Throw Away That “List” of What You’re Looking for in a Partner

Photo Credit: Erika Layne Photography


Ashley & Chea

the way we met

I was always set on marrying a black man that burned incense and listened to Lauryn Hill and Dwele into the late hours of the night like myself. Instead, Chea came into my life with every surface difference possible. He had no idea who half of my favorite artists were, but he was always open to learn. I’m from the inner city, and he’s from the inner country. We couldn’t have seemed more different, but our souls have always been aligned, and that is what spoke to our hearts.

“I can’t pass up this good soul just because it’s not packaged the way I thought it would be.” Bryan Chea

We first met standing outside of a concert hall at Ohio State University where we were going to see Jay Z and R Kelly’s best of both worlds concert. We were introduced by mutual friends, spoke briefly, and kept it moving. Later down the road, we coincidentally ended up working for the same insurance company, in the call center. He would bring me lunch and come over to my desk to talk to me every day. Over the next four years, we built a really solid friendship.

Eventually, I moved to New York to further my ballet career, and Chea would call me every night just to make sure I got home safely. Then he came to visit me one weekend, and that’s when we both realized our friendship was evolving into a more romantic relationship.

Fast forward ten years: we now live together in California with our two daughters. Chea and I had been together for almost 8 years and already had a six-year-old together before we made our union official. We believe marriage happens a long time before the ring.

In October 2015, we had two weddings: a Cambodian ceremony and a traditional American one, as well.

“My advice to anyone looking for love, marriage, or to build a family with someone is to be as true to yourself as possible.” Erika Layne Photography

Although we’re different, we’ve always shared the same values, desires, and love for our daughters. Relationships should be built on honesty. Chea and I were close friends first, and we’ve always been completely open with each other about everything.

“Marriage doesn’t make people more faithful, loving, or attentive. Who you date is exactly who you will marry.”Abby Kamagate Photography

We aren’t the most religious people – honestly we aren’t religious at all. I was raised Muslim, and Chea was raised Buddhist. I also spent a lot of time in church because my father is Christian, and my mother felt it was important I experienced all forms of religion. What Chea and I connected on was our spiritual relationship with God/the universe. I’m never going to debate with anyone about why they believe what they believe, but I will forever look at someone’s heart, their character, and what they are contributing to the world. Chea always had the most character and kindness of anyone I’ve ever met. What I’ve learned from my husband is that you just always do the right thing.

Our relationship isn’t perfect, and there are things we do that get on each other’s nerves. I’ll admit my husband chews and breathes loudly, and when he flosses his teeth next to me, it makes me want to thrash him. We’ve had to work hard to understand one another’s needs and to grow into this space we are in now.

“Another reason we’re able to flourish is due to our ability to tune everyone else out and focus on what’s best for us and our little growing family.”Bryan Chea

I used to obsess about being the perfect mother. I wanted to do everything right, so I followed every single book and doctor’s suggestion when it came to breastfeeding. Over time, I learned to relax and not to let the outside noise dictate my instincts as a parent. When you follow your own path, life becomes a lot more peaceful. I trust doctors and believe what they say and know the information they tell you is based off of what they have learned in school. However, it is also good to do your own research and to implement methods that work for you and your children specifically.

Photo Credit: Bryan Chea

Chea and I believe instead of whooping your children, you should teach them how to meditate and to control their thoughts and energy at an early age. We believe in teaching our children to push themselves physically, but also to truly practice inner peace.

Photo Credit: Bryan Chea

We hope our story inspires people to look outside the box and think for themselves. At the end of the day, it’s important to define your own relationship, life, faith, and path in this world. What’s most important is that which brings you peace.