Relationships

When Coffee met Bagel: Find a man who also loves the people around you, says Seets of her boyfriend Ian

by Joanne Kwok // February 14, 2020, 3:42 pm

Vday - Ian and Seets - featured

Dating apps, bad reps? This Valentine’s Day, 3 couples tell us how they eventually found their match through popular dating app Coffee Meets Bagel (CMB). 

What about each other’s profile worked – or didn’t? How did the initial conversations go? Who showed up for the first date out of obligation?

This edition features lovebirds Ian Ng, 27, and Chan See Ting (Seets), 27, who have been officially dating for 5 months and were recently featured on our stories “What it takes to love a girl with cancer” and “How is God still good if I have breast cancer at 26?” respectively.

1. How did you initially feel about app-dating, and did you expect to meet someone through CMB?

Ian: To be honest, I had low expectations of the app. It’s not that I didn’t believe it could work for me; I just wasn’t looking for a partner as I had ended a relationship some months back and was still in the healing process.

Downloading CMB was a way to take my mind off things. That being said, I did believe that chemistry and connection could transcend the medium, so finding love was not out of the question.

As someone quite guarded and conscious of my reputation as the “good Christian boy” at that time, I was initially worried that people might see me in a different way if they found out I was on a dating app. What if I matched with someone I knew? Would it be awkward? Would word spread?

So to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much other than friendship! In that way, the profiles that stood out to me were those that seemed interesting, which meant we could have things to talk about. So it wasn’t a case of “is this girl ‘wife material’ or not?”, but rather “can we have good conversations?”.

It wasn’t a case of “is this girl ‘wife material’ or not?”, but rather, “can we have good conversations?”

Seets: Frankly, I gave CMB a shot more out of scepticism than hope. I didn’t think online dating was going to work for me because I always believed in being friends first, and online dating felt like people were constantly putting their best foot forward and wanting to impress.

I tried it initially in 2017, but gave up after a while because I wasn’t getting good matches and was tired of making small talk. However, after seeing some friends finding quality partners via CMB, I thought perhaps I could give it another shot.

The good and bad thing about online dating is that one’s sense of responsibility to take care of the relationship is low – you have free reign, but it also encourages ghosting.

I definitely did not expect to meet someone like Ian. He’s not even my usual “type”. He’s a super good boy, and I’m not the typical “good Christian girl”! Honestly, until now, there are times I still feel very undeserving of someone like him.

2. How long did it take before you both matched, and what won your vote?

Ian: Seets was my first match! I thought she was a very well-balanced girl – nice mix of friends, food and quirkiness based on the photos. She seemed to write well, but not pretentiously. Alignment in our faith was a key factor.

Another key factor was that she looked really cute. 🙂

Seets: I was back on the app for a couple of weeks last year before matching with him. I remember I was totally not impressed with his bio.

It went something like “I am a disciple of Christ, son to my parents, a friend to others. I would appreciate if my date desires to grow deeper in her faith.” I mean, how much more “Christiany” can this dude get, right? Overall, his profile felt slightly lame and pretentious.

But I paused at his profile for a long time and was talking to God about it. I had matched with guys who had really interesting profiles but didn’t seem to take the faith seriously, and conversations just died after a while.

If this man was who he was making himself out to be, I thought, we can be good friends, which is what I believe to be the foundation of a good relationship.

And so I took a gamble – I mean, no loss anyway, don’t like can just stop talking mah – and thank God I did.

3. Why did you decide to meet up? What were your first impressions of each other in real life? 

Ian: I think we spoke over text for about two months before meeting up. For me, the conversation came naturally, and I saw us having a good catch-up face-to-face at some point. She was going through a tough season on her end, so it wasn’t ideal for meeting up.

We kept the conversation going over text, but at some point, I felt like she was losing interest. I felt like I had to meet her at least once. Thankfully, we were finally able to settle on a date and time – although I found out later that it was agreed on out of obligation. Sad. 😢

I loved that she had such a real and life-giving faith, and I really wanted to meet her again, again and again.

I was slightly worried if I would be awkward around her in real life or that she’d be taller than what was stated on her CMB profile. When we met, she wasn’t taller than expected, but she did greet me with an unrequited side-hug that made things a bit awkward initially.

On a more serious note though, after meeting, I thought that Seets was an amazing person. Passionate, articulate, God-fearing… I loved that she had such a real and life-giving faith, and I really wanted to meet her again, again and again.

Seets: We were chatting for a couple of weeks already, but the day before we were supposed to meet, my dad passed away, so we put a rain check on our meeting. Ian was really patient and understanding throughout my initial stage of grieving — he really just showed love like a friend and gave me lots of space.

I thought our conversation would just die after I left for a short trip to decompress, but when I came back he picked it up again and asked if I would still like to meet. I said yes, partly because I felt obliged to, but mostly because I was grateful that this whole time he had just been so giving towards me – someone technically still a stranger to him.

I decided to have a “3-meetup” rule: I would only make a more decisive stand after three meetings, just in case he needed time to warm up.

I was nervous because I didn’t know if he expected anything out of our meeting, and I worried that it might be awkward because he sounded really formal over text the whole time. Was I going to scare him off with my candidness?

When later asked by a friend the highlight of our meeting was, the only thing I could say was “he’s better looking in person”. Haha! Partly because he used outdated photos for his profile, and mostly because he’s quite guarded as a person. Besides “nice”, I had nothing else to say.

I was honestly quite on the fence about meeting him again, but I felt the Spirit prompting me to give him another chance. I also decided to have a “3-meetup” rule: I would only make a more decisive stand after three meetings, just in case he needed time to warm up.

