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7 years of love, bound in a handmade booklet

photoessay: documenting 7 years of togetherness

7 years are a huge milestone for us. There is a saying in chinese: 七年之痒 which is loosely translated to “7-year itch”, and it predicts that most relationships don’t get past the 7th year mark because an itch would surface by then to be with someone new or simply boredom would set in. Both of our longest relationships prior to each other did not last beyond 7 years. I always half-joked that I would not treat our relationship seriously till it reaches the 7th year mark. So here we are.

She surprised me with a handmade booklet on our 7th year anniversary. I thought I would document it here and keep it as a digital copy since paper is beautiful but fragile.

We have many pet names for each other, but in recent times she calls me poppy and I call her poopy, hence:

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: cover

the beginning

Our relationship started officially on the 2nd of may, 2016:

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: start page

our first year

…after dating for roughly 6 months which we spent mostly not having enough sleep as we were always out late together, finding it difficult to separate. We would go back to our respective apartments and continue to talk to each other over the phone till wee hours of the night…so we decided to take a chance and sign a one-year rental lease together:

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 1st year
it’s only their first year but poppy and poopy’ve taken the plunge and moved in 2gether!

She arrived in my life like a bubble. I resisted her with all my might, and gave us a thousand reasons why it wouldn’t work. Putting out my baggage in full view, I was unconsciously putting out a dare for her, to love me. I was too broken, and she, too whole. I broke her heart by telling her I sought meaning, not happiness, that I can no longer put anyone else above my life’s work.

I dare you to love me, listserve submission, 7th July 2016
“thank you for inspiring me on how to live life, and letting me witness yours” – launshae’s instagram, 3rd December 2016

Through her, I am knowing myself. Through my connection with her, I feel more connected to this world. I love the world more, because this world has her.

her, 21st August 2016

our second year

One-ish years into our relationship, we made another life-changing decision to buy a home together:

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 2nd year
“the following year they were lucky enough to buy their dream forever home :)”

Love is probably the most misused, misunderstood, over-simplified and yet overcomplicated word in the universe. But there’s no reason for someone to always be looking forward to your awakening or returning, as though as you’re her favourite collection of particles in the entire universe. It is even more unreasonable for the other party to feel exactly the same way.

the luckiest, 2nd November 2017
photo of our home
“our home” – instagram, 17th May 2018

We both believe having this mindset makes us love harder and treasure the time together much more. We try not to take the relationship for granted just because we are promised to each other, I don’t ask of her to stay with me till death do us part or through sickness and wealth. I am too broken to ask of anybody to stay while I wade through my own breakage. For me, love is to free, to want the best for her, with or without me.

some views on love, 28th June, 2017

our third year

Love is about truly knowing the person: who they really are, not what we made up of them in our own delusional fantasies, not what we impose on them to fit them in our own versions of an ideal partner. It is about the willingness to witness someone’s becoming and yet understand the power we have to partake in it — a life-changing responsibility. Do I want to become a person capable of supporting and expanding my partner’s blossoming or do I give in to my insecurities and unconsciously, passive aggressively stifle it?

What I learned about love and loving a person, 2nd May 2018
booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 3rd year
“then poppy and poopy travel the world! Taipei, Kyoto, New Zealand & Okinawa :)”

I guess it is weird seeing us on a plane without masks on now, and how I miss those days when we can travel freely. I had travelled a lot back then because I knew even then I cannot take the safety of life and the world for granted. I hate being prescient. I am still glad we made it to many places together, little did we know we wouldn’t be able to travel for 3 full years, and I am not sure how safe is travelling now considering we really don’t wish to get covid again.

photo of us on a flight to new zealand
“fulfilling a lifelong dream to go to NZ (all those milk TVCs with cows grazing during my childhood) and flying on our 31st month anniversary.” – instagram, 2nd December 2018

What gets better with time is the level of psychological intimacy. We have been so intentional with our honesty to each other – well some couples talk in code even after decades of marriage – that in the initial stages of our relationship I was skeptical if it would endure all that truth. There was no up-selling right from the start, in fact I was very deliberately down-selling. We placed all the possible difficulties and anything that may be dealbreakers right at the start, when it was the most fragile. So we fought and cried a lot. We fought so deeply that every monthly anniversary then felt precarious, like we were never going to celebrate the next, so we were exceptionally conscious of it.

love does not run on autopilot, 2nd September 2018
“something we often wonder and keeps us baffled time and again.”
launshae’s instagram, 24th February 2019

our fourth year

I wanted to try doing food delivery to gamify my exercise – surprisingly my partner wanted to join me:

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 4th year
“they even try foodpanda, Pickupp, Grabfood, what can’t they do?”

I often think about the impossibility of marriage (or any long-term relationship): how impossible it is for two people of different personalities, desires, motivations to live and construct a life together, imagine one likes to run ahead and the other likes to stay and soak in the sights — in the long run one will tire of slowing down and the other will tire of speeding up. There is a lot of giving way, making room, there is also a lot of giving up and suppressing wishes. We often tall about the wonders of romance in the media, but seldom do we speak of the horrors and sorrows, the strength of will and love to keep on mending, understanding, and loving despite all the pain and hurt that comes along with the sharpness of intimacy.

instagram, 2nd July 2019
photo of us waiting for our foodpanda shifts
“us waiting for our shifts to start” – launshae’s instagram, 21st May 2019

today I woke up suddenly realising she’s never criticised me once, ever. I’ve gone through so many phases and interests, and she’s supported me through them all. she’s never chided me for 三分钟热度 (three-minute heated temperature, meaning a short-lived interest, usually used in a negative way), instead she calls me her explorer ant, she sees my exploring and experimental ways as something to cherish, to behold.

instagram, 2nd March 2020
photo of launshae's painting of our home in an apple
“one day w and i were saying nauseating sweet nothings about being the apple of each other’s eye, when she had the idea that i could paint a pink apple-shaped snowglobe with us inside. in my head i was like wut?! but here it is, us in our cosy corner of the world, minus the snow 🙂
launshae’s instagram, 2nd January 2020

our fifth year

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 5th year
“alas covid strikes, but poppy and poopy have the staycation blitz time of their lives!”

