Ashley Madison: Why Cheating Is Not The Solution

Have you guys heard of Ashley Madison before? It’s an online dating service targeted at married people or people in relationships.

Meaning, it’s like, but instead of being for singles, Ashley Madison is for people already married or seeing someone. It is essentially a service that facilitates cheating and extra-marital affairs. (It even has a slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.”)

Ashley Madison website

Ashley Madison’s website, with a model wearing a ring on her ring finger

While I disagree with Ashley Madison (hereby referred to as “AM”) and what it stands for, I decided to park aside my feelings to take a deeper look at AM and the bigger issue that is extra-martial affairs.

Looking Up Ashley Madison

I first knew about AM in 2013, as it was planning to launch in Singapore in 2014 but promptly got blocked by the local authorities as it was deemed as a flagrant disregard of family values. This ban was made public in the local news.[1][2]

I was immediately confused and bewildered by the idea of a business promoting extra-marital affairs — it just seemed really irresponsible to endorse and facilitate cheating — and thought that it was probably used by very few people. Upon some research, I quickly realized I was wrong and the Ashley Madison site actually enjoys high traffic around the world!

Some facts and figures (updated in April 2021):

  1. According to Alexa (a third-party tool to check a website’s popularity), AM is the 10,214th most visited site globally. Looking up SimilarWeb (another tool to check traffic stats), AM shows an estimate of 10 million visitors a month, which is huge.
  2. They claim to have reached 70 million users as of 2020.[3]
  3. It has members in 53 countries including the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Germany, France, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, and India.[4]
  4. What’s even more astonishing is its quick growth in places like Hong Kong and Japan. It was the #104 most visited site in Hong Kong and #1,288 most visited site in Japan in Oct 2013, even though it was launched there four and two months prior respectively.

    Ashley Madison local country ranking

    Ashley Madison’s ranking in each country in Oct 2013, in terms of its website’s popularity, according to Alexa. (Note in 2021: I don’t have the updated data as Alexa no longer provides this data publicly.)

So who’s using it?

After seeing these stats, I thought, If their site is so highly visited, that has to mean that many people are using it. But who?

I found this in-depth coverage of Ashley Madison by a GQ journalist, who signed up for AM as part of his assignment to write about AM’s female users.

Here are the profiles of some women he met:

  1. One is almost 40 and a high-power career female. She has been married to her husband for almost two decades with several children. She describes her household as “really happy and functional,” but has been cheating since two years into her marriage with both men and women. She has been corporeally disloyal in relationships since she was 16. She considers her affairs a favor to her husband because [her] marriage would be in shambles if [she] wasn’t playing [doing so].”
  2. One is in her early 30s and has a forensic-science degree. She married young to appease her religious parents, has been married for 10 years, and finds her life and sexually unadventurous husband “suffocating.” The first man she met via AM — a Muslim — had sex with her at her house while her husband was away on a trip. She says, “It’s so hypocritical—all this holier-than-thou stuff.”
  3. One is in her early 30s as well. She has been with her unambitious husband for around a decade, and is sexually uninspired and no longer in love. She lives by a conservative and professional demeanor that she seems confined by and speaks about liking being a “deviant” and being “bad.” A week after her interview with the journalist, she left her husband; a few weeks after that, she quit her corporate day job to be a writer.
  4. Another is in her late 40s, had two long-term affairs with male colleagues, and has been with “publishers of magazines, CEOs, politicians, managing partners at law or investment firms” through AM. She wants to fall in love again but doesn’t see the need to leave her husband — yet, as there’s still love that holds them together. She finds lifelong passion extremely rare and doesn’t believe any one person ever fulfills a person’s needs, though she acknowledges feeling guilt about making outright lies (to her husband) whenever she sees someone.

Except for the first one who claims to be open with her husband, the rest are either, by their own admission, deeply unhappy or deeply dishonest with their spouses. Even with the first lady, I’m doubtful about some of her claims as they are contradictory (she claims to be in a really happy household, yet she actively seeks out affairs; she does not take responsibility for her affairs but instead says she’s doing them as “a favor” to her husband.)

General Stats on AM users

Here are some facts from GQ:

  • Percentage of Americans who believe that an affair is always wrong: 81.7%
  • Percentage of people who have had an affair and believe it is always wrong: 62.7%
  • Most common career field of male cheaters on Ashley Madison: Finance
  • Most common career field of female cheaters on Ashley Madison: Education
  • Percentage of people who classify their marriage as “very happy”: 62.5%
  • Percentage of those people who have cheated: 10%
  • Most popular day (in 2012) to create an AM account: June 18, the day after Father’s Day
  • Second-most popular day (in 2012) to create an AM account: May 14, the day after Mother’s Day

Noel Biderman, the CEO of Ashley Madison, said, “The women’s movement into the workplace was the first massive jump into unfaithfulness. The more financial independence women have, the more it correlates to how unfaithful they’ll be.”[5] (Biderman has since stepped down as CEO in 2015.)

While I can understand the correlation, I don’t think it’s a causal relationship — as women (or men) earn more money, it addresses their basic needs of money and security, where they are no longer dependent on their spouse for security. They are now in a position to explore higher-order needs as a human — like figuring out their self-identity, and pursuing personal fulfillment and happiness. For some, this leads them down the path of cheating. But clearly, financial independence doesn’t turn people into cheaters — something else does.

What Drives Infidelity/Adultery

What is this something else? Well, it depends on the individual. But some reasons could be

  • Unhappiness in the marriage
  • Feeling neglected, abandoned in the marriage
  • Feeling unloved by the partner
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Sexual emptiness, frustration, incompatibility
  • Mismatch in personality, values, or life goals with the partner
  • Falling out of love with each other (if there was even love in the first place)
  • Deep feelings of emptiness that are to do with the individual, not the partner
  • Deep feelings of self-hate
  • Sex addiction — a compulsive desire to have sex
  • Inherent mismatch with the nature of monogamy. A constant desire for excitement, change, adventure that a single partner cannot fulfill (that or that they’ve just not met the right person).

For the first lady mentioned above, she may be inherently incompatible with monogamy, given that she has been a serial cheater since she was 16. This may be true for the fourth lady as well. For the second and third ladies, it seems like a combination of being unhappy with themselves/their lives, and falling out of love with their partners (if they were even in love in the first place).

Ashley Madison's Netherlands website

Ashley Madison’s Netherlands website

For the adulterer, there are basically voids he/she is trying to fill, and an affair is being sought out to fill these voids.

Whatever these reasons are, they would be there whether the woman (or man) is financially able or not. In that sense, money is simply an enabler, not the cause.

Cheating = Not the Solution

Yet, whatever these issues or voids are, affairs will never solve them. Sure these affairs may fill whatever gaps are present right now.

  • If you are unsatisfied with your martial sex life, seeking playmates outside of marriage may satisfy your sexual appetite — for now.
  • If you feel unloved, having a third party shower you with attention, sweet-nothings, and gifts may make you feel valued. As one of the interviewees from the GQ article said, she felt “like an expensive toy.”
  • If you are unhappy with life, such as feeling bored or stifled or empty, cheating may give you an adrenaline rush, a feeling of newness.
  • If you feel a sense of emptiness, having an affair may fill you up — for that moment.

But these effects are temporary. No sooner do these affairs end, would you be back facing your original voids. Some may look for new affairs to get into. Some may return to feeling empty/frustrated. Some may bury themselves in other things — food, drinks, work, retail therapy — to avoid facing the problem. But these do not change the fact that the voids are there and have to be tackled — not filled with a patch like an affair — for permanent closure.

The Solution

How do they get tackled?

If the issues are inherent to the marriage: Trashing things out with your spouse. Deciding if the issues are salvageable — if yes, working together to fix the issues; if not, divorce. If divorce is not an option due to the marital laws in the country, deciding whether to live as a separated couple, or have an open relationship (where both parties agree to see other people).

If the issues are with you and not your partner or marriage: Doing internal work to address the issues. Taking steps and making the necessary changes, be it a career shift or making a life change. Hiring a coach/counselor/therapist to help you out. Talking to your partner, and working together on the problems. Deciding if your partner and marriage fit who you are today, and who you wish to be, or if being alone or being with a different partner is the answer. Deciding if the nature of a marriage — a monogamy, being with someone for life — is compatible with you and your values.

I have written many articles on addressing inner voids, some of which can be found here:

Whatever it is, an affair isn’t the answer. When someone has an affair, they’re basically committing an act of dishonesty, and lying to the one person they should be the most truthful to — their spouse. This is the one person whom they’ve made a personal promise to — to be faithful, to be with them through thick and thin, and to be with them forever.

Whatever professional or social exterior they may live by, it doesn’t change the fact that they (the adulterer) is lying every single day by having the affair. The lying that comes with an affair isn’t just during the times when the adulterer makes up an excuse to see their lover (unlike what the fourth lady in the GQ interview says) — it’s all the time, from the moment the decision to have an affair was made.

To quote the GQ article,

“Monogamy may defy certain biological imperatives and may not make as much sense for modern eighty-year life spans, but that’s the contract you sign up for; if it isn’t for you, then opt out or marry someone new.”

