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In the mood for love

Audrey Simon, Jasmine Alimin and Samantha Chiew
Audrey Simon, Jasmine Alimin and Samantha Chiew • 9 min read
In the mood for love
In honour of Valentine’s Day, we ask industry experts how they keep the romance alive while juggling work and kids
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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Love to every individual means different things and each of us gives and receives love differently. Just how do you know he or she is the one, and what defines real love? We ask these busy entrepreneurs to give us their two cents on the meaning of love and marriage and how it evolves, their Valentine’s Day plans, and the secret to keeping the romance alive.

Helga Angelina & Max Mandias | Co-founders of Green Rebel

Helga: Love is a warm feeling of having someone with whom you share a deep sense of joy, comfort, confidence, acceptance, and understanding. Over the years, we have found that we can love each other unconditionally. We fully embrace each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It has become a lot easier to deal with conflicts.

I knew I wanted a life partner who is family oriented; someone I can grow old and evolve together with — someone who inspires me to be a better person. I find Max to be one of the kindest, most generous, humble, and loving individuals I have ever met in my life. Max and I share similar personal values and are aligned on what we want out of life — we are drawn to mindfulness and spirituality. We’re both vegan, pro-women, love animals and advocate sustainability for the earth.

Max: Love is unconditionally supporting each other. In the kind of work we do, love helps us to push boundaries and gives us the courage to break new ground. That we both love what we do makes life more meaningful and worthwhile. If I hadn’t met Helga, the trajectory of my life would be very different. I was an idealistic, conceptual, philosophical guy. I could have led a life of solitude. Helga, on the other hand, has a vision of what her life needs to be, and the drive to make it happen. Through her, I learned that life is more meaningful and worthwhile if I play an active part in the greater good. In our case, it’s advocacy for plant-based food, and its impact on and benefits for the planet. Fast-forward 10 years later, everything I am good at — from plant-based nutrition to public speaking, entrepreneurship and food innovation — I owe to her.

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We’ve become parents to 3 fur kids over the past 5 years. Spending time with Helga and our dogs has given our life together so much joy. And with our baby on the way, our love can only evolve and deepen. Helga will be 34 weeks pregnant by Valentine’s Day. We’ll probably have a nice dinner at home and spend quality time with the fur kids — before our baby comes along.

Betty Kong | Co-founder of Lab Studios

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“I knew my husband since we were kids, but we only got together later in life after we bumped into each other at a club. Somehow, I just knew in my gut that he was the one.

Love has a different meaning at different stages of life. Right now, for me at least, it’s all about companionship, understanding, mutual support and sneaking in coffee or breakfast dates when we can. It’s really not easy for anyone who has kids and work to keep the romance alive. I think it’s important to understand that even with the demands of life, we are trying our best. Even if it’s just taking the last 15 minutes of the end of the day to check in with each other, or enjoying a little dessert after the kids are asleep – these can help keep the connection strong.

I think love language is different for everyone. Mine are small acts of service like getting me a cup of coffee, driving me to work, walking the dog, or offering to chauffeur the kids while I spend some time on self-care and self-love. I think classic romantic gestures of love are sweet, like roses or little love notes.

Every day can be Valentine’s Day for us. We would usually go have a nice meal sans kids at our favourite restaurant.”

Jason Lee | Founder of Scent by SIX

“Seven years of marriage and four kids later, I still want to be a better version of myself; to be a better man for my wife. But the scope and nuances of love have undoubtedly widened for me. It goes beyond self, family, and friends but to strangers, the less advantaged and under-served.

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For me, love is when we’re looking into each other's eyes, and without a word, we both know what we’re thinking and feeling. We keep gestures of love simple. It can be a simple walk or an unexpected kiss on the cheek, and this is how we’ll love till we draw our last breath.

