When I first started filming Bling Empire at the end of 2018, I was so excited. I’m an executive producer on the show along with Jeff Jenkins, and I’d gotten my whole group of friends on board. Initially, I was going to stay more behind the scenes, but Jeff encouraged me and my boyfriend, Andrew, to be on camera with everyone else.
Andrew and I had been dating for several years, but it was a rough time for us. Despite my initial enthusiasm about the show, it wound up capturing one of the most difficult times in my life.
Andrew’s darkest secret, his anger, and our codependency issues all played out on screen.We had a lot of arguments during that time, and sometimes things did get blown out of proportion.
But, there was also more to our life together that was filmed than what could fit into eight TV episodes. Bling Empire was only able to show a sliver of our five-year relationship.
After the show finished filming, we actually took about five to six months apart at the beginning of 2020. We did not have any communication, we lived separately and still do, and we really focused on being the best versions of ourselves.
I’ve been going to individual therapy ever since filming wrapped on the show.
When I started going to therapy on my own, I started to understand how certain triggers from my childhood are still impacting my behavior today. After my parents and I came to the U.S. from China, my dad left us and went back. As a result of my dad leaving, I always felt like I was longing for a relationship, friends, or a partner. I wanted to feel needed, and I was draining myself.
Through my therapy sessions, I also realized that I’d spent so much time focusing on other people and being what they needed that I didn’t know who I was when all that fell away and it was just…me.
The pandemic has helped me slow down and spend time with myself.
I’ve always kept myself busy, because I was never comfortable by myself. But in 2020, I really learned to enjoy my alone time. I started doing more yoga and meditation.
For most of my life, I didn’t know how to slow down; I didn’t know how to stop. But when I started going to therapy, I took the time to discover so much more about myself and really dove into unpeeling all my layers to figure out why I am the way I am.
Yoga also helped me slow down and shut out the outside noise so I could focus on myself—what I needed and what I wanted. Now, I try to do yoga every day with classes on The Mirror. And I find myself saying, “I need some alone time,” which I’d never say three years ago.
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While I was going through my own self-discovery, Andrew spent a lot of time working on himself. His abandonment issues and the anger that came up on the show were very real. I introduced him to the same therapy course that I’m working through, Be The Cause by Judy Rosenberg, PhD, and I think it’s helping each of us become our best selves individually.
Once a week, I still go to therapy, and the work continues. I read a lot of books about self-discovery and self-growth, too. The whole process has taught me so much about myself that I never knew before.
One of my biggest realizations was that I didn’t know how to set clear, healthy boundaries.
In Asian culture, we don’t really talk about our feelings. I hated to say “no,” and I tended to walk on eggshells around people. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings; I’d rather put my own feelings at risk than hurt others. Step number one for me was being able to recognize when someone crosses the boundaries I’ve set for myself, and then voice my feelings about that in a calm, mature manner.
The Chinese culture is also very hardworking. They teach you how to work harder, not smarter. Growing up, my parents would always compare me to their friends’ children. I developed a negative core belief that I wasn’t good enough, and that I had to prove myself again and again.
Through my therapy course, I learned to create balance—spending more time in nature, away from work and my phone—and how to say no without feeling like I’d let someone else down. Instead, I started doing activities that focused on me, whether it was unwinding at the beach or practicing yoga and meditating. I’d always felt the pressure from my “Tiger Mom” to constantly be productive, but I’ve realized it’s okay to take a day off from everything—that doesn’t signal weakness.
I believe you can’t pour from an empty glass. You have to take care of yourself first. That’s what I’ve done this last year.
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In June 2020, Andrew and I started seeing each other again.
We weren’t spending a lot of time together, maybe once a week. But the pandemic has really strengthened our bond because there’s no distraction and no other people in our ears. It was just us, which allowed Andrew and I to focus on what we are feeling as both individuals and a couple—without having to hear other people’s opinions on what we should feel.
We’re still taking it day by day, but I have to say it’s like night and day watching that version of him compared to now. Andrew has put in so much work. I’m so proud of and inspired by him.
Already, he’s so much calmer. He’s now able to communicate his thoughts and feelings without just blowing up. It’s such a hard thing to do—to rewire yourself, especially your anger—but he’s doing it.
Since Andrew began his individual therapy, I’ve noticed a huge change in him, and it’s had a tangible impact on our relationship. Now, we’re able to talk about our differences in a constructive way, saying things like “I respect that you feel different from me. Let’s talk about it and find that middle ground or find a solution.”
We still get into little disagreements here and there—as every couple does—but we’ve learned tools to diffuse conflicts and understand each other better. Sometimes, he’s the one calming me down, saying “Let’s take a deep breath, bring our volume down, and just talk.”
I’ve also learned to not let things get really heated. Now, if we need to take a breather or our feelings get too intense, we say “Let’s take a 10-minute break,” so we can collect our own thoughts and feelings in separate rooms before coming back to discuss them again.
At the end of the day, I’ve learned it’s really about having the patience to dig beneath the surface issue and try to understand where the other person’s coming from.
We want to wait until we’re done with our individual therapy courses to start our couples therapy. I know that next chapter will be really focusing on us together as a couple and building a family.
With my platform, I want to encourage people to seek help when they need it for their mental health.
Sure, it was difficult to watch my relationship play out on TV, and read the terrible things people said about me and Andrew. It hasn’t been an easy journey for me or others watching, as I’ve seen from the response. But I’ve also gotten a lot of very supportive, loving messages, too.
I hope that by sharing my experience more people will be open to therapy and that it’ll help remove the stigma of seeking professional help for your mental health worldwide, but especially in the Asian community.
I pray for peace and healing. Relationships take work—as much work as your normal job. Andrew and I are still working every single day.
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