As for those who are just inherently not compatible with monogamy, then don’t get into a relationship or a marriage to begin with. If that’s too late and you’re already in one, then the next best thing is to break up / divorce and seek a better solution, such as being in an open relationship or to stick to non-committal encounters.

As for Ashley Madison

As a business owner myself, I found it strange and disappointing that there are businesses like AM that are built on cheating and dishonesty. I just don’t find running a business like AM meaningful or something to be proud of even if it is raking in large profits.

In an Australian TV interview, Biderman defended his company by saying, “I would rather see people pursue [an affair] and stay true to their families,” which probably explains his underlying philosophy behind starting Ashley Madison.[6]

But I think this argument is missing the point altogether, which is that (a) having an affair isn’t “staying true” to your family. “Staying true” means to be completely honest and faithful to. Cheating is as far from “staying true” as it can be.

And (b) if someone has to seek out an affair to stay in the marriage, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the relationship to begin with. Maybe the couple is fundamentally incompatible with each other. Maybe the relationship is not meant to be. Maybe the person is not meant for monogamy.

Whatever it is, it’s more damaging to both parties to stay together in a loveless and unhappy marriage, than to actually divorce and pursue their own happiness. It’s even worse if there are children involved.

Shame and despair

As business owners, the answer is to help the person address their internal struggles and achieve a resolution, whether it’s by divorcing or by working things out with their spouse or changing things about their life, NOT create a portal for affairs.

Update: Ashley Madison Hack (Aug 2015)

In August 2015, AM was revealed to have been hacked, with personal data of its 33 million accounts dumped online. Amongst the data are 10,000 email addresses belonging to government officials or workers with .gov addresses.[7]

Sadly, according to the hacker collective that hacked the site, this hack revealed that the site had thousands of fake female profiles, and that 90-95% of actual users are male. Meaning, these are men who signed up to cheat, but never got to. There have also been a separate lawsuit of an ex-employee of AM who revealed that she was hired to type up many fake female profiles.[8] For a business that bases itself on dishonesty, it may not be all too surprising at the end of the day.

It was also revealed that Biderman himself had several extramarital affairs over the course of his marriage[9], despite publicly claiming in interviews that he does not cheat.[10] His wife had previously stated that she would be devastated if she ever found out her husband was cheating.[11] I guess for a person who built a business based on cheating and disloyalty, it is not too surprising that he turned out to have been lying about his loyalty to his spouse.

Perhaps now Biderman finally understands the repercussions of having an affair, and that as much as one may try to morally justify to themselves that having an affair is okay, at the end of the day it hurts the one person whom you’ve pledged to be with, who loves you the most.

Beautiful Advice From a Divorced Man After 16 Years of Marriage

Divorce contract

Recently I came across this post by a divorced man (Gerald Rogers) sharing his advice on making marriages work, after his own 16-year marriage failed.

Given that I’m getting married soon, and while I know my marriage with my husband will be forever, it’s still useful to learn from someone who was in a 16-year marriage, was unable to make things work out, and has the benefit of hindsight. It helps to know what to watch out for and whether I’m on the right track in building my best relationship, and same for those of you in relationships or are finding love.

While some of Gerald’s advice are a little over the top (his advice as a whole seems to suggest that you live your life for no one else but your partner, and your partner/marriage (and no one/nothing else) should be the center of your universe — both of which are dangerous hallmarks of a co-dependent relationship) — he shares certain relationship truths which I want to highlight in today’s post.

Advice from a Divorced Man after a 16-Year Marriage

/ Start of selected snippets of Gerald’s advice. My add-ons in blue.

1. Never stop courting.

Never stop dating. NEVER EVER take that woman/man for granted. When you asked her to marry you (or for females, when you agreed to marry him), you promised to be that man (woman) who would OWN HER (HIS) HEART and to fiercely protect it. NEVER GET LAZY in your love.

My Notes: I agree. It’s the same for females. Never get lazy in your relationship. When your man proposed to and married you, he chose you, above all other women. Perhaps you did not play an active role in the courtship or you were not the proactive lover (e.g. maybe your partner was the one who remembered the anniversaries and planned the surprises), but that doesn’t mean you should continue behaving this way.

Your man chose you just as you chose him. So don’t take him for granted. If you have been doing that, then stop. Ask yourself, “How can I be the active lover in our relationship?” Don’t get complacent in your relationship because you are now together. Rather, treasure him more than ever precisely because you are now with each other.

3. Fall in love over and over again.

You will constantly change. You’re not the same people you were when you got married, and in five years you will not be the same people you are today. Change will come, and in that you have to re-choose each other every day. SHE (HE) DOESN’T HAVE TO STAY WITH YOU. Always fight to win her (his) love just as you did when you were courting her (when you guys were dating).

My Notes: I fully agree with this tip. We are evolving, every moment of the day. We are not the same people right now compared to yesterday or last week.

Biologically, this is true too: with the exception of some cells, most of our cells today are new. Our stomach lining cells die and are replaced every two days; our colon cells every four days; our skin cells every few days to weeks; our red blood cells every four months; and so on.

Given that you and your partner are constantly growing into different people, your relationship has to evolve to match both of you: otherwise it will cease to be relevant. In growing, don’t forget to always be the best partner for your significant other (S.O.) and always care for your relationship. Be together because you choose to be together every day, not because you are legally bound to do so by marriage.

4. Always see the best in her (him).

Focus only on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bugs you, all you see will be reasons to be bugged.

My Notes: I wouldn’t say to focus only on what you love because part of your role as a partner is to help your S.O. be a better him/her by bringing (red flag) issues to light as they arise.

However, definitely focus on the things — qualities, practices, and/or beliefs — you love about him/her over what you don’t (if there are any), because the former is why you chose him/her to begin with. These are the factors  to build your relationship upon, not the negative things you don’t like. Celebrate his/her goodness: don’t dwell on the undesirables. The nurturing approach is what’s going to soar your relationship to the next height as I wrote in step #10 of my authentic love guide.)

5. It’s not your job to change or fix her (him)

…your job is to love her (him) as she (he) is with no expectation of her (him) ever changing.

My Notes: I agree with the message, which is your “role” as a partner should be to love your S.O. with no expectations. This has been my stance from the day I got together with my husband, which is also why I never asked him to stop clubbing nor quit smoking. He sort of just decided to do that on his own.

6. Take full accountability for your own emotions.

It’s not your wife’s (husband’s) job to make you happy, and she (he) CAN’T make you sad. You are responsible for finding your own happiness.

My Notes: Absolutely. You are responsible for your happiness (or any emotion like anger, sadness, and fear for that matter); don’t make your partner/spouse responsible for that. Own your emotions and learn to find your happiness. (Clue: it’s inside you.) Read: 10 Timeless Principles To Be Happy.

8. Allow your woman (man) to just be.

When she (he) is sad or upset, it’s not your job to fix it, it’s your job to HOLD HER (him) and let her (him) know it’s okay. DON’T RUN AWAY WHEN SHE (HE) IS UPSET. Stand present and strong and let her (him) know you aren’t going anywhere.

My Notes: Giving solutions when the other party is seeking empathy is a common mistake many men/women make. When your S.O. is expressing frustration or having a bad day, be his/her pillar of support by providing a listening ear, being there for him/her, and if needed: asking the right questions. There’s no need to take the role of a problem solver and dispense solutions because this may not be what your S.O. needs. He/she may just be looking for your support and to know that, hey, my baby is there for me.

The importance of just being there doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships too: it applies to all relationships. So take note of this for your friendships and parental relationships as well.

14. Give her (him) space…

The woman is so good at giving and giving, and sometimes she will need to be reminded to take time to nurture herself. Sometimes she will need to go and find what feeds her soul. Tell her to take time for herself, ESPECIALLY after you have kids.

My Notes: This is exactly my view on how we should treat our husband / guy partner too. I was asked by Her World magazine last week to give my advice on the topic “How to get your men to open up.” My number one tip is to give your man time and space. You don’t want to hard press your man to do anything because he may shut off. Or he may heed your wishes, but begrudgingly. Either way, that’s not what you want.

Always give your man the time and space to process his emotions and come to his self-realizations. The self-realized man is the better man for both himself and you: not one who is pushed into decisions because he can’t take ownership for them.

15. Be vulnerable…

…you don’t have to have it all together. Be willing to share your fears and feelings, and quick to acknowledge your mistakes.

My Notes: Openness (and trust that your S.O. will handle your vulnerability with care) is vital for any relationship to blossom. Allow your weak side to emerge in front of your S.O.; you don’t have to appear as the iron man/lady all the time.

Within the second day I got together with my husband, I allowed myself to cry during one of our phone conversations and did not hide it from him (same for him); in a matter of two-and-a-half weeks I allowed myself to cry in person before him (he did it earlier). Throughout the relationship I allowed myself to open up more and more, and to share more and more of my vulnerabilities (not just in terms of emotions but also personal fears and problems).

Such openness didn’t come without resistance initially, as I wondered if allowing myself to be so open (particularly with my sadness and tears) would cause him to think I was crazy. But then I decided to give it the benefit of doubt and let my true emotions flow anyway. This has undoubtedly helped us grow closer together.

