How I Found My Soulmate, Part 2: Meeting My Husband (Someone I Knew From Before)

This is part 2 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. If you are new to this series, read Part 1: My Journey in Love first.

Engagement shoot: Reflection in the water

Together in time (Photo from my Glasgow Engagement Shoot)

Jadedness and Emptiness: Early 2013

By this time, I was quite jaded with the whole process of dating, meeting someone, and then feeling disappointed when things didn’t turn out as expected.

A Toxic Connection

One thing was that I was very badly burned by this guy (let’s call him N) I met during my dating-immersion phase. While I initially thought he was a good match, he turned out to be very toxic.

In the few months we knew each other, I was incredibly unhappy. Our connection started with me being misguided by his, at many times IMO, non-platonic behavior. He later apologized and clarified that he wasn’t looking to be romantically involved, something which I found incredulous due to his contradicting behavior, but accepted nonetheless.

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Subsequently we had many conflicts even as friends, with him often berating and putting me down. It left me feeling very lousy about myself, and I doubted myself a lot in the few months I knew him. That a part of me felt unworthy as a woman (because I never had much luck with love) didn’t help. Many times, I would change my behavior to be a better friend to him, only for him to find new things to put me down me for.

Finally, I had enough. I cut him away because I couldn’t take his volatile and ungrateful behavior anymore. I was surprised that I had even let this connection drag on so long because I never would have tolerated such behavior normally. I believe part of the reason was that I felt inferior about myself as a woman, as a date potential, so I was ready to give my all just to make things work. While this toxic connection was out of my life, I was back to being alone.

Disappointment When Dates/Events Didn’t Turn Out As Desired

I also found myself disappointed each time I went on a date or to an event and didn’t meet a potential match. I felt like I had to constantly be at my best and look my best, lest I missed out on a potential connection. I also felt that there had to be something wrong with me if I was seeing so many people but not get attached.

That people — readers, clients, friends, acquaintances, and even my sponsored date coach then — were anticipating me to get attached didn’t help. Because I was so open about my experience with the dating agency and wanting to date, many people became very curious to see who I would date. Many also subconsciously imposed their desire for a romantic relationship on me. These factors made me feel pressurized into finding someone noteworthy ASAP, because I didn’t want to feel like a failure for not being able to do so.

Inside, I felt empty. Not with myself, but with the situation.

Emptiness

While some might call this “dating wear out” (where you get worn out after intensive dating), it wasn’t like that for me at all. My emptiness was because I felt misaligned with the notion of “getting out there” to find someone.

Girl reflecting

The thing is, I had already realized years ago that I’m complete as a single. Many people’s interest in dating today centers around being with someone to complete themselves. This wasn’t so for me.

I wasn’t seeking someone to complete my life. As I had mentioned in part one, I was seeking a relationship because I was living a fantastic life as an individual and I was ready to share it with someone else, someone whom I felt would be a good match.

However, by deliberately seeking out someone, I was putting my life and subsequently my real self on hold. Because I was so busy going on dates, being a better date to others and wondering where I could meet like-minded people to increase chances of meeting my special someone, I had unwittingly put my personal self on hold.

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I was losing myself to find someone, someone whom I didn’t know and wasn’t even sure existed in the first place.

Revelation: Self Over “Finding” Love

This was when I realized: Regardless of how much I want to share my life with someone else, I should never alter my own agenda in blind pursuit of love. Because that would be repressing my real self to find something that isn’t supposed to define my life to begin with.

Even if I were to meet anyone using this self-altering approach, he would not be a good match because I would have intentionally altered my path just to meet or be with him. This means that I would likely have to continue altering my path, change myself, or worse still, repress myself just to make a relationship happen or to keep it alive. This would defeat the point of a relationship — which is to be a more conscious and better person. Not to repress my true self.

If I want to be with someone who matches me, then I need to first live my life, do my thing, and be me, I thought. If I meet compatible guys along the way, then that’s great. But if I don’t, then… so be it. I’ll still be perfectly happy because I’m already complete as a single.

This was when I decided that I was literally done looking for love. I thought,

From now on, I’m going to just live my life and do my thing, partner or no partner. Even if I remain single forever, that’s fine too. Maybe romantic love isn’t in my path for this life, and I will meet someone special in my next life.

Whatever happens, I will always have my dreams, my life, and my purpose. These will never change and these are the things I’ll do for the rest of my life, relationship or not. They are the things that will always fulfill me and fill up my life.

Girl in bright light, standing on field

With that, I went back to focusing on my own path and living my life the way I would if I wasn’t concerning myself with love.

Note that here, it wasn’t a case of me thinking that I should just sit back and never do anything about love. Rather, it was about me (1) living my life, and then (2) attracting love, dating, and seeking love as a natural extension of being me / living. Focusing on self first, and then working on attracting the right relationships as I live true to myself (vs. the other way round where I channel my energy into finding love before I start to live my life), is the differentiation I want to make here.

