The Different Types of Love: Wu Jiezhen & Jared Kong
In this series, we explore the different forms and facets of love that exist in this world. Some may be more straightforward, while others can’t be easily defined. But love holds no boundaries and the celebration of the human heart should be captured with richness, colour and dimension.
Wu Jiezhen, 29, Social Entrepreneur & Jared Kong, 30, Legal Counsel
What is it that first attracted you to her?
JARED: It was a combination of her eyes, her smile and her presence. She brings a lot of light when she enters a room.
Tell me about your first date.
JIEZHEN: When was our first date? It’s questionable [laughs]. What would you consider a date?
It’s up to you to define it.
JARED: We met in December while we were both on university break–I was still studying in Australia at the time, and my schoolmate who went to law school with me, was her tennis teammate in VJC. The first time we kinda hit it off was at Orgo. Then we went to Zouk and Orchard Towers for the after-party.
JIEZHEN: We started hanging out by accident. Our first proper conversation was when we were planning Claire’s birthday (a mutual friend of ours). Subsequently, we were both the only ones who showed up on time at Orgo.
JARED: Everyone was late. When she walked in, I thought: Cool, I can have a one-on-one with her. And we ended up chatting for quite a while. I don’t know if it was intentional that everyone was so late… I guess the stars aligned.
JIEZHEN: That was like our unofficial date. We still go back there to celebrate once in a while. It wasn’t until later that we actually started dating.
JARED: I never really asked her out on an official date…
JIEZHEN: We went for tea at Serangoon Gardens in the middle of the night.
JARED: I think that was our first date. I asked her to meet me at Serangoon Gardens because it was near my parents’ place. She drove over, we hung out at the playground and then went for tea at this café called Chillax.
JIEZHEN: I don’t think I have told anyone how I was very scared of commitment and I couldn’t call anyone my ‘boyfriend’. So for two years, we were just hanging out.
JARED: Yeah, and we were living apart as well. She was in the States while I was in Australia. I was in my third year of university and she was a sophomore. Chronologically, I met her at the end of 2010. In January 2011, the night at Orgo was when the sparks flew. After that, we went back to school, but we stayed in touch.
So you chatted every day?
JARED: Almost daily. I got a blackberry because she was on BBM, so I decided to try it out. We went about our own lives but we felt very connected even though we were apart.
JIEZHEN: We were just chatting; it wasn’t like we were professing our love for each other.
It was very organic.
JARED: Yeah, we had a really good friendship.
JIEZHEN: And connection. We didn’t think much about it or to label what we had. I remember our time zones were completely flipped. I would be in class, while he would be out partying. We were both also pretty involved in school, so it was really cool to live vicariously through each other’s lives.
JARED: Because of the time difference, I didn’t have to carve out time from my day to talk to her. When I was about to go to bed, her day would start.
JIEZHEN: When we did long-distance for 2 and a half years, Jared would say that it doesn’t get easier, but you just learn how to manage it better. So we got really good at it.
JARED: Yeah, I would have two clocks on my phone.
When did you start your long-distance relationship?
JARED: We only got together in June 2012, and that was the start of our proper long-distance relationship. But we already had one and a half years of skyping and chatting.
JIEZHEN: We have multiple milestones/anniversaries in our relationship.
JARED: I never asked her to be my girlfriend, officially.
JIEZHEN: Jared also knew that I never liked the whole ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ label. Deep down, I think I was just scared of commitment.
JARED: I didn’t want to put a label for the fear that she might push me away.
JIEZHEN: But that summer of 2012, he started to send me these ‘I <3 you’ messages, with a heart emoji.
When was the first time he really said “I love you”?
JARED: When she nearly got into a motorbike accident.
JIEZHEN: I was teaching in a rural village in Bali that summer and I was riding behind my friends. There was a giant pothole and they skidded and got injured badly. If I hadn’t stopped in time, I would have crashed into them. But just knowing that I could have possibly died in that moment, made me realise life is too short not to spend it loving.
JARED It was 4am in the middle of the night when she called me. I was standing outside an Irish pub in Canberra and I asked her, ‘Are you okay?’ That’s when I also said, ‘I love you and I don’t know what I would do if something were to happen to you.’
JIEZHEN: I said it back.
JARED: Somehow even though it was a very harrowing and traumatic experience, it brought us much closer. From then on, our relationship really crystallised and grew from there—we did the long-distance all the way until she graduated and moved back to Singapore in 2014.
What’s the most romantic thing that you have done for each other?
JIEZHEN: For me, it’s the little things. Sometimes I would come home from work utterly exhausted. After dinner, he would wash the dishes and give me a head massage without even asking. Another example is I’m really bad at packing and I don’t like it… plus I travel quite a fair bit.
JARED: I remember one time I was in the car with my parents and she called me in tears saying, ‘I don’t want to pack.’ So I went over to help her pack.
JIEZHEN: The most important thing is knowing that Jared always has my back whether it is small or big. He has been there for my TED Talks, work events…
JARED: Or regular Hidden Good stuff. I try to make it to everything.
