Today’s culture prides itself in giving us options—from what brand of almond milk to buy to whom to date and marry. But Barry Schwartz, in his book, “The Paradox of Choice,” argues that choice overload actually decreases satisfaction. It makes us question our decisions and sets us up for unrealistic expectations, so that even grocery-shopping can become a stressful affair.
Perhaps this is the secret of earlier generations: faced with fewer choices, they’ve learned to make the most of what they have. It’s the same attitude that has allowed the relationship of Popoy and Belle Nery to flourish through the years.
“Beauty fades, hairlines recede,” Belle teases. Popoy reacts. “Why do you have to say that?” Laughter erupts at the dinner table. He ordered beef salpicao; she ordered paella. They taste each other’s food. But Belle sticks to this tip for a lasting marriage.
“You will ask many questions in the course of your marriage such as if you’re still compatible. But do we have a choice? No. We made a covenant with God. So choose to see the good. And always love! Because love begets love.”
Popoy and Belle first met at the municipal office in Makati, where they both worked during the martial law years. Initially an older brother figure, Popoy would ward off Belle’s would-be suitors. But an innocent albeit whiskery peck on Belle’s cheek left a lasting mark on them both that eventually led to something more.
However, Belle’s parents had misgivings about the much older Popoy, who was 32, thinking he would only leave their 23-year old daughter. Belle’s father gave them an ultimatum: break up or get married immediately. Despite having only dated for nine months, neither Belle nor Popoy had any doubt about their road to forever.
“I felt certain that I was willing to give up my life for her. That whatever happens, I’d never leave her.”
It sounds like an epic love story but they also had their share of petty quarrels. Belle recalls the early days of their married life when she’d wait for Popoy to come home, thinking the worse. She was always prepared—either to think fast on her feet should Popoy meet an accident, or to pack up and leave if he was fooling around.
As a young couple, they often lashed out at each other. Over time, however, they’ve learned to apologize and make peace quickly, having seen no point in insisting on who’s right or wrong. It’s an attitude their children have inherited from them, as well as that of saying “I love you” often. True enough, Popoy and Belle never let a day go by without saying that magic formula.
“If you love your spouse, why don’t you say it? Doesn’t it feel good just knowing that somebody loves you? Let them know.”
Growing in spirit
If there’s one thing that has allowed the Nerys to prove their love for each other, it’s facing challenges together. From the possibility of having a child with congenital problems; to that same child who, though born normal, being hospitalized for viral encephalitis; to near-bankruptcy after putting up a business. Truly, their oft-repeated “I love you” has been greatly tested. Thanks to divine Providence, as well as round-the-clock support and prayers of their families and brethren in a covenanted community, they were able to rise above it all.
“Whatever problem you pray for, God will have an answer. Have faith in knowing that God is capable of giving you anything. Now, when we have problems, I get excited, wondering how God will answer us.”
1:00 a.m. burgers and more
Even as their kids are well into adulthood, the Nerys continue to speak what seems to be their primary love languages: quality time and food. Their kids are the type that will randomly propose that the family heads out for burgers at 1:00 a.m. or to have a movie marathon just because.
“When your children want to be with you, grab it! Don’t forsake quality time with them. Family day can be any day of the week.”
In the age of Tinder and open relationships, it’s refreshing to see a couple who has willfully removed all other options from their hearts, so that their choice is boiled down to one: love for family.