Breaking a Promise We Made Five Years Ago

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In the fall of 2015, we got married at a small Catholic church in New York. It will soon be five years since that day. 

We started living together in fall 2013, and we consider ourselves a very chill, low-key couple. We discuss and argue a lot, but hardly ever fight. Whether we arrive at the same conclusion or not, we exchange our thoughts through our own languages: 85% in English (at my level) and 15% of Japanese (at my husband’s level).

There are a lot of couples that are like two peas in a pod, whereas other couples are polar opposites that attract each other. In our case, so many factors related to our backgrounds are different, such as the places of our birth, as well as our upbringing, skin color, beliefs, and culture (though we are close in age), but we have a lot in common and we empathize with each other. We share each other’s interests too – just like he got me to start listening to David Bowie, he now enjoys Quruli. 

“Someone I fell in love with happened to be from a different part of the world.” This is exactly what happened to us. Other than the fact that we are interracial, interbelief, intercultural, etc., I find it very comfortable to be with him as we have similar vibes, perspectives, compassion, and priorities. 

… However, we do have something that is NOT in common but very specific to one another. 

My husband is a romantic – not a super dramatic kind, but in a very subtle way. I, on the other hand, tend to be too down to earth, and oftentimes my pragmatism and thriftiness can ruin his thoughtful plans and suggestions. To be honest, I have butterflies in my stomach when something romantic happens. If it was overly dramatic, I could say “Oh man, give me a break!” but because it’s usually in a very casual manner, I pretend to be cool even though I don’t know what to do with the happy but confused feeling of these butterflies. 

One day, my husband said “I wanna give you a ring for our fifth anniversary.”

Butterflies were emerging from cocoons in my stomach. 

I had no insight into his heart, until he reminded me of the promise we made five years ago, which I completely forgot.

Back then, I was close to graduating from Parsons School of Design, and just got a job offer from a fashion brand in NYC. I was living a poor student life. Tuition, wedding expenses, and legal fees for my immigration overwhelmed me. My husband had a good, stable income, but at the same time, we were selling and buying real estate. Most of our conversations were about managing money at that time. Although my savings were low, I still had financial self esteem and wanted to contribute to our spending, especially for our wedding-related stuff, even if it was a very minor part.

“We have to get wedding bands!” It didn’t really seem like a fun kind of shopping experience to me, but rather, it felt like something to cross off from our long list of expenses. I couldn’t think of skipping them, knowing that our wedding would be more on the traditional side. Despite the fact that he offered to pay for our wedding bands, I wanted to pick one that fit my realistic financial situation. I refrained from browsing major wedding editorials, which I knew wouldn’t make sense, but stuck with a practical list that was filtered by price. 

It seems like my husband suggested something like this, then – “Let’s pick something that you think is right now. And five years from now, we can get a new one that fits you.”

… Hmm, I only vaguely remember that conversation. Even so, I didn’t think that would really happen five years later. I wear the wedding band we got every day, as well as my engagement ring. Although I wasn’t 100% sure if the band was something like “a meant to be” kind of find, it has become part of my skin after being on my ring finger for five years. 

I proposed something pragmatic for our anniversary: “Well, I have my wedding band. I’ve been thinking of getting second-hand bicycles and helmets recently!”

He responded: “I see. That sounds like a good idea and let’s consider it. But bicycles can break or may not be with us forever. I want to give you something that fulfills our promise five years ago, symbolizes our five years together, and stays with you always and eternally.”

Woooooooow. Here comes a very sincere romantic. 

I said: “Even second hand, bikes are not inexpensive, plus maintenance can be costly. Don’t you think it’s a special purchase to celebrate our fifth anniversary?”

He disagreed, as a romantic. 

I continued to make my case: “I actually want two bicycles so that we can bike together. The anniversary is for us, so isn’t it better to spend money for both of us?”

He protested again, as a romantic and with some more emphasis. 

