How do I begin writing words about a relationship that has spanned across 60 months? Every month on this date I’d write my reflections on the relationship and publish them somewhere on social media. Once in a while I’ll publish a long-form post here. I am glad to have this practice, because I am not delusional enough to believe I can remember everything, and once in a while when I look back at them it brings me back to moment I’d written them.
Since personally I think five years is a major milestone – I had this silly idea of making a powerpoint presentation of some photos we’ve taken over the past five years like those you would see at a wedding, but since it is actually a hassle to publish a slideshow I’ll try to do something here.
The first photo of us we’ve ever taken was already one month into our relationship:
We don’t have photos prior to that, because it just felt like something that wouldn’t last. If you had known us separately it would come as a huge surprise if you knew we were dating, our worlds didn’t seem like they would intersect.
Shortly after she had to go overseas for a work trip. The time apart so early in our relationship was significant in many ways. It cemented something profound me in that lasted even till today. Her trip triggered my anxiety about abandonment, yet instead of dismissing them like many people would, she showed up. We barely knew each other, but she showed up.
Getting used to a new person is really challenging, and sometimes the romance makes it harder because it obscures so much. In fleeting moments we got to see each other for who we really are instead of who we imagined each other to be. We fought a lot and hard, but somehow still managed to like each other very much. From this relationship I learned it isn’t romantic love that makes a relationship last, it is genuine liking that will tide us through.
Six months into our relationship we got really tired of staying out late and all the late night skyping, so we decided to rent a place so we could move in together. Even then it wasn’t like ‘let’s move in together so we can stay together for the rest of our lives’, but ‘hey let’s move in together before we break up’. LOL. We’re both commitment phobic, which turned out to work out in terms of compatibility.
Play is an important theme in our relationship. I grew up too fast so I don’t know how to play, yet I knew it would be important for me as I tried to recover from burnout. She’s game to play whatever I want to play. She never once discouraged me, or faulted me for my short attention span. She’s really good at playing, and it makes me aware how awkward and clumsy I feel whenever it comes to something that requires a playful spirit.
She started making art, and often makes hilarious comics about our relationship:
A year later we made another leap. We would “buy” (double quotation marks because it is legally a remaining 94-year lease) a public flat together. Our relationship was roughly 1.5 years old back then, so it was still a risk, but we had contingency plans in case we couldn’t last.
I’d moved out since I was 19, and have been moving residences and across oceans. I’d always wanted to be a nomad, until age and burn out caught up with me. Living out of a suitcase is very liberating, but having physical books on a bookshelf without having to pack them in boxes every year is a different kind of liberation.
Co-owning a home felt like a quantum leap for both of us.
One of the best parts of being with her is to continually and consistently witness the evolution in her art.
The intimacy of our relationship is sometimes reflected more accurately in her art. After all there is only so much words can say.
Living with an artist means getting to see art pop up in unexpected places too…
Seeing stuff like those around our home just enriches and deepens my life. It is not just the bright and colourful, but the dark and unseen truth too.
I can write a million words to describe how I feel, but that pales in comparison to a picture accurately capturing the sentiment.
That is how I know she sees me like no other.
It is kind of surreal going through five years of photos. We’ve both changed so much and yet so much still feels like the same. I think being able to age together is a blessing.
In Singapore it is still illegal to be gay, much less be married. We often wonder if we would register our marriage if it was ever legal. Sometimes we talk about doing it in New Zealand. For me it is not so much that marriage is a romantic dream, but rather I just want legal recognition. How can someone go through so much of life with me, give me unending support throughout difficult times, and simply be a “friend”? It feels grossly unfair and offensive to me. I want her name to appear first on my obituary, no questions asked.
But for now perhaps it would be enough to be more married in spirit than some would ever be, that because we are not legally bound there is only love to bind us, the sort of love that is the outcome of being profoundly intertwined for such a significant part of our lives.
After five years, we still like each other very much.