April 20, 2018

In this series, we explore the different forms and facets of love that exist in this world. Some may be more straightforward, while others can’t be easily defined. But love holds no boundaries and the celebration of the human heart should be captured with richness, colour and dimension.

Yah-Leng Yu, 45, Creative Director & Arthur Chin, 46, Business Strategist

What were your first impressions of one another?

YAH-LENG: Quite chatty, gets along with girls, and sociable.

ARTHUR: She was such a precise person. One time, I was going to head over to her place and she gave me very specific instructions like which train to take, where to exit, and what turn to make. That left an impression on me.

How did the both of you meet?

YAH-LENG: Through a common friend of ours called Cindy. I met her while I was studying in NTU for a year. We got to know each other better as we were very involved in the hall activities. Thereafter, she left for business school in L.A. for a year, and decided to visit me in New York for a week. One day, she said, “Oh, Arthur is coming.” And I was like: Arthur, who? I roughly knew who he was as I always saw him playing in the games room in Hall 6 at NTU. Anyway, we went to Chinatown to eat noodles together and once Cindy left, Arthur and I started hanging out together.

How long did you date before you got married?

YAH-LENG: 8 years.

Why did you choose to marry each other?

YAH-LENG: We were already living together in New York.

How did you end up living together?

YAH-LENG: I had a roommate and the three of us would always hang out like best friends. Not long after, my roommate got a boyfriend and he would constantly stay over, so it started to get a bit noisy [laughs]. Gradually, I found myself wanting to go over to Arthur’s place all the time, and after a while, I was too lazy to go back to my apartment.

ARTHUR: I remember it being a very smooth transition.

YAH-LENG: He had a roommate as well, but that didn’t really affect us. She moved out and we got another housemate.


How did your friendship turn into romance?

ARTHUR: I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that question.

YAH-LENG: Maybe it was during the time when a bunch of us went to Cape Cod for the weekend, and Arthur borrowed a car from a friend.

ARTHUR: The car was working fine until it started to rain and water was coming in from underneath.

YAH-LENG: The whole adventure turned into something romantic because our friends went off to do their own thing, and it was only the two of us in the car. It became an adventure.

ARTHUR: I think the adventure was a catalyst that started the whole relationship. We stayed on a farm… in a B&B…

YAH-LENG: It happened during the summer and it was very relaxing. Everything just fell into place.

At what point did you know that Arthur was the one?

YAH-LENG: I can’t remember [laughs].

ARTHUR: I think we are not a couple that sees each other and it’s love at first sight. It was a very natural progression because we would spend so much time hanging out and bonding over our love for snowboarding. We just got along well. It’s more of a slow-burn, which evolved over time.

YAH-LENG: When we were living in New York, we didn’t think about marriage. But I guess when we came back to Singapore, things became different, and it felt very natural to take the next step.

How long have you been married?

YAH-LENG: Since 2008.

10 years on, is there something that still surprises you about each other?

ARTHUR: I don’t think there is anything. It’s not that she doesn’t surprise me with gifts once in a while—what I’m saying is that I know her so well from a behavioural standpoint that I can foresee what her reaction is going to be, and if she likes or dislikes something.

YAH-LENG: Arthur is still very thoughtful and considerate and he says things like: “I know you have not been to this place before—let’s go there,” or “Let me help you fulfill your bucket list.” And he would do all the planning. Everything that he does, he always puts me as the number 1 priority.

ARTHUR: You have never told me that! [laughs]

What do you do that annoys her?

ARTHUR: A lot of things. I’m very messy and I like to throw stuff everywhere. She hates that.

What do you do that annoys him?

YAH-LENG: I keep stuff [laughs]. I also have a system that I implement in the office, and I know he isn’t too fond of it.


What’s your favourite imperfect thing about each other?

YAH-LENG: He doesn’t follow through with some of the systems that I implement. And it’s quite funny and cute.

ARTHUR: Yah-Leng isn’t the most communicative person. There are certain people that she gets along with, but if she’s not fully comfortable with you, she literally has no words for you. Sometimes, even when I talk to her, it gets very abbreviated. For example, when she makes a decision, there are instances when she will not explain her rationale to me—so I’m left with very little information. But it works because she makes decisions based on her intuition and how she feels. Her intuition is extremely strong and I trust her intuition whether it is personal or business. It has been very helpful because I’m a logical person and whenever I get stuck, I will listen to her.

What is your greatest fear about marriage?

YAH-LENG: I didn’t have a fear.

