Love In Lines

[Love In Lines] 3 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Going Long-Distance – Denise Li

Long-distance relationships aren’t for everyone, and being honest (with your partner and yourself) right from the start is the best chance you have at making it work, says Denise.

As you can probably imagine, I get asked “How do you do it?” all the time when people find out I’m in a long-distance relationship.

Maybe it’s because Alain and I have done it for close to four years now that I actually find being in an LDR pretty manageable. We were long-distance from the very start of the relationship, so perhaps that already brought along with it a whole different set of expectations and rules to making it work.


Don’t get me wrong; of course I wish – all the freakin’ time – that we could be a local relationship instead. No amount of Skype conversations can make up for the absence of cuddles and real-life interaction. Every time I go watch a movie by myself – which is quite often – I want him so badly to be around to watch it with me because I know no one else will get as much a kick out of Expendables 2 and Grudge Match as I do. And there’s the intense training; Alain is as huge a fitness junkie as I am – maybe even bigger – and after a gruelling session, there’s no one else I’d rather geek out over martial arts and drills and techniques to. Plus, he’s my most ardent supporter.

I’m sure I don’t need to expound further on the joys of a local relationship – that’s a given.

But having just written all that reminds me about why I have essentially given up the search for someone who lives in the same area code as I have to have a relationship with a person over the computer and the phone. I simply cannot imagine that I’d be so fortunate as to be able to find someone else I have so much in common with. And if you’re about to embark on a long-distance relationship, or considering if you should, that should be the first of the five questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Is this person so special that I’m willing to forego all the comforts of a “regular” relationship for him?

Alain and I both have had significant dating histories before we met each other, and that’s a GREAT thing. When we met each other, we pretty much established from the outset that we were the perfect match for each other. There hasn’t been anyone I’ve gone out with in the past whom I’ve established such an immediate connection with – we like the same sports, the same movies, and are pretty much on the same page regarding religion, values, and worldviews. I knew from the bottom of my heart (as cheesy as it sounds) that I wanted to make it with him (sorry). If you have any doubt about the other person at all (be honest now!), it might not be in your best interest to jump into an LDR. Or, you might want to add an escape clause, such as, “We can give it a go for three months. But if it’s not working out, let’s agree to part ways in as civil a manner as possible.” (Actually, I also gave Alain an escape clause when I asked him if he wanted to be exclusive with me, but we lasted past the three-month mark, obv.)

2. Do I have a life outside of my relationship?

If you’re the kind of person whose life revolves around your relationship (I say this without judgement), a long-distance relationship is not for you. No matter how many Skype sessions you try to schedule in a week, you’ll be spending a significant amount of time alone, and you need to be okay with that. It doesn’t matter what you occupy your time with: baking cupcakes, dog-sitting, a sport, at a Twilight fan-fiction meeting … you need just have a life outside of your relationship cos, hey, guess what? Being in an LDR is in many ways like being single, only you’ve promised someone that you wouldn’t date other people.

3. Am I willing to be accountable to my partner (and vice versa)?

An LDR will test the patience of even the most chilled-out people who say they never get jealous. I mean, that’s understandable, right? You and your partner will be spending lots of time with other people, and you won’t always get to “vet” the company he keeps. On the flipside, you need to practise a lot of patience – perhaps more than you’re used to – and update your partner about where you’re going, who you’re going to be with, etc. I wouldn’t consider this necessary if my relationship were local – in fact, I would resent my partner if he made me report my whereabouts to him all the time. But, to ensure that you both don’t go crazy, the two of you need to put in the effort into these “updates”. This won’t just give him a peace of mind; it also lets him know that he’s still an important part of your life, even if he’s not physically there.

Of course, the three questions I’ve posited here do not even scratch the surface where LDR issues are concerned, but they will provide starting points for what you need to think about before hopping into one. As for me, sometimes I find myself wringing my hands in despair because it seems like this madness will never come to an end, but mostly, I have made peace with the situation. And every time I feel down about it, I just remind myself that I’d much rather be in a long-distance relationship with someone awesome than have a second-rate local relationship. I’m not sure if the logic quite holds, but it comforts me, so there we go.

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 what it’s like 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 boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Obviously, she’s also a fan of verbal sparring. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] “What Do You Guys Talk About?” – Denise Li


That’s the question most people ask me when they find out that I Skype with Alain every night. I don’t know how to start answering the question so I just end up saying, with what I’m sure is a bemused expression on my face, “Erm, everything?”

The thing I don’t get is why people seem to think Skype convos are any different from the ones they have with their other halves in real life. Could it be that, thanks to smartphones, the art of real-life conversation has been lost forever? Maybe being physically together, but only mentally there half the time (the other half of the time being dedicated to OTHER conversations on Whatsapp or watching YouTube) is the new normal, which is why a fully-engaged conversation for a sustained period of time seems rather odd in this day and age?

