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Breaking Deal Breakers

Two couples share how they made exceptions to their relationship ‘deal breakers’.

By Scarlett Tan

Do you have a mental checklist of qualities and traits you look for and those that absolutely do not want in a partner? We speak to two couples who did but decided to ditch it to give love a chance. After all, realistically speaking, there is no such thing as the perfect guy or girl, and it’s true what they say: in love, you find perfection in spite of each other’s imperfections.

Just numbers

Samantha David, 29, admits that it wasn’t love at first sight when she first met her partner, Dinesh Ajith, 27, when they were introduced by a mutual friend in 2015.

According to Samantha, Dinesh was great, but he checked two things off her list of relationship deal breakers: “I told myself I would never ever date someone shorter than me, or younger than me.”

They have a five-centimetre height difference, which Samantha says doesn’t seem like much, but is “pretty obvious in real life”. Her reservations stemmed from being conditioned to social norms. “I think a lot of it had to do with old notions of femininity and masculinity – the standard [where men] are bigger, stronger, taller and women are smaller, softer, and petite,” she says.

Plus, Dinesh is two years younger. Samantha had concerns about age and maturity. “I think it’s quite true that women mature much faster than men, and in my opinion back then, dating someone younger – even if there was just a one-year difference – meant being with someone with less life experience.”

The pair did, however, become friends, often spending time during after-work drinks. While Dinesh had been secretly harbouring feelings for her for some time, Samantha’s feelings for him only grew in late 2016. “During that time, I had been seeing other people who were all wrong for me – they were emotionally unavailable, not serious about committing, and so on. It took a while to realise that the one for me was right there all along.”

Samantha shares that she went through a phase where she asked herself if it was really worth giving up a potentially good match because of physical appearances. Eventually, Samantha saw the light, and decided to give this relationship a chance.

“I’ve seen successful relationships where height didn’t matter, and deep down, I knew it was truly a superficial, shallow thing to consider as a deal breaker. At the end of the day, it just isn’t a big deal. As for his age, it was something I easily “forgot” about because he’s quite mature,” she says. It also helped that Dinesh is great at communicating and expressing himself, which according to Samantha, really sealed the deal.

After realising her growing feelings for Dinesh, it took Samantha about a month or two to be ready to kiss her deal breakers goodbye and give it a go. They became official in 2017.

Looking back, Samantha is thankful that Dinesh understands why she had reservations about starting a relationship with him, and even more grateful that he does not resent her for it. “I’m glad we (unintentionally) took the time to get to know each other as friends before getting together as a couple. I think this is key as it builds a solid foundation for a strong relationship.”

Breaking the habit

The attraction was mutual when April Zara Chua, 32, first met her husband, Ian Wong, also 32. She thought he was easy-going and humorous while he found her adorable and easy to talk to, and they both felt like they had already known each other for years. There was just one small problem: Ian was a smoker and April had strong objections to that.

“I have a few relationship deal breakers like not dating anyone I meet in a club or bar, or dating a colleague. I also did not want to date someone who smoked. The first time I met Ian, I noticed that he was a smoker so that was an immediate turn-off for me,” she says.

But, curious to see where that initial connection would take them, she decided to continue meeting up with him to get to know him better. Overtime, she realised Ian smoked less than she thought (one pack would last him about two days), and that gave her some assurance that he was not such a heavy smoker after all.

Eventually, she voiced her concerns and he made an effort not to smoke around her. “I have relatives who are experiencing a lot of health problems now as a result of their smoking habits. I told myself that I will only settle down with someone I know I can have a long, healthy life with. Quality of life is really important to me so we can have the energy and vigour to do the things we want to do together.”

According to April, Ian’s good qualities outweighed his bad habit. She saw that he was trustworthy and dependable, and had the same family and relationship values as her. The pair dated for about two months before making their relationship official. The defining moment for April came when, a few months into the relationship, Ian told her that he had decided to go cold turkey and quit smoking, which she fully supported and encouraged. “Perhaps he also saw I was worth giving up smoking for, and that made me feel special!” she adds.

However, along the way, he fell off the bandwagon as he found it hard to be completely smoke-free especially due to the nature of his job in logistics, where smoking is common in social settings. “I was disappointed at first but I could see he was trying his best. We used to have big fights when I felt he was smoking too much. But, I also understood that this was a complete change of lifestyle and he would need some time to give up something he’s grown so used to.”

That was when April decided that she was willing to compromise, just as Ian had accepted her and her own bad habits, which according to Ian was “indulging a little too much on shopping and not keeping a close watch over her finances.” Just as she was there for him in his journey to being smoke-free, he gave her tips on how to budget properly and constantly reminds her to only buy things she needs.

“Back then, I shopped first and saved later, which I know is such a bad habit. If we were going to build a life together, I knew I had to do something about it and I’m glad that he was willing to guide me instead of running for the hills after seeing how much I could easily spend. For all I know, that could have been his deal breaker and he made an exception for me too,” says April.

These days, Ian smokes much less; a pack now lasts him about four days, and April is confident that he can kick the habit entirely in the near future. “We recently went on a week-long vacation and he didn’t even light up once so I know he can do it. What I really appreciate is how he reassures me that he understands why I don’t approve of it, so I trust that he always thinks twice before lighting up.” For her part, she shops much less and is better at budgeting her finances, setting aside her savings first before splurging on anything else: “I feel like I’m more financially responsible now and it’s all thanks to Ian.”

It’s been four years since they first met and a year since they tied the knot. April has no regrets about making an exception for Ian. She admits that broaching the topic in the first place wasn’t easy as he could have easily taken offense, but she’s thankful that Ian adopted a positive attitude in dealing with the matter and is on the way to being completely smoke-free.

Said April: “At the end of the day, it comes down to the person – how they react to challenges, how dedicated they are, how important their partner is to them, and whether or not they share your life goals. Of course, it will take time to form better habits, but relationships are for the long run, right?”