Readying The Arrows

THE methods may change, but the end game is still the same; the need for Cupid to let loose that arrow straight for the heart.

In the age of commercialism and technology, Valentine’s Day takes on new avenues to unleash its effects. Finding a partner may be the end goal for many, but sometimes it’s not for keeps, and often just for fun to enjoy the moment.

And the incidents of divorce are on the rise in Singapore: From 4,286 in 1995 to 6,721 in 2005 and 7,522 dissolutions in 2015.

Cupid would need to refill the quiver fairly often.

The Valentine’s Day experience does not take a lot of investment of time (though, definitely of money given the ludicrous spike in prices at restaurants, bars and florists) to get to know someone a bit better. Have dinner, whip out the roses to show you bothered and are not a skinflint, maybe some dancing, drinks and afters. And documenting most of the experience live on social media, so all your fans can share in this intimate experience. (Surprise! Surprise! Nobody really cares.)

Then it’s back to reality and more making love to small screens the day after.

So, what does romance in the 21st century mean for the various generations?

Felix Cheong, Author/Poet || Gen X


The more things change, the more things stay the same. In the 21st century, you may send a nude selfie to show you have nothing to hide and you may Snapchat lovey-dovey messages. Or you may dispense with roses and send emoji flowers. The methods may change, the execution may be different, but the substance is the same. It’s still about a man romancing a woman (or vice-versa).

Romance — or our idea of it — is like the great white shark. It doesn’t see the need to evolve over millions of years. And, to extend the metaphor, it’s also like a loan shark. It adds colour (splashes of paint) to your life but afterwards, you still have to clean it up.

There’s love and there’s romance, but the twain don’t often meet.

Romance is the souped-up, Hollywood version of love. It’s syrupy, it’s the hallmark of Hallmark — and it’s overrated! Yes, there’s space for romance (a small r, not the capital R). But to paraphrase Minister of State Josephine Teo, you don’t really need a lot of space for romance. Just Wi-Fi, a webcam and 10 minutes of privacy should do the trick.

Digital romance does pose its own challenges though — how to tell that Nelly the Nymphomaniac on the Net is not Ned the Nerd?

Of course, if you’re days away from CPF withdrawal, married and still looking for non-wife-centric romance, then it’s more difficult to find. This is especially when you need to woo one young chick, juggle two phones, explain away three-hour lunches and conceal the four-hour Hotel 81 charges on your credit card bill.

Debra Teng, Actress || Gen X

I don’t think romance should change, no matter what century we live in.

Shouldn’t romance be something that transcends time and space? Or am I being a drippy hopeless romantic?

Personally, I hope that I will get that giddy feeling of being romantically in love with someone worthy someday. I still strongly believe in marriage. And perhaps because I think it should be forever, and that divorce is out of the question, I am still searching for the one whom I can love and who feels the same way.

So far, the frogs I have kissed have not turned into princes, I’m afraid.

I believe there will always be a time and a place for romance — but only if one desires it enough! Sadly, many Singaporeans seem to value materialistic things. They are more interested in climbing the social/corporate ladder than building relationships; therefore, many don’t make time for it unless there is a return at the end of the day. To me, the value of a person is in that very moment that you share with them, and not in what you hope to get out of it.

Can we all please be a little less kiasu?

While we have many avenues to do so today then ever before, looking for romance can still have its challenges. For one, I am way more discerning and less easily impressed than I was in my youth. I have become more sceptical or even cynical. I do find that I write off potential men quite quickly. Why waste time when you can already see the many ways that he will disappoint you?

I guess I have become less tolerant. I have learnt that the slight irritation that I tolerate now will most likely become a major pain later. I have learnt to value good people in my life and not to waste time on the losers!

Shabbir Shakir, Businessman || Baby Boomer


I am already in my 50s and have been married for 30 years. For me, romance is the closeness with my wife, our shared ideals, the time we have enjoyed together, and when we can get away with some couple time. We even surprise one another with small gifts from time to time. Above all, it is about sharing our thoughts with each other and maintaining constant communication — even “pillow talk” at night is important!

I had an arranged marriage in 1985, and I suppose it was like putting the cart before the horse.

An “arranged marriage” even in my time was quite different to that of my parents.

While they were basically forced to marry whoever their parents decided on, I was introduced to my wife who was the daughter of a family friend. Although my wife was from Bombay, we hit it off immediately and it was our choice of partner.

Still, “romance” was always left for after marriage. We did not spend much time getting to know each other before marriage; we could only do it after. We travelled as a couple in the first few years and that certainly helped. We had to get to know each other quite quickly and accept each other’s personalities.

Having children was a bit of a damper in the first five years when they were growing up. Romance was always “last on the list” of priorities but circumstances meant that we had to learn to cope. You try to find intimate moments. Luckily, we only had children after three years of marriage, and we were quite prepared for the sacrifices and we learnt to adjust and accommodate.

I believe romance has changed over the years — my parents faced a completely different time. Women were not even allowed out much in those days! They faced the pressures of family life early and living with joint families was not really conducive to romance.

It has definitely changed for the better now. We have the luxury of time, money and space.