I guess the idea of being on the “phone” for an hour or two at a stretch seems rather archaic. As much as I love my friends, I can no longer imagine calling them out of the blue for a heart-to-heart as I used to do back in secondary school. Similarly, I would be extremely alarmed if I were to get a call (rather than text or Whatsapp message) from a friend out of the blue; I’d most likely think it was an emergency or that they were in urgent need of help (or maybe they just want someone to give them directions to get someplace).

But the truth is, I look forward to talking to Alain each and every night. No matter how shitty my day gets, that Skype call is the thing I can count on to be the highlight of my day.

So what do we talk about? Like I said, everything. We’d update each other on what went on in our lives, we seek counsel with each other if we’re facing a tough decision or dilemmas, we talk about fighting and sport, we engage in a debate about politics or the state of the world.

While our current long-distance situation is far from ideal, our Skype conversations go a long way in strengthening our relationship, not just because of the constant contact, but because, through many of our conversations – both trivial and serious – we reaffirm our worldviews and values. As an example, both of us have recently talked about going partly-vegetarian, as we’ve watched a series of documentaries about the cruel treatment of animals in the meat industry, so we’d talk about what we ate for the day, the difficulties we faced.

I know. It all sounds pretty mundane. But this is the only way to know how to grow – not just as individuals, but also as a couple.

Being Friends Is Just As Important As Being Lovers

I have a pretty short attention span where most other sorts of social interactions are concerned. I shy away from small talk as I find it mind-numbing. When I’m with a group of people and they’re talking about things that don’t interest me, I tune out. (According to this HuffPost article, they are all telling signs that I am an introvert.) But when I talk to Alain, I find myself being more engaged, responsive, excitable and chatty. Talking to him requires no effort at all and, to me, that’s a sign that we’re not just partners in a relationship – we’re also best buds.

And I think you really need that sort of connection to make it in a long-distance relationship. Above and beyond that spark and passion that lovers have, your partner must also be a friend. If not your best friend, at least one of your very good ones. People always talk about “putting in effort” to maintain an LDR, but if you’re friends with your partner, I assure you, the effort will be diminished by half. Because, really, what could be easier than catching up with an old friend?

Anyway, while we’re on the topic of Skype convos, I might as well answer all other questions you might have about maintaining a relationship over Skype.

Do you dress up to Skype with him?

I met this man as we trained in the same muay thai gym. When you meet a guy looking your worst – red-faced, sweaty, hair plastered to your scalp, wearing a pair of satin shorts – you set the bar pretty low. I do finger-comb my hair though.

What if you guys run out of things to say?

It’s rare, but it does happen. But they are comfortable silences so it’s not that weird. But most of the time, we’d just send each other YouTube links to funny videos or movies we want to watch together. I’d make him watch it and wait, just to see his reaction.

Do you guys …

No. Please don’t ask me that again.

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 boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. It’s suddenly occurred to her that there aren’t many Hollywood movies about LDRs and wonders why this is the case. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] How To Maintain Your Sanity In An LDR – Denise Li

If you come across an article about long-distance relationships, it’s most likely to be about how to keep the flames of passion burning and lines of communication open. I too have written a number of pieces on the topic and those are undoubtedly important things. Otherwise, seriously, what’s the point?

But what should you do with yourself during the hours when you aren’t Skype-ing with your beloved, aren’t working, aren’t watching TV or engaging in some similarly distracting activity? Those are the hours in which the despair, frustration, and loneliness are bound to creep in.

During the times you aren’t interacting with your partner, a long-distance relationship can feel like a lot like being single – only with all of its pitfalls (periods of feeling lonely) and none of its perks (going on casual dates).

I found myself in such a sinkhole just last week. I work from home, and it was pretty quiet on the work front. When I was done with everything I needed to do for the day, I was left with all this time left on my hands. I tried filling the hours by sending out more emails, trying to get in the zone to think of ways to get the business to run better. But with everything on my to-do list crossed out, I was at a complete loss, and my mind started to wander to Alain. I started missing him, terribly, and the feeling was one of deep despair because I still don’t know when I’m going to see him again. I don’t know when I’m going to start making enough money to buy a plane ticket to Europe. I don’t know how we are going to be together in the long term.

It was a despair mixed with a kind of hopeless frustration. And it was paralyzing. For a few days, I lost the energy to just … do stuff. When I woke up, all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and not have to think about facing another day without him. Everything started to feel like a drag and a chore, even the things I used to love doing.