Back to Living My Life

I asked myself what I would want to do if I wasn’t doing this dating thing, and I realized that I wanted to get back to traveling. I love traveling because I get to grow and meet new people.

I hadn’t been to South Africa before, so I booked a one-way ticket there. (I had to later purchase a return ticket because aviation guidelines no longer allow one-way trips to places that aren’t your home country.) Since I was pursuing my path again, I was excited at what was in store next. Life was suddenly beautiful and wonderful again.

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Because of my revelation, I was no longer thinking about love or finding love anymore. I was happy as myself, by myself, living my life to the fullest.

But if you were to ask me, being away in South Africa — nearly 9,000 km / 5,400 miles away from Singapore no less — was honestly the last place on earth I thought I would find love. 

Boy was I wrong. Because as the saying goes, “It’s when you stop looking for love that love comes looking for you.”

Off to Africa

So in March 2013, I flew to South Africa, staying with PE readers Mavis and Lizette.

I enjoyed myself immensely. I had PE meetups while in Joburg and Cape Town, immersed myself in the local culture, attended a local bridal shower and Zimbabwean wedding, hung out with Afrikaans, and visited many local sites. During the trip, I continued working on PE.

Celes stroking a lion cub in Johannesburg, South Africa

Me at The Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa

Celes at Mavis' Wedding in Johannesburg

At PE reader Mavis’ wedding, with the little bridesmaids and groomsmen

Johannesburg PE Readers Meetup, Group Shot

At the Johannesburg PE Readers Meetup (Apr 11, 2013)

Cape Town PE Readers Meetup, Group Shot

At the Cape Town PE Readers Meetup (Apr 21, 2013)

Despite my return ticket on April 24, I did not feel in a hurry to get home. I wanted to just enjoy the moment and see where the tides would take me. If I felt like traveling beyond April 24, I would simply put aside my return ticket and continue traveling; if not, I would return to Singapore. I wasn’t about to let anything stop me from what I needed to do.

The Emergence of Someone from My Past

So two weeks passed.

One night, I was watching TV with one of Mavis’ nieces (one of the rare times I watch TV). As she surfed the TV channels, I took a quick glance at my phone to check my messages.

This was when I saw a message from an unknown number:

Very first message from Ken on Whatsapp

*NUS = National University of Singapore, where I studied in

Ken Soh? I raised my brow and scanned my memory. The cute chairman from NUSSU BizCom? What a surprise!

Ken Soh: An Acquaintance

So, Ken was an acquaintance I met almost a decade ago at a students’ union club, NUSSU BizCom, that I joined randomly in university. We had met no more than two times in this entire period (three if you include an encounter where he didn’t see me at all).

First Meeting: At a Student Club

The first time we met, I had just joined BizCom to accompany my friend and to boost my student profile. That was in 2004. We went to the induction meeting for new members, and Ken was there as the chairman inducting new members. Both of us found him to be charming as he was tall, dark, and handsome, and I was overwhelmed by his presence as I felt inferior about my looks back then. I later found out he was chosen to compete in some campus pageant for men and had won runner-up.

Ken and I exchanged no more than five lines in that entire meeting, in front of the other members no less. I passed him my name card (I was running my graphic design business then) to spread the word about my business.

I met him a few days later at a campus bus stop. He was with a girl whom I presumed was his girlfriend. I didn’t say hi; I assume he wouldn’t remember me since our first meeting was so brief. He never saw me as he boarded the bus.

He later contacted me over email to develop a website for an event, which I did. All our communications were via email and chat — we never contacted each other by phone — and were brief. I left the club soon after. I got busy teaching tuition, studying, running my graphic design business, and being in another school club, and had to triage. I never saw him again.

Second Meeting: 4.5 Years Later, on the Streets

…until 4.5 years later (in 2008), when we were walking on the streets.

At that time I had just quit my day job and was starting PE. This was toward the end of 2008. I was walking in the busy city area to meet my friends for frisbee.

Suddenly, a guy stopped me. “Hi, Celestine, right? I’m Ken Soh — we met in NUS Students’ Union. BizCom. Do you remember me?”

It took me a few seconds to recall because we had met so briefly so long ago. Oh yeah, that cute chairman guy! It’s been a few years but wow he still looks good! I thought. (Looking back this thought seemed juvenile, but this was what went through my head then as a young adult, so I’m retelling it as such.)

I was actually shocked that he remembered me because (a) we had only met once and spoke very briefly, (b) I didn’t think he would remember my face or name from that brief interaction, much less many years later, and (c) he was the popular chairman with many girls around him while I was some nobody in the club.

Like in our first encounter, this was brief. We exchanged only a few lines. Since I had just started PE, and like when we first met in university, I gave him my name card — this time of my personal development business — with my blog URL and number. I didn’t think he would check my blog or stay in touch because that’s how people are. They take your name card, say “Let’s keep in touch,” but never do.

As expected, we really didn’t keep in touch. He never messaged me after that and I never contacted him since I didn’t have his number. Not that there was any reason to do so, since we were two different individuals who happened to bump into each other at two different points in our lives.