When dealing with conflict, we like to give each other space to cool down separately and not talk. It’s always important to take a step back to try to reframe the situation as a third party. Find out what the other party is genuinely concerned about, empathetically. Identify common ground and work towards consensus.

We are not big on celebrations but we pay extra attention to the quality of time we spend together, to be present for each other. So come Valentine’s Day, I look forward to putting aside all my commitments and embracing her fully.”

Martha Waslen | Founder of DayAway

“I think everyone’s definition of love changes over time, moulded by life experiences and maturity. My definition of love now certainly isn’t what it used to be, and may be very different from the way I’ll define it in the future, but right now, love to me is about being with the person (and people) who will stand by you and support you no matter what, and vice versa. That person who makes you the strongest, best version of yourself and makes you feel like you can achieve anything - and you do the same for them.

No relationship is without its ups and downs, but I feel like our relationship is just getting stronger and steadier after every hurdle we overcome together. For us, it’s not about being in the perfect relationship (I don’t think that exists) but about just loving this journey we’re on together and always aspiring to be better and wanting to learn more from each other.

Laughter keeps the romance alive. No matter how overwhelmed we might feel by juggling work and family, we can always make each other laugh and remember how lucky we are to be on this incredible roller coaster together. I don’t know how else to describe it - we just really like hanging out with each other. Whether it’s doing something totally mundane like assembling IKEA furniture, or on a romantic night out or special holiday, we always have fun!”

Violet Lim | CEO and co-founder of Lunch Actually

“Love is a journey with its ups and downs. I have been through the puppy love stage when I met my husband at university, and then through the passionate love, and now we are at the stage of committed love. There are days when we would really be upset with each other but like the answer a couple who has been married for 50 years gave: “What is the secret of your long-lasting marriage?” The answer is: We never fell out of love at the same time.

For me, love is not a feeling; love is a commitment. In most, if not all relationships or marriages, there would be times when one would seem “unlovable” because of the conflicts and challenges. And if love is a feeling, it would then be easy to just call it quits and walk out of the relationship. When love is a commitment, even when the going gets tough, one will do whatever it takes to keep the relationship alive and make it work. Love is not just about chemistry and passion. It is not about how good it makes you feel. It is about being there for each other through thick and thin, and being a witness to each other’s life journey. When your relationship is based on this kind of love, it will be a strong and lasting one.

We celebrate Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary every year. We also make it a point to go for date nights or lunch dates at least once a week where we will do our best to not talk about work or the kids! My husband surprises me every year by choosing a new restaurant that we have never been to for V-Day dinner. This is something quite fun and exciting because we do not really know what to expect, and we are trying out something new together.

Hariman Kwok | Founder & CEO of The Seriously Fun Group, The Polliwogs and X-SCAP8

“Love gives: the more you give, the more you receive. Personally, I have done many things which I consider romantic. The most memorable is probably my proposal 20 years ago that she still talks about today. I sent her a physical air ticket to her home in KL (no e-tickets those days) to come to Singapore, where I picked her up in a limousine, and we went straight to the cruise centre to board a cruise ship. That evening, I took her to the Italian Restaurant on board which I had booked out and arranged for a singer to serenade us, and I popped the question over dessert with a big bear and bouquet of flowers.

Love endures, love understands, love appreciates, love is boundless, love is growth. I guess when you are younger, love is spontaneous, exciting and plutonic. But it has now grown to be more understanding, patient and supportive as we accept, learn and appreciate the differences of each other instead of only loving the good stuff.

It’s hard to keep the romance alive, but we try to have drinks at night or just a simple dinner by ourselves at least once a week. We also take trips and explore new places that both want to explore. We will usually take turns deciding on destinations and plan itineraries together. Most importantly, prioritise your family and your spouse over work. This Valentine’s Day, we will be taking a trip to Melbourne, where we used to live 20 years ago. It will be a nostalgic and exciting trip to a new vineyard-cum-spa retreat at Mornington Peninsula, about two hours from Melbourne.”

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