I persisted: “Hey, you know I care about sustainable and ethical spending. Shouldn’t we use our money for something more necessary?”

The romantic was not convinced. 

I was reminded that, regardless of the difference in romanticism we have, we are both stubborn!

My husband is a sweet, romantic, sincere, promise-fulfilling, and anniversary-celebrating, stubborn man. I am a down-to-earth and obstinate stubborn lady. I realized that I was trying to counter his love with logic, and I was trying to break our promise with realism. 

I somehow managed to leave the conversation unsettled. Several days later, he brought it up again. We repeated that a couple of times, casually. We are a chill, low-key, and stubborn couple. 

One sunny day, I went to a park in the neighborhood for a walk by myself. Since March, when the pandemic hit NYC (and the entire world) and we were under a strict “stay home” restriction, I hadn’t had many chances to be alone. During our time living together for seven years, five of which as husband and wife, the past six months was the longest consecutive amount of time we’d spent together in the same, small space. 

The promise we made five years ago. Us currently, after five years of marriage. And something to stay with me always and eternally from now on. 

The first time in a while to be by myself made me think about my husband’s words and thoughts, and be aware of the feeling beneath them. It was he who proposed to me, but it was our mutual agreement to be together. I moved somewhere tremendously far from my home, which is his home. I should say there was some price that I paid for that, but there was so much more to gain by being here. He is always the first one to support me and be proud of my achievements. Having been together for years, we continue to respect each other, whether we have changed or not. 

Every little thing that we went through in the past seven years was an irreplaceable piece that formed our path. There is no memory that I want to forget, including the bitter ones. Even the memory of the past six months – months that have been the toughest and most confounding time in my New York life, or rather in my entire life – is the one I want to keep. I shouldn’t have these indiscrete thoughts considering everything happening during the pandemic, but nevertheless, the time I spent mostly with my husband and cat never felt miserable. There was love and hope.

“I want to mark our five years, too.” On the way home from the park, I realized that my thoughts aligned with his. 

Then, we decided to break our five year-old promise. I want to spend another five, ten, or more years with my wedding band. It shouldn’t be replaced. Instead, as something that stays with me always and eternally from now on, I settled on a plan to ask him for a bracelet. It is a dainty gold chain with delicate diamonds that is made to order. 

“I think I know what I want,” I told my husband in English with the same New York accent as his. “Kawaii ne (It’s cute),” he responded in smooth Japanese. 

I picked one from a small, Brooklyn-based brand that produces jewelry in a little studio. They use recycled metals and gems, and are certified for their clean and ethical practice of managing supply chain and production. I didn’t want jewelry that shines as our five year milestone to have harmed the environment or violated human rights. This represents the thoughtfulness and consciousness of the me that I am in fall 2020, which is different from the me of five years ago, who was only concerned about $$$. 

My romantic husband revealed a little while ago that he was actually planning a trip to London for our anniversary. Back in March, he had a blueprint of our travel that was as eco-friendly as possible and vegan, and focused on art and vintage shopping. He gave up his plan right after the pandemic started to spread. I was surprised by the cancellation of a surprise gift. 

As someone who’s not romantic, I appreciated his rational decision to hold off on any travel. I don’t even know the next time I’ll be able to go home to Tokyo. That is inevitable. Whether romantic or not, there are occasions where we reach the same conclusion and that relieves me. 

It has only been five years, but it’s been a pivotal and precious period of time in our lives. Both of our families give continuous understanding and support which we can’t ever thank them enough for. My husband, Petticoat the cat, and I are a happy family. 

Even though the promise was broken, we considered each other’s thoughts, and the promise has turned into a new memory. And I can see us reminiscing about this after five years, ten years, and more, probably still as a chill, low-key couple. 

この記事は日本語でも読めます。メニューにある Switch to JP ボタンを押してください。
This article is also available in Japanese. Please hit the Switch to JP button in the menu.