16. Be fully transparent.

If you want to have trust you must be willing to share EVERYTHING… Especially those things you don’t want to share. Part of that courage is allowing her to love you completely, your darkness as well as your light. DROP THE MASK… If you feel like you need to wear a mask around her, and show up perfect all the time, you will never experience the full dimension of what love can be.

My Notes: I wouldn’t say that sharing everything is a prerequisite to having trust, for you can give trust fully without the person being open. Meaning you can trust a person even if he/she is not fully open for whatever reason. (Trust is more a function of your personal attitudes. The oneness mindset is the key.)

However, sharing is a prerequisite to a closer relationship. In our relationship, my husband and I share everything with each other. You can’t grow closer without being open, and being open includes being vulnerable (see previous tip) and transparent. And you can never experience your highest relationship with your S.O. if you put stoppers between both of you, such as withholding emotions, hiding thoughts, and self-monitoring your behavior.

17. Never stop growing together…

Find common goals, dreams and visions to work towards.

My Notes: I agree. This is important for both of you to individually grow and evolve your relationship to a new level.

My husband knows my personal goals extensively and I share my progress with him nearly daily. We also chat about his top goals and progress towards those goals too.

As a couple, we discuss and set common visions (e.g. housing, finances, life goals, and our family relationships), which we work towards in tandem with our individual goals. We review said goals weekly/monthly. We work together even on day-to-day lifestyle goals: We shop for groceries and pick healthy food together. We exercise together every other day to keep fit. We make healthy meals together so we can nourish our body with the best nutrition.

This constant emphasis on growth renews our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls. Not only does it help us to grow into our highest selves, it helps our relationship to evolve to its highest level.

19. Forgive immediately…

…and focus on the future rather than carry weight from the past. Don’t let your history hold you hostage. Holding onto past mistakes that either you or she (he) makes, is like a heavy anchor to your marriage and will hold you back. FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM.

/ End of Gerald’s advice. For his complete post, visit this link.

My Thoughts

While Gerald’s advice was targeted at males/husbands, I feel it applies to females too, and hence my message towards ladies throughout the article.

Marriage Failures Rates and Examples

No one marries expecting divorce. (If you do, then you want to rethink marriage first before walking down the aisle.)

However, many marriages fail anyway. (For the ones that don’t, many spouses either live/sleep separately or commit adultery behind their partners’ backs, sad to say.) In a 2012 study conducted in England and Wales, 42% of marriages (in England and Wales) are estimated to end in divorce. In U.S., it is said that half the marriages end in divorce (or separation), which is an exceedingly high statistic. And in Singapore, over 7,000 divorces were filed last year (2012), which is slightly over a quarter of the marriages registered that same year.

While hardly the benchmark for lasting marriages, there have been some Hollywood marriages which I thought would last (longer than they did anyway), but didn’t. For example:

  • Kris and Bruce Jenner (from the Kardashian Klan) after 22 years of marriage. Seeing how they overcame obstacles and grew closer together on hit reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians was sweet to say the least, so it was a little sad when they announced their separation in 2013. (As it turns out, Bruce is transgender and has since come out as Caitlyn Jenner in 2015.)
  • Heidi Klum and Seal. Given that Heidi and Seal were very in love and even made a point to renew their marriage vows every year since they got married, it was surprising to all when they announced their divorce in 2012 after seven years of marriage, citing “irreconcilable differences”.
  • Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I probably wouldn’t have thought much about their relationship if not for what-many-thought-would-have-been-a-career-limiting move in 2005, where Cruise repeatedly jumped on Oprah (Winfrey)’s couch during his appearance on her internationally-syndicated show, went down onto his knee, and daringly professed his love for then-girlfriend Katie Holmes: in front of millions around the world. And throughout the years of their courtship leading up to their divorce, Tom has been very vocal about his love for Katie, which makes you think, Hey, maybe this marriage is going to last. So it was disappointing to see it fail ultimately.

(And that’s not including other popular failed celebrity marriages like Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s (five years long), Tom Cruise (again) and Nicole Kidman’s (almost ten years), Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s (seven years), and Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s (eight years).)

Don’t Take Your Relationship/Marriage for Granted

While your relationship/marriage will naturally soar with the right person, don’t take it for granted. Like with other things in life, put your best foot forward: be the best person you can be, be the best partner/lover for your S.O., and nurture your relationship/marriage to its highest level. I’m going to do the same too.

How About You?

What do you feel about the advice shared by Gerald (the divorced man)?

How can you apply the above advice to your relationship/marriage?

(Image: Divorce contract)

My Engagement Shoot in Scotland, Part 2: Photos in Edinburgh

This is part two of Ken and my engagement shoot series featuring our engagement photos taken in Aug 2013. For part one featuring our photos in Glasgow, click here. For more on our story, read: How I Found My Soulmate (series) and My Proposal.

Engagement shoot: Hand in hand, together forever :) (at St Giles' Cathedral)

Today’s part features photos from our Edinburgh shoot, shot in iconic Edinburgh spots from Tantallon Castle, to Cramond Beach, to St Giles’ Cathedral, to Edinburgh city! 😀

Our Edinburgh Shoot, feat: Tantallon Castle, Cramond Beach, and more!

For our Edinburgh shoot, we had the pleasure of engaging Orange Lemur: run by Joanna and Jan, a husband-wife team. Joanna and Jan are Polish but have been residing in Edinburgh for the past few years. They have been doing wedding photography for five years and know the shooting spots in Edinburgh inside out!

When I told them my ideal scenes for our shoot which include castle, garden, beach, and nature spots, Joanna went out of the way to include them in our four-hour shoot (over two days). She recommended specific shooting spots in Edinburgh which was extremely helpful since we were tourists with no clue on good shooting spots.

Joanna was thoroughly prompt and patient with my concerns, questions, and requests. Joanna and Jan even drove us to our shooting locations — some as far as a 40-minute drive away from Edinburgh City (Tantallon Castle) — at no extra cost!

Ken and I at Tantallon Castle (Edinburgh)

Sneaking a quick shot during our Tantallon Castle shoot (A selfie taken by ourselves)

Joanna and Jan were very generous with the photographs: they shortlisted and sent us 220 photos from our two-day / four-hour shoot featuring various locations in and around Edinburgh City.

In the end, we shortlisted 29 photos for our wedding album. Like our Glasgow shots, I made some color adjustments, photographic refinements, and minor retouching, but full props definitely go to Joanna and Jan for the wonderful photos.

Here are the photos: 🙂

Engagement shoot: Hand in hand, together forever :) (at St Giles' Cathedral)

Hand in hand, at St Giles’ Cathedral. 🙂 Really love the colors in the photo.

Engagement shoot: Gentle gaze (St Giles' Cathedral)

Gentle gaze

Engagement shoot: Closeup (St Giles' Cathedral)

Feels like we were having our private moment and someone sneaked a shot of us 🙂

Engagement shoot: At St Giles' Cathedral entrance

At the cathedral entrance

Engagement shoot: Gentle kiss (St Giles' Cathedral)

A gentle kiss

Engagement shoot: Walking on the streets of Edinburgh City

Walking on the streets of beautiful Edinburgh city. I love this shot a lot! Very candid, real, yet dream-like at the same time.

Engagement shoot: Mutual gaze (Edinburgh City)

Engagement shoot: Lovers' embrace (Edinburgh City)

Lovers’ embrace. I really love this one, from the colors to the emotions captured. Oh, it was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when we were in town, which is the largest arts festival in the world. That’s why there were so many people in the background! I love that because it adds to the vibrancy of the photo!

Engagement shoot: Shopping for a ring :) (Edinburgh City)

Shopping for a ring. (Or pretending to be. 😉 We passed by this array of small shops and Joanna immediately saw a photo-moment right here. She’s awesome!!)

Engagement shoot: Hanging out at a cafe

Chilling at a cafe

Engagement shoot: Kiss :)

Kiss 🙂

Engagement shoot: Joking around

Joking around, haha! I initially didn’t want to include this shot in our album as it looked so silly, but Ken said we should because it’s so natural and funny! Upon further thought, I think he’s right! I love the candidness of this photo; it reflects the frequent laughter and fun we have in our relationship.

Engagement shoot: Quiet moment in the garden

Sweet and quiet moment in the garden. This was taken at Princes Street Gardens.

Engagement shoot: In Tantallon Castle ruins

In the interior of Tantallon Castle (or what’s left of it). Tantallon Castle is a semi-ruined mid-14th-century fortress and it’s one of the castles in the care of Historic Scotland today.

While we may look really comfy and eased in the photos above, the whole photoshoot process was a mad rush in cold weather! About 10-14 degrees in summer wear (as you see in the photos) which was too cold for me. Ken had it better since he was in jeans/pants with long-sleeved tops, but he felt the chills too!

Since we engaged Joanna/Jan for only four hours over two days, we only had about 30 seconds to pose, look right, and shoot for each scene and had to rush quickly to the next spot after that. It was tricky, bearing the cold weather and hustling from one spot to the next. It was all good fun though. I was a little disappointed when we wrapped up after the two days!

Engagement shoot: Tantallon Castle ruins

At the top of Tantallon Castle

Engagement shoot: At the top of Tantallon Castle

What a dramatic shot; we love this one!! This was taken atop the castle. Believe it or not, it was the wind blowing my hair! It was unbelievably windy (and cold) when we were there (August). Half the time I felt like my earrings were going to fly off! (Thankfully they didn’t.) But it was so fun despite the weather challenges!

Engagement shoot: Lying at the wheat field outside Tantallon Castle

A lazy day on the fields. 🙂 Both of us love this photo because it reflects the sweet, relaxed, and mutual love in our relationship!

Engagement shoot: In each other's embrace (Tantallon Castle)

“Oh hello, my prince.”

Engagement shoot: Outside Tantallon Castle

At the top of the world. This is one of our favorite shots! That’s Tantallon Castle in the background amidst the wheat fields; it looks like it could have been ripped from an old European painting! We actually chanced by this spot by accident; Jan meant to drive us to a nearby beach to shoot us and the castle from afar but this spot proved to be so much better. We love it! 😀

Engagement shoot: Outside Tantallon Castle

We really love this one too! This shot reminded me of The Notebook poster (though we were being ourselves and not trying to pose or mimic anyone/anything).

Engagement shoot: In each other's embrace (Outside Tantallon Castle)

Easily our favorite in the Edinburgh series! This shot is gorgeous! The scenery, the pose, the look, and everything combined feels like it came right out of a movie set.

Oh, Ken actually went to buy the white-roses bouquet at the last minute (spending an hour to commute back and forth) because I felt that it would be nice to have a bouquet for our shoot. And it did! The roses topped off our shoot perfectly, though it would still have been great without them. Thank you GG. ♥ 🙂

Engagement shoot: Sunset moment (Cramond Beach)

Beautiful sunset at Cramond Beach. Magnificent location, moment, and shot! If it’s even possible, the sunset actually looked more beautiful in person than in the photo!

Engagement shoot: Cliff Kiss

At the top of the cliff; at the top of the world

Engagement shoot: At a cliff side (Cramond Beach)

Ken keeping me warm 🙂

Engagement shoot: A sweet moment together (Cramond Beach)

Hand in hand at the beach. I really like this one as it feels very sweet and innocent. ♥

Engagement shoot: Kissing under the moon

Under the beautiful (almost full) moon. I thought this picture is so funny and cute at the same time because of how Joanna and Jan digitally magnified the moon to the point where it’s so big, akin to anime moons, haha! The actual scene was actually a LOT darker than in the picture too by the way: Joanna and Jan lightened it by quite a bit in their post-edits.

Engagement shoot: Watching the sun set together forever, till the end of time A sweet moment together (Cramond Beach)

Final photo: Watching the sunset together — today, tomorrow, and every day, for the rest of our lives

(All clothes and accessories from ourselves. Photography partially sponsored by Orange Lemur. Check out more of their portfolio and photography services at!)

My Thoughts Post-Shoot

Overall, our Edinburgh photos are different from our Glasgow shots in that they have a touch of drama and boldness, while our Glasgow ones bring out a more casual and down-to-earth quality of our relationship. These are probably reflective of the photographers’ personal styles too.

Well, we love them both. 😀 The pictures shared in part one and this part are our top favorites.

All in all, we feel both shoots captured the essence of what we want: authentic, candid shots which reflect our love, camaraderie, and the true nature of our relationship. The desire for authentic and artful photography is the precise reason we engaged Neil and Orange Lemur for our photoshoots. So we’re really happy that the end output turned out to be exactly what we were looking for! 😀

We are also happy we shot with two different photographer teams because we got such a great variety in locations, mood, and styles. We definitely got the best of both worlds engaging Neil and Orange Lemur who have very distinct photography directions.

6 Tips To Achieve Your Best Engagement/Bridal Shoot!

If you are doing an engagement or bridal shoot soon, I have six tips to share:

  1. Research the photographers first by checking out their portfolios. Different photographers have different styles, and the best way to tell what their styles are and whether they match what you’re looking for is by seeing their body of work: not by hearing what they say. A picture tells a thousand words and that’s especially true here.

    Many Singapore / Asian wedding photography services I looked up (prior to engaging Neil and Joanna/Jan) had very cheesy and posy portfolios, which weren’t what Ken and I were looking for. It turned out that the Scottish / European photography style is more in line with our preferences, so it all worked out well in the end.

  2. Look up reference photos as you brief your photographer(s). I scoured different photographers’ portfolios and the internet for reference poses and locations of what I wanted for our shoot. This helped me to directly convey to my photographers what I was looking for. Again, a picture tells a thousand words, especially when you’re working with photographers!!!
  3. Practice taking photos together with your partner before your shoot. If your shoot is anything like ours, you won’t have time to think nor check the output for each scene: you’re going to only have one to two minutes top to pose/look good/get a good shot for each scene, after which you’ll be zipping from one place to another (high heels and all if you’re female).

    So, practice taking photos together as a couple first (if you don’t normally do that) and think about the poses you want to do: especially if you’re planning just one pre-wedding shoot! After our shoot with Neil in Glasgow, Ken and I immediately thought of poses we could have done but didn’t, after which we got them down in our Edinburgh shoot.

    Can I stress that couple camaraderie is very important too in photo taking? I assume you would already have that or you wouldn’t be marrying each other! 😉 

  4. Bring a pair of flats (for ladies) to easily move from one place to another. Otherwise you may get tired and sweaty from moving around in heels, which will surely show through in the photos!
  5. Do quick checks before each scene to ensure everything is in place. From jumbled earrings, to misaligned bangles, to rings getting out of place, to creases in clothes, to flyaway hairs, to makeup wearing off, anything is possible. Makeup can be fixed and so can hair, but the rest, not that much. There was one beautiful closeup shot of our ring which we couldn’t use because the ring was very misaligned; even the ring shot you see in our Glasgow shoot was salvaged after some reconstruction work by me. Make things easier for yourself by checking that everything is in place first!
  6. Be camera aware. My experience with video production (for my YouTube channel) and photo taking helped in that it made me more camera aware: I had a general idea of how to pose to get the best visibility and also to get the right look for the photo. I also helped to pose Ken as much as possible to achieve the same. These helped in that it gave us quite a wide selection of shots to choose from in the end.

    While #3 is about building couple camaraderie in front of a camera, this tip is to about building your own camera awareness. Have someone take photos of yourself so you know how you look on photos in different angles/poses/expressions. Find your best angles/poses for your shoot and learn to convey the right expression for the right look in the shoot.

    At the end of the day, a good photographer should makeup for gaps in #3, #5, and #6, but in case your photographer can’t fill these gaps (they may have their hands full with other things), be prepared! This is a once-in-a-lifetime shoot, so I want you to get the best out of it!

Our Wedding on May 25 next year!

Our wedding date is now set for May 25 next year (2014) and we’re having a Chinese-style wedding dinner banquet at the prestigious Shangri-La Hotel! We decided to make it an exclusive event (compared to our original plans) as we only want people who matter the most at our wedding, it being a highly personal day and all!

As a follow-up to my original announcement, I’m still intending to open up invites to long-time readers/supporters because I want you there with me on my special day. (Thank you to everyone who’ve been expressing interest to attend; I’m so excited knowing you guys are keen to come too!)

However, I can’t guarantee any seats at the moment because (a) we are going to have 100 people only after all, and (b) that’s 100 people split between me and Ken, of people we’ve known our entire life including family, relatives, personal friends, and childhood friends! I’ll share more details in Nov/Dec, so stay tuned!

Update May 2014: We are now married! 😀 Details and photos here: My Wedding Day

My Engagement Shoot in Scotland, Part 1: Photos in Glasgow

This is part one of Ken and my engagement shoot series featuring our engagement photos taken in Aug 2013. For more on our story, readHow I Found My Soulmate (series) and My Proposal.

Engagement shoot: Hand in hand, together forever :)

Three months ago Ken and I were in Scotland for our engagement shoot. I’m excited to announce that the pictures are finally ready for your viewing! 😀

What is Engagement Photography?

If you guys aren’t familiar with engagement photography, it is a form of wedding photography showcasing the couple in everyday wear, doing dating activities. Besides engagement photography, a popular form of wedding photography is bridal photography, where the couple dons their bridal wear and is shot in both outdoor and indoor environments.

Bridal photography

An example of bridal photography.

Wedding photography tends to be posy (and sometimes even cheesy) while engagement photography is more candid and authentic. Because of that, Ken and I chose to do engagement shots over bridal ones; we also prefer to save our gown and suit for our big day since that is the special day. We wanted our wedding shoot to be about us and our relationship, not the garb.

Doing My Engagement Shoot in Scotland

Believe it or not, shooting in Scotland was never in our plans! We were planning to engage a local photographer and we had already shortlisted some options.

But when Ken was sent on a two-week work trip to Scotland and asked me to come along, the opportunity presented itself quite serendipitously.