ARTHUR: I wouldn’t say it’s a fear but there was one small part of me that was worried that I might not fully understand her. Yah-Leng is super smart and she thinks 3 steps ahead of me. The problem with a lot of smart people is that because they’re always ahead of everyone, they don’t have the patience for people like me. And it made me think: How am I going to handle such situations? I needed to get Yah-Leng quickly and sometimes I can’t keep up. I guess over the years, I have learnt to be more patient. If she feels that I can’t understand something and gets upset, what I do is to pull back and revisit the conversation when she’s in a better frame of mind to explain to me. I think it’s the same for a lot of people who are smart because when you’re smart, you get it quickly. If you’re already at step 10, while the rest are still at step 1, then it can cause a certain sense of frustration. It took me a long time to understand this.

What’s your definition of ‘love’?

ARTHUR: I’ve never thought about it and I don’t have a quick answer to that. We get each other—I know her likes and dislikes, and vice versa. Back to my slow-burn analogy, we work such long hours, run the same business together and sometimes we even entertain together. We spend so much time together, and after a while, you know what you’re going to get with this person.

YAH-LENG: Good question. I think we’re pretty good at communicating with each other. So if there’s anything that is troubling us, we will always talk about it. We’re not those couples who fight and have a cold war. It’s pretty silly, huh?

In the recent years, when did you feel closest or the most connected to each other?

ARTHUR: I typically find that we are closest when we are both sharing the happiest or saddest moment. When you are truly elated over someone’s success or accomplishment, you enjoy the euphoria together. And when you are faced with an obstacle or hit with a certain life event, the other person will empathise a lot more and be there for you. I feel that those are the two moments when we’re probably at our closest.

YAH-LENG: I agree. For me, it’s when we’re at our lowest and there is so much support, empathy and encouragement.


Do you remember a certain time when you were both very happy together?

ARTHUR: When we go on holidays.

YAH-LENG: I remember the trip to Europe 2 years ago, and we didn’t do much planning. I picked an Airbnb in the cities that we were travelling to and we basically rented a car to drive from one city to another. There was no pre-research. We just did what we wanted to do for the day. It was quite fun. One of the days, we even stayed in to cook pasta because of the miserable weather. I think the happiest time is when we’re away from work and everyone else. We made a last-minute decision to go to Venice too.

ARTHUR: On our way back from Venice, we dropped by an old Italian fortress. We drove all the way to the centre, and took a photo.

YAH-LENG: We both love history and like discovering new places together.

Every marriage goes through different phases. What was the hardest change that you had to deal with?

YAH-LENG: Although we have had experiences living together, there is always some kind of compromise that you need to have because you’re not staying alone anymore. I know I’m a very picky and OCD kind of person, so I had to tell myself to close one eye in order for our relationship to flourish.

Is there anything missing in your current relationship? If so, what can you do to improve it?

ARTHUR: I’m quite a lazy guy. If I can help it, I don’t like going out during the weekends. I’m very happy staying at home. I can make good coffee, and do my own stuff. But she likes to go out and engage in activities like pottery.

YAH-LENG: I wish he could come with me for some pottery classes but I know that’s not going to happen.

ARTHUR: It’s not that it’s not going happen. I’m trying to pursue real estate as it is fascinating to me and I really love the subject a lot. I would rather spend my time studying the real estate market.

YAH-LENG: I feel that when you grow older, you need a social support system and Arthur is missing out on that. He confides in himself and spends a lot of time at home. I like to keep updated with what’s going on around me and I do make it a point to meet up with my friends and hang out with them. Although I try to include him, sometimes he can’t make it. He’s not the healthiest person, in fact, he’s quite weak and falls sick easily. That’s already a legitimate excuse not to go out or meet up with friends. He also gets tired pretty easily and isn’t the kind that will party with you till 3 a.m. He needs to go home at 10 p.m. I’m the total opposite of him—I don’t need a lot of sleep. I will sleep in during the weekends but I can stay out late.

ARTHUR: There are times when we are at a friend’s place and everyone is chatting and having whiskey, and I know it’s going to be a long night, so I will find a corner to take a nap [laughs].

YAH-LENG: Or if they come over to our place, Arthur will go to the bedroom and fall asleep. That’s him.


I know that you guys are business partners, which can be tricky at times. How do you resolve conflicts or disagreements when they arise?

YAH-LENG: When it comes to work, we have certain rules. I make all the creative decisions and leave the financial and business ones to him, as I trust that he will do a better job than me. In that aspect, we are quite clear. If anything falls under my area of authority, I will be the one that approves and makes the decision. Conflicts? Very few. But we do disagree on stuff.

