When I was 17 my parents told me they were going to divorce. As the eldest of four children and extremely naive, that news hit me hard; I couldn’t understand why. I asked a lot of questions but my parents didn’t answer any of them. I used to babysit for a family that regularly invited me to join them for dinner, and it was there that I first saw how different a relationship could be. It was a culture shock. But when the man of the house later made sophisticated advances towards me, my confusion was complete. I fell head over heels in love for the first time, but I did not respond to his advances because, as green as I was, I knew it was wrong. My brain was working overtime. How could a relationship that appeared to be so good, actually be so bad? Many more questions followed, the answers to which I went searching for myself. And my interest in relationships was born.
At 18 I was devouring literature, from ‘A Sentimental Education’ (Flaubert) to self-help books like ‘Love is a verb’ (Vansteenwegen), and listening to love songs constantly. By this time I was living in a bedsit in Den Haag, where I was doing a 4-year course at HALO college. The films I rented, including Truffault, Lelouch, Godard, were perfect for daydreaming, but all in all I understood very little.
After having processed my first heartache, I embarked on a journey of discovery into love; from crushes to rejections, from brief relationships to terrible heartbreak, from being cheated on to doing the cheating by having exciting affairs with older married men. “Enjoy life, it doesn’t last long”, I thought with the flippancy and nonchalance of youth. I was only concerned with myself. But I slowly came to understand that everything I did had a flipside. Not only for the deceived wives and maybe their children, but for me too. I came to my senses and realised that I had to respect others, and myself in particular.
My interest in human behaviour grew. In my fourth year at college I was given the opportunity to follow a second course for free, so while still at HALO I began studying Psychology at Leiden University, which, because of financial reasons, I was unfortunately unable to complete.
During my third job as a Physical Education teacher at a secondary school, I unwittingly found myself in a love triangle. The man I was deeply in love with, and with whom I had had a relationship for several months, turned out to have a girlfriend. It also turned out that he was still married to yet another woman! It tore me up, but no matter what, I wanted a future with him. His false promises, my hope(lessness) and addiction to him led to me doing everything for him. Everything was about him. And all I could do was cry. When his mirror reflected tears in my eyes for the umpteenth time, something snapped. I could take no more and resolutely put an end to the love triangle. That moment proved to be a turning point in my life.
Through pain and struggle, trial and error, I became wiser. I had many deep conversations with my 47-year-older grandmother who, it transpired, having been way ahead of her time had gone through similar and other experiences. A unique friendship developed and I learnt from her life experiences. Her down-to-earth wisdom combined with my knowledge and experience enabled me to change in rapid tempo. Suddenly I understood that all the answers I’d been searching for were actually within me. Everything fell into place; I understood ‘it’. I changed the way I thought, behaved and felt in relation to myself. I stayed single and grew strong. I experienced a quiet calmness for the first time in my life … until the moment I laid eyes on Floris.
At 29, like a bolt from the blue, I instinctively knew that this 40-year-old man, so different from myself, was the love of my life. But … although he was just as smitten as I, he wore a wedding ring, lived apart from his wife and children and was going through a divorce. I knew what I had to do. We were both prepared to do everything necessary to give our love a chance, and at that time it was to distance ourselves from each other and have no contact. With almost inhuman emotions and having known each other for less than 10 hours, we decided to go our separate ways, trusting that if we were destined to be together we would meet up again. And if we didn’t, then that was how it was meant to be. A year later, slowly but surely, we got together and formed a family with his 2 children, aged 4 and 6. That wasn’t without its ups and downs, but we lived them side by side.
I worked for a few years as a PE teacher, mentor and confidential advisor in both primary and secondary schools. Being a contact person for pupils with problems that affected their well-being (including relationship problems at home, divorce, etc.), actually gave me more satisfaction than teaching. I was able to help them and point them in the right direction. In 2004 I decided that it was time for a career change.
After an orientation period, I decided to train to become a Police Officer. It was a 4-year course at the NPA (Dutch Police Academy) in Apeldoorn, paid for by the police. I worked for a number of years at both operational and tactical level and I did research in America into how they dealt with street gangs in Chicago. Here again I saw how relationships in general but marriages and families in particular, can fall apart before your very eyes.
In my last position as a strategic analyst with the then Police Headquarter of the city of The Hague, dealing with problematic youth groups was part of my work. It was an interesting position, but it turned out that choosing the police force as a career didn’t really match with who I was/am. My heart just wasn’t in it. I was an inspector, but I had no real passion for the job, no excitement. I gave up my career in the police to train to become a relationship therapist. I wanted my working life to revolve around one of life’s most important subjects, one in which I had been interested for so long: (love) relationships.
So in 2010 I exchanged my police career for the dreamed-of Psychology course at Leiden University. After a rigorous selection process and with a passionate desire to achieve, I began a fast-track programme of 3 Bachelor years in 1 year. During the course I realised that as a therapist I did not want to counsel people suffering from psychological symptoms or disorders. I wanted to help people who, for everyday reasons, feel stuck in their relationship. My goal was and is to focus on how you can solve problems rather than to concentrate on how they began. By doing this I am able to save relationships and/or bring them to a higher level. I believe the term ‘Relationship Coach’ best suits this approach.
I am proud to be Floris’ wife, ‘second mother’ to Olivier and Livia (both now at college) and mother to Lonneke and Oscar (both still at school). The moment Floris’ and my eyes met, the first stone was laid for a solid foundation, on which we continue to build our relationship and family with great joy, and sometimes pain and effort. Our family inspires us to do it well, to do it right, and not to settle for less. It’s a daily process. We are well aware of everything that could affect us as individuals, our relationship and our family, whether that’s a threat from outside or influences within our own family or from our pasts. As parents we are role models for our children and we are prepared to do everything it takes for our children to become who they are, to be happy and successful, just like their parents!
The name Filove is derived from the most important people in my life; people I am extremely proud of, can rely on, enjoy being with and love beyond measure: Floris, Ira, Livia, Lonneke, Olivier, Oscar.
Naturally the VE derives from LOVE!