February 15, 2019

In celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day, here are four modern love stories with anecdotes about the first time they met, how they have worked through teething problems and their lessons learned from loving someone—all told in a raw and heartfelt manner.

Standing On My Own Two Feet 

Vivian Hwang, 22, Cook & Mohammad Azraqi Andika, 5, toddler

“At 16, I was pregnant with my son. I was young, unmarried, and probably reinforced the many stereotypes of the Malay/Muslim community. But I have no regrets, now that I am a mother. My son, Mohammad Azraqi Andika, was born on 1st August 2014 at Kandang Kerbau Hospital. Eight days later, on the 9th of August, I married his father—my now ex-husband, in a simple ceremony to legitimise our union, which only lasted for six months.

When I was married to him, he was always suspicious of me and at times accused me of trying to bring men home. There was an incident where he slapped me hard across my face simply because I did not want Andika and I to stay at his family home. The last straw was when he almost threw a duffle bag at me in anger during one of our arguments. His attempt to injure me in my own home, in front of my son, was reprehensible and unforgivable. I knew I had to make a clean break, because he also wasn’t fulfilling his role as a husband and father, both financially and emotionally. During the divorce proceedings, I was cautioned about the label given to women who were single mothers. I was called many derogatory terms, the worst being ‘Mak Janda’. People also accused me of always trying to ‘hook’ a man and that I was incapable of taking care of myself.

As Andika grows up, I hope that he works hard and studies even harder than I did. I hope that he learns to love himself and his family first, before anyone else—and not to depend on others. I believe Andika was sent to teach me how to be responsible towards my family and to show me how much love I still have to give. I am currently the sole breadwinner and even though at times it can get tough, I know I can’t give up just because I am tired.”


Moving in Together

Ching Tsi-Vei Tendy, 31, Manager & Sarah Ruslan, 30, Assistant Manager at Yale-NUS Library


“Last Saturday, I made Sarah cry. It was an upsetting moment for both of us. We had exciting plans to move in together and were counting down to the day when we would finally receive the keys to our apartment. However, my family hasn’t made the process easy for us. They don’t recognise Sarah as my life partner unless I am in a heterosexual relationship. The idea of moving in together signifies an important partnership akin to marriage in a heteronormative sense. Building a home with Sarah validates our relationship, as our current society doesn’t officially recognise what we have. My past relationships have never reached this stage where Sarah and I are now at. With Sarah, I’ve never been more comfortable, and certain as to where we are headed.”


“Tendy and I have been together for four and a half years. We met on OkCupid in 2014 and chatted online for about two weeks while she was away on a work trip. We were scheduled to have dinner later in the week, but I decided to jump the gun and pick her up at the airport. I brought her beef stew since she was under the weather, and I think that sealed the deal during our first meeting. I remember our first kiss when she politely informed me that there was something she needed to do before lighting her cigarette. I don’t smoke and leaned in for the kiss. I knew then that she was going to be someone special.”


Love Is Not An Obligation

Siti Zawani, 33, Senior Writer & Zahir Latif, 34, UI/UX designer


“I went into the relationship knowing that he was a divorcee. Zahir and I have been together for a little over five months now, and like most modern couples, we met on Tinder. In the beginning, his past baggage from his ex-wife made me incredibly insecure, especially since he had a family and I was the ‘new woman’. His marital status occasionally caused a rift between us, and at one point, made me question whether I was someone he wanted to be with. But throughout our relationship, he’s been very patient and understanding with me, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. If you’re not 100% invested in someone, you wouldn’t make an effort to work through arguments or try to see things from the other person’s perspective.”


“Aside from Wani’s physical beauty, she exudes empathy. And the foundation of our relationship is built on empathy as well as qualities such as kindness and compassion. We also share similar love languages and respond the most to physical touch—even the little gestures like holding hands at any time and just wanting to be close to each other are significant to us.

Having just got out of a relationship and a failed marriage, I was wary of love. In hindsight, when I was with my ex-wife, I didn’t know what I wanted in a relationship or life for that matter. I was happy to follow her goals and passions and eventually adopted them as my own. I thought I was being very selfless, but not in a good way. Now that I’m a little older and wiser, I’m able to figure out what I truly want and how Wani fits into my life. A partner is supposed to enhance your life, not hinder it. We agree that we should not rely on each other for happiness. We resolve arguments quickly for our mental well-being and not for the sake of keeping the peace in our relationship. There are many things that we’re willing to do for the ones we really care about, but it needs to come from a place of love, not obligation.”


Searching for Answers

Oliver Lim, 29, Graduate Student at Claremont School of Theology & God

“In Dec 2012, I had a spiritual awakening in Saudi Arabia while I was on an intercultural dialogue learning trip. There was a palpable sense of peace in the air, and I was moved by the way my friends in Saudi Arabia prayed. They were open to sharing about their religion and never seemed to condemn others. I was a struggling Christian at the time, and was saddened by how the Church was treating the LGBT community and people from different religions. A far cry from what Jesus commanded: thou shalt love your neighbour as thyself.

In the early months of 2013, I had a serendipitous encounter with an elderly white British lady who sat next to me on a train ride back from London to Edinburgh. We started chatting, and I soon discovered she lived two doors away from me. She invited me for dinner one night, and when I went over to her apartment, I noticed that she had a library of Christian books as well as others with different faith traditions from around the world. I proceeded to ask her about her faith and she was the first Christian I met who was open and accepting of all kinds of people despite their religion, sexuality or spirituality.

I got baptised in February 2014 and started my life’s devotion and ministry to God. To me, God is first and foremost love—to love every single person without prejudice or discrimination, treat them with compassion and forgiveness, and work towards empowering them. People think that I am super holy or a religious cleric, but I’m just a regular person in graduate school studying for a Master of Divinity. I might not be a pastor if my calling does not lead me there—I am still searching for the meaning of life, as I do not have all the answers.”