As the founder and CEO of the Love Intently app, Sophie Kwok wants to remind people that love in any relationship is a daily choice.
By Sophie Kwok, Photo by Lyda McIver
My parents first set foot on American soil in 1991. They had high hopes of pursuing the American dream, but after arriving in the U.S., they were thrown the biggest curve ball of their lives: me. They had no health insurance, no education, no car, no money and a baby on the way. To this day, my mom cringes at the sight of McDonald’s, as it made up the majority of her diet when she was pregnant with me. It was all they could afford.
Logically, I knew my parents loved me, but I never felt it because the way they showed love was radically different from what was shown on American TV. The way they showed me love was not the way I needed or wanted it. My dad still responds, “OK,” when I say, “I love you.”
Accident, burden, afterthought: Negative words and lies were embedded in me. These lies and fears I kept to myself, but they haunted me daily. I believed my parents’ lives would be better without me.
We struggled and constantly fought, the kind of fighting where things are thrown, tears are uncontrollable and words are said that you can never take back. This went on for years.
As college approached, I chose to go out of state. Things got a little better, mainly because when we fought, I had the option of putting down the phone or hanging up.
After graduation, I had an opportunity to spend extended periods of time with refugees from various countries. When you spend time with people who’ve lost everything based on conditions out of their control, what really matters comes to the forefront.
At the time, it was my dream to be an exceptional interior designer at a large firm in San Francisco. As I pursued this dream, it dawned on me that if I remained out of state, I would see my parents three times a year maximum, on holidays and maybe birthdays. In the next 30 years, that’s a total of only 90 times—less than 100. How crazy is that? And at the rate we were going, we would be fighting or yelling at each other for 50 of those times!
This was the first time it really hit me that a refugee crisis is the exact thing my parents, their friends and my friends’ parents went through. The main thing I remember from the research is that it’s rarely a lack of love, but a lack of understanding. And secondly, it wasn’t that they didn’t want to talk about love; they just didn’t know how. Everyone wants strong and meaningful relationships, but how to create them isn’t so obvious.
My personal journey with my parents, paired with my experience at AC4D, catapulted me into starting Love Intently, an app and platform that empowers people to build stronger relationships. We are starting with romantic relationships but plan to expand to other types of relationships in the years to come. We give people tangible ways to excel at loving each other by taking the guesswork out of how to show they care.
Today, I have never felt more loved or supported by my parents. They are my first investors and main cheerleaders. We don’t question whether we love each other, and I’m so grateful to be at a place where we can all fully receive love the way we choose to show it.
The best thing I can say to anyone seeking to embark on a similar journey is this: Start with questions. Start with why. Why do I act or feel this way? Why do they act that way? Do they mean it? Do they know how I feel? Then ask them questions. The vulnerable question that transformed my relationship with my parents was this: How can I be a better daughter to you?
These simple questions I asked myself and the people around me not only bettered my relationship with my family, but also led to the creation of Love Intently. When I became empowered, I found ways to empower others.
Diversity begins with an invitation, inviting people in who are different from us. Unity begins with empathy, truly putting ourselves into other people’s shoes. But love, the very thing we’re all really after, begins with a choice. It’s not enough to love; we must choose to show it daily.
For fun ideas for building stronger relationships, visit loveintently.com.