ARTHUR: Ultimately, she still calls the shots. Back to what I said earlier, I can use all my logic and reasoning but at the end of the day, I still rely on her intuition because there are things that can’t be explained by numbers.

YAH-LENG: Sometimes he’s like “Let’s do this” or “Let’s get someone to do this” and I’m like “No, you shouldn’t do this.” Because I do think about a person’s feelings, and it’s important to handle people matters tactfully.

ARTHUR: We do have our moments of conflict at work. Perhaps, it’s a good question to ask our team. I wonder what’s it like for them. But we never bring the tension home.

YAH-LENG: I’m very professional at work. I guess there are times when our team can feel the tension.

What do you argue the most about?

YAH-LENG: I’m concerned about an employee’s feelings. For example, if we are assigning a task to our staff, I would be alarmed if it is not communicated properly. Maybe he doesn’t see it in the same light that I do.

Would you agree with her?

ARTHUR: Well, I wouldn’t call it arguing. Managing people is not my strength. Honestly, humans are such complex creatures. We can say what we want to say but what exactly are you really hearing? What do you wish to hear? How do you interpret what I’ve said? It can go off on many different tangents and it also depends on the person at the receiving end. What is their emotional state? And maturity level? It just gets very complicated. Not everybody has a certain level of maturity, reasoning and perspective. From an employer’s standpoint, it may be difficult for someone to understand why we do certain things and how that fits into the larger scheme of things.

Has working together ever affected your marriage in any way?

YAH-LENG: Not at all.


Speaking of work, how’s that coming along? Any exciting projects?

YAH-LENG: Yes. We do have a few exciting projects in the pipeline. One, in particular, is setting up a Consortium that aims to offer businesses or brands with a suite of services, in an intelligent, dynamic and all-encompassing approach. The Consortium will be made up of companies that are leaders in their own industry, and we will be tapping on their domain expertise and strengths to provide value creation. It’s like the analogy of superheroes coming together to form The Avengers. Singularly, they are strong, but when combined together, they become omnipotent.

Who do you think is more creative?

ARTHUR: It’s definitely her. During the first few years, I was actively involved in the creative side of things too—because at that time, it was just the two of us, and she needed a sounding board. Funnily enough, some of our best works were created during those years. But as the company grew, I recognised that I needed to step into a different role. Ultimately, I’m aware of what’s beneficial for the business.

When both of you got back from the US, did you immediately know that you wanted to go into business together?

YAH-LENG: I did look at some ad agencies, but it wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. I also browsed around but nothing stood out. So I thought: Why don’t we create something that will make an impact on the community? I think that was the starting point.

ARTHUR: She thought of joining an ad agency for a very short period of time, and I thought: Well then, I can go back to my first love, which is real estate. But she said: “You know what? Maybe we should start a creative agency.” And my response was: If that’s what you want, I’ll do it.

YAH-LENG: He gave up his passion for me. If you’re looking for that big romantic gesture, this is it.

Arthur+YahLeng-Art-4Art by Hafizah Jainal

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your married life?

YAH-LENG: Compromise.

ARTHUR: Be patient.

Do you want to have kids in the future?

ARTHUR: It’s interesting that you ask because if all goes according to plan, we will be adopting a kid in June. We are pretty stoked but at the same time quite clueless—we get to choose whether we want a boy or a girl.

YAH-LENG: He wants a girl. But I seriously don’t know yet.

ARTHUR: It has been such a long and painful journey to adopt a child. It took us a while to get all the paperwork sorted out because of the amount of documentation required by the agency. They literally know everything about us… from our mortgage, loans, to income, education, and even our extended family. We had to do a full body checkup to ensure that we are physically in good health, and they also checked if we had any criminal records or mental illnesses.

Where are you getting this child from?

ARTHUR: Most likely from Malaysia.

YAH-LENG: It sounds like human trafficking [laughs].

Did you consider having your own children before?

ARTHUR: It just didn’t happen, and we spent a fortune trying to make it happen. We are quite happy now.

Did you spend a fortune on this adopted kid?

YAH-LENG: Not as much as the process that we went through to biologically conceive.

ARTHUR: We even went to the best clinic in the US, and it’s where all the celebrities go to.

You can get somebody to be your surrogate.

YAH-LENG: Yeah, I wanted to do that too. But it’s a very difficult process.

ARTHUR: Yeah, surrogacy is a whole different world. At this point in time, it doesn’t matter if it’s a biological child or not. We’re quite excited. Our storage room will be converted into a kid’s room, and hopefully come June, we will get everything sorted out.

Well, you need to figure out the gender first.

YAH-LENG: Maybe we should toss a coin.