I am so, so excited to present and introduce y’all to the first couple in the International Couples Series, Allison and Jack O’Brien! It’s a funny story how we are connected, which just goes to show that this is a very small world! I have actually never met Allison &Jack (yet), but by a twist of fate, Allison was in the same graduating class as my middle sister in high school. SO STRANGE.
We were connected through Instagram when we both started following each other and liking each other’s pictures. It wasn’t until I posted a picture of my family on Instagram for my Birthday Month Giveaway that Allison made the connection that I was related to her classmate! She commented on my post explaining how it’s such a small world and from there, our Instagram relationship grew! I was so ecstatic that they decided to participate in this series because their Instagram feed and marriage is definitely one of those “Fairytale Marriages” that we all read about, and the best part is, it’s genuine! I’m sure y’all will fall in love with this couple as much as I have, and I’m sure you’ll get a bit teary-eyed as well while reading this.
Let’s begin, shall we?
The Quirky Pineapple: Tell me your love story! (: Where did you both meet, who made the first move, how did your love come about?
JACK: We met at the conservatoire, Guildford School of Acting, in England in 2012. I was training to be an actor, and Allison was training in musical theatre.We can never remember exactly how we met! But she was this tiny little thing, dancing around in her ballet slippers…I looked at her like she was made of magic. Much to my amazement, it was actually this same little lady who made the first move! She asked me to dance during a night on the town – I couldn’t believe it. I asked her out for a first date months later, cooked her dinner, and we watched the original, vintage “Dracula” film because she was super into her horror films back then! I told her I had fallen deeply in love with her only a week after I made her mine.
ALLISON: It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with him at all! Jack is the epitome of a true English gentleman. He made every day for me feel like it was the next best day of my life. I had love on my mind and a spring in my step! I had to leave England for about 3 months right after we started going steady as I was going home to spend the summer in America with my family. We spent that entire summer writing long love letters to one another, sending each other mixed tapes and drawings through the mail, and talking on the phone for hours and hours and hours. It was a very old fashioned way of falling in love, but we fell in love hard! The rest is history.
TQP: Where are you living now? If it’s not both of your home countries, why there? What do you like about it?
JACK: We currently live in a little Southern Irish city called Galway. It had always been a dream of ours to visit, but we never thought we’d move so soon in our lives! I think we’re heavily inspired by seeing something we want to do, and then just doing it. We came across the idea of living in Ireland after watching “P.S. I Love You,” and the dream had never left us since.
ALLISON: At our wedding, we made a pact to be adventurers. We said it in our vows in front of all the people we love. And we live right by the sea in Galway! It’s so amazing to wake up in the morning together and see the ocean and mountains right outside our bedroom window. I LOVE being able to experience the culture first hand—there’s honestly nothing quite like having authentic Irish fiddles serenade your walk through the cobblestone streets! But my favourite thing about living here has to be the fact that Ireland feels like it is “ours.” It’s the first country that we are living in together as husband and wife that isn’t either of our home countries. It feels very equal to us.
TQP: What languages do you both speak? Which is the common language that you communicate in?
ALLISON: I’m bilingual in English and Tagalog. We’ve also been learning Italian together, and it’s absolutely delightful! We listen to an Italian audio instructor on tapes whilst we paint and most nights before we go to sleep. English is definitely the most common language we communicate in, but slowly and steadily we are starting to incorporate the Italian language in our daily conversations. It’s so funny seeing people’s reactions when we’re speaking English to each other and then slip into Italian all of a sudden! I’ve also been teaching Jack Tagalog ever since we got together—he’s picked it up so quickly and even uses it around my family!
JACK: Allison has always been amazing at picking up languages… I’m always hearing her singing songs fluently in Hindi, French, Italian and Hawaiian. I have been so bad with learning a new language growing up. I can probably remember a couple of phrases from a full 3 years of French classes. With Allison being Filipina, I’ve definitely picked up phrases along the way–“Hay nako!” (Oh my gosh!) has been my go to recently. But, of course, all the variations of “I love you” was my first taste of the language.
TQP: What are your nationalities? What are your ethnic backgrounds?
JACK: I am born and raised as a true Englishman with some Scottish blood, but I know that with a name like “O’Brien,” there is definitely some Irish in me somewhere.
ALLISON: I’m American, and my ethnic background is made up of Filipino, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese!
TQP: What is the most frustrating thing or has been the most frustrating thing about being in an international, intercultural and interlanguage relationship?
ALLISON: When we became engaged, we knew wholeheartedly that we wanted to marry each other solely for our love and our love alone—regardless of whether or not immigration would let us physically be together. But for 7 months leading up to our wedding day, we had done endless amounts of research trying to find a way that immigration would let us be together, and every time, it lead to a dead end. It was heartbreaking.
JACK: We spent so many nights holding each other with tears in our eyes because it seemed as though we would never find a way around it. Every time it seemed like we were getting nearer to a solution, we would later realize that every option came down to one thing—financial requirements that we couldn’t meet having been students at the time. Can you imagine that? Not being able to be with your wife, your soul mate, because you don’t have a certain amount of money.
ALLISON: It got to a point where we just stopped the immigration research all together. In our hearts, there was only one thing that mattered—the fact that we were hopelessly in love, committing ourselves to one another eternally, and that we would be husband and wife! Instead of dwelling on what was going wrong in our life, we decided to focus on all the things that were going right. And eventually, the pain of the inevitable became completely overshadowed by so much happiness and love. It became the happiest time of our lives.
