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Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.
I’ve been hit with some bad luck lately.
In two weeks, I bumped into *Alex, 34, twice. For those new to this column, *Alex was a guy I was in an on-again-off-again situationship with for about two and a half years. The first time I ran into him, I avoided him like the plague and pretended to be busy looking for apples and oat milk at the supermarket. I even called my best friend *Natalie, 25, so that I’d appear way too busy to talk because I saw him trying to approach me.
The second time we met, he was right across the street from me, and we made eye contact, only to look away awkwardly. I was with *Mark, 30, the guy I’m currently casually seeing. Thankfully, Mark didn’t notice my slight panic.
“You should go get yourself cleansed of this bad juju,” said my work wife *Shana, 29, jokingly when I told her what had happened. “Burn some sage or bathe yourself in holy water.”
A few days later, I would casually see Mark out on a date with someone else at my neighbourhood coffee joint in the CBD.
“You gotta be kidding me,” I thought to myself when I saw the back of Mark’s head and his unique identifier: a tattoo of three bold lines on the back of his arm as I was approaching the cafe. I think back to the time he explained what the tattoo meant. Immediately, Shana’s words about getting myself cleansed came to mind, and I wanted to kick myself in the gut for not taking it seriously.
The thing is, I (the hypocrite) was there on a coffee date myself but seeing Mark with some other woman made me uncomfortable. The worst part of it all was that my date had chosen to sit by the cafe’s window, facing Mark’s table, so I had an unobstructed view of the object of my desire while he was meeting someone else. Great.
“Please don’t wrap your arms around her or hold her hands the way you do mine,” I kept thinking to myself as I watched Mark’s date unfold while trying to maintain eye contact with the date I was on.
The truth is, Mark and I saw each other casually, and we had a pretty clear don’t ask, don’t tell policy where I wouldn’t ask questions about who he was seeing or what he was doing, and he wouldn’t indulge me even if I did. But something about seeing him on a date with someone else made me, well, jealous. That’s natural, no?
That fateful day, it dawned on me that I was committing one of the biggest sins too early on in any sort of relationship.
I was getting emotionally attached way too quickly. And it was starting to annoy me.
That entire day, I felt sort of shell-shocked. Firstly, by how strongly I felt about Mark; and secondly, my confusion towards wanting to continue the relationship we have. I knew I didn’t want to be in an entirely committed relationship — I was (and still am) enjoying the freedom of meeting other people and not having girlfriend responsibilities — so why the hell was I feeling this type of way?
I know, though, that I’d eventually want to be in a long-term committed relationship when I’m in my 30s, but right now, there was still time, and it wasn’t like Mark and I have known each other for that long.
It wasn’t too late to get myself out of the situation either; after all, we had only gone on a handful of dates. Even though we have both admitted to feeling slightly attached, I knew I could narrow the chances of getting hurt should my feelings develop even further if I just ended things right now.
At the same time, I knew it would be slightly painful to end things because Mark and I got along so well, and we’ve had some emotionally intimate conversations.
I decided to text him:
Me: I saw you. At Maxi. With a date.
Mark: Oh welp. Singapore’s small.
Me: Can I get my toothbrush back? 😅 (I had left my electric toothbrush at his when I spent the night the week before)
Mark: 😅 of course
Me: I’ll come by later to get it?
Mark: Is this like a “you just want your toothbrush” or like a “you don’t want to date anymore”?
If it wasn’t obvious enough, I tend to avoid confrontation. Instead of acknowledging what I genuinely felt (like a well-adjusted adult), I tend to shy away and pick the easy way out of difficult situations.
For me, the exit plan was to get my toothbrush and slowly distance myself from Mark. He would meet other women anyway, so I didn’t think it mattered that much whether I was around or not.
When we met that same afternoon, Mark told me that he didn’t see me and if he did, he would have said hi. It turns out the windows at Maxi were a little tinted, and he was also trying to focus on his date. He also told me that he saw her in a friend capacity and explained how they met.
Mark and I also had a conversation about how we felt about each other. Of course, I reiterated my need to come first and not want to feel compared or unprioritised. To this, Mark revealed that he spends the most time with me and has also gotten emotionally attached to me.
Speaking to Mark openly and honestly made me feel more reassured and reminded of the importance of checking in with one another whenever something happens.
Back to my emotional attachment, I decided that to stop myself from feeling too deeply for someone I had just met close to a month ago, I needed to occupy myself with other things and other people. When you meet someone you genuinely like, it’s easy to cut off any other potential suitors because you think you’ve established something with this person.
If you’re a hopeless romantic, you might even romanticise the relationship a bit more than usual and start to build up expectations only to set yourself up for heartbreak a few weeks or months down the road. For me, there was no reason to get caught up in just one person. After all, that’s the whole reason I wanted to date casually, right?
Balancing the New Normal: