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] 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. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 10.42.16 am

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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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Do You Give Good Text? – Vanessa Tai

When you’re getting to know someone new, texting is probably your main mode of conversation. As convenient as texting is, it can also be a potential minefield. Before you pick up your phone to WhatsApp your crush, be sure to refer to this handy checklist.

I have a love-hate relationship with WhatsApp. I appreciate how convenient it is to talk to groups of people at the same time, and how the hundreds of emojis liven up any conversation. What I hate is how the “Last Seen” function has the ability to send you into an emotional tizzy. You know what I mean. When you send your crush a message and he’s “Online” but not replying, it can really mess with your mind. Worse, when you see him “typing…” but then he stops and doesn’t send the message. It’s like, DUDE WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO SAY?!

Now I won’t consider myself a texting guru by any standards. (If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide, there are actually plenty of books on how to be a great texter.) However, there are a few lessons I’ve picked up in my years of texting guys that I hope will be useful for you, or at the very least, help you be less anxious when you next text your crush.

First, who initiates?

As Denise rightfully pointed out, there’s really zero shame in asking a guy out. However, if you find yourself always initiating a text conversation with him, it’s highly plausible that he’s just not that into you. Here’s the thing – if a guy is even mildly interested, he WILL get over his shyness/busyness/whatever to contact you. If he doesn’t, well, dust off and move on. This is why it’s always important to have options.

Maintain several text conversations

When you’re casually dating around, it’s the best time to talk to as many people as possible. Why? First, it takes your mind off that one guy you’re more interested in than the rest. Second, you could be pleasantly surprised – the other guys could actually be way more interesting. Third, it’s just fun! I don’t know about you, but I actually find it de-stressing to have random chat conversations with people I don’t know that well. It reminds me of the good ol’days on IRC and ICQ. Not sure where to find willing chat partners? Check out dating apps like Tinder or our very own local version, Paktor. Not sure what to talk about? Here’s a pro tip …

Be funny

Some of the best conversations I’ve had were with guys who didn’t ask me run-of-the-mill questions like “How are you” or “What do you do?” Instead, we jumped straight into talking about things like travel, books, music, the worst dates we’ve been on … you get the idea. There’s actually a way to steer the conversation to make it more interesting. For example, when someone texts to ask, “How was your day?”, instead of simply replying, “Good! Yours?”, you could relate a short and funny anecdote about something that happened to you that day (perhaps you spilled coffee on yourself before a big presentation or you fell asleep on a stranger’s shoulder while on the way home). It doesn’t have to be anything major or significant, but it invites the other person to share something funny about themselves too, and that gets the conversation flowing more smoothly.

What about sexting?

In a word, “No”. I don’t do it, don’t think I’ll ever do it, and I strongly encourage you not to do it either. It may seem like harmless fun to send your crush a picture of your cleavage (or more) but just the thought of the possible repercussions is more than enough for me to toe the line. Type “ex girlfriend pictures” in Google, and you’ll see scores of images of women who entrusted their intimate pictures with someone who ultimately betrayed that trust. Don’t sext. There are other ways to get a man’s attention.

Finally, my golden rule …

DO NOT TEXT WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK

material world_drunk text

Unfortunately, I learned this the painful way. On more than one occasion, I’ve texted guys when inebriated and ended up ruining perfect text relationships with gibberish messages or spammy chunks of text. Of course, you could argue that if the guy has decided he likes you, one or two drunk conversations isn’t going to change anything. And I agree. But if you’re just getting to know somebody and feeling them out, wouldn’t such behaviour annoy you? This is why I’m entrusting my phone with my pals the next time we go for a round of drinks.

Having said all this, texting is merely one way of getting to know someone better. The best way to really get to know a person is still meeting face-to-face and doing things together. After all, body language accounts for between 50 to 70 percent of all communication. So, put down that phone and go out already! In my next edition of Love In Lines, I will be talking about why it’s important to date widely. Keep a lookout for it!

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 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. 

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1. [Love In Lines] How To Enjoy Yourself At A Dating Event
2. [Love In Lines] What’s The Fuss About Tinder?
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4. [Love In Lines] Where Are All The Great Guys?

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] To Thine Own Self Be True – Vanessa Tai

material world_shakespeare

Recently, I read an xoJane article where the writer tried to figure out exactly why she’s been single for the past seven years. Some of the reasons she thought contributed to her long-term singleness included being an “open and self-deprecating book on first dates” (she would bring up her weird clubbed thumbs, or her dependence on anti-depressants ), a propensity for falling for men who weren’t attracted to her, and even the fact that she was overweight. “However”, she writes, “If my weight truly is playing a preventative part in this dating shitshow, it’s probably not the number itself or how it looks on my frame. It’s the insecurity that has come with not feeling I look my personal best.”

In her article, the writer also mulled over whether she should make any changes to her lifestyle/personality in order to get out of this dry spell. While she’s not sure if the reasons she cited in her article are truly the reason why she’s still single, she’s adamant about not deviating from her natural self just so she can appear attractive to someone she’s attracted to.

Misguided Dating Advice 

What I felt like doing to that douchebag date.

What I felt like doing to that douchebag date.

I can certainly relate. Over the years of being single, I’ve come across plenty of (well-meaning or not) people who tried to give me advice on how to better attract the opposite sex. A male dating coach that I interviewed for a story told me I needed to grow out my hair, and behave more feminine-like in order to be attractive to Singaporean men. Another time, I had a disastrous first date with a guy I met online simply because I “made the mistake” of telling him I’m a supporter of AWARE’s work. He went on an anti-feminist tirade, which only got my blood boiling and sparked off a rather heated argument in the middle of P.S Cafe. Needless to say, I quickly wrote both of them out of my life (only to use as fodder for articles like these).

Singletons, perhaps you’ve experienced something similar? Maybe your well-meaning friends have advised you to play down your career achievements when out with men, or your mum has nagged you to lose weight “or you’ll never find a man”. Whatever it is, you’ve been made to feel you’re either “too much” or “too little”, and that you have to work hard to achieve the affections of a man.

Do We Really Have to Change Ourselves In Order To Snag A Man?

My first instinct would be to say, “No, of course not!” Why should you change something that’s so fundamentally you just to get someone to love you? If you change, and that person falls for you, does that mean he’s in love with someone that’s not authentically you? And what happens if you “fall off the bandwagon”, so to speak?

However, as I wrestle further with the issue, I realise it’s not so cut and dry. First, it’s not that easy to effect a change. As someone who’s tried to change the way I speak (I’ve been told that my voice is too low and monotonous), I can tell you it’s easy to fall back into old habits when you’re not consciously making an effort to change. Second, even if you really make a permanent change, there’s no guarantee that men will suddenly come a-knocking. And third, even if they do; if they fell for the quieter, more gentle and feminine version of you, are these really the type of men that you want to spend the rest of your life with? Don’t you want to be with a man who celebrates your true self, foibles and all?

Stay True To Yourself

Let your true self shine!

Let your true self shine!

At the end of the day, the crux of the matter doesn’t lie in why you’re making these changes, but the type of changes you’re trying to make. If you’re trying to improve yourself by exercising more, attending a personal grooming course or learning how to be a better conversationalist, I guess it doesn’t matter as much if your original intention was to snag a potential mate. That’s because you are bettering yourself in the process, which helps to boost your self-confidence.

But what if you’re making changes like dumbing yourself down during dates so as to pander to your date’s ego, or if you find yourself suppressing “negative” emotions like sadness or anger around men so as not to appear “unstable”? I think you’ll soon find yourself tired and frustrated, because you’re not giving your true self the freedom of expression. Even if you eventually find a partner to settle down with, how long can you keep up this charade? And even if you can keep it up, how happy will you be?

Perhaps I’m idealistic. Or perhaps I’m still on the lackadaisical “take it as it comes” side of my 20s. But I don’t see myself making drastic changes to my personality and the way I do things just so it’ll get me more suitors. Men will come and go, but I’ll always have to live with myself, and I don’t think I can settle for anything less than honesty.

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 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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1. [Love In Lines] Choosing Not To Worry
2. [Love In Lines] Unrealistic Expectations
3. [Love In Lines] Deadline For Love
4. [Love In Lines] Where Are All The Great Guys?
5. [Love In Lines] The Fear Of Getting Hurt

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Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] Unrealistic Expectations – Vanessa Tai

Admit it. As much as you claim to be an independent, go-getting woman of the world, there are times where you secretly wish someone will swoop into your life, fall madly in love with you and magically make all your problems disappear … or is that just me?

Maybe it’s a result of watching one too many romantic comedies, but I occasionally daydream about having A Rom-Com Love Story. You know the kind where you meet a stranger on a train and you end up talking for hours (“Before Sunrise”) or where you are the neurotic workaholic who somehow falls into a relationship with the goofy, laidback dude (“Miss Congeniality”, “The Proposal”, “Admission”). Yes, I love my romantic comedies, but does that mean I bring with me a set of unrealistic expectations when approaching love and relationships?

Kissing in the rain ... a must-have scene in every rom-com worth its salt

Kissing in the rain … a must-have scene in every romantic comedy.

In the recent movie Don Jon – written and directed by and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt – the main character, Jon is a womaniser who gets pretty much any woman he wants, including the smokin’ hot Barbara (played by Scarlett Johansson). However, no matter which woman he has sex with, he finds he still prefers the satisfaction he gets from porn. About a month into their relationship, all hell breaks loose when Barbara stumbles onto his porn collection. As they argue, Jon accuses her of having her own addiction – to romantic Hollywood movies. She becomes indignant, and claims those movies were nothing like porn. But is she right?

Just as Jon is no longer able to fully enjoy sex with a real woman, Barbara also harbours unreasonable expectations of the man in her life. For example, in one scene, she is appalled when she discovers Jon does his own housecleaning and insists he hires her housekeeper instead. In her words, “You’re a grown man! You shouldn’t be cleaning your own floors!”

Other scenes in the movie also shows how Barbara not-so-subtly tries to mold Jon into the man she thinks she deserves to be with. So while Jon is wrong in lying about his porn obsession, the eventual breakdown of their relationship can’t be pinned entirely on him. Barbara’s obsession with creating the perfect guy (the rom-com guy), has led to her being overly demanding and controlling.

While I’m not in a relationship, this movie was a reminder not to be so nit-picky when it comes to the men I date. As much as fantasies are fun to indulge in, ultimately it’s still way more satisfying to make the best out of what you have and embrace everything about your partner, both the good and the not-so-pretty bits. Life may not be a Hollywood production, but as Joseph Gordon-Levitt said in an interview for Don Jon, real life has so much more nuances that cannot be captured on celluloid film. And that, makes your love story so much more beautiful than any romantic comedy.

What do you think? Share with me your thoughts/experiences/suggestions in the Comments section below!

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 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Her all-time favourite rom-com is “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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