How I Met My (Ex) Husband: The Long Story

Our first 'date' in  on 15 May 2018

How did I meet my (ex) husband? I figured that this is one of the most interesting questions you can ask about me. There is so much to unpack. So many photos to share. I want to answer this question also for my own sake. It is my way of processing this relationship and how it all begun.

Selfie taken recently, on 30/8/2021

Picture together with Mama Mu and her husband, from the Hmong tribe

My husband and I the day after we met

But first, I want to give some context about the person that I was, in 2018 when I met my husband. 

I was 24 years old and attending my second year of university at NTU. That might sound all too ordinary, but it was an exceptionally light and unclouded period of my life. I led a free-spirited lifestyle that was growing on me. I meditated first thing in the morning, every morning, for twenty to forty minutes, before hopping into my exercise clothing and doing an hour of yoga or pilates. That or I would put on my inspirational dance playlist on YouTube and danced freely for an hour. I felt like I was shedding my old skin and transforming into someone who embraces life and all it has to offer, including uncertainty. I certainly did not meet anyone who lived that way, but I was perfectly content with my life and not afraid of being different.

One of the libraries at my university was open 24/7. I would go there to sleep in the day or night, on one of the bean bags available. Even though I had a clean, aesthetically pleasing room with a comfortable queen size bed, I enjoyed waking up in a different environment. The library had fascinating books that were out of the scope of my studies. I allowed them to call my name. Titles such as "Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation",  "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered", "The Life You Can Save", "Inequality: What Can Be Done?", "Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing" and "The New Age of Ageing: How Society Needs to Change", were all books that I borrowed and craved. 

But I hardly finished any of them. Only because I was diving head first into my reading assignments, which included "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", "Endgame" by Samuel Beckett and even more philosophical texts like Lao Tzu's Butterfly Dream Parable, Ibn Tufayl's Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, and the Bhagavad Gita and of course, Plato. I was not concerned about my grades, like my peers, but I did fairly well. Until I saw that academic essays are not an effective form of persuasion, which caused me to lose my motivation in completing my assignments. I was more interested in learning how to live. 

I constantly pondered over how to live a good life and made corrections to my 'formula' along the way.

It was not uncommon for me to wake up at 6.20am, for no other reason than to race alongside the sun and make myself the perfect scrambled eggs. I would plate it and eat it at the park that was 3-minutes away from home. The morning air was different and the birds would greet me. On a rainy day in Singapore, the way to live, for me, would be to take a walk at the neighbourhood park on bare feet. When my enjoyable meet-up with a friend ended too late into the night, I booked myself into a hostel instead of taking a taxi home. Waking up the next morning in an unfamiliar place was just the type of experience that I sought after. It was as though I was retired in my twenties. (I am still in my twenties.)

My keto-friendly breakfast. Look at that perfection!

Photo taken at the park that I used to take my long walks. 

It was also during that time where I got an illustration of an ouroboros designed specially for my body. It came a day where I could not look at myself in the full-length mirror without seeing an image of a large tattoo on my right hip. An ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a snake eating its own tail. The ouroboros symbolises wholeness and infinity - the ever-changing circle of life. My tattoo also comes with two lotus flowers, which I specifically asked for, symbolising enlightenment, purity and self-regeneration. As you may know, lotus flowers have their roots in the muddy waters, but they bloom beautifully despite of the ugly environment that they grow in. Lotus flowers also represent cause and effect, because it blooms and carries seeds at the same time. 

I was inspired to get this tattoo after I read Samuel Beckett's "Endgame".

It was during this magical period where I dropped all notions of hostility and resentment towards both my parents. My mother had left us abruptly when I was about 20. Instead of being cared for by my father, I took on the role of the housewife. I stocked up on household products and managed our monthly budget (provided by my dad). Growing up, my mom constantly remarked on how weak I was (in a weird, endearing way) and how there were simply so many things that I was not capable of doing. She did not believe in my abilities to run the household and I set out to prove her wrong. During that time, there was hardly any relationship between my dad and I. We basically existed under the same roof. That was the extent of our blood relations. 

We celebrated my dad's birthday for the first and only time in 2018. We did not do birthdays at all.

