Finding and maintaining love – how technology has brought these couples closer

Finding and maintaining love – how technology has brought these couples closer

Staying connected to the love of your life doesn’t have to be compromised by distance as these two couples show. In partnership with Singtel.

 Opening image-Ivan and Alicia
Despite living in different countries, Ivan and Alicia found each other via a dating app, showing how reliable communications technology can bring people together. Photo: Aik Chen

For many of us, staying in touch with our loved ones wouldn’t be possible if not for chat applications like WhatsApp. For some people, they wouldn’t have met their life partners if not for such chat applications. 32-year-old Teo Miaosong Ivan and Alicia Jess Bok Mei Jian, 34, are among the many millennials who turn to dating apps to find love.

The duo got to know each other through Tinder, a popular dating app in which users can view location-based profiles and use swiping motions to indicate their like or dislike for a profile. Having the same faith is something important to both of them who were looking to find Christian partners. Ivan didn’t take the app seriously at first as he thought the chances of finding a life partner were slim. He thought he would get to know as many women as possible and see how it went. Being a skilled guitarist, Ivan wrote in his app profile “If you’re special enough, I’ll write you a song”. That certainly got the attention of Alicia, who was then studying in Australia.

“I thought he looked short but “swiped right” because the T-shirt he wore in his profile picture implied that he was a Christian,” she chuckled as she revealed her first impressions of Ivan. The business development manager at Professional Investment Advisory Services recalled that though he got a few matches, the only person he enjoyed talking to was Alicia.

Ivan and Alicia looking at phone with her on screen
Ivan and Alicia met each other in person in June 2015 when Alicia returned to Singapore to work. Photo: Aik Chen

ONLINE ROMANCE BEARS FRUIT

Getting to know each other would be impossible if not for the advent of the all-powerful Internet, which effectively bridged the distance between them. With mobile phones supported by stable connectivity, Ivan and Alicia could chat with each other at any time no matter where they were. The couple met in June 2015  ̶  the same month they started chatting with each other on the app  ̶   when Alicia returned to Singapore to work. From then on, their relationship progressed at a pace of knots.

“I never felt this way before. I knew I was going to marry her,” Ivan said adoringly. “After a few partners, I know what I want.” Alicia admitted that she wasn’t sure whether Ivan was right for her initially and did what she could to know him better. “I ask him weird questions on our dates,” the cheerful mother who has just given birth to her second child said with a laugh.

With Alicia receiving divine assurance that Ivan is “the one”, they tied the knot in November 2016, a year earlier than they planned to. Alicia’s father was in poor health and was worried that he would not be able to attend their wedding, so the couple made the decision to bring their wedding forward just three months before the actual day. And true to his promise, Ivan serenaded Alicia with the song he wrote for her at their wedding.

Ivan and Alicia shared candidly that they had wanted to hold a banquet but called it off due to financial considerations. They have no regrets and are instead thankful that this decision helped them manage their finances during that period of time.  These are examples of how having a common faith has helped them agree on major decisions. “God gave us a lot of help along the way,” Alicia said, adding that their faith had helped them in acquiring their first home too.

Ivan and Alicia at Singapore Flyer with drinks
The couple revisit Singapore Flyer, where Ivan proposed, on their third wedding anniversary. Photo: Aik Chen

The young couple are not the only ones whose love life is enhanced by innovative communications technology. Patricia Cheng, 57, lives 3900km away from her husband, 59-year-old Ambrose Tan, about 300 days a year. She moved to Perth, Australia, with their four children in 2007, and they have relied on several forms of communications technology to stay connected to each other for the past 12 years.

Ambrose and Patricia talking and smiling
Despite spending most of their time apart for the past 12 years, Ambrose Tan and his wife, Patricia Cheng, have remained close. Photo: Aik Chen

They felt that the academic pressure was too high in Singapore and decided to relocate as they thought there were more educational opportunities in Australia for their two sons and two daughters, who had difficulty with the Chinese language. As Ambrose just started his new job in 2006, he and Patricia made the difficult decision to live apart as they didn’t want him to risk unemployment in Australia. “Given that I was still working here (in Singapore), I thought we could just try out this arrangement. It was meant to be a short-term arrangement but things dragged on,” Ambrose recounted. 

