From a meet-cute encounter to falling in love and more, Venus Navalta wistfully recalls the moments leading up to their wedding anniversary.
This year, we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.
It felt as though a lifetime had passed since my husband Egay saw me in the corridors of the UP College of Mass Communication. Our courtship was set in the leafy campus of UP Diliman during the late 70s, where at that time, I was staying in the dorms of Kamia and Sampaguita. We seemed to be opposites—he, a determined and bold, barrio boy pursuing me, an extremely shy highland girl. Though I’m sure his version of our story had me running after him.
His persistence paid off (though his account will say that he finally rewarded my perseverance). We eventually got married when I was 23 and he was 27—an awfully young age to marry by today’s standards. A fact that shocks my young staff now, and yes, I’d jokingly retort that I was a child bride—an innocent kid lured by his slick quips. But somehow, despite our youth, we made it.
And just like that, our giddy young love turned into a wise old love.
Of Polar Opposites Who Make Things Work
How does a marriage between an extrovert and introvert work—where one is fire and passion and the other is cool and calm? As expected, in the beginning, we’d often clash. But over time, we have intuitively developed ways to adjust to each other’s differences. His outbursts were met by my wintry silence—my best fighting technique, especially since he can’t last an hour without talking to someone. In turn, he will break my serene demeanor with a silly joke or by singing a made-up song with funny lyrics that leaves me laughing till I cry.
Early on, I gave up my romantic dreams of being surprised by flowers and chocolates. I married a frugal Ilocano whose idea of love is going to the market early. That way, he can catch the freshest produce and cook the best meals for his family. Instead, I’d buy myself all the flowers that I want, making us both happy.
Money was never something that we fought about. He trusted how I manage our finances, never questioning how I spend or share with others our resources. Not even when out of the blue, I went out for lunch and bought myself a luxury car. He just said I deserved it. Overall, we are prudent, know our boundaries and we don’t cross the line when it comes to finances.
Career Growth and Raising a Family
Career-wise, it helped that we were in the same industry but on different tracks. We knew of the long hours and high-stress periods, so we took turns giving each other space when needed. As a young mother back then, I even took time away from the corporate world to raise our son, Carlo.
Pausing my work to concentrate on child-rearing is a fulfilling yet humbling experience. As a parent, you lose your business title and you don’t get promoted no matter how hard you work. But eventually, I did go back to my work. I pursued it with passion, and quickly caught up with my peers.
My husband’s feelings are ambivalent regarding my career successes. On one hand, he is proud of my achievements and will constantly brag about them, much to my embarrassment. But sometimes, he can be touchy—a reality that we had to navigate with care and sensitivity. We did not plan it to be this way, so we adjust and accommodate each other’s feelings.
Balance and Togetherness
We were also never physically apart for long periods of time throughout our 40 years of marriage. I gave up my career to be a full-time wife and mom when we lived in the US, while he settled for a lower-ranked position when I was offered a regional role in Singapore. We adjusted based on the situation we were in and didn’t hold grudges against each other for missed career opportunities.
Similarly, we’d always made joint decisions on where to live—even choosing to go back to the Philippines. We feel that we will be happiest here, even when we are away from our immediate families. After all, staying physically together was one of the best decisions we have made in our marriage.
Perhaps, one of the secrets of our enduring marriage is my ability to focus on different roles at the proper time and place. And that includes calling on my relevant experiences as a working wife and mother when necessary. The CEO role stays at work where it belongs and disappears when I am with my family and friends, keeping everything real and grounded.
But I too would readily summon my own experiences when talking to our women leaders. This comes in handy when they encounter similar challenges in child care, relationships, or in mixing career and marriage. Some of our company policies, for example, like working from home (even before this pandemic) and flexible hours were based on what I went through as a working mother.
The Secret to a Lasting Marriage
Aside from holding hands and endlessly teasing each other, my husband and I don’t indulge in public displays of affection. We have mastered though the language of stare signals. One look from the other would be enough for us to know when to advance or to retreat.
Life is not always sunshine and moonlight. There will be rain and floods of sorrow that seem to drown you when darkness descends and you can’t see the way forward. You’ll struggle to understand why you have to go through such misery, then thankfully, the clouds part slowly and life is bright again. We’ve had our fair share of deep pain and we do our best to turn the pain into a gift—regretting, learning, forgiving—making us stronger and keeping us together.
Our marriage is more than an institution, more than just a promise we made four decades ago. It’s alive and evolving. Most of all, it is us. Myself and Egay. We are not a ‘fixed’ institution or a stiff, yellowing document. We are a couple with feelings and moods that change from day to day, with thoughts that evolve—that differ. We have feelings that come and go, that shift and swing.
But all in all, we are perfectly imperfect. And so, we continue to work on our relationship as we journey together on roads we choose—on new paths we create.
A Love So Beautiful
So our once young love has turned old, it becomes more precious and rare. It has faced many battles, though victorious in most. The rough edges have turned into smooth surfaces and the fire and ice have both mellowed into a warmth that is just right—no longer scorching hot nor uncomfortably cold.
By God’s infinite grace, we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. We look back with gratitude on our marriage—two people who started out from opposite ends but managed to come closer, making a life together.
Love So Tender: Mike and Charmaine Lagman’s 25th Wedding Anniversary
Love And Its Different Meanings
The Whirlwind Romance of Derek and Ellen