But because I was only focused on the present moment, I literally forgot all of my parents' misgivings and simply picked up our relationship as if we had one. It was a short period of familial bliss that I have never experienced within my family. Still, my parents did not shower me with affection. Only with hindsight do I realise that despite my growing knowledge about philosophy and the art of living well, I was desperately in need of love and affection from someone. I never sought external validation (and still don't) because I see it as a destructive, never-ending pursuit. I gave myself unconditional love at that time, but I must have subconsciously craved for someone else to show me the same love that I showed myself.

It was during this time that I took my second (and last) solo backpacking trip to Vietnam, and with a stroke of luck, met my husband. To be very frank, I was falling in love with everyone that I met, whenever I come to see their goodness. I even fell in love with a girl once! I had thought I was bisexual. Everyone that I grew feelings for, did not reciprocate. All of them but my husband. Before you think I must be a sad, rejected product, I must say that I have walked away from a couple of nice young men that I met through the dating app, because there just wasn't a spark between us.

On the 7th of May, 2018, I took a plane to Vietnam. I met an acquaintance from my secondary school on that plane. He, JJ his name is, was also backpacking alone. We spontaneously decided to travel together, the way travellers often do. I had already arranged my accommodation with my first Couchsurfing host, but our places of interest overlapped, so JJ and I agreed that we would meet up again afterwards. 

JJ and I at Ha Long Bay.

JJ is a good chap. I was drawn to his down-to-earth, humble nature. He thinks before he speaks. If he hasn't got anything to say, he keeps quiet. We celebrated his birthday together on the 10th of May, on a cruise boat in Ha Long Bay. Completely unplanned. I don't know if it was the loneliness, I didn't think that I felt lonely, but I was attracted to JJ too. Maybe it was my biological clock trying to do its work. Who knows? 

I asked him if he would consider dating me. (Just FYI, JJ is not my husband!) He was an extreme gentleman even as he turned me down, but the reason that he gave was was absurd to me. JJ thought that we were incompatible because I was an university undergraduate and he was not educated. I should not waste my future on someone like him. On the contrary, I thought that he was extremely street smart and it was not something one could learn from reading books.

Like all the other times that I got rejected, I felt heartbroken. Maybe more so this time because I wished JJ could see that qualifications and labels are just a part of the matrix that we live in. That they don't mean anything. 

On the 14th of May 2018, while we travelled in our overnight sleeper bus to Sa Pa, I asked him, 'you know why I need to leave you, right?'. 'Maybe', said JJ. We were still travelling together, but I am not so foolish as to pursue someone who is not interested in me. 

When we arrived at Sa Pa at dawn, there were many local Hmong women trying to do business with us, the tourists. A Hmong lady who called herself 'Mama Mu' convinced us to stay with her family for a small fee. JJ and I were not exactly talking then, but we somehow agreed to get into her van, along with a couple of other tourists. When we were nearly halfway there, I regretted my decision and requested to be escorted back to the town centre alone on a motorbike. I just wanted to not be in the same space as JJ, my heart could not take it.

It was that morning, on the 14th of May, that I met Bjarne, my husband today. He was sitting in the hammock outside his hut, which was right next to our hut. The two huts were probably owned by different ladies from the same family. Bjarne was minding his own business, when a young lady with downcast eyes walked over to him and asked if she could sit down next to the hammock, because she had fallen in love with her travel companion, but he did not like her back. She needed to get away from him. 

That was how we started talking to each other. Bjarne was impressed that I could say his Danish name perfectly. We had a relatively short but satisfying conversation, where I said that I need my partner to feel like my equal, before Mama Mu served us pancakes for breakfast. I met Bjarne's friend and travel partner, whom he was trying to get away from. Bjarne had hurt his knee because of him, hence he could not hike around the beautiful mountains in Sa Pa with us. He stayed behind in the hut and hoped that I would too, so we could continue chatting. I did not stay, but I did think about him several times during the hike and looked forward to seeing him when we return.

As it turned out, I was not the only one who was looking forward to pick up where we left off. Bjarne missed me so much that he went looking for me. When I got back from my hike, he was nowhere to be seen. To be clear, the hike was meant to last two hours, but for some reason - Mama Mu was probably worried that I would insist on taking the motorbike back into town after our hike, hence losing my business - it took about 5 hours. Bjarne and I were reunited but my feelings for JJ lingered. They don't just go away when I meet someone new and interesting, I wasn't looking for a fuck buddy. Not interested. I wanted a life companion. 