ADJUSTING TO A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP

“The first two years were the hardest, but we slowly got into the rhythm,” Patricia shared. Frustration and tension were high for her who had to make living arrangements and care for four teenage children all by herself  ̶  on top of dealing with the culture shock. A homemaker since she and Ambrose got married 31 years ago, the tough lady has kept things running in the family without any domestic help. Uprooting themselves also meant having to build a new social network in their new home. “I never saw myself in that position but I just have to manage,” she admitted.

Ambrose flies over to Perth every six to eight weeks and is thankful that his company offers flexible work arrangements. “All of us would be crying when he goes back at the end of a visit,” Patricia recalled. She was glad that her then teenage children and some of her friends who had relocated there were able to help, especially when the family had to move thrice before finally buying their current house in Canning Vale.

Ambrose and Patricia runnning
To keep himself occupied without the company of his family, Ambrose picked up running and runs several marathons a year. Photo: Aik Chen

Being all alone in Singapore, Ambrose had a hard time adjusting to being apart from his family too. “It was upsetting but it was done out of necessity,” he said. His close-knit family used to do many things together when his children were young, and what Ambrose misses the most is the togetherness they shared. He said, “It’s not so much about doing things together. It’s having the family together even if we’re doing nothing.” He added ruefully, “One of my biggest regret is missing many of her (youngest daughter’s) growing up years. When she left, she was 11. Now, she is 24 and many things have changed.” To keep himself occupied without his family’s company, the asset manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, immersed himself in work and worked 12-hour days. He also became more involved in church activities and started training for marathons. Like Patricia, his friends have also been a great source of support.

THE TECH THAT BINDS  

Ambrose and Patricia take a selfie
The loving couple cherish time together when Ambrose flies to Australia or when Patricia flies to Singapore. They and their children spend much of their time chatting over home-cooked meals when the family gathers.  Photo: Aik Chen

When apart, the loving couple call each other often. Chat applications that rely heavily on a stable Internet connection like WhatsApp and FaceTime have also proven to be useful ways of keeping abreast of each other’s life. Chatting via WhatsApp had enabled Ambrose to not only keep track of his family's finances but also provide remote advice on equipment maintenance. He also had to help his family decide which house to buy in Perth just by looking at the photographs they shared in their WhatsApp chat group.

FaceTime is also almost indispensable to Ambrose and Patricia, who spend at least an hour or two chatting on the platform every other day. Prior to its invention, Ambrose said a two-hour phone call would easily cost him around $20. "In the past, data was expensive. There was no such things as unlimited usage," Ambrose recalled.

At times when the Internet connection fails them, they would have to wait for a stable connection to be available to resume their conversation. How these couples connected with their partners despite the distance between them highlights the importance of using a reliable Internet network such as the one provided by Singtel, which has provided the widest coverage in Singapore for the past five years (from Q4 2014 to Q1 2019) according to Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s 4G outdoor mobile service measurement tests. Singtel’s LTE 900 that covers 99.9% of Singapore allows users to enjoy a consistent connection on the go no matter where they are.

Awarded the best mobile and fibre broadband service provider in the Hardware Zone Tech Awards from 2009 to 2018 and Asia’s best mobile carrier in Telecom Asia Awards 2018, Singtel also offers Singtel WiFi  ̶  which is five times faster than regular public WiFi  ̶  at more than 2000 hotspot locations including MRT stations, shopping malls and public libraries nationwide. Based on IMDA’s IMconnected Report, Singtel’s 4G+ network is also the fastest in Singapore, with peak connection speeds of up to 1.5Gbps.

Patricia faced more problems than Ambrose in getting a stable Internet connection. There was no fibre broadband in the area she lives till last year. “You don’t get very good connection when the weather is bad  ̶  like when it is windy or rainy. I have to go to different parts of the house because there is no connection in some parts of the house. I had to be in the middle of the house or where the modem is,” Patricia said.

The reason why this happens is because WiFi signals get weaker with distance  ̶  so the further away you are from your router, the harder it is to get a WiFi signal. Furthermore, walls, reflective surfaces and even equipment that transmit radio waves (like microwaves and your neighbour’s WiFi devices) also block or interfere with the transmission of WiFi signals.

If you have had similar frustrating experiences of unstable Internet connection as Patricia did, you would be pleased to know that a solution is at hand: Singtel’s Wifi Mesh optimises WiFi coverage by eliminating dead zones  in your home and ensures seamless Internet connection as you move around the house. It is easy to set up and can be customised according to the size of your house. The dynamic traffic routing of WiFi Mesh also automatically connects your devices to the strongest WiFi signal available, so you can get stable and consistent Internet connection in any part of your house. 

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