Relationship With An Expiry Date
While there are many stories online about dealing with falling out of love and coping with break-ups, my last relationship wasn’t anything like that at all. Instead, I agreed to get into a relationship with an expiry date, knowing that it would eventually end some day.
Three years ago, I met a boy at a university orientation camp. I guess you could say it was your typical uni love story: I was his group leader and he was my orientation group freshie. However, I had a lot of reservations entering this relationship because of our different races. I’m Chinese and he’s Malay, and both of our parents did not approve of mixed-race couples. In the end, we decided to embark on a relationship, while keeping it a secret from our families.
We were together for 2 years. In that time, being in a relationship with an expiry date taught me many things. Even though not many couples might be able to relate to this same situation, seeing your relationship the same way that I did might open your eyes to appreciate the best parts of being in love.
1. You need not follow the “Singaporean” timeline
My ex-boyfriend and I at the start of our relationship 2 years ago
The beauty about being in a relationship with an expiry date is that you’re not constantly weighed down by the future—it’s always about the here and now. There’s a certain expectation placed on Singaporean women to get married, settle down and have kids by 30. I felt this toxic pressure from both my family and friends, especially from people who told me I was wasting my time dating this boy when I should be finding someone to settle down with.
However, I realised that wanting to conform to society’s expectations was a selfish excuse to break up with someone. Life isn’t a competition with a fixed timeline. We should do things at our own pace, regardless of what others around us might be doing.
2. Having differences doesn’t mean someone has to change
During the 2 years that we were together, my ex-boyfriend never once brought up our different races and religions, let alone pressured me into converting. Even though we knew that this was the main reason for our relationship eventually coming to an end, we respected that we were different, and that was it.
Interestingly, it was our mutual friends who were the ones pressuring me to convert in an attempt to “help” us make this relationship last. It wasn’t as if we were pretending this problem didn’t exist. We were simply happy with what we had and didn’t see a need to put ourselves through torment and stress to find the “right” solution.
Sometimes, you just can’t force certain things. It may be hard to accept how different someone is from you. But, as long as you can learn to let go of your expectations and see your partner for who they genuinely are, that’s the first step to becoming a better lover as well.
3. A good relationship can help you cultivate self-sufficiency
I think the best things in life aren’t meant to last forever. All things eventually come to an end, even in friendships, but we still move on with our lives. My relationship still holds value to me even though it was bound to end.
Going on a solo date to Sushi Express
My ex-boyfriend taught me many valuable lessons, one of them being independence. I used to be afraid of being alone and would always rely on other people. He taught me to be strong, to love myself and encouraged me to go on self-care dates alone. Today, going on solo dates is something I love doing, even after we broke up. Though this might not seem like much to most people, before I met him, I never thought I would’ve been able to do this.
Appreciate the littlest things and lessons that make you happy in your relationship; don’t overlook their importance. To me, it didn’t matter if we were together for 10 years or 2 months. Even if it wasn’t meant to last, I still got to learn and grow as a person.
4. Wishing your problems away is a waste of precious time
A few months into my relationship, I resented my family for not being able to accept our relationship. I was constantly filled with thoughts like, “what if they were more understanding?” or “what if I didn’t agree to this relationship in the first place, would I have been happier?”
Even though he had similar doubts, my ex-boyfriend comforted me, telling me that there’s no such thing as a smooth-sailing relationship without any problems. Though these problems may differ with each couple, we have to learn how to make the most of our situation and handle them with no regrets.
Rather than thinking about decisions that could possibly make you happier, focus on how you can make yourself happier right now with what you have.
5. It’s okay to keep your relationship off social media
The last page of the book my ex bought for me
As someone who’s addicted to social media, I used to feel upset because I couldn’t upload couple pictures online in fear that my family would find out about our relationship. It got to the point where I would get annoyed seeing my friends’ couple pictures on Instagram. I knew I shouldn’t let other people’s online experiences affect how I feel, but comparison truly is the thief of joy.
One of the most memorable gifts my ex gave me was a book he bought for my birthday, “The Travelling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa. It’s a story about a cat and an owner who loves it very dearly, but their time together was limited as the owner had cancer. It was somehow similar to the limited time of our relationship too.
On the last page of the book, my ex-boyfriend wrote a note saying, “The future awaits, promising but uncertainty prevails. What matters the most is the moments we shared and the experiences we gave each other. Both the bleak and the great”.
This small yet meaningful gift made me realise that in this time of mass social media consumption, we’re obsessed with comparing ourselves to other people’s public lives. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with loving privately and secretly. Your partner isn’t neglecting you or loving you any less.
6. Treat time together as a finite resource
Our very last date at S.E.A Aquarium
When you cherish every date like it’s your last, every moment becomes much more memorable. I went into every date not knowing if we might get another, so there was a stronger need to enjoy it more.
I even made a notebook to record the highlights of my dates and my feelings so that I wouldn’t forget the days we’ve spent together. Even after we’ve broken up, it’s still fond for me to look back and treasure the memories in my notebook.
7. When it’s time to part, be grateful and let go gently
We don’t get to hold onto everything and everyone we love in our life forever. When it was time for me to finally let go, I found myself wishing for more time. Though we didn’t set a fixed date to end our relationship, it ended in December 2020 because I was graduating from university and couldn’t see how I could continue to hide the relationship from my parents any further.
There was no big argument, nor was it a bad break-up. For me, it was just soft whispers of heartbreak and the last bits of time slipping through my fingers—a mutual reminder of the agreement we made 2 years ago. Learning to appreciate and let go gently has forced me to reflect on how much we’ve matured. I’ve had no regrets appreciating my ex-boyfriend for everything he’s worth while I still had him.
Even now, I still haven’t lost him. He’s in my life as a friend, and someone who has shown me the purest form of love I’ve ever experienced.
Being In A Relationship With An Expiry Date Showed Me That The Best Things Don’t Have To Last Forever
My ex-boyfriend and I remain good friends now, though it’s still very bittersweet. While I’m still learning to let go, I’m glad it happened. If I had to choose whether to do it all over again knowing that the outcome would be the same, I would. My perception of love evolved when I realised that we can all learn to love a bit more even in moments of fleeting love, cherishing every moment like it’s your last.
Through my experience, I hope that couples out there can learn to go through their relationship as if there’s a potential expiry date as well. It might sound crazy, since most people get into a relationship with the intention of having to commit forever. However, I can promise you that you’ll be able to realise that the best things in life aren’t measured by their longevity, but by their earnesty.