Friends, Love, Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] When You’re In Love With Your Best Friend – Tan Lili

Do you jump headfirst into a relationship or do you take time to build your friendship first? Tan Lili opts for the latter, but she reckons it shouldn’t matter either way.

As a writer and a reader, one of my biggest pet peeves is presumptuous writing. Very rarely do articles like “10 Signs She’s Wifey Material”, “30 Things You MUST Do By 30” and “Why You Should NEVER Date An Ex” paint an objective picture as they tend to be self-indulgent and filled with one-sided drivel. It’s one thing to motivate readers to better their lives, but quite another to unnecessarily plant a seed of doubt in their minds – and those articles have an inclination to veer towards the latter.

The most befuddling part to me, though, is that they often go viral and are well-received by majority of their readers.

ANYWAY.

A friend recently showed me one such article. It listed down 10 reasons why it’s a terrible idea to marry your best friend. One of the reasons: You’d likely just be settling for a safe option, secure in the assurance that he would never let you down. (It was written by a relationship counsellor, mind you.) And for reasons I would probably never be able to comprehend, my friend actually agreed with everything the writer said.

“Do you think you settled down too early?” she began. “When things get too comfortable between two lovers, the passion will fade and, eventually, all that’s left is friendship. And hey, weren’t you and Terry friends for nearly two years before you got together? Do you think that makes you guys even more susceptible to falling back into old patterns and seeing each other as just friends?”

To my friend’s defense, her intentions were non-malicious because she’s always been an inquisitive character. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly miffed by her line of questioning.

Because what’s wrong with taking time to invest in the friendship first? Call me old-fashioned, but for me, I’d rather have that rock-solid foundation upon which you build your relationship. As Vanessa very sagely added last night, the alternative would be to dive headfirst into the fiery romance then work on the friendship later – but when you take away the passion, what’s left?

In the same vein, I chanced upon a Reddit thread about a guy who went around the world to interview couples about love, and one of the biggest takeaways he gained was this: that the most madly-in-love long-term relationships are those built on friendship.

material world_best friend love

My boyfriend and I did start out as platonic friends, but somewhere along our friendship, the line blurred. Granted, it took us nearly two years of mindfuckery to decide that our feelings are mutual, but it was also during those two years that we got to know and genuinely like each other as buddies. And that – realising that he’s your perfect partner – is the best thing about falling in love with your best friend. Throw in romance and passion and, yes, definitely sex, it becomes a whole new level of amazing.

Of course, the world is not black and white. I know of so many friends who were lovers first before they became friends, and they sure aren’t any less committed to each other than any other couple who started out otherwise. When there are so many variables involved – your personality, your beliefs, your present psyche – what works for one couple may not work for another. My personal preferences may change in the future, but for now, I honestly do not see anything wrong with being in love with my best friend.

I suppose that’s what makes love so beautiful, isn’t it? There’s no one mould into which every couple fits; the way you start your relationship is irrelevant because, to quote Neil Gaiman, sometimes when you fall, you fly.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Tan Lili talks about building long-term relationships and the highs and lows of being in one. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. 

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Not All Men Are Jerks – Vanessa Tai

When a relationships sours or if you’ve been betrayed by someone you love, it’s easy to write off the entire opposite sex as callous jerks. But that’s just a one-way street to Bitter Town. Vanessa Tai suggests another way of viewing the situation.

As much as I love my friends, sometimes I hesitate to tell them about the problems I’m facing with whichever guy I’m dating. Why? Because of the inevitable judgment that will follow.

“He’s such a douchebag.”

“You’re better off without a jerk like him!”

And so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why they would say such things. They’re my good friends so they’ll naturally get affronted on my behalf when they feel I’ve been wronged by some guy. I, too, do the same when my girlfriends confide in me about their relationship problems. However, lately I’ve been wondering if this is really the best way to deal with relationship woes. Sure, if you’re all out to have a no-holds-barred sobfest with your best friends, it may help to have them rally around you and have a common “enemy” to hate on.

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But what happens when you’re alone in your bedroom late at night and mulling over the failed relationship? Will you also continue to stew in rage and resentment? Sadly, many people tend to fixate on these feelings of being wronged and this seeps into the way they interact with others. I’m sure you know of people who’ve been hurt badly in relationships and became cold, standoffish, or overly cynical as a result. In fact, I used to be one such person.

However, I’ve recently come to see the flaws in this line of thinking. When a relationship fails, it fails for a myriad of reasons and yes, it could even be because the person you were dating was careless with your feelings. Does that make him a bad person? Not really. If that were the case, aren’t we all guilty of being “bad” at one point or another? The thing is, I sincerely believe nobody (save for the truly callous or sociopathic) sets out to deliberately hurt another person. I believe most of us embark on a romantic relationship with the best of intentions. Nobody wakes up thinking, “Okay, I think I’m gonna hurt so-and-so today.”

It’s just that along the course of a relationship, Life gets in the way. It could be unresolved emotional baggage from the past, or it could be an unexpected situation that throws everything out of loop. The thing is, people are unpredictable, especially when it comes to love. Most people are just bumbling along, trying to figure things out as they go along, winging it and trying to make it all work out. So when they screw up and end up hurting you, it’s most likely unintentional. Nobody is perfect. We, too, have been guilty of hurting the people we love, despite our best intentions.

That said, people are responsible for their actions and should still be held accountable for whatever they choose to do (or not do) in a relationship. I’m definitely not advocating that we condone bad behaviour. However, there’s a difference between holding someone responsible for their actions and blaming someone. For the former, you’re simply recognising this is who they are and how they’re choosing to behave. If you don’t like it, the choice is yours to cut them out of your life.

When you blame someone for their bad behaviour, however, you’re dodging any responsibility of your own. When you blame someone, you’re essentially saying that just because you didn’t like how someone acted, you’re entitled to attack them however you please. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how destructive this line of thinking is. Instead of finding ways of improving the situation or even seeking out a way you can learn or grow from it, blaming the other person simply creates a breeding ground for resentment and bitterness.

I reckon a healthier way of dealing with feelings of betrayal (or abandonment, or any other horrible feelings that emerge from a breakup) is to carve out alone time to figure out what you learned from the whole experience. It’s important to figure out why things didn’t work in the past so you can make things work better in the present and future. It won’t be easy, for sure. There’ll be days where all you want to do is scream and cry or burn all his things. Yes, you can allow yourself a period of time to do that if it offers you some form of catharsis. But there comes a day where you have to pick yourself up from the floor and just let go of those feelings of hatred and animosity. Take it from me, there’s really no point holding on to those bitter feelings of being wronged. It will only serve to poison your future relationships and become a vicious self-fulfilling cycle.

Every relationship we embark on is different and deserves to be treated with equal fervour and guileless enthusiasm. Well, that’s what I choose to believe anyway!

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Vanessa Tai talks about navigating the often-confusing world of singledom. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] The One Thing Your Relationship Needs RIGHT NOW (and Every Day) – Denise Li

When we say that we are spending time with our partner, are we giving them the full and undivided attention they deserve? Denise Li says being mindful is more important than ever. 

Being mindful doesn't look like this, by the way

Being mindful doesn’t look like this, by the way

We live in a world full of distractions. Blame it on the usual suspects: Smartphones, social media, urban living, and being part of a society that values productivity and where being busy all the time is regarded as a virtue. To be regarded as successful, we need high-flying careers, a wealth of material possessions, fit bodies, and to be able to maintain a sprawling social network.

To have all of these, and to keep making sure that we have all of these, it’s necessary to make decisions based on our perception of future gains. We work hard to hopefully score that promotion by the next financial year, we save up for some big purchase we can make in the future, we exercise hard in the hopes of becoming a thinner, more attractive version of ourselves in a few months.

Doing all of these takes up much of our time and our energy in day-to-day living. We hear people tell us that it’s good to slow down and smell the proverbial roses, but really, who has time to do that when there are still 89 emails to reply, client meetings to set up, social engagements to attend?

Now, I’m not saying that it’s bad to have goals. Of course it’s never a bad idea to know what you want to achieve in life and going all out to get it. But right now, I would like you to pause and ask yourself this: Who am I neglecting right this moment in pursuit of my future goals?

Bruges, Alain's hometown

Bruges, Alain’s hometown

You see, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this in the past six weeks. I spent the last six weeks in Europe with my fiance Alain. Most of that time was spent in his hometown of Bruges, a town in the Flemish region of Belgium. For the first few weeks I was there, I could not shake off the feelings of guilt I had about being away from work. My life as I knew it was “disrupted”; while I still wrote the odd article or two every week, I didn’t have to wake up at 7.30am to go to the office, go for client meetings or attend events. I still worked out, but it wasn’t according to the same routine as I knew it.

We spent a lot of time at home preparing leisurely meals and watching movies together. We took long walks his beautiful, historical town. We went for MMA training together. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, at least in the beginning, I could not shake off the feelings of restlessness. I felt bad for sleeping in, wracked with guilt when I saw that my business partners were drowning in work, I got grumpy because it felt like I was “doing nothing” …

But … I wasn’t doing nothing. I was spending time with the love of my life who I hardly see because we live in different timezones. And instead of being present and appreciative of that fact, I was somehow letting the fact that I wasn’t doing anything “productive” colour my mood. And in doing so, I was not according Alain the respect, love and care that he so rightly deserves.

I was “there” but not really there. And so, even though it wasn’t easy, I know I had to change my perception of the situation.

I started to put my Singapore-related worries in a mental box. I allocated a specific amount of time every day while I was there to answer emails and write my articles. And while it was tough initially, I purposefully shifted my mental focus and emotional energy of the rest of my day to Alain. I reminded myself that for the past few months, I had worked hard for THIS MOMENT. I had squirrelled away money to spend a prolonged period of time in Europe with my partner I see every half a year … why the hell shouldn’t I enjoy what I have NOW? Why should I let my worries about the future distract me from his cuddles, his silliness, and from appreciating his efforts about what he was doing for me while I was there?