We spent so much of our 5th year in some form of a lockdown. Back then we didn’t think the covid phenomenon would last forever, so we tried to make the most of it: I started to cook more, and we spent plenty of time outdoors. We also took the opportunity to have staycations in singapore, a welcome respite from the confines of our home.

It is not easy to live life out of the mainstream and to find a partner who thrives on that. We are like co-hermits, contented in our small life with not much of an ambition or special desires except the freedom to creative in the ways we want to. I feel tremendously lucky to find someone who sees the beauty in the small.

my refuge, 2nd March 2021
photo of launshae's painting of us making art at home together
“艺术家 [artist // a home where we create art together]” – launshae’s instagram, 25th November 2020
photo of us at sentosa
“yearly ritual. so glad I can spend a bit of today at the beach.” instagram, 6th April 2021

There is a considerable loss of personal freedom in a relationship, it is an actual cost that has to be taken in consideration. Weighing the cost accurately allows the space for actual romance to take place, instead of letting the cost creep up unaware. However, in exchange for it, if we have the ridiculous luck to meet the right partner, there is another kind of freedom to be found.

55 months of weighing the costs, 2nd December 2020

our 6th year

After one of the vaccinations my partner developed histamine intolerance which caused her stomach to be upset whenever she ate. She reacted to virtually everything that was not home-cooked, which isn’t surprising considering how much of food out there contains soy sauce or tomatoes. I had to learn how to cook a low histamine diet. We ate mostly home cooked food for almost a year, and thankfully her symptoms are mostly gone now.

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 6th year
“when poopy fell sick, poppy put on her master chaf hat and nursed poopy back to health <3”

I realised taking care of someone whom you love and who has been showering you with love is something that comes naturally and willingly, because all I wanted was to see her free of suffering and discomfort. The truth is I could only become someone who can properly love and tend to a person because she was there to love and nourish me in the first place. With her, I learnt that love can be a safe place.

instagram, 2nd January 2021
photo of launshae's illustration of me cooking

It seems like an injustice that my supposed next-of-kin would not be the person actually closest to me. The only person who is truly with me through all my ups and downs, who have seen the best and worst of me, who validated my concerns and took actual steps to address them, who has loved me fiercely and steadily for years – this person in the eyes of the law, would just be a mere acquaintance.

the proposal, 6th june 2021
photo of launshae's drawn coming of us in a bubble
“when we first met she said i have a bubble, and she felt safe inside it. it’s been 70 months since and now the bubble might have some cracks here and there, but we’ll keep cherishing our together-space for as long as we can”, launshae’s instagram, 2nd March 2022

our 7th year

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: 7th year
“then one day they would escape covid no more,. poppy and poopy were separated for 11 long days. they learnt that their most fav thing in the world is to hug each other. they were never letting go.”

Our 7th year anniversary occured just right after I was infected with covid. Her rapid tests were either negative or very ambiguous, so we made the decision early on to isolate from each other. Even if she had some symptoms her viral load seemed low enough to not produce an unambiguous rapid test result, so I didn’t want to be exhaling billions of viral particles into her in hope she can escape mostly unscathed.

We have hardly spent a night apart during these 7 years so being unable to be with each other physically felt difficult. I guess it is easy to assume that we can be with our partner anytime, but who knows with the impermanence of life? This is a huge part of the reason why I’m so insistent of having a day a month to celebrate our relationship. It is so easy to take things for granted, when everything can be swept away in a second.

photo of launshae working in a self-built fort so she can hide her art-in-progress from me
“when your partner is with you 24/7 and you’re racing against time to finish a surprise gift!!” – shared instagram, 17 May 2023

On my 10th day I started testing negative on some tests (I would not have a clear negative on Abbott Panbio tests – not even the faintest of lines – 48 hours apart until day 17), so I could hang out in the living room masked. So she had to build a fort to work on the booklet away from me. I had to give my promise that I would not peek, of course.

She gifted me the booklet right after we decided to stop isolating from each other, so it felt additionally poignant. To reminisce our 7 years in this manner after a long period apart.

We’ve experienced so much together.

the ending

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: end page
“thank you for reading the tales of poppy and poopy adventures! poppy and poopy thank you, and they look forward to many more wonderful years together. till then! :)”
booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: back cover
back cover

the finer details

Here are a few more closeups of the booklet:

booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: binding
booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: detail
booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: detail
booklet made by launshae for our 7th year anniversary: detail

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60 months of love and pictures
0 responses

3 thoughts on “7 years of love, bound in a handmade booklet”

  1. Erik says:

    Beautiful booklet, congrats on the seven years! It’s also really nice how you’re able to combine it in this blog post with your writings throughout the years. It makes me want to start blogging / journaling myself!

    1. Winnie says:

      thank you! yes, documenting our lives through a journal/blog has unexpected gifts. 🙂

  2. Nicolas says:

    Congrats, beautiful drawings and an even nicer gift.

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