JIEZHEN: Even writing my parking summon appeal this week [laughs]. When we were doing long-distance and I was living in San Francisco, there was a period when we weren’t sure if we wanted to continue our relationship. But he bought a plane ticket so that I could go to Australia to figure things out. We were in school back then and buying a plane ticket across the world was a big sum of money.
JARED: That was an important trip. Our love languages were something that we discovered too. For me, I love quality time and physical touch. Jiezhen likes words of affirmation. Gifts rank very low for both of us. Recently, one of the more romantic things that she did for me was when she left me a note.
JIEZHEN: Aww! You thought that was romantic?
JARED: Yes. I don’t count the most or least romantic things, but it was a really nice thing that she did. She was flying off to the US for three weeks that night, while I was busy organising ZoukOut. It was a stressful time for me. But she came to ZoukOut for a few hours just to be with me and then left for the airport. I worked 36 hours that day and was exhausted. When I came back to the hotel room and saw a handwritten note, it just meant so much to me.
JIEZHEN: I wrote: I am so proud of you. Please pass the key to my mum. [laughs] Oh, I think one of the most romantic things that Jared does is he buys into all my hare-brained ideas.
JARED: Like let’s collect flowers from weddings [laughs].
I feel that the people who love you the most would indulge in your ideas. No matter how crazy it is, they would still entertain it.
JARED: She always says that I am biased towards her, but I can’t help it.
So I have seen photos of both of you holding a sheep plush toy. What’s the story behind that?
JIEZHEN: We were driving around New Zealand in a campervan, and decided to fly to Milford Sound for a day. At the airport, on our return flight, there was a toy store. So we decided to commemorate the wonderful day and the fact that we just got engaged by getting Millie, a baby sheep soft toy. You know sometimes you buy random toys and you forget about it because it is lying somewhere in your home? But I have brought Millie to every country that I have been to for the last 2 and a half years.
JARED: Millie has become our little mascot.
JIEZHEN: And she has her own hashtag called #milfordsadventures on Instagram. I even tied Millie to my wedding bouquet. No one saw it, but she was under the orchids. I was holding Millie the entire time.
Oh my goodness.
JIEZHEN: Do you want to meet Millie?
JIEZHEN: I am not a weird person who thinks that the toy has a life, okay? It’s nothing like that. We got Millie right after we proposed to each other, so it is significant to us. We just like to have fun with random things.
How are you similar and different from each other?
JIEZHEN: We have the same MBTI type, but we are very different. We love people.
JARED: We get a lot of our energy from people…
JIEZHEN: And bringing people together is something that gives us a lot of joy. When we got our apartment, we started organising “Soup Stories” dinners where I would randomly invite 8 people over. Most of the time, I don’t know who is coming to my house as a friend brings another friend. Our wedding was the best party ever—not because of the food, or the music, or the location—but it was an opportunity to bring the people we love the most in our lives together.
JARED: You can’t put a price tag on a vibe, and every single person that we wanted at our wedding turned up.
JIEZHEN: Yeah, but at the same time, we are different in the way we function and operate. Jared is really good at logistics and planning. He does pretty well with routine and likes to know what is going to happen, whereas for me, I’m more free-spirited… over there is a bird and a branch [points] and that’s kinda like how our relationship is. Jared is very much the branch and the tree—that rootedness and groundedness. And I’m the bird—I love the autonomy and freedom to be who I am—and to fly. At the end the day, there’s a branch that I can always come back to, and the branch knows that the bird will build its nest there. This is a representation of our symbiotic relationship. We have shared values, but despite our differences, we know that we are better together than we are apart.
What are some examples of your shared values?
JARED: Family is very important for us. I am very happy and proud that both our parents get along really well with each other. It’s not by accident, and it comes back to the values. Jiezhen was raised with a lot of love, communication, integrity and has a strong family spirit, which very much mirrored my upbringing too.
JIEZHEN: Our parents believe that it’s more important to raise good people than to achieve career success.
JARED: Kindness to others, service, empathy, compassion…
JIEZHEN: We also value relationships. The last line of our wedding vows is ‘to be a light for each other and the world around us’. That is also built into my work as well. Personally, we choose to be good to each other and to the people around us, and to choose love.
How has she changed over the years?
JARED: I think she has become more resolute in terms of what she wants in life. In the past, she could do an infinite number of things, but now that we are married and have common goals as a couple, she is more focused and intentional. She also has come into her own strength and power because for a while, she used to feel like she was a bit of an outlier…
JIEZHEN: Yeah, I’ve always felt different.
JARED: She’s really come into her own being and recognises that the things that make her different, also make her who she is.
How does he inspire you?
JIEZHEN: So many ways. Jared is super committed towards his work, hobbies like DJing, family and even friends. You can always count on him and he always has your back. He is very patient with people and has taught me how to more patient. I tend to want things now and I love making things happen, but I have learnt from him that good things take time, which makes me more grounded. He’s really giving without expecting anything in return and has such a big heart. His strong sense of justice has also taught me to be a better person—for example, not to back down when things are not right. Sometimes when I am on the fence about doing something like my honours thesis or joining The Hidden Good or applying for programmes where I’m super underqualified and underage, he would always push me to do it—and to be the best version of myself.