So we did our research of U.K. photographers; you guys also gave recommendations when I asked for help (thank you so much!). Eventually we nailed down two photographers for two shoots: one in Glasgow and another in Edinburgh as we wanted to capture the different scenery in Scotland, since we’re only going to do this once. 🙂

Our Engagement Shoot, Part 1: Pictures in Glasgow

Since our engagement shots were done in two locations, I’ve split them into two posts for your viewing. Today’s post is the first featuring our shots in Glasgow. For this shoot, we engaged local wedding photographer extraordinaire Neil Douglas, a very down-to-earth guy with a great eye for artistic photography!

I’ve to say this about Neil: he knows his stuff. Neil has been doing photography for eight years and came recommended by PE reader Anna, a friend of Neil’s wife (if you’re reading this Anna, thanks for the recommendation!! 🙂 ).

Given that an engagement shoot is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I was all over it from nailing down reference shots of what we want, the mood, scene specifications, and more!! Neil was totally patient and responsive in his email communication, which was very reassuring. 🙂 Not only that, he also initiated a pre-meeting after we reached Scotland to brief us on the shoot, which was very professional.

In the end, we covered quite a few spots in Glasgow (from Kelvingrove Park to areas near Argyle Street), showing a nice transition from nature to urban spots. The output was gorgeous and Ken and I are very happy with the result. We have shortlisted 26 (out of 94) shots for our wedding album: this post shares these 26 photos, with minor touch ups (hair and color) by me. You may have seen some of these photos in the soulmate series. 😉

Enjoy, and click on the link at the end to see our shots in Edinburgh! 😉

Engagement shoot: Hand in hand, together forever

“手牵手,一直都牵着你的手。” (Translated from Chinese: Hand in hand, together forever.) Ken says that to me every day, to the point where it has become like our relationship slogan.

Engagement shoot: Reflection in the water

Our reflection, mirrored on the water. My friend thought this was just a picture of us flipped vertically until I told her it was a reflection! This was a serendipitous picture because we chanced upon the water puddle during the shoot (it rained earlier in the morning) and Neil immediately saw a photo moment right there!

Engagement shoot: Hug

A quiet moment together

Engagement shoot: Kiss


Engagement shoot: A gentle hug

I love how Neil captured Ken’s gentleness, both in his smile and body language, here.

Engagement shoot: On the bridge

I love this bridge shot! It’s so beautiful: from the composition, to the tone, to the emotions. While Neil originally suggested we hold our hands or hang out on the bridge, Ken came up with the idea to carry me, because that’s what he always does. He often carries me at home so that I can touch the ceiling, because he wants me to “reach for the sky”.

Engagement shoot: Ken swinging me around

Swinging me around, just like what he did after I said “yes”

Engagement shoot: Closeup at the bridge

Having fun together. We were laughing really hard here!

Engagement shoot: Hugging in the park

Oh, hello! 🙂

Engagement shoot: In each other's embrace

In each other’s embrace

Engagement shoot: Heart-shaped fingers

Heart-shaped fingers, a gesture we make to each other all the time

Engagement shoot: Frozen, in a moment in time

One of my favorite pictures; it’s so epic and monumental. Feels like one of those pictures that you can see on a postcard or photo frame!

Engagement shoot: Lovers in the city

Lovers in the city; another postcard- / photo-frame-esque photo! Ken is bending down and slanting his head towards me in this shot: exactly how he looks whenever I lean forward to kiss his cheek. 🙂

A romantic night out

Romantic night out

Engagement shoot: Ken fixing my flower hair clip


Engagement shoot: Chatting endlessly under the stars

Chatting endlessly under the stars. When we’re together, we can talk for hours and hours to no end; many times we would lay on the bed and talk till morning not having slept the day before!

Engagement shoot: The ring

The ring (which he got from Tiffany); a symbol of our love.

Engagement shoot: Lovers in the city; in each other's embrace

Lovers in the city, locked in each other’s embrace. Another postcard-esque photo! 🙂

Engagement shoot: At the top of the world

I asked Ken what he was thinking when this shot was captured (since he looked so happy and dreamy), and he said he was thinking about our future together and how happy he is that we’re going to spend our lives together. 🙂

Engagement shoot: Kissing in the sea of people

Together in the sea of people. I love this photo because it symbolizes us our togetherness even in a sea of people; even amidst externalities and potential disturbances.

Engagement shoot: Alley kiss

I love the lights here. And the colors — so beautiful.

Engagement shoot: Hand in hand, together forever :)

Another hand-in-hand photo. Together forever. 🙂

Engagement shoot: Ken giving me a piggyback ride in the forest-park

Ken giving me a piggyback ride, something he always does 🙂

Engagement shoot: A quiet moment in the park

A quiet moment in the park

Engagement shoot: A quiet moment in the park (Closeup)


Engagement shoot: Walking into the sunset

Last but not least, walking into the sunset, into the light. Together forever, till the end of time. This is another of our favorite shots. 🙂 Reader Farnam made this comment about the picture which is really sweet: “Your photo is really beautiful; two lovers caring for and protecting each other and walking towards eternal brightness via a road filled with ups and downs. [Despite] many distractions (trees) beside them, they are going to complete their mission (moving towards the light).”

(All clothes and accessories from our wardrobe. Photography fully sponsored by Neil Douglas Photography. Visit Neil’s site to see more of his portfolio and to engage him for your shoot. Thanks Neil for all your help and amazing photos!! 🙂 )

Head on to part two, which features our photos in Edinburgh featuring us in Tantallon Castle, Cramond Beach, St Giles’ Cathedral, and Edinburgh City: My Engagement Shoot in Scotland, Part 2: Photos in Edinburgh

(Image: Bridal shot; All other images: Neil Douglas)

How To Know When You Have Found ‘The One’: 8 Questions To Consider

This is the last part of my 7-part series where I share my love journey, how I met my soulmate, and how you can attract authentic love as well.

Silhouette of a couple

In your love journey, you are going to meet many prospects. Some of whom you may have non-committal, fleeting encounters with, such as one-night-stands and flings. Some may be unrequited loves. Some may be cheats. Some may be toxic and abusive partners. Some may leave your heart fluttering, only for the feelings to die off before you can even put a finger to what it was you were feeling.

On the other hand, some may be solid individuals with great personalities, great minds, and a genuine interest in you. They may make you wonder, Is he/she “the one”?

Many have asked me how I realized Ken is “the one” for me, in such a short period no less (within a month of getting together). Some found it incredulous on how I can make my assessment so quickly, hence ironically quick to conclude that my assessment is flawed.

The funny thing is that between Ken and I, I was actually the slow one to realize that he is the one. Ken himself realized — without a single doubt — that I’m the one for him by the third day we got together. In fact, he already felt this way during our first few weeks of contact and was 100% affirmed of his feelings after we got attached. Previously, he had been with many girls —  with some relationships spanning for years — but his feelings for them never amounted to anything close.

8 Questions to Evaluate if He/She is “The One”

I can’t tell you whether the person you’re with is “the one” for you. This is a decision and realization you must arrive at yourself.

That said, I have 8 questions for you to consider in deciding if someone is “the one”:

  1. Does this person love you for you? Your one should love you for who you are. He/she doesn’t judge, compare you with others, or criticize you because he/she understands you are an individual of your own, second to none. He/she celebrates everything about you and sees beauty even in places where you don’t see it.
  2. Can you be yourself around him/her? You should be able to be yourself around your one. Be it being goofy, crazy, kiddish, wimpy, sulky, or morose, you can be all these and more in front of him/her without worry about judgment. You never need to dial yourself down or put on a different persona to fit him/her and he/she doesn’t require you to do so either.
  3. Is he/she there for you in times of need? Your one should be the one who’s always there for you: day or night, rain or shine. He/she will never leave you to face your problems alone. He/she cares for you deeply: perhaps even more so than he/she cares for him/herself.
  4. Does he/she make you happy? Your one should make you happy. When you’re with him/her, you’re constantly smiling, laughing, and happy. When you think about him/her, you smile, not cry. Even if you cry, you’re shedding tears of happiness not sorrow. While there may be conflicts at times, they are quickly resolved and not dragged out into week/month-long wars. Your happy times together far outweigh any unhappy moments. He/she is, without a doubt, a positive light in your life.
  5. Do you feel excited to see him/her? Your one should be someone you are excited to see every time: even when you guys had just met. No meeting is too soon between the both of you; you can never wait till you meet again. You always make time to meet him/her — even in your busiest times — because that’s how important he/she is to you.
  6. Does he/she inspire you to be more than you can be? Your one should inspire you to be more than you can be. Being with him/her elevates you rather than holds you down. When you’re with him/her, you feel like a better man/woman and you want to be even better for him/her, as well as for yourself.
  7. Do you love him/her? There is no relationship without love. Your one should be someone you love unconditionally with all your heart. Your love isn’t contingent of his/her good looks, personal success, wealth, family background, social status, or career accomplishments (i.e. “what” makes up him/her). Rather, your love is the result of “who” he/she is: his character, values, and ethics.
  8. Do you see yourself with him/her for the rest of your life? Your one should be someone you see yourself with forever: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, or in health. No matter what happens, you will stick with him/her and stand by his/her side.