I didn’t realise how much I was caught up in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living, of living for the future, that it had completely affected my ability to appreciate what I DO have at the present moment.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is guilty of not being mindful. There are many meanings and interpretations of what being mindful is, but this site has the one that makes the most sense to me: “It is about being maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

Being mindful has been proven to have a whole host of benefits, including fostering compassion, and helping people become better parents. But I am acutely aware of the fact that it is impossible to be mindful all the time; it would take an incredible amount of self-awareness and practice to get there. I know that when I go back to work tomorrow, I will once again be caught up in the stresses of day to day living, and I would find it immensely challenging to be “present in the moment” 100% of the time.

But my advice is this, regardless of whether you’re in a long distance relationship: Start by being present – physically, emotionally and mentally – around the ones you love (romantic partner or otherwise). They provide a very tangible focal point for which to practise mindfulness. Put your phones, gadgets and work aside for a couple of hours a day to really appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and stop taking them for granted. Listen and give them your full and undivided attention for at least a couple of hours a day.

It is the very least and yet the best thing you could do for the relationships you care most about.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. 

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] 9 Things Women In Their 30s Do Differently In Love – Deborah Tan

When it comes to Love, Deborah Tan admits she can be rather draconian in her handling of it. But this, she says, is something that comes with age. Below, 9 things about Love she has learnt to do differently now that she is in her 30s. 

No matter our age, no matter our relationship status, we all encounter issues in Love.

As I think back to the ways I dealt with crushes before turning 30 (I now cringe with embarrassment whenever I think about them), I realized that with age, one also begins to perceive and treat this thing called Love very differently.

For one, my women friends in their 30s seem to take things in their stride a lot better than my women friends who are in their 20s. While it could be a “Oh well, I’m already 30, there’s nothing I can change about that – might as well move on and have fun” mentality at work here, it could also be that once we are past the 3-0, timelines and milestones matter a lot less.

What else do women in their 30s do differently from those in their 20s when it comes to Love?

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1. We have less tolerance for bullshit

When I first saw the movie “He’s Really Not That Into You”, I found myself annoyed with Justin Long’s character. Every time Ginnifer Goodwin’s character asks him about a new guy she’s seeing, he highlights the “warning signs” and tells her why the guy’s really not that into her. To me, at that time, it seemed awfully judgmental to so quickly dismiss the dude: Anyone could be THE ONE, right??? Fast forward two years later, when I caught the movie again on TV, I found myself agreeing with Long’s character. It’s true. With age, we really have less tolerance for bullshit behavior in men. If he likes you, he will do anything to be near/with/around you.

 

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2. But it doesn’t mean we don’t have time for fun

While finding a meaningful, long-term, committed relationship is still something we want, we recognize that we would be missing out on a lot of fun if we only went out with men who seem most likely to want to be in a relationship with us. The pressure is also a lot less once you make peace with the fact that you also don’t want a relationship with just anyone you meet at a club.

 

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3. We know what we DON’T want

At 18, my “Things I Want In A Partner” was a mile-long. I told myself I would NEVER fall for anyone who didn’t meet my requirements. At 25, the list was evenly split between the things I want and the things I don’t want in a partner. At 30, I realized that my list had morphed into a “Things I DON’T WANT In A Partner” list: I don’t want to date a psychopath. I don’t want to date a cheater. I don’t want to date a man with no ambition. This isn’t to say women in their 30s have zero expectations and have come to think we deserve less. 3 decades spent on this planet have taught us that nothing is ever quite it seems and, rather than set ourselves up for disappointment, why not just allow ourselves to be pleasantly surprised?

 

compartmentalized
4. We compartmentalize

Younger, we allowed our lives to revolve around Love and, our ability to function and behave normally was pegged to the ups and downs of our relationships. Now that we are older, we have learned to not let matters of the heart interfere with our jobs, our social lives and our self-esteem. Yes, every argument with a boyfriend will sting, every moment of uncertainty will bug us like a mosquito bite on our palm, but still, we know Life goes on and the ability to go at it alone is what makes us strong and confident. And strong and confident is attractive.

 

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5. We get over it … slightly faster

Heartbreak sucks. That chest-crushing feeling that your heart is about to implode from not having someone to love sucks. That overwhelming sense of loneliness that surrounds you every time you lie in bed thinking, “Why can’t he love me like I love him?” sucks. Women in their 20s get it. Women in their 30s get it. Women in their 80s get it. But Age teaches you to get over it fast because … see Point 1.

 

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6. We are over “What if …”

As much as I detest cliches, there is some truth in the saying, “Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.” In my 20s, I was so afraid of being alone that it took me forever to break up with an ex I had stopped loving for some years. At that time, I was tormented with thoughts like, “What if he is the one?”, “What if I never find someone else?”, “What if I have already met and missed the person meant for me?” Entering my 30s, I decided that it’s no point obsessing over the What-ifs. The only thing you can do for yourself is to make the best of whatever situation you are in and hope that the best is yet to be.

 

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7. We leave people who make us work for their love

Is it because of my looks? Is it because of my figure? Is it because of the way I talk? Younger, we saw ourselves as products that needed constant refinement, that we needed to be “improved upon” in order to be worthy of love. Women in their 30s have less patience for this. If a man ever makes us feel we are not good enough, we will simply move on to the one who does. This is ME – take it or be sorry that you have let me go.