That went on for a few days until some kind of survival instinct kicked in. This was not the first time in my life I felt crippled by my emotions so I knew, somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, that I was completely capable of pulling myself out this funk.

But I knew I couldn’t do it without a little help from my friends. As a pretty emotionally self-reliant person, it felt quite embarrassing having to tell people (even my closest friends) that I needed their help to get me out of my rut. But once I did, I found myself surprised at how my nearest and dearest rallied together to help me. My best friend told me to call her up anytime – even though we hadn’t had a phone conversation in years. Yet another friend texted me to tell me we should meet for afternoon tea after seeing one of my emo (and drunkenly posted) Facebook statuses.

And that’s when I realised what was step one of maintaining your sanity in a long-distance relationship: Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Those social interactions helped me come out of my shell, and it just got easier from there. Early this week, I got over my inertia enough to sign up to train at a new martial arts gym. I love the training sessions there, and it is something I look forward to doing every day. When I train, I feel engaged, alive and have a newfound sense of purpose.

And step two of surviving a long-distance relationship: Invest in yourself.

When you are fully engaged in an activity you love doing, you will naturally feel more enriched and somehow more “complete”. This has loads of benefits. not just for you, but also for your relationship.

See, the thing about being in a long-distance relationship is that you shouldn’t stop growing and improving as a person even though your partner isn’t around. Once you let yourself stagnate, your relationship – whether or not it’s a long-distance one – will follow suit. The healthiest relationships are the ones where two individuals always strive and support each other to become the best versions of themselves. I may have been miserable because I miss Alain so much, but I know (and he has told me so) that he always wants for me to be happy and thriving, regardless of whether he’s around.  And I want exactly the same for him.

Of course, our end goal is to eventually be together. But in the meantime, despite how it may be depicted in Hollywood movies, not everything has to come to a standstill just because we cannot be with each other at the present moment. As individuals, we just have to keep moving forward. It’s the best chance we’ve got at a breakthrough.


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 boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. She stays away from sappy romance movies for the sake of her sanity. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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Gadgets & Toys, Lifestyle

A New Sex Toy For Those In LDRs – Vanessa Tai

Whoever said Singapore isn’t a sexy country? Two Singapore-based entrepreneurs have created an ingenious new sex toy, slated for launch in October 2013. Vibease is the world’s first hands-free vibrator that taps on the body’s biggest sex organ – the brain.


Well, the Vibease vibrator connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Fire up the Fantasy App, and download an audio fantasy of your choice. Then just lie back, relax and enjoy the waves of pleasure that are sure to ensue (the vibrator is designed in a way where you can tuck it discreetly into your underpants.) The vibrator and the Fantasy app work hand-in-hand – when the narrator in the fantasy app says something like, “Your skin feels so soft,” the vibrator pulsates gently. But as the plot heats up and the narrator says something like, “I miss you badly,” the intensity of vibrations increases. Basically, the vibrations are personalised to each storyline! Even better, you can even upload your own personal fantasy to the Fantasy Library and let other people listen (and get off) to your fantasy.

material world singapore-vibease

Choose from a wide variety of fantasies … or create your own!

Isn’t technology mind-bogglingly fantastic???

material world singapore-vibease-2

Sexting has just been taken to a whole new level

But wait, there’s more. Vibease isn’t just for DIY fun; couples living on separate continents can also get in on the steamy action. The Vibease Intimate app allows your partner to send you sexy private messages while controlling the vibrations from anywhere in the world (just make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection!)

The idea for Vibease came about when co-founder Dema Tio was in a long-distance relationship with his then-girlfriend, now-wife. In an interview, he shared that despite having tools like Skype and instant messaging, the lack of a physical relationship was challenging. In fact, his girlfriend was one of the first few game enough to try the earlier prototypes of Vibease!

Whatever your take on sex toys is, this marks yet another exciting new frontier for Singapore’s tech start-ups and I can’t wait to see what else we’ll dream up.

Would you be interested to try out the Vibease? Tell us in the Comments section below!

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 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She believes women should take charge of their own orgasms. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] The One Argument Not Worth Having – Denise Li

Do you know how many relationships your partner has had? I don’t … and I can totally live with that. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not because I think ignorance is bliss. I just don’t think such information in any way adds value to my relationship.

I do know about the ones that mattered, and even then, I haven’t taken it upon myself to rustle up every detail I possibly can about those relationships. Seriously, I don’t need to know details like what she’s given him for his birthday, what her favourite cocktail is, or how long she spent getting ready each morning.

I haven’t always been so cool about this, though. In my previous relationship, I took it upon myself to find out everything I could about my ex’s ex. That was in the early 2000s, and I’m just glad now that Facebook didn’t exist then; imagine all the needless pain I’d put myself through digging up dirt and looking at old pics of them! I also hounded him endlessly about what she was like, how they interacted, what he remembers about their relationship … I can’t imagine that it was much fun for him to be interrogated like that, and I certainly took a little joy in finding out what little I could.

