Commentary: The things I no longer do for my significant other
Relationships can be tough. But sometimes, it takes a walk down the unpleasant bits of memory lane to realise how far you’ve come, says Karen Tee.
SINGAPORE: I was ghosted before ghosting was a thing. It has actually been years since I’ve even thought about this once-seismic event in my life.
But last month, when an Instagram user from Singapore decided to update a few old photos she had taken with past boyfriends to more accurately reflect the context behind their smiling mugs, I could not help but recall the misadventures of my younger days.
Rosie, the young woman whose tongue-in-cheek edits to her captions went viral for their refreshing honesty, explained in a subsequent Instagram post why she unarchived the posts of her old flames:
Looking at the pictures no longer makes me think about painful things, but rather the growth I’ve had since.
ONE BAD RELATIONSHIP
Her candid reflection got me thinking about the traumatic aftermath when a boyfriend of a couple years abruptly cut off all contact overnight. I worried he had died (I eventually found out he didn’t) and spent weeks moping and composing sad messages.
Finally, probably at the haranguing of his family, he sent me a terse email to “officially” break up.
Since this happened more than a decade ago, well before the Internet was populated with self-help articles about dealing with being ghosted, I had to figure it out on my own.
It took a while to get through the classic five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - but of course, I did, with the love and support of the people closest to me.
Like Rosie, recalling this experience is no longer painful or heartbreaking in the least bit. Instead, the older, stronger and hopefully wiser me looks back on my confused, insecure self and marvels at how I have evolved in the ensuing years.
I do not have old photos to update and repost because I’ve long deleted them all. Instead, dear reader, I offer a list things I will not do for my current significant other, who I have been with for about ten years - we’ve lost count because yes, we are that sort of couple.
1. PUT MY CAREER ON HOLD FOR HIM
I’ll say it - I am a freelance journalist because of him. Not because of a common misconception that he supports me financially so that I can pursue my craft at my leisure.
Rather, over the years, he has been the one who has cajoled, reasoned and sometimes outrightly pushed me to go well beyond my comfort zone to build a wide ranging portfolio that today ensures I have a steady stream of work that keeps me fulfilled and happy.
A few years ago, we took a gamble when he went abroad to further his studies. I could have moved over with him, but that would have meant giving up most of my freelance work here.
Instead, we agreed that I would shuttle between Singapore and the United States so that I could capitalise on interesting work opportunities in both countries.
Long distance relationships are difficult, to say the least, and I am thankful I never felt pressured to pick one over the other.
2. FEEL INDEBTED WHEN HE BUYS ME DINNER
If you think all of that was a ploy to work me to the bone so that I am the one that keeps us both afloat, here’s a plot twist. He covers more than his fair share of expenses and does sweet, thoughtful things like take me out for nice dinners or whisk me off on holidays.
It has been a while since I’ve been let loose on the dating scene, but I still remember fretting about stuff like what is expected of me when a guy insists on footing the bill.
Or the exhaustion of dating someone who is consistently counting every penny.
Now, when he pays, I happily accept my free meal. And when I pay, he takes it like a man - and by that I mean he enjoys the treat without turning into a big deal by fighting with me over the bill.
3. FREAK OUT ABOUT GETTING FAT
Let’s be realistic. Appearances (and Instagram photographs) matter, even in a long-term relationship.
But I no longer obsess over whether someone will love me just because of a number on the weighing scale.
In fact, the two of us laugh at each other’s growing bellies and my chubby cheeks when we go abroad on foodie holidays and wind up eating and drinking too much.
Still, health is important and keeping to a reasonable weight is necessary to ensure one’s well being. So, we work out together to balance things out.
I run and do high-intensity interval training with him and he joins me at yoga classes to get a good stretch and some headspace.
A bonus: We get to eat even more after a good sweat.
4. WORRY ABOUT PARENTAL APPROVAL
Asian parents are tough nuts to crack. They have high expectations of their children’s careers, marriages and offspring.
Suffice it to say I defy all of these conventions because I do not have a full-time career and have no interest in bearing children. It is no fun listening to parents and relatives drone on about these things like they are a checklist to be completed.
Luckily, the two of us see eye-to-eye on these key issues.
It makes it so much easier to get through these sometimes difficult encounters when we both are in tune with the other’s life goals and will back each other up in the face of uncomfortable, but well-meaning, familial queries.
5. PUT UP WITH TEMPER TANTRUMS
Most of all, we have the most epic arguments. We have loud shouting matches and sometimes say hurtful things that we do not necessarily mean.
But what neither one of us does is to fall into that scary, angry silence or walk out just to spite the other. This means is that we get to vent our grievances at each other before they implode into something unsalvageable.
It also means I do not have to spend hours wondering why my other half is angry at me while stewing in my own wrath. Of all the things I value in this imperfect relationship, I think this might just be it.
To my other half, I am forever grateful that you put up with my opinionated, headstrong and independent ways and even encourage these traits in me. It goes without saying, I love you.
Karen Tee is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. Six years ago, people thought she was crazy to leave the security of her full-time job. Today, most want to know how she does it.