get her visa to come to the United States, and we’d be able to marry and live happily ever after, just like we dreamed. After that, it’d continue to be like a fairy tale: we would purchase our first home, plan our vacations, pick names for our kids, and go to Thanksgiving dinners.
If she was denied, though, it would be unthinkable. We had no idea what catastrophe would befall us. How long would we be separated? What about our wedding plans? How embarrassed would we be to tell friends the bad news? What if we had to uproot our lives and move to a different country?
The hairs on my arms stood up every time we read a horror story of some unlucky couple “stuck” in the immigration process for years. Needless to say, that’s not a place we wanted to find ourselves. (But we almost did.)
Things went from bad to worse.
Realizing that this visa was critical, we made it our goal to be prepared. We hired a lawyer to make sure we didn’t mess up, but that ushered the start of our misfortunes.
When we heard the news that a month-long delay was headed our way, it felt like our own version of the Great Depression. We were like those excited stockbrokers who, as they began to see falling prices, slowly took their hats into their hands, sat down, and looked up helplessly at something they couldn’t control.
What were we supposed to do about our wedding plans? Our dream of a life together? When would we see each other again?
As a young couple working full-time without vacation days left to travel thousands of miles, we felt powerless. And then it got even worse. We faced more troubles, delay after delay, and hurdle after hurdle. It was almost as if the universe was telling us we couldn’t be together.
Still, we held on, but it got ugly. In desperation, we took the anger out on each other. I’d accuse her of “not caring enough” about our future or being nervous (like I was).
Sometimes I’d read a visa “tip” online and would ask why she hadn’t done anything like that. She’d blurt out that I was being unreasonable and taking things too seriously. We were nervous; we didn’t know what to do, and we slowly stopped talking to each other.
That was the lowest point in our relationship, and we almost gave up.
But it was also the best thing to happen to us.
You see, we put aside our egos and reminded ourselves that we wanted to be together, no matter what. The whole reason we began the journey was so we could get married, start a family, buy a house, and go on our dream vacations.
We wanted to do it together, just like we imagined. The fact that we were thousands of miles apart didn’t matter. Even if we had major setbacks, we could still recover. We just needed to work as a team.
That was the inflection point; it was when we took matters into our own hands. We did our own research on the visa process and how to get approved. We watched dozens of videos. We consulted several credible experts. We wished, prayed, and prepared.
I’ll spare you the details on how we navigated the process. Surprisingly though, we discovered that the legal process wasn’t really as complicated as we thought.
The real challenge is being patient through the uncertainty of your relationship’s future, the unpredictability of your dreams, and all the emotions that follow.
So as you can imagine, my fiancée and I were relieved to hear, “You’re approved” at the visa interview. It felt like a scene from a movie where a victorious gladiator closes his eyes, falls to his knees after a long, hard battle, covered in sweat and dirt, and knows it’s all over.
We forged mutual respect and trust in our relationship.
It’s been years, and to this day, we remember that journey. To this day, we don’t take each other for granted. To this day, it affects the way we treat each other.
You see, after having gone through so much together, we cherish our companionship as if it were a prize we had won after almost losing it. Whenever there’s an argument, we often ask, “Is this even worth fighting over?”
Recently, that was put to the test. With the birth of our second child, we decided we needed a bigger house. Unfortunately, nothing would fit our preference or budget. Good schools and neighborhoods came with unaffordable property taxes. After months of searching, we began to argue over why each other’s preference was unnecessary.
“You want four bathrooms instead of 3.5? That’s crazy.”
Garden or swimming pool?
Carpet or wood flooring?
We couldn’t agree on anything.
Yet again, we calmly sat down and said, “Look, this is a huge decision, and we’ve gotten through things like this before; we’ll do it again.”
The process of buying a new home wasn’t worth more than our relationship. What we truly wanted was to live together; everything else is just details.
We reminded ourselves of the visa process, how difficult it was for us, and we got through it because we had a common goal.
So easy enough, we agreed on a mutual goal: to find a good home to raise our kids.
Then we set up a plan to get there:
My wife would search for houses, shortlist the good ones, and figure out the schooling.
I’d review the houses, set up appointments, and figure out our budget.
We’d make the decision together.
The whole experience was a reminder of what we had done years earlier in the visa process.
Appreciate that you’re together. Everything else is just details.
What made our home-buying decision easier was the fact that we had a different outlook on life due to our visa process. Home-buying is just an example, though. The camaraderie we built years ago forced us to never take each other for granted.
In fact, we cherish that we’re able to be together because we’ve earned it, and every other obstacle seems insignificant in comparison. Everything else is a detail that can be fixed.
To me, unless you go through a momentous struggle like the one we faced during the visa process, you may not realize how fortunate you actually are to be together.
I get to witness this daily from the thousands of couples I coach in my line of work. Some of my clients had even worse stories than I did. But in the end, they always emerge with an immense appreciation for one another because they actually had to struggle and fight to be together.
The next time you face a struggle in your relationship, don’t run away. Remember, you’re earning trust, dependability, and resilience by facing battles together. It will put things into perspective.
It could just make you prize each other more than ever. And the problems in life will suddenly seem insignificant.