Back to Basics, In the Name of Love

A relationship is about love, trust, care, understanding, respect, honesty, compromise, and of course, romance. I’ve been in a few relationships in the past 7 years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it would be this: every relationship is different.

I’ve been in what some would call ‘low maintenance’ relationships. The first of which I blindly walked into was nothing but a nightmare. I don’t ask for fancy gifts or expensive dinner dates, but my first boyfriend was obviously a jerk of a playboy. Even though it was he who initiated the relationship, he never did anything that was near symbolic of love.

He was the entertainer in our class; he always knew how to make people laugh (and cry too), and everyone who knew him would have thought he made a great friend. We weren’t very close at all, that’s why it surprised me when he asked me to be his girlfriend over some random chat we were having online. I wasn’t too sure at first, but I must admit, I felt rather good about it. With him being Mr. Popular in class, I thought I was one helluva lucky girl that he picked me over every other girl. Yes, he did display protectiveness when another guy in school wanted to get to know me. He threatened the guy to a fight outside our lecture theatre! I found that hilarious, but sweet nonetheless. Apart from that, our relationship was nothing more holding hands, kisses, hugs, and boy am I thankful we didn’t go anywhere further from there.

We broke up after a few months. It was a mutual understanding that our relationship was going nowhere. Knowing the kind of person he is, also known as a ‘playboy’, I was pretty certain I knew where he was hoping the relationship would go. My apologies to you, Mister T. I don’t give in so easily.

When we parted, I didn’t feel the least bit upset or disappointed, and I thought something was wrong with me. But after some thinking, I realised that I wasn’t in love with him at all. I cared for him like I would have for any other friend. I was committed to the relationship not because I had feelings for him, but rather because I enjoyed carrying the title of girlfriend of Mr. Popular. Shame on me.

The second relationship I got into was just over a month after my previous breakup. This guy was different.

I was volunteering with my church and was helping out at the weekly Special People church service. This service was for those with intellectual disabilities, autism, down syndrome, visual handicaps, etc. Also volunteering there were three macho guys from the prison ministry. These guys were ex-convicts, all fresh out of prison and turning their lives around for the better. While they were all really nice and friendly with me, there was this one particular guy who stood out when it came to caring for me.

He was around 12 years my senior, and so I sort of saw him more as an older brother looking out for his younger sister. But that changed during one weekend. We brought a large group of over a hundred special people on an excursion to a magic performance. He was in charge a one section and I, another. We were allocated different positions and he was at the other far end from me. During the show, he popped out of nowhere with a bottle of water and passed it to me. He handed it to me, smiled and winked ,and rushed back to where he was supposed to be. That kind of concern plus that smile and wink? My girly sixth sense knew what I was to him.

True enough, he called me at night when I got home. We started talking and it became a nightly thing for us. About a week later, he asked me out. I can’t remember where or how the date went, but I remember the kiss at the end of the night. Just like my previous boyfriend, we never did anything fancy. I was a simple girl and he was a simple guy, but I liked it like that. The difference between this boy and the earlier one? This one loved me and I felt it.

As I mentioned, “A relationship is about love, trust, care, understanding, respect, honesty, compromise, and of course, romance.” This guy had love, care, understanding, respect, honesty, compromise, and romance. He was missing, however, trust. I felt so loved and I loved him back, but he got to the point of being over-protective, obsessive and possessive. I knew that he cared, but he cared too much. While we had to keep our relationship a secret (he wasn’t allowed to enter a relationship so soon after being released, let alone with an underage girl), my parents were perfectly fine with me going out with a reformed ex-convict. They knew I had a strong head on my shoulders.

We had it going until he started calling me and texting me everyday, asking where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. His overbearingness aside, he revealed things to me that were beyond what my mind and heart could take. His earlier life of crimes was fine with me, but I just couldn’t accept the lifestyle he had along with it. I broke down crying too many times and I had to end it eventually. I loved him and I knew we could go on, but I didn’t see a long road ahead with the two of us in it.

(*I’ve skipped the in-betweens of playful flings and juvenile love, by the way. They did teach me many lessons, but none of which are of much relevance to the topic of today)

For the next year or so, my life was a mess. I stayed away from friends and absolutely had to stay away from relationships and focus on rebuilding the love within my family instead. Time went by and things at home didn’t seem to get any better for me. I started hanging out with friends again and I’m glad I did.

Among my group of late-night-junkie friends is the guy that softened my hardened heart and made me discover love all over again.

We were classmates for over a year, but because we were in different cliques, we barely spoke ten sentences to each other. When we graduated, however, things changed. During that few months before our new university semester began, all our classmates had free time on hand. A big group of us started spending more time together and it was only then that I realised how much he and I had in common and how strong the chemistry was between us. Not too long after, on 25 April 2009, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Unlike my previous relationships, the reason why this one has lasted this long has a lot to do with the magic formula.

Back to my checklist:

Love – checked.
Trust – checked.
Care – checked.
Understanding – checked.
Respect – checked.
Honesty – checked.
Compromise – checked.
Romance – checked.

He embodies all the above, though not always sufficiently. We have our flaws and I understand that. I won’t even get a bold check on every one of the qualities from him either. I know what I lack and I am working on that. Whether he’s working on what he lacks, that I don’t know. But what I know and what you should know is this: we can only receive what we give. 

This relationship started out simple, but it slowly progressed and gradually removed the word ‘low’ from ‘low-maintenance’, bringing us to the level of showering each other with gifts, surprises and expensive dates.

While I absolutely love the surprises and gifts (which girl wouldn’t?), I find myself feeling empty at times. You know, they say money can’t buy love – it’s true.

Completely aware of the consequences for me, a girl who loves surprises and presents, I proposed the idea of going back to basics for the year of 2013. “What are the basics?” you might ask. The basics are the 5 Love Languages: Quality Time, Physical Touch (not to be mistaken for sex), Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts (not to be mistaken for materialism), and Acts of Service. Click on the image below and take the test to find out yours:

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 7.59.42 AM

My love language is Quality Time; his love language is Words of Affirmation. We have known each other’s love language for over a year now, and we do make it an effort to speak it whenever we can. But that goes alongside the surprises, gifts and expensive dates, making our love languages complementary rather than primary.

Every person has a primary love language that must be spoken and acted upon, in order for that him/her to feel loved. In other words, nothing else apart from that primary language, no matter how much, will be sufficient in making one feel loved.

By having my boyfriend and I place this at the centre of our relationship, I am certain that our love buckets will fill. Speaking each other’s love language, especially when two speak different love languages, is a huge commitment.

Year 2013, as I proposed, will be a year of going back to basics, in the name of love. We will do away with overspending and overindulging, and instead make do with the essentials of what our relationship is built upon.

It’s only February, and it’s not too late to start. Why not try it out with your relationship too? Take the 5 Love Languages Test and take the bold step forward.

Let me know how it goes!

Cool Infographics: Playboy of Playboys, Hugh Hefner

Cool Infographics: 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Hugh Hefner

This stuff is pretty brainless and useless. It’s not going to help you get a scholarship or win a Nobel Peace Prize award. It might, however, give you some useful tips and inspiration if you’re thinking of fighting Hefner with a bigger playboy mansion.

So here are some random facts you probably never knew about the playboy of all playboys, Mr. Hugh Hefner.