8 Signs He/She is NOT “The One”

On the other hand, here are 8 signs you are with the wrong person, complementing my list Top 12 Signs It’s Time To Move On From A Relationship:

  1. He/she doesn’t love you for who you are. There are often conditions and expectations you have to live up to before he/she will be happy. Criticism isn’t uncommon. Neither are comparisons made with other people. No matter what you do or how hard you try, there always seems to be something wrong (with you) that you need to fix.
  2. He/she doesn’t inspire you to be more than you can be. In fact, you feel weighed down sometimes with him/her. You feel like you can’t talk about or pursue your higher goals without losing him/her. It’s as if he/she is holding you back and preventing you from moving upward and forward in life.
  3. He/she isn’t there for you when you need him/her. Be it excuses or actual reasons, there is always one thing or another that keeps him/her from being there for you. Instead, it’s your other friends who are with you during your difficult moments. He/she is with you during good times but never the bad times.
  4. He/she makes you more sad than happy. Whenever you think of him/her, you feel sad, worried, stressed, scared, or even angry: anything but happy. When you’re with him/her, you argue more often than not. While you may have had happy times together before, they seem like memories of yesteryears.
  5. You don’t feel excited to see him/her. Bored maybe, nonchalant perhaps, jaded even, but not excited. Sometimes you may rather do something else rather than meet him/her.
  6. You can’t be yourself around him/her. You have to constantly change to fit him/her. You can never behave as your real self out of fear of judgment/criticism by him/her.
  7. You don’t love him/her. You may have some good feelings towards him/her but you’re not sure whether it’s love. Or maybe you love him/her but this love is conditional on certain factors, in which case it wouldn’t be real love.
  8. You can’t see yourself with him/her for the rest of your life. Maybe 1 year, 2 years, 3 years or even 4, but you’re not sure if you want to be with him/her for the rest of your life.

What To Expect in Your “One”: It’s Up to What You Want

Forming the heart shape with fingers

At the end of the day, whether someone is “the one” is very subjective.

For some people, they may be only looking for someone as a life companion and bearer of their children. I had a conversation with a good  friend a few months ago who is considering settling down with someone just that: no more, no less.

While I might have judged this approach towards relationship/marriage before, I can empathize. His comment comes after years of not getting anywhere close to finding that ideal partner who can meet his emotional, mental, and physical needs. He’s not getting any younger, and having children of his own is important to him at the end of the day. He wants to be around to see his children grow up (definitely not following Simon Cowell who is only having his first baby at the age of 54). Having a simple lady as a partner also saves drama and makes for a reliable partner at the end of the day.

His intent reminded me of mail-order brides: where men order their brides from catalogs, usually of women in lower-income households in third-world countries. This phenomenon is definitely at odds with my viewpoint towards marriage: I see it as something pristine and should only be saved for that one person you love truly and deeply.

However,I have realized, “To each his own.” Some people may be happy with a functional marriage, i.e. to bear a child, to get citizenship, or to enjoy tax benefits while others may find true love this way. And if people are happy with a relationship/marriage like that, who are we to judge?

Some people may be fixated on how their “one” should be. In my guide on how to attract love, I mentioned the importance of knowing your top criteria in a partner (Step #9). Not 5, not 4, not even 3, but your top 1–2 criteria. Doing this isn’t to compromise but to clarify the most important thing that matters.

However, some overzealous singles have an endless checklist and refuse to consider anyone who “falls short” in any way. To them, reducing their criteria means compromising, even though it’s not necessarily so. They rather stay single than be with someone who doesn’t fit their staunch image of how their “one” should be like. Again, to each his own.

Then for others, perhaps they are okay with making do. With the 8 pointers I listed above, they are okay if only 2 or 3 are met. It’s more important that they are in a relationship and have someone to return home to, rather than hold out for that one person whom they can be a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual match with.

None of these are right or wrong approaches. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to choose who you want to be with. Your criteria for your “one” should be based on what you wish to get out of a relationship, your personal needs, and your expectations of your future. Your “one” should be someone who is a perfect match for YOU, whom you want to spend the rest of your life with and with whom you want to create a better future ahead with.

Endnote for This Series

Thank you so much for reading this series. I hope you have found it helpful in attracting your best love in life. 🙂

For those of you who’ve not found your love, I hope you do at some point. Not because you need someone to complete you — you don’t — but because life can be so much richer and fuller when you find your right match. I was extremely happy with myself and with life before I met Ken; after meeting him and being with him, I realized life has other dimensions which I was not experiencing before. It was like I was living life in 3-D before and now I see life in 5-D or even 6-D. It’s richer, it’s fuller, there are more colors which I never knew could be there. It’s hard to explain this feeling without someone being in the situation him/herself.

Once again, my article 10 Steps To Attract Authentic Love will help.

Having a great relationship doesn’t stop after you’ve found the one. While being with the right person gives you a huge head start, there are other things involved to create your best relationship, such as being mindful of your partner’s needs, finding synergies between your relationship and your life, and resolving conflicts in a healthy manner. These are things I look forward to writing on PE in the months/years ahead. 🙂

Get the manifesto version of this article: The Soulmate Manifesto

Next up, Ken and I would like to share our engagement photos, which we took in Scotland, with you. You would have seen some of them when reading parts 1-5 of the series. Check out our favorite photos here:

Update, May 2014: We have since gotten married! 🙂 Check out our wedding pictures and exchange of vows here:

Thank You

Thank you for being a part of my (and now Ken’s) life. I look forward to sharing more of my life and our relationship with all of you.

Till next time, love yourself. Let’s continue to be our best self and live our best life. 🙂

Engagement shoot: Walking into the sunset

This is the last part of my 7-part series where I share my love journey, how I met my soulmate, and how you can attract authentic love as well.

(Images: Silhouette of a coupleHeart, Shots of Ken and I from our Glasgow Engagement Shoot)

How To Find Love: 10 Steps To Attract Authentic Love

This is part 6 of my 7-part series where I share my love journey, how I met my soulmate, and how you can attract authentic love as well.

Girl's back

Note from Celes: After over a week of hiatus, here’s the latest installment in the soulmate series! Today’s guide is on how to attract authentic love. 🙂 It took much longer than I expected because there is just so much I have to say and I wanted to make sure I was writing it in the best way possible for all of you! I’m glad to finally publish it today. 🙂 I hope you’ll find this useful!

Finding love isn’t meant to be easy.

Before I got together with Ken, I went through 28 years with no success in my love journey (as I’ve shared in parts 1 and 2). Ken, 32 when we reconnected, didn’t have any luck either prior to that: he had spent 9 years in back-to-back relationships and 2 years casually meeting more girls. While he had met and been with girls of all looks and characters, none of the relationships fulfilled him (which was why they would always end at some point).

It was only when we reacquainted that our “search” ended.

I don’t think we should overtly seek love as it’s not the direct result of finding it. Some people spend their entire lives searching for love but never get anywhere, while some attract love with ease without looking for it. Clearly, there are other factors involved. And I’m here to share them today.

In today’s guide, I share 10 crucial steps which have brought love into my life. I actually wrote and published this guide last May when I was still single (it was just 8 steps then). Following my advice brought love to me a year later. 🙂

I’ve rewritten this article and added 2 additional steps given the benefit of hindsight. At almost 5,000 words long (actually longer if you count the related articles linked in some steps), this is truly your one-stop guide to finding love.

Bookmark this piece and apply the steps. They have worked for me and they will help you attract to the love you deserve. Good luck. 🙂

1. Seek a relationship out of love (not fear)

Girl smiling

Fear-Based Motivations

Many people today seek a relationship out of fear. Reasons like not wanting to feel lonely, not wanting to be alone, not wanting to be left on the shelf, conforming to society’s expectations, appeasing parents’ concerns, wanting to be loved, wanting to feel “complete”, wanting to have a partner to “show off” to friends, and not wanting to be the only single left among coupled friends are fear-based motivations for a relationship.

However, in doing/thinking so, you attract fear-based people: partners who manipulate, partners who abuse you (not just physically but also emotionally), and/or partners to criticize you and take you for granted. After a while, you may feel you’re better off single than with these people.

My Example with Guy N

Before I reconnected with Ken, I was in an unhappy connection with toxic guy N.

With good reason too. A sliver of me was seeking love with fearful intentions: I was worried that I would never find someone (I love) and I didn’t want to live life never having been in a serious relationship. In short, I was seeking a relationship for the sake of it.

Hence, I hung on to that toxic connection even though N was one of the worst people I had ever met. Only when he pushed my limits again and again did I realize that he was cancer. I promptly released him and with that, my fear that I would never be attached.

I realized it didn’t matter if I were to remain single forever because my life happiness and fulfillment were not dependent on my relationship status. I didn’t want to live in anticipation of meeting someone anymore; it was exhausting.

As life would have it, Ken entered my life right after I dropped my fear-based intentions for a relationship and embraced it 100% with faith, purity, and love.

