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In the face of a pandemic, lockdown measures and restrictive border closures, can love happen, let alone blossom?
Caught in Covid romances, three young couples share their stories with The Pride and show how love, as the saying goes, can conquer all.
Getting creative in Covid: Amar and Myra
Shaik Amar, 30 and Myra Jalil, 28, have never been on an overseas trip together.
“I still don’t know how Myra is like when we travel,” muses Amar, who tied the knot with his wife last December.
“We got married before ever travelling together. Isn’t there some sort of rule against that?” he continues in jest, alluding to how some marriage experts advise couples to travel together before getting hitched.
Amar and Myra met working as property agents and became friends five years ago but it was not until during the pandemic in late 2020 that they started to spend more time together.
Both were nursing wounds from breakups. As they bonded over self-help books, podcasts and other “soul searching activities” like meditation and prayer, sparks flew.
“We began to meet more and more until it became a daily affair,” says Myra. “We did not expect romance but it happened!”
Amar shares that dating during Covid forced the couple to be creative, as they could not travel and were restricted to activities within our shores.
“Covid helped us realise how much we love being around each other. We quickly realised it will be easy for us to live together.”
“You could do almost every couple activity in Singapore in three months, and we already did like half of them when we were just friends!” says Amar.
“Yeah, after the nth movie date, you kind of run out of ideas on what to do next!” chimes in Myra.
The imaginative couple started to create DIY activities on their dates. One particular outing at the Botanic Gardens was Myra’s favourite.
“The activity was called ‘Visualising Our Future’ and we had to draw it out,” she recalls. “Amar drew a house with a tree and a cat. I didn’t have a house or a cat, and I was touched that he saw that in our future. It’s one of the more special moments we had.”
It was also at the Botanic Gardens that Amar proposed.
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Most of their dates, though, involved deep conversations over meals in cafes and restaurants, where they grew to really know each other.
“Because of the regulations, we ended up spending a lot of time just between the two of us. In a more personal setting, we got to be open and vulnerable with each other much faster,” says Myra, who is drawn to Amar’s strong values, self-awareness and for wholeheartedly embracing her as she is.
Adds Amar, who is likewise attracted to Myra’s unwavering belief in him and attentiveness: “Covid helped us realise how much we love being around each other. We quickly realised it will be easy for us to live together.”
While planning for their Covid wedding, the couple had their fair share of fights and misunderstandings. Guidelines kept changing and their moods changed with it. Add cultural differences and their parents’ opinions to the mix and it really stretched the relationship.
“Shifting our mindset from ‘me versus you” to “us versus circumstances” helped,” shares Myra.
The couple got married in a wedding that celebrated their multicultural backgrounds and their love for each other and families.
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Through their highs and lows, the couple has discovered that commitment, trust and self-awareness are values they cherish the most.
“Our relationship is important and important things need tending to,” says Myra.
“We are human and we cannot run away from our emotions. Being self-aware and understanding how you communicate is important,” adds Amar.
“So is trusting each other enough to not hold our mistakes against each other, and that we will make changes towards a brighter future together.”
Finding priority in busy lives: Sean and Zhen Ying
Like Amar and Myra, Sean Teo, 32 and Lim Zhen Ying, 28, found themselves in richer and deeper conversations because of the pandemic.
They had met on a dating app just before the circuit breaker in April 2020.
When that happened, their weekly Saturday meetups went from in-person dates at cafes and bars to video calls.
But those calls were a blessing in disguise: They would talk for hours on Zoom.
“By the end of the circuit breaker, we had spent more time (physically) apart than we did together,” laughs Zhen Ying.
To Sean, it was just a blip. “If we couldn’t get through a small challenge like that, we wouldn’t be able to get through the tougher hurdles in the future.”
It helped that Sean and Zhen Ying share similar relationship values.
“We build trust by not doing things that make each other feel insecure,” says Sean, who works in finance. “If it’s something I won’t appreciate her doing, I won’t do it, and vice versa.”
