An 11-year age gap Rona and Eric Falls It’s common for people to meet their significant other in the workplace, and that’s where Rona, 31, and Eric, 42, met. “I’ve always thought he was cute, but at the time, we were both in long-term relationships,” Rona says about Eric. The attraction seemed strong enough for Eric to reach out to Rona when she left the BPO company where they both worked. “I found her on Facebook about six months later.”
Their relationship was like any other. They would have movie marathons, eat out, and travel. They shared the same values when it came to family, and became each other’s best friends.
When it came down to their differences, their age and race is always the first thing that outsiders see. In fact, there's more. “He was also baptized Methodist, while I was born, raised and schooled Catholic,” Rona adds.
But even if their age difference is a little more than a decade, Rona says that it was hardly an issue between them. “When we started dating, it never came up in a negative way,” Rona shares. Eric agrees, saying that he only notices the difference when “we talk about popular culture from our younger years. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and Rona is a 90’s girl. She doesn’t know who John Hughes is, for example.”
To them, their age gap was just another thing that the other person "happened to be", and had to be accepted. Rona says, “I’ve never really thought that Eric acted a certain way or said something because he is older than me. I’ve always thought that he is who he is, and that’s the person I chose to be with. We don’t focus on the differences. There are many other beautiful aspects to our relationship. An 11-year age difference will not destroy what we have.”
They were together for six years and had a daughter together before deciding to get married. Both of them agree that those six years gave them enough time to smoothen out what needed to be fixed before taking the leap.
Perhaps their biggest secret in staying strong, taking the big leap, and seeing beyond the numbers, is seeing your partner as your equal. The couple shares, “If you think otherwise -- if you think one of you is better because they are older or younger -- your relationship will always be rocky. If you see each other as equals and as partners, you will survive everything.”
A marriage of faiths Sunshine and Francis Funa Being together for 17 years is a long time -- and quite a feat. Just ask Sunshine, 35, a writer/editor, and Francis, 36, a geodetic engineer, whose almost-two-decade relationship is growing even stronger. “We met at our college org. It wasn’t an instant attraction because we were both hung up on someone else at that time, ha-ha!”
Because of constant togetherness, they eventually became a couple. And not just any couple, but the finish-each-other’s-sentences type of couple. “We’ve always been on the same page,” Sunshine shares, “it’s a very happy relationship, as baduy as that may sound, and we both feel very blessed to be in this wonderful marriage.”
With their married bliss state, it’s difficult to imagine that at one point, there was even a little hiccup that could have hindered everything. Sunshine says, “Due to our difference in religion -- he’s Catholic, I’m a Baptist -- there was a reluctance at first to have a relationship, but then we prayed for it, and God answered our prayers!”
Ironically, it’s their faith in the same God that got them through their religious differences. Sunshine adds, “We grew together in our relationship and in our faith, and we learned how to respect each other.”
Sunshine joins Francis when he attends mass, and he joins her when she goes to their services. “We always communicate to work out our differences, be it religion or in any other issue. We always ask the Lord for guidance. We believe that it’s very important to keep God at the center of our marriage.”
Married for seven years now, the pitter-patter of little feet are yet to come by, but when the time is right, Francis says that he’s okay with bringing them up in Sunshine’s faith. He adds, “But I also want to have the chance to introduce them to my Catholic faith. Sunshine agrees, saying, “What’s important is to bring them up fearing and loving God and accepting Him as their Savior, more than anything else. That’s how Francis and I were brought up by our parents and by our respective churches.”
When asked as to how couples with different religious backgrounds can find their middle ground, Shine has this to share, “Compromise, communicate, and respect each other. Marriage is a constant work in progress, and both of you have to work on it to keep it strong.”
A cultural gap Shiloah and Woolim Ma An intercultural relationship isn’t anything new in the Philippines, but Shiloah, 35, and Woolim, 37, had their qualms when they started dating. “We weren’t sure how our families would react,” Shiloah says, “I think Filipinos are a bit more accepting of intercultural relationships. Koreans, maybe not so much.”
The couple agrees that one of the biggest differences of their cultures is in their point of view on time. Woolim shares, “Korean culture is really orderly and structured. Lots of established norms. For Koreans, it’s extremely disrespectful to make someone wait, while here there is ‘Filipino time’.”
Another difference? The way Filipinos and Koreans choose to communicate. “It drives him crazy that Filipinos don’t say things directly,” Shiloah says, “We try to find the most polite, least confrontational way of asking for things or giving an answer. He’s always asking me, ‘Well, why didn’t you just say that?’”
After the couple got through their “Love will conquer all” phase, they began to ponder over how they would be able to marry the two cultures together. “We also knew that we were ‘hybrids’ in some ways, that I wasn’t completely a Korean straight from Korea, nor was she Pinoy in the most traditional sense. We’re both kind of Westernized. So it felt like two circles coming together with enough in common that we could meet in the middle.”
How did they find that magic middle? By “Creating our own culture, based on who we are,” Woolim says. Shiloah is quick to add, “You try to adapt the best aspects of that culture. Being married to someone with a different nationality broadens your way of thinking, especially if you open yourself up to new experiences. I never thought I’d fall in love with Korea, and we were almost scared to go the first time because he thought I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I love Korea. It’s just so well done and progressive.”
The “culture creation” is what they’ve also brought in when it comes to raising their kids. The Filipino language is taught in their house to be as equal to English, and teaching Korean is Woolim’s responsibility, and something Shiloah will learn alongside her kids. Their Christian faith, which is what Shiloah and Woolim had in common from the get-go, is something that is part of their creation, and something they strongly want to pass on to their kids.
Their advice to couples who want to find their balance when it comes to their cultural differences is to "Communicate, listen to your heart, and go into the marriage with the right expectations. I’ve gotten better at telling him what I need, what’s important to me,” Shiloah says. “The vows are romantic, but really, they’re about promising to do the work, get your hands dirty, and fight for the marriage.”