When Bjarne asked me if I would like to get on his rented motorbike on a sightseeing trip around Sa Pa with him, I agreed. It was not clear to either of us at first whether it was a date. We just enjoyed each other's company and the easy and stimulating conversation that we had. I thought that Bjarne was tall and good looking, and he had these big, strong arms - he still does. We went for coffee at a café that I found on Google Maps. I wanted to pay for mine, but he insisted on footing the bill for me.

Remember that I had my short, boyish hair cut back then. His interest in me and what I have to say, despite me looking like someone from a Korean boyband, showed me that he did not judge me by my cover. That was very precious to me.

We rode around the mountains and I got to experience Sa Pa differently. We stopped by a little wooden shed by the side of a small waterfall, where they sold roasted corn among other trinkets and where local customers smoked pot. They were very amused at our age difference and offered us some. They were surprised that marijuana had absolutely no effect on me. Bjarne got a little dizzy and had to take a short rest before riding again. We took a photo together with the locals, which is probably the first photo ever taken of Bjarne and I.

I fell at this waterfall and Bjarne helped me up
My husband looking fine

How does one not fall in love when surrounding by the mountains?

I am tempted to keep writing about what happened after our first meeting, but it is a story that does not and has not ended. I think I have well and truly answered the question of how I met Bjarne. I might continue this story in the future, but I think I will end this post with some pictures of our journey together instead. 

They wanted to watch me get high, but I didn't know how to smoke properly lol

Singapore is such a sexually repressed society,
I felt so loved through physical touch.
The short story is, we ended up travelling around Vietnam together for two weeks, but not before I first travelled a tiny part of China and returned to Singapore for a short while. Then we went to Australia for a short time, where Bjarne lived. I met his friends and constantly wondered when would be the last day that we spend together. After less than two weeks there, we flew to Denmark, where Bjarne is originally from. I met his family, whom he had not seen in ages. That was also when I first met Helge. I got to spend a lot of time with him and because of that, I learnt to speak Danish. 

Bjarne and I spent the summer in 2018 travelling in Europe. Later in the year, we explored Asia too. It was completely spontaneous and to be honest... extremely emotionally exhausting. Even earlier on, Bjarne had a destructive way of coping with stress, but that was familiar to me because it was similar to the way my father handled stress. I did what my mom did, which is to stay quiet and 'ride it out' without addressing the problem. So Bjarne and I had a toxic relationship for a long time. 

The legendary hammock, where we first met
I kept trying to leave him and get away, once and for all. But time and time again, I chose to believe him when he said that he loved me. It was all I needed to hear, but thankfully he meant what he said. He had to confront his demons just as I needed to confront mine. I did not know how to set and enforce my boundaries, mainly because I have never been shown. (I know how to do that now.) I thought that I could love Bjarne unconditionally without expectations and that would somehow make everything better. I was not able to tell Bjarne how his actions and words made me feel, without threatening to end the relationship. It was so awful, but we stuck together, for better or for worse. 

Things have changed a lot since then. We have a daughter together, who was made in my womb in Helge's house. It is of great importance to me that our daughter is shown how respect and affection look like in a relationship. That motivates me to set healthy boundaries with my husband. I had to reparent myself in the process but it is so worth it. 

Our last night in Sa Pa
Bjarne mucking around with me

Us and our travel companions

Atmosphere of uncertainty around our budding romantic relationship,
as we prepared to leave Sa Pa and go our separate ways

Selfie at Lao Cai, the Vietnam-China border
Reunited with Bjarne again

The day we flew out of Vietnam

Taken in Nambour, Australia, 2018

In Denmark, Helge's lounge room
(where we are now)

Taking the train in Finland

Found matching cups that we like in Helsinki, Finland

My little mermaid moment with my very own Prince Eric, in Mikkeli, Finland

We bought matching rings at an art gallery in Vilnius, Lithuania (my favourite city in Europe). We made a commitment towards each other that same day, on the 2nd of August 2018.

Backpacking in Bratislava

Playing tourists in a salt mine in Krakow, Poland

On a floating cruise ship that was a bar
in Stockholm, Sweden

A Chinese lady who rented us the room wanted
a photo of us. Riga, Latvia, 2018
Very much in love in Mikkeli, Finland

Trying several cocktails at the Hemingway Bar in Prague, Czech Republic

I don't know if anyone has got the time to read this entire blog post in one sitting. If you are still reading this, hello! Feel free to leave a comment below about how you met your spouse or significant other. I would love to read it. 

See you in the next one. Take care and be gentle with yourself. -V


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