As the saying goes, “there is only one happiness in life – to love and be loved”. With the pandemic season upon us, we know that there are many couples in long distance relationships missing each other. For this upcoming Valentine’s Day, we had a chat with Terrence, who heads the Singapore Airlines (SIA) office based in Shanghai, as he shares about his long distance relationship (LDR) with his wife, Anna! Trust us, this is a good story <3
8 February 2021 / By SGN
So, Terrence, when did you first meet Anna and how would you describe your relationship?
We first met in SIA when I was still working in the Singapore HQ sometime in early 2015. Anna joined a department that was a neighbour to mine, but as it was a small unit then, our department included them in our team activities – daily lunches, dinners, celebrations, etc. We started off as good friends with a very similar wavelength, and got closer over the course of the year – we always joke that neither of us were each other’s ‘types’ and it certainly wasn’t love at first sight! It was just a very gradual, natural process I would say! Then we went out on a first date – which was actually her farewell dinner for me before I left for London – and the rest is history! (Note: we still can’t agree on who asked who out first)
I would describe our relationship as playful, honest, and God-centred. Because we started out as good friends without romantic intentions, we’d seen each other at our most natural, and so there was no pretence as there really wasn’t anything to hide. We (well, I) crack a lot of lame jokes and we humour each other a lot – Anna laughs really easily and she has this amazing sincere hearty laughter that you can’t help but love! There’s of course also a mature side – we are both Christians and over the years she’s really helped me draw closer to God. I think that’s also quite an important aspect – sharing the same beliefs and value-system. I think I’ve improved a lot as a person because of her.
What were the factors that led to your long-distance relationship, and what are some challenges?
So when we were getting closer in late 2015, I received news that I would be posted to London for work. For the scheme that I’m under with SIA, you’re usually going to get a few postings, so the expectation would be that I’d be spending the next 5-8 years abroad. Anna was looking to remain in Singapore to work.
There was an unsaid apprehension since we would have to be apart from the beginning of the relationship. I had never been in an LDR before and was not sure what to expect, and seeing friends in unsuccessful LDRs, I was a little cynical about this whole thing. That said, I think the attraction was strong enough for us to want to at least give it a try, and so we made the decision to be together on 01 Jan 2016 (I borrowed the NYE fireworks, it was effective, thank you Singapore). I was posted to London about 3 weeks later!
I was in London, then Rome, and now Shanghai, taking on consecutive postings since Jan 2016 – so Anna and I have been in an LDR for 5 years and counting! That said, I’m glad to share that we got married in 2019 and are now looking at ways in which we can reunite.
- The main challenge was definitely insecurity (mainly on my end), because after all we had such a short time as a couple and getting to know each other better. When you’re miles away, busy with work and not going out much, you tend to overthink – particularly when she has so many good looking guy friends that she’s close with! You can’t help but feel a little helpless.
- Communication was also challenging when I was in London and Rome, where you have a 7-8 hour time difference.
- Arguments would inevitably happen and it’s definitely not as easy to resolve disputes in an LDR – when you’re physically together you’re also better at reading body language, you can thrash things out, physical touch certainly helps, but these aren’t possible when you’re apart.
- Uncertainty, in terms of how long this would be, where I’d be posted to next, our future.
How did you overcome said challenges, and any tips you would give LDR couples?
We have fun and joke a lot but ultimately I think we managed to build strong fundamentals of trust, commitment, and respect. The thing about an LDR is that communication is all you’ve got – so a super big benefit was that our communication improved tremendously, and that’s pretty much the core of any relationship, isn’t it? I sometimes tell Anna I observe couples having a meal together and both are just so absorbed by their phones and barely even talking. It is not a given that with physical presence you have mental presence and strong communication.
On overcoming the challenges –
- Insecurity – it takes time to build trust, and so both parties will need to set some ground rules; for Anna and I, it was to ensure we kept each other informed of who we were going out with, and to have more frequent texts and calls to share snippets of our day. It is not so much to police each other, but we see it as mutual respect and to help bridge the challenges brought about by distance. Anna took the effort to also help me to get to know her friends better, to show me how she was with her friends and vice versa; and that helped a lot.
- Communication – commitment! Both parties must put in the effort to text, call, chat, share… It won’t work if it is one-sided, as the other party will surely feel the imbalance, and that would strain the relationship. For us when I was in Europe, Anna would wake up at 6-ish (something I will always appreciate, she’s definitely not an early riser) while I’d stay up a little later at night so we could have our daily video calls.
- Arguments – very related to communication, both parties must be willing to talk – our rule was that we weren’t allowed to sweep things under the carpet, and any unhappiness should not be hidden – the frank conversations and the willingness to confront issues were tremendously important in conflict resolution.
- Uncertainty – our strategy to combat uncertainty in the short term was to take it step by step. We did an annual calendar planning exercise at the start of each year, and mapped out when I would be back for meetings, or when she might be able to come up to visit. We scheduled vacations around key holidays. While the plans could change eventually, at least it gave us something to look forward to. On the longer term, we would agree on our end goals as it is critical that you both see a shared future that you can work towards.
Our advice? Sure, LDRs are challenging, but it’s not all bad! Through our communication, we’ve grown to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, and to see from the other point of view. A relationship is always a work in progress, and as long as both parties share the same end goal of making the choice to choose each other every day, make sacrifices, learn to give and take, things tend to work out. Remember that trust, commitment, and respect are the magic ingredients!
Awww! To end off, how are the both of you spending Valentine’s Day this year?
Apart! Sadly Anna is currently in Singapore and we’re looking to hopefully reunite in March this year. Honestly, Valentine’s Day has never quite been a big occasion for us anyway; any time we get to be with each other is pretty much a Valentine’s worth celebrating 😊
Happy Valentine’s Day dear SGN community! Here’s sending everyone some love from sunny Singapore <3