We’ve all watched those romantic comedies, Disney classics and television shows that had us rooting for the couple’s happily ever after.

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Though the happy ending is a foregone conclusion, it doesn’t take away any of the magic, the tears, the surge of joy and that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes after. The concept of love, while incredibly abstract, fills us with bliss.

After all, love is a many-splendoured thing.

As satisfying as a good big-screen romance like The Notebook can be, these stories are the product of someone’s imagination. They’re the stuff of dreams.

This Valentine’s Day, The Pride celebrates what’s real. Speaking to four couples, we investigate what even The Bard himself sometimes had trouble defining – true love and what it means.

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Image Source: Abby Lee

Shaik Faaruq and Abby Lee

When the couple first met as students in 2010, Faaruq instantly felt a strong attraction. The 25-year-old consultant said: “Her sincerity and uniqueness made me believe that this could be love at first sight.”

Though they weren’t orbiting in each other’s social circle, Faaruq made an effort to get to know her. Lee, 25, a customer relationship manager, said: “He made the occasional contact and subsequently moved on to arranging outings with friends and individual dates.That’s how we got to know each other and things got so comfortable.

“Before I knew it, he made an impression so strong, I was sure life wouldn’t have been happy without him.”

They wed in May last year.

The couple has faced their share of ups and downs. Coming from different cultures, Abby’s parents initially “weren’t too keen on her having an interracial relationship”, according to Faaruq, but he eventually won them over after meeting them for the first time early in the relationship. Their situation got even more challenging when Lee was diagnosed with a health condition in late 2010 that saw her return to Penang for treatment for eight months.

In that time, they communicated via Skype almost every day, with Faaruq also travelling to Penang occasionally. He said: “It was challenging to juggle studies, work, family and being there for her to catch up with doctor appointments. It wasn’t easy at all.”

Lee added: “This was a major part of my life and I’m grateful for the sacrifices he made and the physical, emotional and mental support he provided during my recovery.”

So what’s your secret to maintaining the spark and a lasting relationship?

Faaruq: Sharing your thoughts and feelings with your significant other constantly so that your partner can know how you feel or what’s on your mind. And one more thing, treat him/her like your best friend.

Lee: Fall in love over and over again. Learn to love and adapt to the changes in your relationship as you move through different stages in life. Communication is important too. If you keep everything to yourself, it’s unreasonable to expect your partner to know how you feel, let alone try to make things right.

What was the first thing that attracted you to your significant other?
Faaruq: Her smile.

Lee: His charisma.

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Image Source: Sara-Ann Krishnamoorthy

Sara-Ann Krishnamoorthy and Vernon Tan

Krishnamoorthy was happily single when she met Tan. The 37-year-old host and entrepreneur explained that a colourful dating history had left her cynical and disillusioned.

Jokingly describing her mindset then, she had envisioned a future where she would be “dying single and alone, with a multitude of animals, surrounded by things (she) hoarded”.

Tan, 36, on the other hand, was trying to change his approach to dating. A few serious relationships had not worked out because he had been quite fixed about what he expected his partner to be, so the company director resolved to have a more open mind with his prospective dates.

The pair met at the now-defunct Butter Factory, during which Krishnamoorthy chided Tan for using his phone. This prompted him to ask if he would be excused for using it to get her number.

In the ensuing Whatsapp conversations, there was an effortless connection that saw the couple “talking for hours on different topics” and “having snap moments where we kept saying the same things at the same time”, according to Krishnamoorthy.

Hours into one such conversation, she jokingly quipped: “Quick, tell me something bad about yourself. Destroy my impression of you before I start thinking that you’re perfect!”

As Tan concluded: “And the rest they say, is history.”

Having met each other after past disappointments in their dating history, the couple both agreed that getting a relationship to work is ultimately a choice that both parties need to commit to. Tan cited good communication and making the effort to bridge the gap and improve for each other, while Krishnamoorthy felt that timing and choice are two factors that can make or break a relationship.

After two years, wedding bells will ring for the couple in July.

So what’s your secret to maintaining the spark and a lasting relationship?
Tan: We make it a point to have date nights once a week, and remember to do little things to make the other person feel special. It’s also important to laugh often, especially with each other.