I thought that would be the last I would see of him. Until another 4.5 years later (April 2013), when I was touring in South Africa.

Initial Skepticism

So when I saw this message from this guy whom I had only met twice and who had never tried to reach out before, my first thoughts were skeptical at best. I immediately thought,

How did he get my number?

and

Why is he suddenly messaging me?

I guessed he had saved my number from one of the name cards I had given him before, just that he had never reached out.

I didn’t understand why this guy was contacting me out of the blue. I thought maybe he was in some MLM and was trying to sell stuff to me (lol). Maybe he was starting a blog/business and needed my help. Maybe he was thinking of doing coaching and wanted my perspective. Maybe he was messaging a million girls and he was messaging me as one of those girls.

But honestly speaking though, there was nothing wrong with his message. It was genuinely nice and warm. Not only did he bother to check my Facebook page to see what I was doing before messaging me, but he also took note of the fact that I was in Johannesburg and noticed what I just had for dinner. I mean who even does stuff like this nowadays?

(He later told me that he googled how to say “hello” in Afrikaan before messaging me, hence the “sawubona”!)

Pleasantly surprised that he still remembered me and curious as to why he was messaging me, I replied:

My initial message to Ken

Singapore is six hours ahead of South Africa. Since it was 11pm where I was, it was 5am in Singapore.

He responded right after:

Ken's response to me on Whatsapp

I smiled and thought, How rare that a guy would be so open in sharing. It seemed that he was sincere in conversing. Plus, he spoke about my work (referencing my site) and I thought that was sweet. He seemed friendly, sensitive, and without airs, and I liked how the conversation was going.

So I responded:

My response to Ken on Whatsapp

And hence began an open, free-flowing conversation between us.

A Brewing Connection

By the time I was ready to return home on April 24, we had exchanged 12,770 words over Whatsapp. That’s 919 speech bubbles in 16 days, making it an average of 57 bubbles per day. While we initially messaged each other a few times a day, it gradually changed to once every few hours, to every hour, and finally to every few minutes.

I can’t explain why we were messaging so much. For me, I didn’t intend to communicate with anyone back home while I was in Africa. I just wanted to be in the moment and enjoy my trip, which I did. I actually put many friends’ messages on hold while I was in Africa, with the intent to respond once I got back. It would be ironic to be in a different country but spend most of my time buried in my phone, hence losing the whole point of my travel.

However, Ken had this sensitivity and sincerity that made me keen to hear from him and share more about me.

He would read every single one of my messages carefully — even when I was typing large volumes of text — absorb and fully understand all I have said, then respond to them in very sharp detail, something which not everyone can do. People generally either gloss over what you write and give a brief reply or they don’t register everything you have typed because they are simply not that observant.

He always included questions in his responses, which gave me a reason to continue messaging and share about myself. Some people only talk but don’t ask anything, so the conversation ends after a short while.

He would make an effort to know about me, such as asking me what I was doing for the day, checking out my articles, asking me about my work, and asking further questions about whatever topic we were talking about.

He was very kind and caring. He would tell me not to reply whenever I had limited phone credits left. He would tell me to keep myself warm because it was cold in Joburg/Cape Town then. He would also intentionally watch the clock and hold off messaging me until 10+am in South Africa every day because he didn’t want to wake me up with his messages. Who even does that these days??

His caringness also extended toward others. For example, he took time to celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary with them and even treated them to a sumptuous dinner. One time he canceled his appointment because his ex-girlfriend called crying (some personal problem) and he went to meet her to calm her down. Another time he took time off work to send a friend to the hospital (because he stayed near her) and stayed with her until her friends arrived. These are just some of the many caring things about him that I observed.

He was also very reliable. I could always expect his responses within a few hours, if not minutes (usually the latter as we began messaging more frequently). He was a stark contrast from the flippant guys I had met in the past who would leave you wondering when/if they were going to text you. If he ever took longer than usual to reply, he would explain why that was the case (e.g. long meeting, was taking a nap, or was with a friend), even though I never asked nor expected him to do so. Ken was a nice change, a very nice change from what I had come to expect from past dates.

A Strong Emotional Bond, Hampered by My Fears

It was obvious that an emotional bond was brewing (a strong one at that).

Here stands a sensitive, kind, reliable, patient, sweet, and empathetic guy, I thought. If I were to give a score (I don’t rate people, but let’s say if I were to), Ken was easily scoring tops (A+++) in just his emotional quotient alone. His kindness and sensitivity were at a level I had never seen in any other guy before.

Whether this brewing bond was platonic or romantic, I didn’t know. For all I know, he can well be a player, I thought. I also thought he could just be a nice guy who wasn’t interested but was simply being, well, nice.

There were fears which I had to break through and a five-round intensive interrogation Ken had to pass before we could get together.

Proceed to Part 3: Addressing My Inner Demons, where I share the inner resistances I had to break through before I would get together with Ken.

This is part 2 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: Reflection shot, Girl with hair covering face, Bright light)