 

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8. We understand Love is more than just emo-ness

Emo-ness in movies sells tickets. Emo-ness in love songs is beautiful. Emo-ness in a real-life relationship? C’mon, it’s tiring and trying. We really don’t need this much drama in our lives. We don’t want to live in a HK TVB drama series. Your Love is not going to be any less real just because you are happy, just because you are not needy individuals addicted to private dramas and public meltdowns. Let’s spend our dramatic energy fighting things like people who abuse animals, people who assault women, and stupid people.

 

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9. We get that people will love the way they want to

At the end of the day, people will love the way they want to, the way they know how to. It’s no point forcing them to be more clear-headed/level-headed/decisive/cruel because the heart works in such strange, strange ways. But to my friends who are still in their 20s and wondering why Love hurts so much, I can only say that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger and that things do really get less scary in your 30s. This, and that I’ll always be here to annoy you with unsolicited love advice anyway.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Deborah Tan talks about the trials and tribulations of being newly married. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. The eternal realist says while she enjoys a good drama on TV – she’s not a big fan of it in real life. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] When Insecurity Is Not A Bad Thing – Tan Lili

Especially when it comes to matters of the heart, insecurity is definitely not attractive. But Tan Lili wonders, what if we can harness the presence of it for personal growth?

Just the other day, Vanessa and I were talking about the beginning stages of our own relationships, and we noticed a startling similarity between the two of us: We’d enter a relationship expecting it to be terribly short-lived.

But then again, perhaps it’s not that startling a revelation. Insecurities are often heightened at the start of anything new; it’s normal to doubt oneself and each other when you’re both going through experiences together for the first time. But I know how detrimental these feelings of inadequacy can be if left to fester; they create a self-perpetuating cycle (e.g. you interpret his silence as a lack of concern, which perpetuates your preconceived perception), which may sometimes turn into self-fulfilling prophecies (e.g. your insecurity prompts you to cling on to your partner, causing him to pull away). The good news is, people always say these self-doubts would dissipate as the relationship settles.

Michael Fassbender understands me.

Michael Fassbender understands me.

Well, then I’m screwed. Because as Vanessa and I delved deeper into our conversation, I discovered something about myself – that even after more than 10 years in a relationship, I’m still plagued by insecurities every so often. For instance, whenever a beautiful woman walks by, I’d instinctively tense up and expect my boyfriend to wonder what he saw in me in the first place. Now, rationally, I’m aware I’m not hideous and that I do possess some admirable assets. But there’s this tiny voice at the back of my mind that pushes unwelcomed thoughts to the forefront, making me dissect details to find imagined flaws and see problems where none exist.

However, I’m also starting to see the positive in insecurity. Despite my issues, they don’t become self-fulfilling prophecies – and I have no intention of ever turning that around. And one factor that plays a big part in strengthening my resolve is, strangely enough, insecurity.

I remember reading an online series a while ago about this very topic. The author wrote about how the presence of an insecurity shouldn’t have any negative connotations; rather, it’s our reaction to it that makes or breaks the problem. I definitely agree. To me, the presence of mine allows me to be aware of uncertainties, that nothing is set in stone. Instead of turning me into an overly attached girlfriend, that very knowledge not only makes me better appreciate what I have today, but also drives me to constantly improve myself for personal growth.

Not quite there yet, but one day.

Not there yet, but one day.

For that reason, my insecurities are slowly but surely being chipped away over the years. Using the same beautiful-woman example, my irrational fear – that my boyfriend would be attracted to someone else – would eat at me for days in the past. But now, that fear is present but fleeting. Even though I’m well aware that things can change, I’m at least self-assured enough to give myself a little credit and simply enjoy the moment.

I do not know of a single person who feels 100-percent secure about himself. Maybe it’s time we stop berating ourselves for our occasional jabs of self-doubt. As the late psychoanalyst Eric Fromm said, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Tan Lili talks about building long-term relationships and the highs and lows of being in one. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. 

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Friends, Relationships

3 Things I Love About My Friendship With Guys – Denise Li

Here’s why Denise Li can’t live without her favourite dudebros. 

Despite what the TV series depicts, I think men and women can be friends without wanting to sleep with each other.

Despite what the TV series depicts, I think men and women can be friends without wanting to sleep with each other.

Is it possible for women to be platonic friends with men? Sometimes, it astounds me that people ask this question cos it’s a HELL YES! for me. And that’s why I hate the term “friend zone” so much … it stigmatises what could potentially be a healthy and valuable non-romantic relationship between two people. “Friend zone” is an unnecessarily shit-stirring term that should be retired immediately from popular lexicon.

It doesn’t mean that heterosexual male and female friendships are easy to define, uncomplicated, or free from sexual tension all the time. But that’s another story for another day. But I think to only stick to friends of one gender would be to restrict access to a whole world of perspectives, viewpoints and interactions. Here are a few things I get out of my friendship with men.