JARED: Likewise, she does the same for me. When I see her do all the work that she has done, it inevitably inspires me to think: Am I doing good in other people’s lives? Am I making this world a better place? Am I leaving a situation better or worse off?
JIEZHEN: We always have these talks at night and sometimes we would stay up just to chat. Being married is like having a sleepover with your best friend for the rest of your life [laughs]. So we would talk about what happened during the day, good and bad things, challenging things… I find a lot of inspiration in those moments as well. There are times when you need a reality check, or a hug, or you just need to sleep.
JARED: Yeah, and sometimes you need to be given your own space as well. I’m learning that I don’t need to fix everything.
JIEZHEN: Jared always wants to help. His goal in life is to be helpful [laughs].
JARED: That’s true. If I can help a situation, I will try my best, but at the same time, trying to help might make the situation worse. I’m also learning that there are times when Jiezhen just needs some space to rant.
Is there something that you don’t fully understand about each other?
JIEZHEN: What I like about our relationship is that I’m always discovering new things about him. Sometimes he would tell me a story from his childhood, and it gives me a better understanding of why he does this or that. Jared’s parents have been married for 36 years and they always tell us that marriage is like a journey. To be honest, I didn’t want to get married initially because I thought marriage was an institution. Why do we need to have this social construct? But my perception changed after being with Jared and seeing how his parents are—because ultimately, marriage is what we make it out to be. His parents once said to us, “The person you marry is not going to stay the same. As people evolve, their needs change and even the way they see the world. You can’t expect the person not to change, but know that you can grow together.”
JARED: There is also love being a choice. And you choose to love the person for who they are and the person they are yet to be.
JIEZHEN: And understanding who they are as they evolve.
JARED: Actually before we got engaged, we went for marriage prep. It is a requirement if you want to get married in the Catholic Church, so it is either a weekend retreat facilitated by couples who are married for 15 to 20 years or a 6-week marriage preparation course. Although she’s not Catholic, she was the one who brought it up.
JIEZHEN: Yeah, because I thought it would be a good way to discern whether we should take the next step rather than just jumping into it.
JARED: The weekend retreat was called Engaged Encounter and we talked about everything that would come up in a marriage from in-laws to financial matters and even infidelity.
JIEZHEN: The most interesting thing was thinking about the values you grew up with and the values that you want to bring into the family.
JARED: There was a lot of dialogue and writing to each other. And learning how to ask for forgiveness instead of saying sorry. There’s a distinction because when you say ‘sorry’, you don’t close the loop. It was a really powerful experience and after that, I was certain that she was the woman I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with.
How about an area where you think your relationship needs the most improvement?
JARED: Being more spontaneous. I can really get into a routine and it sounds counter-intuitive, but you can’t plan to be spontaneous.
You either are or you’re not.
JARED: Yeah, it’s a way of being rather than a means of doing. If my way being is to be more spontaneous, then it will translate into my actions. We shouldn’t plan to go on a date, we should just go.
JIEZHEN: We do this thing called “Igloo time” once a month, where we would sit under the covers and talk about what’s going well in our relationship and what we can do better.
JARED: It’s like a monthly check-in.
JIEZHEN: I think you need to do stuff like that when you are not angry or upset or distracted. There are always areas you can work on, and it could be stupid things like Jared, can you not fold my clothes this way? I want you to fold it Marie Kondo-style [laughs]. Or like, can you not put my yoga pants in the dryer? It could also be bigger things like, hey, you said that you were going to do this. We always get very excited about ideas, but it’s also about making sure that we are accountable for the things we want to do.
JARED: And we end off by asking: What are we grateful for? And what do we appreciate about each other? I think more people should be grateful for the things that they have or the people in their lives. It’s so easy to compare or complain about what’s going.
Do you recall the most vulnerable moment in your relationship?
JIEZHEN: We have so many. We cry a lot, right?
JARED: The most difficult part was dating long distance and it took a lot out of us.
JIEZHEN: We have been back for 4.5 years and married for a year and a half, but we never take for granted spending time with each other because we know what it’s like to be apart. I think in any relationship, you need that willingness to be vulnerable. I knew I wanted to marry Jared when I could simply be myself when I’m around him and share the things I love about myself, the things I don’t like about myself, the things I try to hide sometimes… and to bear it all knowing that I won’t be judged and still be loved no matter the good, the bad and everything in between.
JARED: Spending so much time apart, and then coming back to Singapore was also a transition for us. Is it going to work in real-life? Did we make this up to be something more than it was? Everything gets exponentially amplified by distance. I knew I needed to be vulnerable around her and let her see all sides of me.
JIEZHEN: When you are dating, you want to put your best foot forward. But when people learn to love you for who you authentically are, that’s true love. In the past, I used to be so self-conscious of my retainers or wearing glasses, but he loves my retainers.
JARED: Yeah, I think it’s cute [laughs].
What is one behaviour that you never tolerate in your marriage?
JARED: I feel the same way, because we have so much openness and trust with each other.
JIEZHEN: At the end of the day, good relationships (whether it is romantic, friendship, family, or work) bring out the best in you and at times, help you to see what you can’t see in yourself.