JACK: It made us stronger and fall deeper in love. After we got married, we decided to travel the world for 7 months. Together, we made the decision that if certain parts of the universe wouldn’t allow us to live together, instead, we would live everywhere else and make a home within each other. It wasn’t until 4 months into our travels, after endless prayers that, somehow, God showed us a way to live in one place together. And here we are now in our humble little Irish abode! We don’t take any moments for granted…each second we have together is cherished.
TQP: What was or is one thing about your partner’s culture that was the hardest to get used to?
ALLISON: The drinking and partying!!! I arrived in England over three years ago barely having tasted alcohol before, as the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. People would drink their weight in alcohol, and I’d be the awkward potato not knowing what a cider was!
JACK: It always made me laugh, when I was visiting Allison’s family in America, when we would drive to the ‘local’ mall. This drive alone would be around 45 minutes. From England, everything we would need to get to is perhaps walking distance, and if it’s anything above an hour you’d maybe re-think about whether it’s worth the travel! But in Virginia, even to get your milk and your bread, it’d involve a car journey!
TQP: What is one thing about your partner’s culture that you love the most?
JACK: I had my first taste of the American holidays from last October with Allison and her wonderful family. America really makes the most of its traditions – and I must admit, as an Englishman we tend to giggle about it, thinking that it’s all over the top. But having been around for the atmosphere of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, it really is a magical time of year. There’s a great feeling in the air! And don’t get me started on all the sweets!
ALLISON: Oh my, I can’t choose! I love everything about the English culture. The family traditions, the cities, the food, the fashion, the accents, the history, the way of life…it’s a culture I’ve dreamt of knowing ever since I was a little girl. I just love it.
TQP: What have you adopted from your partner’s culture that you would try (or want) to incorporate into your own?
JACK: Family seems to play a huge role in Allison’s life and background; Filipinos really stick together and mean so much to one another. It’s wonderful to see and makes me think about how much I will treasure our children one day. The idea of my babies running around calling each other “Ate” and “Kuya” (Big Sister and Big Brother) gives me butterflies all the time.
ALLISON: Every Sunday, English families get together and have a “Roast Dinner.” It’s basically a mini-Thanksgiving every Sunday. I haven’t grown up with that tradition, but I think it’s really sweet and I wish I did! Now, Jack and I make a vegetarian Roast Dinner together every Sunday, even if it’s just the two of us! I can’t wait to share this tradition with our children one day.
TQP: Where do you both plan on living in the future?
JACK: We’re learning Italian as we plan to move to Italy after our Irish adventure. That’s another one on our bucket list.
TQP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for people who find themselves in an international, intercultural or interlanguage relationship?
ALLISON: Be passionate and be spontaneous! I absolutely love that quote from Dream for an Insomniac, ”Unless it’s mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it’s a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life, love shouldn’t be one of them.” I can’t stress it enough. If you want to fight, then fight. If you want to make up, then make up. If you want to love, then love. Life is too short to love halfheartedly.
JACK: The little things really do matter. If, for instance, you are in different time zones, it can be hard to arrange Skype calls etc. so do what you can: send frequent small messages for your partner to read when they get the chance, send a funny picture, or tell them that they can expect something in the mail soon (or not, and keep it a surprise!). The fact that your love is international, it’s already proven that it is a powerful kind of love. And sometimes, it’s the little things that can keep you both down to Earth and appreciate your love even further.
TQP: Extra Question! This one is a bit more personal, but can you explain (or try to explain) that feeling, love, between you two and why it’s so strong, why it works, and how being in this type of relationship makes you stronger as a couple?
JACK: The only way I can describe my love for Allison, is to say that it is love at first sight – but not exactly in the same way that you would think: I fall in love with her every day when I wake up and see her face for the first time each morning…when we finish creating something wonderful together and I look into her eyes…when I re-enter the house after picking up some groceries and watch her little face brighten up when she sees me. The simplest way to describe it is to say that each and every day when I see her, feel her, and know her, it is love at first sight…each and every time. I guess for me, loving Allison is getting excited to fall asleep at night knowing that I get to wake up the following morning and rediscover my love on a brand new day.
ALLISON: I think what makes our love so strong is that we live our lives for the moment. It’s said all the time, but life is so short, and every day together is so precious. We have a huge list of things we want to do and see, and it makes my belly fill up with a million butterflies to think that Jack and I have already crossed so many things off that list. We’re so young, but we’re also just two little old souls who have found our warmth within each other’s hearts. Every day has become an adventure, even the littlest things—whether it be washing the dishes with each other, going to church on Sundays and praying out loud together, telling each other stories before bed, even just holding hands around the house. Every day with Jack feels unbelievably romantic. We have many imperfections that we’ve grown to love and learn from each other every second. We have a whole lot of dreams, and whilst we may seem like ordinary people, each day together is an extraordinary life.
Thank you so much, to you both, for participating in the International Couples Series and sharing your love story! Y’all know I’m a big sucker for love, and just a hopeless romantic in general, so anything related to love… I’m probably going to always be excited about. Stay tuned for more interviews from more couples who are in international, intercultural and interlanguage relationships! I’ve been reading through the interviews coming in and each couple honestly makes my heart melt!
If you fell in love with these two like I did, and would like to follow Jack and Allison’s love story, you can follow them on Instagram and Pinterest. They also have their own blog: OBriendandOlive.com, where you can get more peeks into their life in Galway. You can also buy Allison and Jack’s paintings, on their Etsy, and help them donate money to two charities that are very close to their hearts.