I was young and ambitious; I wanted a better life and a promising future. But then my reality was that I was employed as a staff nurse in the Philippines with a salary that barely made ends meet. My then-girlfriend of five years, now my lovely wife, had a fledging career. So stark was our difference in pay that sometimes she pays for our dates! Great! But I felt that I had to give more-- And so when an opportunity for an interview for a UK Hospital came up, I just had to grab it.
The interview went well, and before the day ended, I was one of the lucky ones to pass the stringent questioning and qualify to work for this UK Hospital. Right around six months after the interview, I was on a plane for Heathrow with 23 other nurses who have now become friends and family. Before I left the Philippines, I promised to return to her soon. It soon took four more years of call cards, love letters, two vacations back home and long hours of video calling before I popped the question. ‘’Will you marry me?’’ luckily she said ‘’yes!’’ I thought I was the happiest man on earth and everything was going well.
It took us six months to get my wife here in the UK. Everything was smooth sailing, and to make it even better, my wife got a job in a local recruitment firm just three weeks after arriving in the country. “Happy days!”- I thought to myself. Before she arrived, I was ready for her to take odd jobs, and I was getting myself psyched to work extra to make ends meet. “We were very lucky!”- I said to myself.
But then, one day, I saw my wife crying in the corner of our flat. She wasn’t herself and told me she wasn’t happy with her job. Shocked to hear this, I had to straighten her out, and I tried to make her realise that we were in a much better situation than other couples starting in the UK. I told her, “Don’t you see what I see?”. Deep inside, I, too, was in shambles; I was torn because my wife was happy with her career back in the Philippines. I felt guilty as I made her come to the UK; now she seems stuck with this supposedly dream job. For a couple more days, she would cry, and sometimes arguments arose from these. It was becoming toxic. Then it hit me; my dream of getting my wife to come and live with me here in the UK was mine alone. My realisation that we are blessed that my wife found a good job very early was just my delusion. I only heard myself. I was being selfish.
And so, I tried to talk with my wife more. Ask her about her day whenever she comes home from work. Get to know her colleagues, know their names and even the latest stories on them. Understand her job, her strong points and which part of her job was most challenging. I made it my duty to listen and hear her words for what it is rather than hearing them with my interpretation. I can’t say what exactly happened, but my wife had a turning point one day. She is now happier and hearing her laugh again greatly relieved me. My wife was openly discussing how her day went and has gained friends at work.
She eventually moved on from her first job here in the UK, and when she left, she was already being considered for a higher role and left a hefty bonus to boot. I was initially very scared because I thought she was doing brilliantly in her job. But my wife knew what she wanted and was determined to land her dream role. And so, instead of pulling her back, I took the plunge with her. I chauffeured her to every interview and also sat through and observed her practice presentations. Needless to say, my wife found her calling and has been very successful in her career; she is currently the lead recruiter for a popular automotive company. More than anything else, I believe she had the courage and grit to pull through and find what suited her best. She never gave up.
Looking back, there have been many struggles that my wife and I went through. The struggles of couples with careers, especially for those who work in different fields, can be very difficult. Add to the fact that emigrating is already a challenge in itself. But I believe in the power of listening, and it entails being available and present for your partner. Listening is not easy, and it's an active skill that requires effort. To hear is not to listen. Empathy starts with listening.
So Filipino UK Nurses, as we celebrate Valentine’s day this month, I urge couples who may be encountering the same struggles as we did to listen to your other half. We live with empathy and practice this in our daily lives. Real listening is engaging with your partner and doing things together. After all, achieving your goal might bring you joy, but having you and your partner fulfil your dreams together is a higher level of solitude.