updated 17 Aug 2013, 09:52
Login password
Sat, Aug 17, 2013
The Straits Times
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
He stood by her when she was depressed

The past year has been particularly trying for Ms Valerie Loh.

In June last year, she was diagnosed with a kidney ailment called minimal change disease.

Although it is not life-threatening, the 27-year-old suffered from medication-induced psychosis and ended up depressed and withdrawn for about six months.

Through it all, her husband, Mr Shang Liang, stood quietly by her.

Ms Loh recalls: "I was so withdrawn that for some reason, I would not speak to him. I would speak only to my parents, so we had to move back to my parents' place."

Mr Shang continued to run his creative coding agency.

Once a month, the only child would travel to Shenyang to visit his father, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at around the same time. He died two months ago.

A grateful Ms Loh says: "He never uttered a word of complaint. He just soldiered on quietly. That just convinced me further that I had married the right man."

She emerged from her depression in December.

"After the experience, I appreciated him more and was less inclined to quarrel with him over small things."

Mr Shang, 32, came from Shenyang in 2000 to study biology at the National University of Singapore on a scholarship from the Ministry of Education.

Although he was one of the few Chinese nationals in his university hostel, he says he and his friends never faced any discrimination.

"My Singaporean friends called me 'Chinaman' but it was out of affection. I was also active in a few hall activities, so I was able to integrate quickly."

He met Ms Loh in October 2006 at an advertising company and they began dating two months later.

Ms Loh, who has a diploma in digital media design, had just joined the company's creative department as an interactive designer.

Mr Shang, who also holds a master's degree in bioinformatics from Nanyang Technological University, was a content engineer.

He had a number of joint projects with her department and so often went over.

She heard about him even before she met him. "All the art directors loved to work with him because they said he could speak very good English and was very good at his work."

They got to know each other better in November 2006, during two company events, when they talked into the wee hours of the morning.

Ms Loh, who had dated three Singaporean men, says: "I didn't have any particular views about men from China. All I knew was that, unlike my previous boyfriends, Shang Liang was not intimidated by my assertive character.

"I was also attracted to his confidence and sense of humour."

On his part, Mr Shang, who became a Singapore citizen in 2007, says he likes assertive women.

"I found Valerie unpretentious and fun to be with," he adds.

In general, he finds Singaporean women "less materialistic, more hardworking and more career-minded" than women from China. He had dated two women from China - one before he came to Singapore and another, matchmade by his mother, after he arrived.

In October 2008, on the rooftop of VivoCity, he passed Ms Loh a box containing a ring. She accepted his proposal and they registered their marriage in June the following year.

But there were some hiccups along the way, mostly caused by prejudice of Ms Loh's friends and family.

"Some of my friends and relatives would ask, 'Can he speak English?' They think everyone from China speaks bad English," says Ms Loh, who communicates with her husband mostly in English.

She recounts one particular incident, in which her relative's face fell after she told her she was dating a man from China.

"She said: 'Come on, Valerie, you can do better than that'."

But she never wavered. "Not for a second," she says. "I have faith that Shang Liang is a good man who will take care of me through thick and thin, and he has proven himself."

While her parents did not mind his nationality, they were naturally protective of their only daughter - Ms Loh has a younger brother - and were initially cool towards Mr Shang.

"He was the first boyfriend I brought home. When he first visited my place, they did not talk to him."

But before he left, he told her: "Don't worry, I will make your parents like me." And he did win them over eventually.

"He would initiate conversation with them and try to make them talk to him. He even developed a taste for drinking soups, which was something new to him, but a common practice for us Cantonese."

The couple, who live in a three-room HDB flat in Queenstown, want to try for a baby in a year or two.

Ms Loh, who is helping her husband in his company, explains: "My kidney condition is stable, but I am still on medication.

My doctor has advised me to wait for a while before having children."

The couple have no plans to move to China.

Says Mr Shang: "Even if I didn't get married, I would still prefer to live in Singapore because it is much cleaner and safer. It is also more conducive for creative work."

But he would make sure his children speak Mandarin well and have a good grasp of Chinese history and culture.

"They are Chinese after all. If they do not have a sense of their own history and culture, they would be laughed at by others."



<< Back >> Next



more: couple, dating
readers' comments

Copyright © 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.