Love-Based Motivations

So what are love-based motivations then? When you want to be with someone because…

  1. … you love someone for him/her, for all his/her traits and oddities (vs. quelling your loneliness or for companionship).
  2. … you are happy and whole as yourself and you feel even happier with him/her. You recognize a relationship is about forming a union larger than its individual parts, not to complete someone.
  3. … you see a high level of compatibility between you and him/her. You want to form a conscious, positive connection with him/her and elevate in life together.

Notice these reasons are rooted in wholeness, betterment, authenticity, and abundance, unlike fear-based reasons which are rooted in scarcity, neediness, lack and fear. The former is what a relationship about, where the latter treats relationships as a tool to patch issues. Approach relationships with love- not fear-based intentions.

2. Be your best self (Change for yourself, not to get someone to like you)

Girl blowing dandelion

Many of us are guilty of restraining, changing ourselves to appeal to the other gender. I used to do this as shared in Why I Used To Be Afraid of Intimidating Men and Why It Does Not Faze Me Anymore.

However, doing so left me drained and unhappy. I would always be sensitive about what I said/did because I didn’t want to “make a wrong move” and turn off the guy. Obviously, this approach was unsustainable.

It didn’t take me long to realize there has never anything wrong with me. If a guy is intimidated by my natural behavior without me trying to do so, that simply means we are not compatible, whether as friends or partners, I realized. It’s not about force fitting myself to such guys, but about getting out there to meet more compatible men who celebrate my personality and success.

And so I did, after which I realized there are tons of guys out there who celebrate strong, opinionated females with great careers. I just wasn’t seeing them before because I was trying to force fit myself around me rather than getting out there to meet new guys.

Attract Love by Being the Best You

When you have to alter or restrain yourself to get someone to like you, chances are the person was never compatible with your true self. You also enter a dilemma of whether to continue your fake persona to maintain the person’s interest (but live a lie) or reveal your real self to be true to yourself (but risk losing the person’s interest). Either way is a lose.

What you want is a partner who loves you as you and whom you can be your highest self with, not someone whom you have to project a fake persona around.

To have that, first be comfortable in your own skin. You can’t expect others to love you if you don’t love yourself first. As Ayn Rand once said, “To say ‘I love you’ one must first be able to say the ‘I’.” Read: How To Be The Most Confident Person In The World

Strive to be the best you. Lose weight, look good, be kind, excel in your career, and strive for personal achievements, but do them for yourself, not others.

Then, be yourself around others. Your true love can’t fall in love with the real you if you’re hiding behind a front! By wearing your real personality with pride, you filter away bad matches and attract people who resonate with the real you. Even if some don’t take a liking towards you, that’s fine: not everyone is going to like you and it would also mean they were never a match in the first place.

Remember, your aim isn’t to attract the world, but to attract the right one for you. This will only happen when you’re first embracing your true self.


3. Live your best life. Don’t put it on hold for love.

Throughout my love journey, I tried 2 different approaches: (a) overtly putting myself out there with countless dates and meetups, and (b) living my life, pursuing my goals, and being open to dating along the way

What helped me to find love ultimately wasn’t (a) but (b).

Why Would Love “Find” You Without You Looking For It?

So this is where I want to clarify and say that (b) isn’t not thinking about dating/love and blocking them out of your life. Rather, (b) is about living your life as you would, pursuing your highest goals, and then dating as yourself. Not making dating the singular goal, but rather, an accent that complements.

So while it may seem counterintuitive that love will come to you when you aren’t actively seeking it out like in (a) scenario, it isn’t.

Firstly, when you live your life to the fullest and become your highest self, you shine your brightest. You radiate and magnetize people in a way you never would if you were not living your path. People, especially like-minded people, gravitate to you even if you aren’t seeking them. This naturally sets you up to meet right matches.

Secondly, when you follow your path, you emit an aura so strong that it’s projected to the entire universe. This aura attracts like-souls — people vibrating at the same level of consciousness and who are conscious, positive, and on their path — even if they are on the opposite side of the planet.

Galaxy of Molecules, All Vibrating at Different Levels

That may be hard to wrap your head around especially if you tend to see the world as purely a physical one, so I’ll try to explain with an analogy.

You know how there are different forms of energy in the world? Heat energy, light energy, kinetic energy, electric energy, etc.

Well, we’re no different: we are really energy with a physical form. Everything we see — from plants, to animals, to humans, to objects —  are molecules vibrating at different energy levels at the empirical level. Our vibrations change depending on our consciousness.

This means that the universe is really made up of gazillions of energy molecules, all vibrating and moving in their own trajectories.


When we discuss soulmates, they are simply molecules like us out there — wherever they are — waiting to bump into us and reunite. Even if you don’t believe in soulmates, think of love as a process where 2 molecules (persons) with similar vibrations gravitate towards each other and form a whole. It’s the same thing.

Just like 2 magnets pull towards each other because of their magnetic properties, you and your soul’s match gravitate towards each other when both of you vibrate at the same consciousness level. Obviously your physical distance will affect how fast you meet: If you are already in the same room, it wouldn’t take long for you to gravitate towards each other. On the other hand, if you’re at opposite ends of the planet, it’s going to take a little while more.

Regardless, it wouldn’t change the eventual outcome, which is that both of you will meet at one point. But this can only happen if you are first living your path and being your highest self. Otherwise, you’ll never vibrate at your highest consciousness level to attract your soul’s match.

Reacquaintance of Me and Ken: A Match in Our Consciousness

That’s why it was no coincidence that Ken entered my life right after I decided to live my life over seeking love (in February 2013). He messaged me on Whatsapp one fine day when I was in South Africa, over 9,000 km away from sunny Singapore, because he had a “sudden thought to organize his phone contacts list” — something he rarely does. 

The way I see it is this: we had self-actualized on our paths, were finally vibrating at the right consciousness level and were ready to receive each other in our lives.

On the other hand, nothing happened during the 2 times we physically met in the past — once in university 9 years ago, and another time on the streets 4.5 years ago. Because we had not come into our own yet, we were not ready to become lovers.

On hindsight, our earlier meetings were like my spirit guides’ way of winking at me and letting me know that love has always been in my path. 😉 It’s funny thinking back to all the times when I would wonder out loud with my girl friends as to whether there’s anyone out there for me. I was just not receiving love in those times because I was not ready for this soulmate connection. If I had gotten together with Ken at any point earlier, the potential of our relationship would have been greatly capped.

Would Ken have reappeared if I had not come to my realization to live my life over finding love in February? Maybe yes, maybe no. Even if he did reappear, I don’t think things would have taken off, just like they didn’t during our first 2 “hi-bye” encounters. Ken and I finally met and got together because I was 100% on my path and ready to receive love consciously and fully without fear-based intentions (as was he).

How to Live Your Best Life

So how does one start to live his/her best life? Some steps to get started:

  1. Discover your life purpose. Live in line with it every day. Read: How To Find Your Life Purpose (7-part series)
  2. Design your ideal life. How would your life be? What would you be doing? How can you move towards this life today?
  3. Set your life goals. What are your biggest goals and ambitions? (They should correlate with your ideal life.) What do you want to accomplish in the next 1, 3, and 5 years?
  4. Create action plans to realize your top goals.
  5. Then, take action.

Check out Live a Better Life in 30 Days (30DLBL), my premium life transformation course to live your best life in just 30 days. It consists of 30 transformational tasks to be done one per day, including tasks like discover your ideal life, set your life goals, create your action plan, discover your life purpose, create your life handbook, and more.

4. Seek love, but don’t treat it as a goal

Some of us might have intentions to marry or have kids by X age when we were young.

I remember friends who spoke of relationships this way when we were younger: “Okay, I want to get married by 28, so I should date when I’m 25 and have a stable career. I’ll have one year to date and choose a partner, one year to know him and determine if he’s the right one for me, and one year of engagement before we get married. Then after marrying, we can have some private space before starting a family when I’m 30 or 31.”

Some of you may laugh reading this, but that’s because it’s so true to life. Many people put a timeline to love (be it getting into a relationship or marriage) and quantify it into a binary goal to be achieved. “Have you gotten a boyfriend yet?” “When is it your turn to marry?” “I wish to have a boyfriend before my next birthday” are comments that proliferate conversations today.

When I was 13 or 14, I started to wonder if I would meet my special someone before my next birthday. Sailor Moon was my favorite anime and she met her love (Mamoru) in her high-school years, so I wondered if this would happen to me too.

Obviously it didn’t. This thought would continue to emerge every year though, usually near my birthday as it was a reminder that I was getting older but still barren in my love life. This mindset really did nothing but increase my anxiety and urge to get out there and look for someone.

As you have read from my love story, I didn’t meet anyone (whom I’d want to be with) when I was proactively seeking love. Ironically, it was when I stopped looking that love happened.

While it’s good to intend for love as energy goes where intention flows, love isn’t a goal to be achieved. You can’t control when you find love and who falls in love with you though you CAN be proactive about making it happen (see step #7). To treat love as a goal would be to confine and diminish it when it is grander and more pervasive than that.

Silhouette of a couple during sunrise

Treat love as what it is — an all-encompassing, formless, timeless, and universal quality that defies time and space — and you will soon attract love in its highest form.