Like other couples during the circuit breaker, he often sent food surprises to Zhen Ying, to keep the flame alive.
“We build trust by not doing things that make each other feel insecure. If it’s something I won’t appreciate her doing, I won’t do it, and vice versa.”
Initially hesitant to use a dating app, Zhen Ying gave it a try after her friends set up an account for her.
“Meeting Sean was definitely unexpected!” says Zhen Ying, who works in healthcare. “He wrote in his bio that he looks for people who are not rude to service staff. This struck a chord with me as I meet people who are rude and verbally abusive daily in my area of work.”
Over time, Zhen Ying has grown to appreciate Sean more. “He listens and takes the time to understand where I’m coming from when we have disagreements. He respects my thoughts and feelings and that makes me feel comfortable around him.”
For Sean, it is Zhen Ying’s selfless nature that makes her shine.
At the one-year mark, the couple almost called it quits over their differing life goals. While Zhen Ying is ambitious, Sean is more laid back and they realised this could pose issues down the road.
“I felt gutted as we had strong feelings for one another,” shares Zhen Ying.
The pair eventually reached a middle ground. Now, they have plans for marriage, a house and a dog. Zhen Ying says she still gets stressed thinking of their financial commitments but she finds confidence from what they have gone through.
“Being able to sit down and talk through difficult topics without any judgment brought us much closer together. It made me realise that he can be my safe space if I need someone to talk to. Our relationship grew tremendously after that,” says Zhen Ying.
Communication and trust are the cornerstones of this couple’s relationship.
“Most times, we fall into the trap of expecting our partners to guess what we want, why we’re upset. This causes frustration and miscommunication that lead to arguments,” says Zhen Ying.
“Having gone through failed relationships, I have learnt to express my feelings and thought processes. It helps me see things in a clearer perspective by getting another person’s input.”
Sean adds: “If there’s no trust, then there’s no foundation for everything else.”
Making long distance work: Joshua and Deah
Trust is also the foundation for Deah Gamayot, 26 and Joshua Nair, 31.
It has to be, since the pair started a long-distance relationship after getting together for just three weeks during Covid.
Acquaintances in the past, Deah and Joshua, who works in finance, started dating in August 2020 after their previous relationships ended.
“Our relationship took off really quickly, yet felt totally natural,” says Deah.
But even before they hit their one-month anniversary, Deah had to leave for the UK to complete her degree in pharmacy.
They tried to bridge the distance through video calls but even so, the stress of being apart brought up insecurities.
“As hard as we tried, nothing could replace the physical touch. We missed each other,” says Deah.
“The fights allowed us to sort out our differences, learning to love each other’s good and bad,” she adds. “A lot of patience was needed to listen to each other and trust that we won’t cheat on each other.”
The eight-hour time difference did not help matters either but they were determined to make it work. Some days, Joshua would stay up late to talk to Deah while on other times, she would wake up “extremely” early to catch up.
Technology helped the romance to blossom: they planned virtual activities together, watching movies, playing video games and even eating together, although Deah would have breakfast while Joshua had his dinner!
“The fights allowed us to sort out our differences, learning to love each other’s good and bad. A lot of patience was needed to listen to each other and trust that we won’t cheat on each other.”
Thankfully, the couple only spent five months apart. When Deah returned, the couple took the relationship to the next level.
Surviving a long-distance relationship built on the trust and understanding while they were apart brought them closer. They are planning to get engaged soon.
Deah’s smile never fails to cheer Joshua up. “When she smiles, I smile inside,” beams Joshua, which explains why he always tries to make her laugh.
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“I love his sense of humour,” says Deah.
“Joshua is also dedicated to whatever he does and has a strong moral compass. With him, I feel like I am seen and heard in a way that I’ve never felt before. He is very understanding, encouraging and patient towards me.”
Echoes Joshua: “Deah really understands me. I truly appreciate how we can be open and sort out our troubles with no secrets or harbouring ill feelings.”