1. They don’t belabour conversations about emotions

Don’t get me wrong … I’m all for emo HTHTs (heart-to-heart talks), especially if I sense that a friend is feeling down and could use some cheering up. But sometimes, I also like how my guy friends just state the facts, and then move on. Let me give you an example. Recently I met up with a guy friend who was in town for a couple of weeks. We met up in a group with some other guys from the same university. We were all talking about regular stuff, what we were doing with our lives, movies and TV shows we’d watched recently, and so on. Said friend suddenly drops this conversation bomb from nowhere: “[Name of wife] and I are no longer together.” Just like that. I asked him a bit about it, he gave us the lowdown of how the relationship broke down, and five minutes later, we’d moved on from that topic and went back to talking about Breaking Bad. Between us (I was the only girl in the group that night), there were no long-drawn sympathetic looks, no “Tell me how you’re REALLY doing”. He had made peace with the end of the relationship, updated us about it, and moved on. Sometimes, that’s all that really needs to be said.

2. They don’t let things stew

Something else I noticed about men … if one guy has a problem with one of his buddies, he comes right out and says what it is without beating around the bush. They have a conversation about it, sort it out, then move on without any ounce of awkwardness. With women (and I think I can say it because I’m guilty of doing it too), we might act passive-aggressively towards the friend who has offended us, or we ask a mutual friend for advice about whether we should talk to the friend in question. Confronting the problem head on always seems to be the last resort when, really, it’s the first thing that should be done so things don’t become more complicated than they have to be.

3. They make fun of each other TO NO END

Have you noticed this? They always take ribbing to the extreme, sometimes to the point where it can get uncomfortable for the observing bystander. This trash talking is, apparently, one of the ways that men bond with each other, and supposedly, they only do it to other dudes they like. I find this kind of endearing, not to mention hilarious.

Do you think men and women can be “just friends”? What are some of the things you like about your friendship with guys?

For more articles on friendship, click here.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] When Love Is Not Enough – Vanessa Tai

Relationships fail. This is an undeniable fact of life. However, knowing this is not enough to ease the pain of losing someone you love. How, then, can we cope with heartbreak, wonders Vanessa Tai. 

Sometimes, despite your best intentions and efforts, a relationship doesn’t work out. It could be due to a myriad of factors but the end-result is always the same – heartache and disappointment.

I wish I could tell you it’ll eventually be okay, that time heals all wounds, and all the other tripe self-help articles may tell you. But I am not you. I can’t and won’t pretend to know what you’re going through.

Especially when I, myself, don’t know for sure if you ever truly recover from a broken heart.

However, I can tell you this much: Don’t give up hope. 

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Romantic love can be complicated, twisted, and stomach-churningly unpredictable. Yet, we find ourselves drawn to it, time and again. Because, at its best, it is breathtaking and spectacular. I’m sure we’ve all seen how the power of love is strong enough to soften even the most hardened of hearts. Love is probably one of the only things in this world that can easily encompass good and bad, beautiful and ugly.

Even in its cheapened, shadowy versions — lust, infatuation, intrigue — there’s nothing quite like it. The quickened heart rates, the goofy grins, the quiet contentment. With so many rich emotions and experiences tangled up in it, it’s no wonder love is such an addictive drug. Despite the painful comedowns, people still keep chasing the high. Yes, the pain of losing someone you love — for whatever reason — can be unbearable. Whenever I go through heartbreak, I am an absolute wreck. I can’t sleep, I’m crying all the time and I am a complete bummer to be around. However, I also recognise it’s unhealthy to dwell on the loss and what could have been, so I create my own coping mechanisms to deal with the pain.

So, here’s my humble recommendation: Simply be happy that you had the privilege of loving someone and being loved in return … no matter how short-lived.

Think about it. Each day, you encounter hundreds, if not thousands of people. Yet, this one person, no different from any other person, wanders into your life and for some reason, both of you establish a connection. I can tell you, this is not a common occurrence, which is what makes it so valuable. Maybe it starts with physical attraction or maybe you discover a similar love for obscure music. Or maybe you just find it strangely easy to open up and talk to each other. Whatever it is, a connection is made and no matter the duration of your relationship, it still stings when the connection gets broken. That’s because it’s human nature to crave connection so when it’s rudely ripped away from you, it will definitely hurt.

However, the important thing to remember is, don’t focus on the pain.

Yes, you may have made mistakes, you may have gotten hurt, you may even have been betrayed … but the lessons you will learn about life and love are infinitely precious. It is often through our darkest episodes that we gain the most illuminating insights about ourselves. I’ll like to believe that if you make a conscious effort to get better (versus becoming bitter), it nudges you along to an even more fulfilling relationship down the road. Because, you know, life is a series of connections. Just because this connection did not work out does not mean another will not in future.

Yes, you may never heal entirely. It still breaks my heart whenever I think of certain people I care about and everything we could have been. But all it takes is a single happy memory to dull everything else and dare I say it, even make the pain worth it. No matter how fleeting my love affairs are, they never fail to make me feel excited and alive all over again.

Because when I love somebody — recklessly and with wild abandon — it feels like I am living life at the edge of a rollercoaster, instead of just cruising along on a subway.

And it feels fucking amazing.

So I wouldn’t have it any other way. No regrets.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Vanessa Tai talks about navigating the often-confusing world of singledom. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Friends, Relationships

7 Girlfriends That Every Woman Always Needs – Matthew Fam

A life without girlfriends would be a very dull, depressing one indeed. From a friend who gives you honest fashion advice, to one who lends you a shoulder to cry on, these are the 7 girlfriends that every woman always need.

