Would you have survived a long-distance relationship in the ’90s? This S’porean couple did.
All you need is love.
Leaving Singapore to study in a foreign country can be tough, let alone being far away from home without the ease of technology as we know it today.
That was what Kem Wong Hung Kin and Katherine Teng had to go through when they met overseas in 1995 at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), Australia.
An initial encounter, a coincidental pairing
The two first met when Katherine was a Year 2 business student.
The sophomore had first noticed Hung Kin, a then-freshman studying IT, looking through notices posted on the board outside the campus library.
She didn’t give much thought about the encounter or Hung Kin himself, but rather, it was the activities held by their university’s Inter-Cultural Club that set them on their path to romance.
A short trip organised by the club saw the two coincidentally paired up in an ice-breaker game known as “secret admirer”.
As per the rules of the game, Hung Kin would reveal his identity to Katherine at the end of the trip, and gave her a rather apt gift — a KitKat, which was, of course, an intended play on the name Katherine.
And since a KitKat was a bonded pair of chocolate wafers.
Going the distance
Other club activities, such as weekly movie nights held at the university’s auditorium gave them more time to speak to each other and gradually convinced Hung Kin that Katherine was who he was looking for in a wife.
Hung Kin’s attempts to pursue her didn’t quite work out initially, however.
To make matters more untimely, in the same year Katherine would have graduated and moved back to Singapore, Hung Kin was to be transferred to the University of Queensland in 1996.
The courtship process went long-distance.
But Hung Kin never gave up. He started making inter-state calls occasionally during the holidays as they were cheaper.
The pair turned towards email when Katherine returned to Singapore, avoiding exorbitant phone bills at that time.
Despite the distance, the two eventually became a couple officially in 1998 when Hung Kin returned to Singapore, and they got married at the end of 1999.
Quite a feat, given that physical separation and the lack of regular contact are common challenges that many couples face in keeping their relationship strong.
The couple saw this period of time as a vital formative process of their relationship,
with Hung Kin’s empathy and willingness to listen to her being what won her over.
Hung Kin said:
If time was reversed, and we don’t have to go through a long-distance courtship, would it be better or worse? If we both were in Singapore, studied in a local university and our courtship took place here, we’d just never appreciate the distance.
Communication and commitment
Even as a married couple, the two still have their disagreements, ranging from family matters and even the way clothes are hung (the latter being of much frustration to Hung Kin who was just trying to help).
Something that kept the couple going through the years was their openness to communicate with each other, with Hung Kin letting his wife vent and communicate her frustrations to him, helping both parties to resolve their disagreements.
Katherine: There will be disagreements, so sometimes I will just vent it out, and he’ll just listen [laughs] but sometimes if the situation is not appropriate, I’ll just keep it to myself first, I’ll wait for a suitable opportunity to vent it out. Because you need to communicate and let each other know what you’re happy or unhappy about.
Besides communication, the pair felt strongly that commitment is key for couples to support each other through the up-and-downs in their relationship.
Hung Kin: If no one puts in the commitment, there is no use even if you’re seeing each other.
Katherine: It takes two hands to clap. You cannot have one person giving and the other one is always on the receiving end. It can be very tiring, but you need to really have both sides commit to each other.
Inspired by their story? For more marriage tips and articles on stories like theirs, you can check out the Families for Life website, to find out more about how you can take your relationship to a better level.
The Families for Life Council will also be hosting an I Still Do Couples’ Picnic on March 16 at Empress Lawn, Civic District. It is an event to celebrate couples from all walks of life and an opportunity for couples to spend quality time together.
Various activities such as live music performances, DIY flower bouquet-making, a love renewal activity and a movie screening under the stars will bring you and your significant other together for an evening full of romance and fun.
There will also be a lucky draw where couples can win a 2D1N staycation at M Social Singapore, so it just might be a great date idea that you and your partner are looking for.
This article is brought to you by the Families for Life Council, which reminds this author that there’s a reason to believe in love and commitment.
Top image via Families for Life Council’s Facebook video