Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Jul 29th
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Home Our Volunteers Stories Rekinding Their Love - A miserable marriage

Rekinding Their Love - A miserable marriage

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Rekinding Their Love
A miserable marriage
A transformation
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 A miserable marriage
Life in the United States was difficult for Lin. She had grown up in the countryside in Taiwan, and her new environment was just about as foreign for her as could be imagined.

There were signs that life would be difficult from the very beginning. Her baby began to cry after they had just gotten off the plane. Annoyed, her husband turned to her and said, “You know nothing and you shouldn’t have come to the U.S. with me at all!” Lin was hurt and frustrated that her husband would blame her and be so inconsiderate, even before they had begun their new life in this country.

Lin began doubting her decision to move to America. She longed to return to Taiwan, but she had no money. She had no choice but to stay with her husband.

As a U.S. Navy officer, Harper was routinely transferred from one naval base to another. Each time he was transferred, Lin had to move with him. Harper worked hard to support his family while studying towards a Ph.D., but he was a man under a great deal of pressure, and it showed. He was a lieutenant commander who treated his subordinates with the same authoritative military discipline under which he had been trained. The result was a job filled with tension and stress. Frequently, the demands and the stress of his military life would spill over to Lin at home. Whenever Harper was under great pressure or stress, he turned to alcohol and vented his anger and frustration at Lin.

The differences in language and culture, when coupled with the stresses they each encountered, led to frequent quarrels and fights between the two. “My husband would often get drunk and curse me when he arrived home from work,” said Lin. “If I talked back, he would say I wasn’t good enough to talk to him. He threw the fact that I had little education right in my face.”

Sometimes she would vent her anger on her children after being scolded by her husband. She even resorted to beatings when they didn’t behave themselves. Her husband turned her behavior against her, beating her and threatening to report her to the police and have her sent back to Taiwan. Worried that she’d never see her children again if she was sent back, she put up with it all. Under her husband’s hot temper, Lin gradually learned to be tough and strong.

The couple’s rocky marital relationship greatly influenced their three children. Their oldest son grew up with a short, hot temper like his father. He also took to drinking. Their second son was jailed for drugs, and their youngest son, hanging around with the wrong crowd, began using marijuana.

Failing to maintain a happy marriage and raise well-adjusted children depressed Lin immensely. There were moments when Lin even thought of taking her own life. But in the end, she never followed through with her thoughts. Despite their flaws, she loved her children very much and could not bear to leave them on their own. Although it was hard, she remained strong and never gave up on them. “I used to ponder all that had happened to me. I wondered if I had done so many bad deeds in my past lives so as to deserve so much misfortune in this lifetime.”

A shift in perspective
When Lin first came to the U.S. with her husband, she found a job working in a bar. The job lasted about five years. Eventually, she was able to open a barbershop of her own. Fearing clashes with her husband when she got off work, she often spent hours after work wandering around instead of heading directly home.

A friend of hers, Zhang Cun-rong (張純蓉), happened to be a Tzu Chi commissioner. One time after Lin had quarreled with her husband, Zhang invited her to have dinner at her place. She encouraged Lin to join a study group attended by local Tzu Chi members. She also gave her some cassettes of lectures by Master Cheng Yen.

“Two months later, Lin returned the cassettes to me,” Sister Zhang recalled. “All of them were still sealed just as they were when I gave them to her. She told me that even if she had tried to listen, she would not have been able to understand what the Master was saying, nor would she have taken the Master’s words to heart.”

It was not until two years later that Sister Zhang gave the cassettes to Lin again. By this time, they had become closer friends. This time around, Lin listened attentively to the cassettes. Deeply touched by the Master’s messages, Lin started thinking about what she could do to benefit others. She decided to put her barbering skills to good use by offering free haircuts whenever Tzu Chi volunteers held relief distributions or free clinics.

In addition to working to benefit others, Lin began speaking more kindly. “Every time my husband and I quarreled, he would become even angrier if I talked back. Sister Zhang taught me not to get irritated and argue with my husband. Also, the Master says that good words are like lotus flowers blooming from your mouth, and bad words are like poisonous snakes hissing from your lips. From that, I realized we should only speak to others in a kind and gentle way.”

From then on, whenever a quarrel was about to arise, Lin would chant the Buddha’s name silently in her heart or divert her attention by tuning in to the Master’s talks on Da Ai TV. Harper had no one to argue with when Lin chose not to respond to his anger. As a result, he began to lose his temper less frequently.

Lin put several English Tzu Chi publications in her barbershop for customers to read. Sometimes customers would unburden themselves to her, telling her of their unhappy or unsatisfactory lives. Lin tried to lift their spirits by sharing thoughts from Master Cheng Yen’s book, Jing Si Aphorisms. She even donated the tips she received to Tzu Chi in her customers’ names.

At 4:30 every morning, Lin woke up and listened to the Master’s daily Dharma talk. The Master reminded Lin of the grandmother who had raised her and guided and educated her on the principles of life. She found strength every day from the Master’s talks, and she was able to begin her day with a joyful heart. She felt transformed from the inside out, and she began to replace the negative feelings toward her husband with a positive mindset. She thought to herself, “My husband has worked so hard to support the family. I should show my gratitude by making sure the house is clean and tidy and by taking care of everything at home so that he can go to work without worries. If he gets angry and stressed at work, I should leave him alone and give him time to calm down.” Lin began realizing that although what had happened to her in life was very painful, she could still be grateful. She had at one time contemplated taking her own life; now she chose to be thankful for being well provided for and for being able to dedicate her spare time to volunteering for Tzu Chi.


" Not harming others is but our duty. Having a good heart without doing good things is still equal to doing nothing at all. "
Jing-Si Aphorism