1. The Fashion Consultant:
Forget hairstylists or personal shoppers. Having a fashionista girlfriend on your side can save you from a dreaded style mishap. And we’re not talking about friends who would blindly praise any frock your don. This friend will be direct and honest with her opinions. Like that time when you decided to trim your bangs by yourself in desperation:giphy

2. The Love Guru:
This girlfriend has sagely dating advice without even consulting love horoscopes. She also has a good hint of which guy is suitable for you based on your recent dating history that she has effectively memorised. When she tells you to avoid drunk texting a guy who- in her spot-on guy analysis- is just a player, do yourself a favor and listen. To. Her.

3. The Travel Buddy:
Planning a holiday can be a stressful event by itself, what with hotel bookings and the sorting of itineraries. Can you imagine adding travel buddies into the mix? What you need is a girlfriend that either has similar travel interests as you- be it in shopping or museum hunting- or is willing to compromise (of course, you should be willing to do so as well!).

ABD4F1B04FFC41848426C609E578170E4. The Comedy Queen:
When you’re having a bad day at work or in desperate need for some cheering up, pencil this girlfriend in for a lunch outing- pronto. She can turn a quiet coffee joint into a riot filled with your guffaws. Yes, when you’re in her company, passerbys may even whip you disapproving glances at your boisterous conversations. But let’s face it: you’re probably having too much fun to care!

5. The Saint:
Friendships are bound to come with their series of conflicts and disagreements. But what makes them stronger is the ability to get through them with forgiveness and understanding. Unfortunately, not all friends are willing to start on a clean slate- especially when a dire deed is committed (you dating her ex, perhaps!). So when you find a girlfriend that graciously forgives, you must never let her go.

6. The Comforter:
This girlfriend’s contact is ever ready to be tapped on Whatsapp in times when you feel like this:tumblr_inline_mlqadytMmi1qz4rgp

A typical conversation with her usually begins with a string of crying-face emojis, followed by a total word vomit of your troubles. While some friends would simply tune off, this girlfriend will take the time and effort to hear you out- even to the extent of comforting you and offering a meet up. She is an angel.

7. The Daredevil:
She lives life on the edge and is the one to force you to try things you never would on your own- say, reverse bungee or bikram yoga. Often times, you will silently curse to yourself for even entertaining her insane requests. However, what you fail to realise is how she’s helping you get out of your comfort zone. A keeper? Definitely.

 

What kind of girlfriend do you think a woman should have? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and contributing beauty assistant. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, Singaporean theatre, and spends too much of his undergraduate allowance on magazines.

 

If you liked this post, you might also like:

1.Are You Being Critical Or Are You Looking For Flaws? – Tan Lili

2. Am I A Horrible Friend Because Of This? – Matthew Fam

3. How To Hang Out In a Group That Doesn’t Speak Your Language – Denise Li

 

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] When He Irritates the Hell Out of You – Denise Li

Denise Li’s fiance annoys the shit out of her on a regular basis, but when push comes to shove, she admits that she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

While I love the man to bits, and am supremely grateful for any time we get to physically spend together (such as the six weeks we have together right now in Belgium), I would have to be the most naive and most lovestruck of fools if I cannot admit that Alain sometimes annoys the crap out of me. Now, I’m not talking about the unwittingly annoying things a partner might do (leaving the toilet seat up or leaving the towel on the floor, for instance). I’m referring to instances of intentional, premeditated annoying behaviour.

Sometimes, Alain is even more annoying than this.

Trust me, Alain can be even more annoying than this.

For Alain, the list of annoying things he does includes, but is not limited to:

1. Making silly, random noises in a repetitive fashion

2. Tickling my armpits when I am least expecting it

3. Intentionally putting his leg over mine when we are lying down together even though he knows that it makes me feel trapped (I’m claustrophobic)

 

Now, when he does these things, it usually elicits one of three responses from me:

1. Pretend violence (such as a smacking him softly on the shoulder), coupled with loud verbal protestations

2. A half-hearted eye roll when I am too lethargic or exhausted or otherwise have no energy to react in any other way

3. I’m dismissive and wave it off

My default response to being annoyed

My default response when my partner is annoying the crap out of me

When I am caught off guard or simply in a bad mood, I do not take kindly to such annoying behaviour. I get immensely riled up, because why the hell can’t he understand that I just need quiet time alone instead of making me muster the energy to react to something stupid?

But if I think about it … really think about it … I have to say, I would have not have it any other way, cos, really, it could be so much worse.

Here are a list of things that could be worse than being ribbed/disturbed/annoyed by the man I love:

1. Being ignored completely

2. Being ignored completely because he’s always on his phone

3. Being ignored completely because he cannot be bothered to give a f*ck

4. Being ignored completely because he is totally indifferent to my presence

Indifference - the ultimate relationship killer

Indifference – the ultimate relationship killer

Indifference. That’s the ultimate relationship killer, and I should know because that’s what killed my last relationship. Indifference is worse than arguments and constantly fighting because it means that you or your partner simply do not care about your relationship anymore and what happens to it. If you’re still staying in the relationship, it’s more out of habit than love or concern for the other person.

When you’re indifferent to your partner, you are not bothered by how he reacts to you, and vice versa – it doesn’t matter to you either way if he pays any attention to you. You’re both happy leading separate lives.

