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Our secret love story

Don’t we all enjoy love stories? Especially when you star in a love story yourself, it’s essential to aim for a happy ending. 😉

Many of you already know by now that I just got engaged in July. I am still on cloud 9. The feeling that I am committed to Nigel (yes, I can say fiancé now!!) on that next level is to my surprise different than before. After 15 years of being together, it feels like we finally grew up and are ready for this next chapter.

Yep, we are in a loving relationship for 15 years and we’re still going strong and are very much in love with each other. I would say that 90% of our love is effortless. We are each other’s best buddies. Our relationship, of course, has experienced a lot of ups and downs, but most importantly, after all these phases in our lives, we pulled together in the same direction. You never know what can happen in the future, but for now, I cannot complain about anything at all.

But it wasn’t always that easy. Because we had to fight for our love, the beginning of our relationship was really tough. I am 100% sure that this experience had a big influence on our personalities and is also the reason why we became who we are today and why we stuck together after this difficult time.

I asked on Instastories which story you prefer to read first: the engagement story or the secret love story. 76% of my followers voted for the secret love story. So here we go!

How did we meet?

So let’s start from the beginning.
Everything started about 16 years ago, I was 16 years old. Do you still know CU2? If you’re under 30, you probably don’t lol. It was one of the first social media platforms before the Facebook era, where you had to build your own profile page with HTML.
There was this collective page for Asians, where you were divided into ethnic groups. I was obviously in the Chinese group with lots of others. Amongst all those Chinese people, Nigel’s profile stood out for me, because it said: “also Surinamese”.
Nigel’s ethnicity is half Chinese and half Surinamese. I thought it was very interesting, so I left him a message, something random like “nice profile” probably. (In that time, you would leave messages at a lot of profiles to be “connected”).
Nigel responded to my message saying: “Thank you. Can I add you on MSN?”. I added him and we started to chat. At that age, I was obsessed with MSN. I was online 24/7, chatting with 10 different friends at the same time. The more the better.

While chatting, I found out that he lived in Amsterdam, was 3 years older, and single. I also have to mention that also added and chatted with a few other guys that time. It was all very friendly, not intentionally pursuing a relationship. It was a good platform to make new friends. Luckily there were no creeps in between. One year flew by and Nig and I still were going strong with our online friendship, endless conversations about everything.

I found it really nice to be able to talk to someone outside my usual clique.. At some point, I realized that I really craved his attention. We both had cellphones back then, so the next step was texting (SMS) constantly. Our phone bills were HIGH!

So after a year, we still haven’t met. The very first time was when we both had tickets to Alicia Keys’ concert in Amsterdam. We both went with our own friends, but still, it was so fun to finally meet face to face after chatting for so long.

After the concert, we stayed in touch. Back then I was still actively dancing in a demo team. We performed weekly at events. One weekend we had to dance in Utrecht at a big fair event. Nigel was coming with a friend. The day before the contest, he confessed that he really liked me. Of course, I liked him too, but I never pursued a relationship with him because of the distance.

Anyhow, he came to the event, we had a nice time. Then he asked me out on a date.


Our first date was a double date with my best friends. We had a lovely picnic in the park where we had our first kiss (privately ;)).

It was official!!

Young love Hashtag by Lily

When we just started dating (I was about 16 years old here)

Family drama

If you have read my previous storytime article about the “banana generation”, you know I come from a traditional Chinese family. Both parents grew up in traditional households. My upbringing was more Chinese than Dutch I would say.

Now see, before I even started the relationship with Nigel I already knew that I was asking for trouble. My family would like to see me with a proper Chinese guy, and if not Chinese, a “White” guy would be okay too.
Although Nigel is half Chinese and half Surinamese, he doesn’t look Chinese. As his Chinese dad passed away when he was still very young, he doesn’t even speak Chinese or know anything about Chinese traditions.

So, to introduce this relationship to my parents, I wanted to be 100% sure that it was serious. I waited another year.
In that year we developed a very puppy love crush for each other. I was head over heels. My first love. After a year, I thought it was finally time to share the news.

By this time I was 17 years old. I came home from dancing and I went to my parents’ room. They were laying in bed all ready watching TV. I knocked on the door and said something like: “Mum, Dad… I have to tell you something… I have a boyfriend. He lives in Amsterdam. 3 years older and he’s half Chinese and half Surinamese.”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but they weren’t throwing a party I can tell you. It was a little bit awkward and especially my mum expressed that she didn’t like it, even though she hadn’t even met him yet nor had she seen a picture.

Long story short, that night became a nightmare. We had the biggest fight ever. She forced me to break up with Nigel. She took my phone and called him.
While discussing things with my mum, Nigel began to see where it was going: NOWHERE. He knew my fear was true, it was pointless to argue. So he decided to agree with my mum to end the relationship and he told me to stay with my parents, at least that was the story we’ve sold, but we stayed together and kept everything a secret.

If he hadn’t said that to me, I probably would have run away from home, but he reminded me that it would not have improved anything as I was still underage and still had to go to school.