5. Realize that love is all around you

As you seek love, don’t miss the love that is around you and that has always been there.

From your parents loving and caring for you, to friends showing care and concern, to co-workers supporting you at work, to teachers/mentors coaching you, to strangers lending a helping hand when you need it, to your higher self and spirit guides looking out for you since before you were born, you are surrounded by love every second, every minute and every hour of every day.

While these aren’t romantic love, they are love all the same: love between the parent and child, love between friends, love between colleagues, love between the teacher and student, love between humans, love between your spirit guides and you, and self-love.

Even around you, love is happening all the time. From little kids playing on the field, to parents taking their kids to school, to the elderly couple strolling in the park, to the couple hanging out at the cafe, these are all love in action.

Best friends cuddling

Don’t restrict your mind to just seeing romantic love. Recognize the love before you that’s in different forms. Embrace them all. And be thankful for them. If you don’t first recognize, accept, and appreciate the love around you, then how can you expect the universe to send more love your way? Only by doing so, will you show the world that you are ready to receive more love into your life.


6. Recognize that you are complete

When you were born, you were blessed with a physical body to experience life on earth. From working lungs, to a beating heart, to an intelligent mind, to a working body, you have everything it takes to thrive.

Yet, we are often led to believe that we are incomplete whether through books, television shows, or romance movies. We are told that love is necessary to complete us. Unfortunately, this is unhealthy thinking which leaves us feeling like we’re missing something and causes us to yearn for a relationship ever so often.

Read: Are You Looking For A Relationship To Complete Yourself?

If you feel incomplete and you have this intense need to “get out there and find love”, ask yourself: What is it that I’m trying to find? Chances are, you aren’t trying to find love. You’re just trying to find yourself, or rather, the love, fulfillment, happiness, fun, or purpose that you’re missing on the inside. All you are trying to do is to use a relationship to fill your inner void(s).

Even if you get together with someone, these issues will never go away. They will merely be carried into the relationship, leading to future pain for you and your partner. Expect issues to arise later on, such as codependency, clinginess, possessiveness, imposing views, unhealthy expectations, and deep-seated disgruntlement with each other.

So, identify your voids now and address them. I’ve written more in How Can I Stop Feeling Lonely? Don’t seek a relationship to solve your problems because it won’t achieve that.

Rather, the sooner you solve your voids, the sooner you become whole, and the sooner you attract other complete beings to create your best relationship ever. A relationship that’s built by 2 complete individuals with independent thinking and personalities and that’s larger than the sum of its individual parts.

Yin Yang

Yin and yang, 2 dualities combined to create a synergistic whole.

7. Play your part in making love happen

While you work on being your best self (step #2) and living your best life (step #3), play your part in making love happen. Like I mentioned in 5 Myths Keeping You from Finding Love, you can’t expect your partner to jump out of the television set (no The Ring, please) or pop of your dreams while you’re sleeping (no A Nightmare on Elm Street too).

Get out there and meet people. Attend social gatherings. Join interest groups. Date. Be open to being set up on dates. Try online dating. Dating agencies are worth a shot too if you’re up for it (I tried it before though it didn’t really work for me). Don’t close off opportunities to meet new people.


Then as you meet people you like, approach them. Initiate conversation. Foster a connection. And follow up. Build on the connections with those who reciprocate.


As for people who show interest, get to know them better. Reciprocate if you share the same feelings.

The point is, be proactive. Love is a 2-way effort, not a one-way process where the guy/girl finds and chases after you. Just as others put themselves out there to make love happen, you have to play your part too.

8. Don’t hold constricted views on how love should be

“I will only date someone outside of my workplace.”

“He must text me before and after each date to show his interest.”

“I will never go out on a date with someone who asks me out less than 3 days in advance.”

“If a guy doesn’t follow up after a week, he’s not within my consideration set anymore.”

Ever heard these statements before? I have, or at least a variation of them. Many people have expectations on how they want love to appear and develop, ala When Harry Met Sally….

Unfortunately, these expectations can also hinder you from receiving love.

I recommend you not to hold constricted views on how love should manifest, but leave yourself open to different manners and styles it can appear. It’s more important that you wear your heart on your sleeve and receive love as it appears.

Read: Do You Treat Dating as a Game? 

9. Be clear about your top criteria in a partner

Baby pointing finger

You know, if I had expected Ken to match up to my vision of an ideal partner at the start, I probably would have never gotten together with him.

That’s because my ideal partner should be 100% mental/intellectual compatible with me (on top of the other factors). I didn’t know if Ken was a mental/intellectual match prior to us getting together; it didn’t feel like he was.

Thankfully I internally clarified my top criteria — kindness and emotional sensitivity — and gave the relationship a go since Ken topped those 2 criteria (and more). It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were meant to be together all along. ♥

(Ironically Ken turned out to be my perfect mental/intellectual match and hence, everything I would ever want in my ideal partner. Even if he didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered because I had already decided that this factor wasn’t 100% crucial.)

If you have a gazillion things you want in a partner, then you are… probably never going to anyone you will like. While you may have 10 to 20 criteria in a guy/girl, but only a couple really matter at the end of the day.

Here’s an example, and a question for you: If you are to spend the rest of your life with someone, what’s going to matter to you? Whether he/she will be there with you through life, in sickness and good health, or whether he/she is of X height and weight today? (The latter (weight) isn’t going to stay the same over time anyway.) Something to think about.

So, figure out what are your top criteria in a partner. Narrow down to 1–2 criteria. Then let go of the rest because they were never crucial in the first place. When assessing future prospects, do so against your top criteria: nothing more, nothing less.

10. Nurture rather than terminate

Throughout your love journey, adopt a nurturing mindset, not a terminalistic one.

Flower bud

A nurturing mindset is one where you focus on the things you like (about the person), the potential of your relationship, and growing the connection with the person. You celebrate what’s there and work on building the connection further.

A terminalistic mindset on the other hand is where you judge someone by what you see, make early (usually negative) conclusions, impose expectations on how the connection should evolve, and shut it off on the smallest of factors. Here, you evaluate the connection by a preset (usually ridiculous) standard and you are ready to close off anything that doesn’t match what you want.

Naturally, a nurturing mindset is the key to both finding love and building successful relationships.

Being Nurturing in My Relationship with Ken

After I found out that Ken was a heavy drinker (about a week after we reconnected) and a heavy smoker (another week later), I didn’t close him off as a prospect.

It wasn’t that these were acceptable to me; I most definitely prefer someone who doesn’t drink nor smoke. Ken wasn’t just a social drinker; he would drink as many as 8 pints a day, 3–4 times in a week (because that was how often he was partying). He also wasn’t just a smoker but a heavy one who smoked 12–15 cigarettes daily.

However, Ken had such a great character and big heart that I didn’t want to forgo this connection. He was definitely the most emotionally compatible person I had ever met in my entire life at that point (even today) and I was interested to see where this connection would lead to. I had also asked him if he planned to quit smoking at some point in the future to which he said, “Yes, but not now.”

To me, this represented the potential for things to change though I wasn’t hanging on to his one statement nor expecting him to quit smoking based on this comment.

Also, I used to like someone before whom I later realized was a heavy smoker. That experience taught me that just because someone smokes (or drinks heavily) doesn’t mean that the person won’t be a match. Habits can change but character traits are more permanent.

So with Ken, I was open to starting a relationship with him despite his drinking and smoking. While they might be issues in the long term, I didn’t see them as barriers to dating nor starting a relationship. I was focused on the present, my present feelings, and the positive upward potential of a relationship together.

As it turned out, Ken quit smoking one week after we got attached and he now drinks only 1–2 glasses a month. Did I ask him to do that? No I didn’t. Did I expect him to do that? I didn’t either.

All these were decisions he made and acted on himself; I merely supported him in my fullest capacity as his then-girlfriend (now fiancee). All I know is that his changes and our relationship today wouldn’t be possible if I had adopted a terminalistic mindset back then and shut him off because of his personal habits.

Be Nurturing in Your Love Journey

The lesson here isn’t to get attached to smokers and drinkers in hopes that they will stop smoking and drinking afterwards. It’s to celebrate what you see, focus on positive possibilities with someone, and focus on your role in making things happen.

So, don’t write off connections because you don’t think anything will come out of them. Keep an open mind and heart. Keep in touch, let the connections grow, and see what comes out of them. Do so with a sincere intent to know them better and build a connection/friendship, not to suss out romantic possibilities.

With romantic prospects, other than your top criteria being make-or-break factors (see step #9), other things shouldn’t stand in the way. Focus on how to make things work out rather than ending a connection just because it’s not going the way you want (not counting toxic connections).

Next Up… How To Know When You’ve Found Your One

Get the manifesto version of this article: How To Find Love [Manifesto]

Next up is the 7th and last part of the series: How To Know When You Have Found ‘The One’: 8 Questions to Consider

This is part 6 of my 7-part series where I share my love journey, how I met my soulmate, and how you can attract authentic love as well.

(Images: Girl’s back, Girl smiling, Girl blowing dandelion, Galaxy, Couple silhouetteBest friends, Yin Yang, Baby pointing fingerFlower bud)