Krishnamoorthy: Choosing a person and consciously making the decision in your heart to love them. That’s the first battle won. And learning how to fight fairly. Disagreements happen all the time and good fights make couples stronger.

What was the first thing that attracted you to your significant other?
Tan: Her blonde hair!

Krishnamoorthy: Wit.

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Image Source: Cheryl Chia

Cheryl Chia and Daryl Mc Alea

While most would tell you that dating apps are more prone to misses than hits, Chia and Mc Alea have beat the odds despite connecting virtually when neither were actively seeking a relationship.

Mc Alea, 39, an executive sous chef of Irish descent, had been “jaded and scared’” of entering a relationship due to past bad experiences. To his surprise, the couple hit it off through hour-long nightly conversations when they discovered common life goals and interests. He said: “We had so much in common with our passions and I spent a lot of the day looking forward to those nightly conversations.”

After chatting for a month, they went on their first date. Four more dates later, 32-year-old Chia, a client manager, felt she had found her soulmate after noting the similarities they shared and a common desire to start a family.

On finding the “right person”, Mc Alea mused that it was important to have someone to grow with so that “we can both be the best we can offer to the world”, while Chia emphasised that “communication channels need to be honest and open”.

Slightly less than a year after they started dating, Chia and Mc Alea tied the knot and have been married for four months.

So what’s your secret to maintaining the spark and a lasting relationship?
Mc Alea: To keep the spark, I need to be engaged with my partner and respect how wonderful and unique she is. It doesn’t hurt to be open and not be too serious.

Chia: We never fail to surprise one another – small gifts or notes or just a surprise dinner. Always showing affection whether verbally or physically, there’s no limit to the number of times you can say “I love you”.

What was the first thing that attracted you to your significant other?
Mc Alea: She walked into the restaurant and she was tall and dressed elegantly, with a beautiful smile. She had me at hello but her looks were only secondary because I already knew what was in her heart.

Chia: His scruffy beard. I like facial hair.

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Image Source: Barbara Latimer

Tony Latimer and Jun Wong

British-born Singaporean Latimer met his wife 38 years ago when, along with some friends who were new in town, he was invited to a social gathering. The 62-year-old master executive coach of a leadership school said: “I wasn’t ‘looking’ for anyone. Interest in the other person was immediate, but conviction that I was going to be with her long term grew over a couple of years.”

While he was reticent about their marriage of 34 years, the couple were dating in a time when email and Facetime were still years from being developed.

Latimer’s 25-year-old daughter, Barbara, commented: “My parents have been through thick and thin; overcoming long distance way before the days of Skype, WhatsApp and all such technologies; battling the challenges of a mixed-race marriage way before it became a social norm. None of that would have been possible without an insane amount of love between them.”

When asked how her parents’ marriage inspired her, the freelance host and performer gushed: “Communication, patience, perseverance and compromise are some of the key elements (aside from love) that I’ve seen in the magical concoction that is mum and dad’s marriage, and are definitely aspects that I would be fortunate enough to have in my future.”

So what’s your secret to maintaining the spark and a lasting relationship?
Latimer: Given the billions of people that have done this over the centuries, I don’t see how it can be a secret! But seriously, it isn’t about maintaining a relationship, it’s about getting into the right relationship in the first place.

Wong: Communication. The more a couple communicates, the more they understand each other. For me, though, it wasn’t about lavish gifts or extravagant meals, it wasn’t about showing off, it was about being accepted for who I am as a person. Loving someone is a choice and you have to show them that every day.

What was the first thing that attracted you to your significant other?
Latimer: A smile and her eyes. You see someone usually before you speak to them or get to know them. So that is the first connection. Though maybe some might argue that there is an energetic connection that cannot be seen. I reserve judgment on that.

Wong: His gentleness and kindness.

We’ve watched the shows, read the stories and we’ve even memorised the famous quotes. Scene like this can make us swoon even on the eighth re-watch:

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But more than just a picture-perfect relationship, what these couples found was the possibility of love in the unexpected. As Valentine’s Day approaches, their stories are a reminder that love, along with a healthy dose of good faith and hard work, triumphs all.

Top Image: The Pride