In the end, I was left with all this intel I knew – deep down – was causing me pointless pain. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I now know that the reason I put him through the wringer was because of my deep-seated insecurity and the sense that I would never be pretty enough, good enough, smart enough … In short, I just needed to know that I was better than her.

As clear as it is to me now, I refused to believe back then I was insecure. I took it as my God-given right to know anything and everything about my partner. My rationale was: If I was going to be in a relationship with you, why shouldn’t I know? But in the end, if you were to make demons out of your partner’s exes, the only one that suffers is you.

Of course, if your guy has ex issues like Gotye, it might be a good idea to talk about it …

These days, I’m all for picking my battles, and “the past” is not something I’m willing to start a war over. As long as I know for sure that he hasn’t committed any crimes I SHOULD know about, and he seems like a pretty well-adjusted human being, I’m willing to let it go. After all, all of us have made mistakes or stupid decisions before. If you say you love your partner, you’ll just accept it as part-and-parcel as who he is now. Who he was in a previous relationship may not necessarily how he is now, and to therefore judge him on his past actions would be unfair.

Of course, I’m not saying that everything should be swept under the carpet. If he has ex issues that are creeping into your relationship with him, then these should be addressed. But in the absence of any drama, just leave the past where it belongs.

If you feel the urge to probe, why not evaluate your relationship as it is in the present instead? When I look at Alain now, all I see is a kind, giving and funny man who is doing everything he possibly can to be with me, and who’s as willing as I am to stick it out in this long-distance relationship. For me, that’s more than enough; in fact, it’s more than I ever dreamed of. And I’m definitely not going to throw is all away for some misplaced sense of “curiosity”.

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 boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. She thinks the worst time to have “a talk” with your partner is when you’ve both had a few drinks.  Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.

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[Love In Lines] How To Survive a Long-Distance Relationship – Denise Li


You know those annoying people on Facebook who only use pictures taken with their other halves as profile pics, post puke-inducing mushy status updates and leave lovey-dovey messages on their partner’s Wall for all and sundry to see?

My fiance Alain and I are one of those couples.

But given that we only ever see each other every few months or so, I think we’re entitled to a free pass. We’ve been in a long-distance relationship for more than three years now and despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to live in the same country for more than six months. When I tell people this, I’m usually met with these responses: “I can’t imagine doing it” or “I’ve done it before but it didn’t work out” or “I’ll never choose to be in a long-distance relationship”.

I can understand the incredulity. Before I met Alain, I also told myself that I never want to be in an LDR. I mean, seriously, aren’t relationships hard enough as they are when you live in the same timezone?

There is one and only one reason that you should ever be in a long-distance relationship, and that’s when every fibre of your being tells you that you need to be with this person. I could come up with a whole string of cliches about needing him like you need oxygen, etc, but you get the drift.

Alain and I did not fall in love at first sight. But we did fall in love at first encounter; our connection was pretty much instant and it became clearer to me over the next few days that we spent together. Having had my fair share of lousy dating encounters, I knew I was onto something special and so did he.

I believe a long-distance relationship can work only when both parties have that unshakeable certainty that it will. It’s that certainty that will encourage the effort of waking up early and staying up extra late to Skype; of taking the time to tell each other and find out about what happened in each other’s day; of making the extra effort to maintain emotional intimacy over a fuzzy screen when you just can’t do it in person.

Of course, it’s not all roses and sunshine, so when we fight on Skype (a rarer occurrence these days, thank goodness), we need to really talk it out and make sure there is no residual resentment. After all, it’s not like we can give a concluding cuddle to the argument.

In spite of the distance, the bond Alain and I share is much stronger than the one I shared with my ex in my previous long-term, same-country relationship. In the final year of my last relationship, I barely saw or talked to my ex more than a couple of times a week. It didn’t even cross my mind to text or call him when I travelled on my own for my three months (the death knell of a relationship that had been dying a slow death for years). Alain and I, on the other hand, do our best to talk every day, even if it’s just for five or 10 minutes when we both have to work.

The success of a long-distance relationship is really dependent on that old nugget for any relationship to work: communication. The distance works as a constant reminder of how truly and fundamentally important it is so we make more of an effort to maintain it instead of taking it for granted.

Of course, you’ll only be inclined to put in so much to make it work if it’s worth your time and effort in the first place, which is why now, whenever friends ask me how to make a long-distance relationship work, I answer the question with a question: “How sure are you that you want to be with this person?” Anything less than 100 percent is simply not worth the emotional investment.


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 boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets

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