Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a not-quite-yet 30 year-old, West Coast girl who loves travel, language-learning, and good barbecue. I’m a massage therapist and I’m super interested in alternative medicine/healing.
You grew up as part of the Unification Church. For those of us who don’t know, what are its basic tenets
The UC is a religious movement that is part Christian/part Eastern religions (the founder is Korean). Some call it a cult. Marriage is a HUGE part of the UC doctrine, particularly international, inter-religious and intercultural marriages.
The belief is that through “mixed” marriages, the barriers and prejudices of society will break down. So, if two parents of traditionally enemy-nations marry and have kids, their kids will be able to love both of those cultures more easily because they have both within them.
Growing up, did you know that you would have an arranged marriage?
I always knew it was part of what we did in the Unification Church. I had friends that were very much opposed to having their spouses chosen for them. I on the other hand, was okay with it.
The marriages in the UC are not forced marriages. While parents do suggest spouses, the partners in the marriage do get a say in what they want and can always say no. One can still break it off at any time even after the “Blessing” (the UC marriage ceremony).
There are two ways that UC members are introduced to their partners: either through their parents in a parents’ matching or through being matched by the founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon (although he passed away in 2012, so now parents’ matching is the predominant method). With time, the process has become more relaxed and different families take different approaches to how a matching takes place.
How did your parents (or the church) choose your husband for you?
I was matched by the founder. The belief is that Rev. Moon will choose someone who will help you grow the most as a person, which is usually through someone that is completely different from yourself.
UC members born into the church were brought up to not have expectations of what our spouse would be like in terms of looks, education level and nationality and that we should be able to love anyone as a child of God and as a spouse. Now of course, that’s a very high level of love to achieve, which most members that I know are still struggling to attain.
Can you tell us about the first time you met your husband?
The founder of the church announced a matching and Blessing, so members from around the world who were interested in attending, gathered in Cheong Pyeong, South Korea (which is like a Moonie Mecca of sorts). There were hundreds of people there hoping to receive the matching and Blessing by Rev. Moon.
Honestly, I can’t even remember my first exchanges with my husband anymore. I do remember thinking he was cute, but he was pretty shy around me those first few days (understandably so) even though he could speak English. (English isn’t his first language.)
After trying to get some sleep after the matching, I woke up the next day and couldn’t find him anywhere because there were so many people, everything from the night before felt like a dream. When we did manage to find each other again, we had a talk about whether or not we wanted to keep the matching–which obviously we did.
What was your wedding like?
Moonies are famous for their mass weddings. Some people say it seems impersonal, but it can be fun/comforting to share the day with your friends going through a similar experience. I didn’t know my spouse at the time, so it wasn’t so deeply personal for us as a couple, but as an individual I was committed to making the relationship work and I remember feeling happy.
Many UC members choose to have an additional ceremony/wedding for their family later on when they are ‘more in love’ and know each other better. Me and hubby chose not to, we had a legal marriage ceremony at city hall a few years later followed by coffee and cake.
What happened after the wedding?
They had some cheesy entertainment (Korean style) for us to watch and then we spent a few days getting to know each other. We volunteered at an orphanage together while in Korea and then a few days later we departed back to our countries. As I’m sure lots of people are curious, the wedding night/consummation of the marriage doesn’t take place the night of the Blessing. It’s really a personal decision for the couple.
We waited three years to get to know each other as friends first (partly due to the fact that we were living in two different countries!), but some couples’ relationships develop much faster.
At the time, I didn’t think it was that long, but looking back I realize that’s a long time to wait! We visited each other 9x (for periods of several weeks) over the next 3 years while we attended university in our home countries. After I graduated, I moved to be with him while he finished up his studies. We met each other’s families, wrote letters, Skyped, sent packages and did all the things normal LDRs require to keep them going.
You and your husband are still together after 8.5 years, even though you’re no longer members of the church. What lead you to leave the church? Did that decision affect your marriage at all?
It was little things not adding up in my head anymore. One might expect it to feel like your world being knocked off its axis, but honestly, the shift in thinking was a lot more subtle. I slowly started to allow myself to ask questions that I was afraid to ask before and to doubt things I thought I knew for certain.
There was something exciting about not having to know all the answers and I was a freer, happier person because of it. We never made any kind of proclamation or announcement to our families about us not being active members in the UC, but I think both of us questioning our faith made our relationship stronger and healthier. In some ways, I think it made us “own the decision” of wanting to be together—not for the church but because we wanted it.
How has your marriage changed and improved as time has passed?
Before I went to the Blessing, I prayed that above all else, I hoped my future spouse would be my best friend. Now whether or not a God-like being exists or even heard my prayer, I don’t know, but I have to say that my husband has been just that to me.
I value our relationship so much and sometimes I have to remind myself how crazy our meeting was! We would have never known each other if it wasn’t for that fateful day in Korea many years ago!
When you compare your marriage to other marriages that began in a more ‘traditional’ manner, do you see any major differences?
Maybe one of your readers can tell me whether or not they’ve experienced this in their more traditional marriage, because honestly, I’ve only done the arranged marriage version ;).
One major difference, as far as I can see, was that our relationship didn’t start off with any games. We just jumped right in talking about the big stuff—kids, faith, family, marriage, which country we might want to live in together—all within a matter of hours after meeting each other.
Now, of course, we’ve both changed a lot since that time, but generally we were committed to making the relationship work, so all the nitty-gritty and getting to know each other’s likes/dislikes, we discovered later on after we had already committed to the relationship.
Another difference that I seem to notice is that we had the support of both of our families from the get-go. Before his family ever met me, they welcomed me into their family with open arms.
Do the people in your life know how you two met?
We don’t advertise it, although I have told a few people. Generally though, I’ve noticed most people don’t really care how you met your significant other. I’ve only had a handful of people ask me, even with my husband and I being from different countries.
I don’t tend to tell them this version right away, though. It’s just too long, so I usually give a very watered-down version. I also still socialize with some others who have had an arranged marriage through the church, so obviously for them it’s not a big deal.
Has your meet-cute affected the way you view dating and ‘traditional’ marriage?
Growing up in such a conservative movement and then stepping away from it made me much more tolerant of others’ lifestyles and choices.
However, if we do have kids, I will probably encourage them to wait until their 20s to date, as I do think it’s a good idea to work on yourself before getting involved with another person.
What advice would you give to anyone in a relationship who’s trying to connect better with their partner?
As cliché as it sounds, don’t underestimate friendship in your relationship with your partner. Romance is nice, but a good friendship lasts longer.
Thanks so much for sharing your story!