Despite the knee-jerk response I sometimes have to Alain’s sometimes child-like behaviour, I would be very disturbed if I realised one day that he had stopped doing it, because it probably means that he no longer cares about making me laugh. It would mean that the easy camaraderie we have now has been extinguished for good. If Alain was no longer annoying, I should probably be alerted to the fact that my relationship is no longer what it was and likely dying a slow death.

So yes, Alain has the capacity to bug the hell out of me, but honestly, (very) deep down inside, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Does your boyfriend or husband annoy you in the same way? What are your thoughts on that?

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

[If You Like This, You May Also Like]

[Love In Lines] Is Love Really Enough To Sustain a Relationship?

[Love In Lines] How Love Has Changed Me

[Love In Lines] What Is Your Language Of Love?

 

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Relationships

We Cannot Fix Each Other – Vanessa Tai

When we find out that a loved one is hurting, it’s normal to want to reach out and solve their problems. However, it’s not our duty to do so, as Vanessa Tai is slowly discovering. 

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I don’t know when or how this started but from a very young age, I’ve had a heightened sensitivity to the pain of others. I intuitively knew when someone was hurting, even if they tried to put on a brave front. And if the person was someone close to me, I often hurt along with them and would spend time and energy trying to make them feel better.

One of my closest friends used to suffer from clinical depression. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the disease so I tried all sorts of ways to “get her out of her funk”. I would write long letters to affirm her self-worth, devote hours listening to her grievances and gave her countless pep talks. It was tiring but on some level, I always felt it was my duty to “fix” her.

I’m sure you can relate. When our loved ones share with us their problems, it’s normal to want to find a solution as quickly as possible. Of course, if the problem is something tangible like being unable to find a job or a health concern, the solutions are more straightforward – send them relevant job contacts, recommend them a specialist, etc. However, when it comes to emotional pain, that’s where things get complicated. Because, as much as we want to, we cannot take away the pain that people feel inside.

This is something I’m only slowly coming to terms with. In the past, I used to get terribly frustrated when my efforts to cheer my friend up went to nought. I remember how she would perk up for a couple of days before spiralling downward into misery again. Our relationship soon took on a pattern where I was constantly racking my brains on how to keep her happy. It got to a point where I grew resentful of how she was draining me emotionally, and I found myself keeping my distance from her. However, she eventually sought professional help for her depression and is much better now. Our relationship has also improved.

This experience is one of the main reasons I’ve come to realise we can’t solve the problems of the people around us. Despite our best intentions, it’s impossible to fix each other. We may constantly push aside our own needs to try and meet the needs of those we love, but it’ll never be enough. Nobody can play the role of caregiver forever; the stream of self-sacrifice will dry up eventually and we’ll only end up feeling frustrated or resentful. To be a healthy caregiver, you’ll need to tend to your own needs on top of caring for the needs of others. If you’re emotionally spent, how are you going to invest into the lives of others? It’s just like the safety instruction videos onboard airplanes – in an emergency, adults are supposed to put on the oxygen mask before helping their child.

To be clear, it’s not that I no longer feel empathy for people’s problems or sorrows. When loved ones confide in me, I still experience a strong urge to throw my arms tightly around them to “hug the pain away.” But I know that only serves to soothe the symptoms, not eradicate the problem. We can never solve people’s problems anyway. We can never fully understand what others are going through, and we can never make their pain go away. After all, this is not some kind of magical Utopia. Each of us has a private pain that we carry around with us, and will probably carry with us till we die. If we truly want to help someone, the answer is not to try and “fix” him or her but simply to love and accept them without making any judgments. Hurt and disappointment will always be permanent fixtures in our lives but if we know we have the support of an unshakeable, immutable love, I think we will make it out okay.

material world_love

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Yes, I Do Want To Add A New Member To My Family – Deborah Tan

Has Deborah Tan finally succumbed to all that incessant nagging about when she’s going to have a baby?

A couple of days ago, I posted up on Facebook that I’m thinking of doing an MBA. I hashtagged the post #nextchallenge because I saw it as the “next new thing” to obsess over, after having (1) quit my job (2) start a business (3) get married (4) learn to bake (5) run a half-marathon, etc. I was bored and I needed something that wanted my time and energy.

Then came a comment from my sister, “How about a cousin for (my kids)?”

I have said a while ago that the husband and I have no intention of having children. We feel that it’s more important to invest in ourselves to ensure we are assured of a good retirement than to pour money into raising kids and having to deal with the uncertainty of whether they’d turn out well despite our best intentions and efforts.

But lately, I have been wondering if the need to grow a family has been “programmed” into us all. That it’s not just our parents and grandparents who want us to “expand the family”, but we ourselves kinda want it.

For me, I DO want a new addition to my family.

Just last Sunday, as I was dozing off on the couch, I found myself entertaining this thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a chubby bulldog is nestling in my arms and we are both taking a nap together?”

I am now obsessed with the idea of acquiring a bulldog and I’m making it a point to tell my husband once a day, “I really want a bulldog.”

But is this a precursor to something more insidious? I also wonder.

Could it be that the thing I actually want isn’t a chubby bulldog but a chubby baby?

