We are each other’s anchor and motivator; we had known and loved each other for five years when we got engaged. Our introduction wasn’t through the Tongan means befitting those of my blood; the means through which the definition of talangofua is granted to a noble couple. It was a serendipitous encounter at my youngest sister’s 21st birthday celebration that brought us together. He came in place of one of his sisters, and in true Tongan gentleman form of asking for a dance, he asked his older sister, to ask his first cousin, to ask my eldest sister if he could dance with me. That first dance defined our lives; he asked me whether I liked to dance, to which I responded, “What I have been doing all night? I’ve been dancing.”
Sunday, August 11th 2012 was a hot day in Tonga. A trip to Vakaloa Beach Resort, which is on the western part of the island in the village of Kanokupolu, seemed a reasonable plan. The cool breeze from the ocean comforted the sun as it settled us into an open conversation while we waited for our lunch. There was no one else in the resort’s restaurant. Unbeknownst to me, Johnny had bought a ring and planned how, when, and where he was going to propose; THIS was that moment. I was stunned, and for a moment, hesitated to say yes to Johnny’s proposal to marry him. As he found himself at a loss for words when my first response was if he was joking, I looked upon his face, took a leap of faith, and said yes. After I said yes, I immediately asked him if he was ready to marry me. He said yes. I felt great joy at the thought of being engaged to someone I loved deeply and who knew me better than anyone else but I was also scared that Johnny wasn’t prepared to withstand the next wave of adversity I saw on the horizon.
We had just recovered from a long break up which I initiated in 2011 and as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Our breakup didn’t have anything to do with the Tongan culture or anyone else’s influence; it was my own personal decision. As a member of the Tongan royal family, I was raised to dedicate my life to my family and my people and I needed a strong partner to support me and feel the same way I felt about our culture and those duties. However, I also tried to make our partnership as normal as possible and competing priorities caused great instability between us. Breaking up with Johnny was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.
During our breakup I developed a great sense of independence that reminded me of the sacrifices that I had made to reflect the commitment and dedication that was important to me in a marriage. After countless tear-filled conversations, we agreed to meet. The first time I saw Johnny again after our breakup, he gazed into my eyes with a big smile and I felt so happy to see him. I stayed seated and reserved because I wasn’t going to make anything easy for him anymore. Johnny understood that we were back at square one, and many of the customs that I sacrificed to give our relationship a sense of normalcy were going to be restored to what it should have always been. For instance, each time we met, I always had one of my relatives with me. As customary for Tonga, a respectable, unmarried Tongan girl always has someone with her, especially when she is being courted by a man. This keeps the girl’s dignity and public image safe. We met in a traditionally safe manner often and after almost another year he proposed.
Our breakup served as a reminder for both of us; of the expectations, the sacrifices, the commitments, and what we needed from each other in order to be the best that we can be. My family and I knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to leave my public duties. That Sunday when Johnny proposed at Vakaloa, he showed me a partner who was willing to dive head-first into a life of duty lived under public scrutiny and be the husband that will hold me through the many dances that our lives will encounter. I have been preparing all my life for this dance of a lifetime.