Eugenia Gajardo, Counsellor/Psychotherapist, Abstract Painter, The Studio || Baby Boomer


Flowers and gestures of thoughtfulness still touch hearts, today more than ever, as they are rare. 

Women have been progressively more demanding as they are more educated, more capable and financially independent. They are now looking for men with more feminine qualities, more understanding, emotionally connected and tuned in to themselves and others.

They want children later in life and some consider not having them at all. They are more career oriented and in charge. They want to be treated as equals, although there is confusion within, as at the same time they still seek to be emotionally understood and at times, looked after.

This makes men confused, they don’t know whether to play the provider and protector, or to pull back and let women take more care of themselves.

Women want men to be strong and sensitive partners, and they feel trapped as men generally don’t have the desired EQ (emotional quotient). Men struggle to connect with the feelings and the changing needs of women, often finding them too demanding.

Many couples have difficulty adapting to each other and accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies and points of view. The tolerance level, especially in women, is much lower than 20 years ago. Women have high expectations of a relationship and if those are not fulfilled, they want to move on rather quickly, even though they may be married. So, the staying power and ability to work through things has become rather low at all stages of a relationship.

A key is not to take oneself, life or your partner for granted, to live with awareness and mindfulness. This is done by engaging in a continuous process of growth and evolution, remaining curious, consistently exploring and experimenting with all facets of existence.

There are no rules in a relationship but those that you establish yourself.

When the foundation is strong, romance in the golden years gets sweeter and more real. It mellows and deepens. There are far less demands and much more laughter. As partners mature, they become wiser, more open and accepting of each other.

Siow Yu-Ming, Projects Editor || Gen X

Valentine’s Day in the 20th century meant one picked up a pen, put thoughts onto paper, sealed it in an envelope, pasted a stamp, and went to the nearest post box to mail it. Or you sent Valentine’s Day cards bought from Hallmark.

Now, all one needs to do is sit in front of the computer, or be riding on the train, and type in a short message to the Chosen One on a smartphone.

If you are lazy, there are always emojis that do the job without having to commit your feelings to words.

Romance used to be a private matter, but now it is out there for everyone to see via extended chats online, tagged photos, and declarations made on social media, for all your friends to approve and validate.

The old-school route of sending flowers and love notes will always be charming because of the personal touch.

Just like fast fashion, romance has become similarly fast and consequently, more disposable.

This means that people might not think as carefully before settling into a permanent relationship like marriage, because neither the people involved nor the relationship itself has had time to mature. Conversely, the live-in relationship is becoming a pervasive phenomenon, which means that long-term relationships run a higher risk of breaking up before evolving into something more permanent and committed.

There seems to be a more flippant view being taken towards marriage these days, where divorce, once taboo, is regarded as a solution to a host of seemingly irreconcilable differences.

Just because everybody texts rather than speaks to each other these days, it doesn’t mean that our heavy dependence on digital communications can’t be put to creative use. That there are more platforms for sharing one’s feelings does make it easier to express yourself.

Every generation grapples with how to keep the idea of romance exciting, and what’s great today is that, there are many more ways to choose how you want to do this!

Joseph Phua, Founder, Paktor || Millennial

Romance is alive and well in the 21st century, in an ever-evolving form. While the romance of yesteryear focused solely on grand gestures and rushed commitments for the young, it’s now evolving into a more thoughtful approach.

The best way to show romance today is by stepping away from the distractions and temptations of our modern day technological world and showing genuine attention, appreciation, and thoughtfulness.

Technology like Paktor unlocks many opportunities to meet people we never would have before. Globalisation and technology has widened our perspectives and chances of meeting a better match. Although they do increase the “burden of choice” concern for many people, it’s a net-positive change to increase our chances of finding a highly compatible partner!

As we adopt more technology in our everyday lives, it is important that we do not allow the constant flow of information and opportunities to distract us from building strong interpersonal connections. Many have difficulty finding time to go out and socialise, so using the many mobile platforms available will make seeking romance easier and much more accessible.

It can be difficult to find a like-minded, well-matched person in the same stage of life (with regards to career and romantic goals). Therefore, it’s the job of entrepreneurs like us to continue innovating in order to minimize those difficulties.

Michelle Goh, Founder, CompleteMe || Millennial

With technology, and a little effort, finding romance digitally can be very easy indeed. If one prefers meeting people in the real world, they can easily sign up for singles events too. The stigma isn’t there anymore — it has become more common and socially acceptable for people to meet this way.

That said our “traditional values” have also changed a fair bit as the Millennials have come of age.

While its now easier to look for romance, it has also become fleeting — easy come, easy go.

And this seems to translate to marriages as well; marriages are not always smooth sailing but more couples seem to look for an easy way out with divorce. The government is trying its best to push for higher birth rates but young couples don’t see having children as a priority anymore. Career often determines financial wellness and with the standard and cost of living in Singapore ever-increasing, young people find that they have to constantly aim for better careers. It has leapfrogged other pursuits in life — many are putting more time into making advancements there.

Finding romance is not as much as a challenge today as compared to maintaining romance in a relationship or a marriage! That’s what we need to work on. When problems arise couples should always remember to communicate, find ways to work it out together and rekindle the relationship. A break-up or a divorce should be the last option.

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