Do all married couples wonder – at some point in their marriage – whether they want children?

I must admit, I am curious as to just what kind of kid my husband and I would be able to “produce” – would he be argumentative and annoying? Would he be creative? Would he be a left-hander? Would the child inherit both our innate disrespect for authority and status quo? Vanessa and Lili are of the opinion that any child of ours would, first and foremost, be very talkative – I am inclined to agree with them.

Curious as I may be, does it mean I have changed my mind about being a mother? I still don’t think so … sorry to disappoint those of you who have been hanging on the edge of your seats.

So every time I find myself veering dangerously into “maybe baby” territory, I’ll remind myself that I personally still prefer a pet by looking at these cute pictures:

bulldog2

It’s a hard fight in the Who’s Cuter contest but I have my winner …

bulldog3

Seriously, who can resist those folds of skin!?!?

bulldog4

Check out the butt!!! The tail! The frown! So cute!

bulldog1

At the end of the day, a bulldog does, “It’s ok, bro” best!

I want a baby. I want a bulldog as my baby.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Deborah Tan talks about the trials and tribulations of being newly married. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She’s going to talk non-stop about bulldogs until her husband succumbs and allows her to adopt one. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

 

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Friends, Relationships

How To Hang Out In a Group That Doesn’t Speak Your Language – Denise Li

Hanging out with people who don’t speak the same first language as you doesn’t necessarily have to be awkward, says Denise Li. 

If, like me, you are chronically shy and/or introverted (I’m still not sure which adjective describes me best), having to attend an event or party where you hardly know anyone is the stuff of nightmares. Probably the third worse after having to speak in public, and being singled out to answer a question in a crowded lecture hall.

Me, in an unfamiliar social setting

Me, in an unfamiliar social setting

Over the years of attending events as “media”, I think I’ve learnt to somewhat disguise my awkwardness and I can even appear outwardly outgoing. But as I sit in a cab on the way to the event, I still play out worst-case scenarios in my head (no one I know attends the event; no one bothers talking to me, etc). Of course, it’s NEVER as bad as I imagine it to be in my head, and most of the time, I still manage to have fun, but the social anxiety has never really left me in all these years.

Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I’m currently in the town of Bruges, Belgium, to spend six weeks with my partner. As it’s summer in Europe, travel is prohibitively expensive, so instead of visiting the south of France and Berlin like we’d initially planned, Alain and I have been spending a lot of time punching things and rolling with sweaty dudes at MMA training. We’ve also been spending quite a bit of time with said sweaty dudes outside of the gym. And, if you think it’s awkward to hang out with a bunch of people you barely know, try hanging out with a bunch of guys you barely know who don’t speak the same language as you do. For the uninitiated, they speak Flemish (a Dutch dialect) here in this part of Belgium (Flanders), although most people here speak English well too. And while Alain and his friends do make the effort to switch to English some of the time, I certainly don’t expect them to do it ALL the time for my benefit. I get that it disrupts the flow of natural conversation if they have to switch to a less-familiar language.

Having been here for close to two weeks now, and finding myself in the situation on a semi-regular basis, I’ve devised a few coping strategies. I hope you’ll find them useful if you ever find yourself in the same situation!

Alright, so I'm not above having a pint or two to ease myself into the situation as well ...

Alright, so I’m not above having a pint or two to ease myself into the situation as well …

1. Go with the flow

Initially, I found it hard to keep a frozen smile on my face as Flemish chatter went on around me (with Alain pausing to translate every now and then). Then I realised that being in this situation is actually not too bad for an introvert or someone who suffers from chronic shyness. Why? Because you’re not obliged to fully engage in the conversation 100% of the time! Sometimes, I’m really quite happy to zone out, or observe people in their element. I started becoming more comfortable the moment I stopped overthinking things.

2. Pay attention to nonverbal cues

Related: How To Be a Good Listener

Researchers say that body language accounts for between 50 to 70 percent of all communication, so actually, you’re not missing out on EVERYTHING just because you don’t speak the same language as the rest of the group. In fact, I think not being able to speak the language sharpens your observation skills. When I started becoming less fixated on the language barrier, and started paying more attention to body language, I found that I’m still able to follow the general flow of conversation. When I clarify with Alain about whether he’s talking to his friends about a particular incident that happened recently or discussing a certain subject matter, he’s always surprised at how I “get it”. And nope, it certainly wasn’t because I magically picked up Flemish overnight.

3. Nevertheless, a little effort will help your cause

Related: Should We Speak the Language of Locals?

I’m no cunning linguist: I can barely speak Mandarin despite having learnt it for 12 years in school, and my attempts to learn Thai and German have yielded little more than me being able to count to 10, and ordering fried rice and schnitzel. But now that I will be spending an extended period of time in Belgium, I might as well try and pick up as much Flemish as I can. Now that I’m starting to put in a little more effort into it, I can catch a few commonly used phrases, and I can count to 1o in Dutch … I just need to get over the self-consciousness of putting to use what I do know in everyday life. From my experience, however, people usually appreciate the effort no matter how broken or halting you think it comes across.

About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys training in MMA, and doing conditioning workouts. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets and Instagram @smackeral83.

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