Now, years and years later, I totally understand my mum’s point of view. She might not have acted the right way, but I get it. Imagine the pressure from everyone (Chinese culture really cares how other people think of you) and values that you believe in, and want the best of the best for your kids. She followed her instinct instead of seeing it from a more modern and open perspective, or even from my point of view. That is her flaw, but at the same time, I know (even back then) that she acted out of love.

The secret life

People who know me well know that I really suck at lying. BUT, somehow I became a pro in hiding my love life that I didn’t want to give up for the sake of my parents. I came up with so many lies and even skipped school sometimes because I wanted to secretly meet him.

I’m not gonna lie, it was tough. My mum was stricter than ever. She checked my phone bills tracing all the numbers I called, to forbid me to have any contact with him. My parents didn’t know that Nigel bought me a cheap phone with a new sim that I could use to call him. After school, I had to come straight home, which made me lie about projects with classmates and even led to skipping school.

Luckily, Nigel was a student back then, so he could travel for free most of the time by train. Still, it took about 2,5 hours to travel from door to door. So 5 hours in total, just to see me. Sometimes he traveled that long to see me for only 30 minutes.

In summer it was easier because we could just chill outside. Wintertime was trickier, we had to meet at the library, at my friend’s home, or at cafés. I remember one time we had no place to go, so we sat in a park, in the freezing cold and rain, on a bench with an umbrella, just to be together.

We have to be thankful for a lot of people around me who were willing to either lie to or withhold the truth from my parents to help us. (You know who you are guys, and I won’t ever forget that! Thank you so much for believing in us).

It got easier when I finished high school and moved to Utrecht for my study. I was distant from my family and also the whole Chinese community. After all, I blamed our culture for this.

Singapore Zoo

Secretly traveling to Singapore together

The confrontation

Our relationship has grown even deeper. That face-to-face confrontation was bound to happen again. After 8(!) years of living a double life, I found the courage to announce our relationship again.
I was 26, I graduated with my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. Nigel and I were ready for our next step: moving in together. With the best and worst-case scenarios in my mind, I faced the scariest talk of my life.

Best case:
Nigel will be accepted into the family

Worst case:
The third world war would start and they would kick me out of the family.

I was finally ready for it, whatever the result would be.

First I told my youngest aunt about Nigel over the phone. She is only 7 years older than I am, so I figured she would understand me the most. She did. She gave me advice to talk to my dad first. She would take care of all my other aunts, as my mum values her sister’s opinions the most. I was relieved and felt really confident after that talk.

The next day I went back to my home town by train. I got a message from my other aunt (my youngest aunt had briefed them about the situation by now) wishing me luck that night.

My dad always picked me up at the train station. Like my aunt advised me, I told my dad “the news” first when I sat there in the car. He was really understanding and said that it’s okay, that he will support us. He also said that he will help me tell my mum and that I don’t have to be afraid. I remember that I was in such an adrenaline rush that I couldn’t even comprehend that my dad finally knows about Nigel after all those years.

We arrived home and my mum came downstairs. My dad asked her to sit with us because I had news to tell her. I believe my dad did all the talking actually, I just sat there watching. My mum looked at me and said, “I knew it, I’m your mum, I’m not stupid”. And then she gave me a hug. Tears of happiness ran down my face. Until this day I still get emotional thinking about that night. It felt like all my wishes came true and I have my happily ever after, after all!

My parents are not stupid. Of course, they already knew something was up to during all those years. I am not that good of an actress =) My mother had asked me many times over the years if I had a boyfriend. I was just too traumatized from the last time to admit it. I am so lucky that my story has a happy ending because I know other people who actually had the “worst-case scenario”.

Happy ever after

The news spread to the family and everyone really embraced Nigel in the family. Even my grandparents are a big fan of him. He is an easy person to like, but still, it means so much to me to see him together with my family at one table.

Fast forward, in July this year, we celebrated our 15th year anniversary and Nigel proposed to me that weekend in Amalfi. I know a lot of you are interested in the engagement story too. I’m going to work on that in a separate article. So, soon to be continued.. 😉

nig and mum

Pinching myself moment when my mum and Nigel were on the dance floor together not long after the talk.

The moral

I guess why I am telling this story is that I have met many people over the years who have gone through similar experiences due to different reasons. The forbidden love stories are not only in movies; it happens in our daily life too.

I always find it comforting when I can relate to stories. Especially the ones that have shaped you as a person and motivate you to chase your own dreams no matter what other people say. Your happiness comes first. Trust your instinct, be patient. Things happen for a reason. I believe that Nigel and I might not have been together this day if we haven’t gone through this phase.

The success of a relationship of course depends on lots of other factors. Still, we really had to fight for each other and we weren’t willing to give up our love. So later when we were in a “difficult” phase in our relationship, we conquered it quite easily with the reminder that we would never take this relationship for granted.

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The End


Lily Tjon Hashtagbylily

Chinese Dutchie sharing her love for Fashion, Beauty, Travel, Lifestyle & Culture.