4. What sealed the subsequent dates? At which point did you know that you had found a potential life partner? 

Ian: That’s a tough one… persistence on my end, perhaps? I wasn’t sure if Seets wanted a second date, to be honest. The second time we met, it was a surprise visit to her workplace after a lecture she gave. The third time was after I came back from a work trip. But by then, it was quite clear to me that the attraction was mutual.

Seets is someone brave yet vulnerable; someone who carries both strength and gentleness in her spirit. She fights for what she believes in and still demonstrates grace in her actions towards all.

After our first meeting, I asked myself the question: “Why not consider her as a life partner?” And after our subsequent dates, I grew more and more convinced.

After our first meeting, I asked myself the question: “Why not consider her as a life partner?”

Seets: Ian was really intentional and consistent in showing his interest. Initially, I questioned if I was chatting with him because I enjoyed the attention or because I genuinely was interested in him as well. That took me some time to figure out.

I really appreciated how he was upfront about his intentions – many men that I’ve crossed paths with tend to “test water” and choose to be ambiguous about things.

But from the onset, Ian never shunned responsibility for his growing affections, even though I had not outrightly expressed mine. I was really quite impressed with how forthcoming he was despite the risk of rejection.

About a month after we started going out, he asked me how I would like to involve my mother in this dating process. I was completely shocked because, firstly, at that point in time, I had a very strained relationship with my mother.

Secondly, I didn’t think he would want to involve my family so early on – before we had even defined-the-relationship (DTR). But he said that he strongly believed in honouring our parents and, that given that courtship is a serious thing, my mum would definitely want to have a say in it.

Find a man who doesn’t just love you, but also loves the people around you.

I felt really uncomfortable about it, though at the same time pleasantly surprised by his gesture. Later that night he gave me a call and asked if he could pray for my mum, whom he believed was still greatly grieved by my dad’s passing.

I found myself crying because I was so touched that he had already made the conscious choice to love my mother. After that prayer, I told him I loved him for the first time.

Till today, Ian continues to love my mum in ways that I’ve not known. In fact, he is one of the main reasons that my relationship with her is much better now. He constantly reaches out to her and is extremely patient with her; he never tells me what to do. But over time, as I watch him love her, I too have learnt how to do a better job at loving her.

Find a man who doesn’t just love you, but also loves the people around you.

5. Looking back, how do you feel about using app-dating now? How did faith that God will send a partner reconcile with using an app to find one?

Ian: Admittedly, there is some ambiguity involved when interacting with a near-stranger through a screen. At the same time, there are also times where we have trusted people whom we know and they end up disappointing us. Beneath every surface, no matter how pleasant, lies a side that not many will know about – and that will only reveal itself through time and testing.  

Hence, I would say that it is less about the medium that we use to explore relationships. Instead of asking “should I be using CMB or not?”, it might be better to ask ourselves “what is my attitude towards dating and getting to know someone?”. Also, “do I have the right safeguards in place to protect my body and heart?”.

Instead of asking “should I be using CMB or not?”, it might be better to ask ourselves “what is my attitude towards dating and getting to know someone?”

The question of faith and online dating essentially applies to everything about life. How can I trust that God will provide for my every need? Does action on our end imply a lack of faith in God? I would think not.

Scripture clearly states the need for diligence alongside faith in Jehovah Jireh. This suggests that it is less about our works, but our attitudes toward our works – in whom does our confidence lie?

We could be using dating apps, we could be joining new interest groups in church, or we could be reconnecting with old friends… I do not think there is anything wrong with being active in exploring or opening ourselves to others.

The fact that we seek a relationship emphasises its importance to us, and there is no shame or “paisehness” in seeking! Indeed, we were created for communion and relationship with both God and man.

The key, though, is to recognise that God is a good God and a big God. He desires good outcomes for us – even though the process seems daunting and unfamiliar. He is also bigger than our mistakes, missteps and our hurts.

Through the process of dating and getting to know someone over an app, we might hurt others or end up getting hurt. But know that God is bigger than all these, and that He is able to restore what has been broken or taken away. So, let’s pray for the wisdom to tread this journey in alignment with His will.

Seets: Some of my friends who were initially adamant that they would not be using apps have started using CMB, citing our relationship as an inspiration for them to do so.

There could be quite an array of reasons — some might just really feel that it’s not for them, others may reject the idea out of a fear of rejection… But I would say there’s really no harm trying. Never try never know, right?

If after trying and they still feel that it’s really not for them, they can choose to quit any time. But at least give it a chance, and give themselves a chance.

Are you doing it out of a fear of loneliness? Or chasing after a relationship because it’s “time to settle down”?

I’m going to quote James 2:17: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

God isn’t gonna drop your wife or husband out of the sky into your lap if you decide to lock yourself at home all day. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go on an online-matching rampage. I’m saying one should keep an open mind, but with discernment and care.

The funny thing is Ian and I actually talked about this in one of our earliest conversations, and we both believe that it is a lot less about the doing than one’s heart posture.

Are you doing it out of a fear of loneliness? Or chasing after a relationship because it’s “time to settle down”? Being clear on your intention is most crucial, and as long as it is of healthy intentions, by all means, give app-dating a shot!

For more “When Coffee met Bagel” journeys, check out the stories of Ghim Hwee & Diane and Zhao Qi & Jovina.

When Coffee met Bagel: Diane and Ghims on redemptive love and that 7-hour first date

When Coffee met Bagel: We understood each other’s passion and pain, say Zhao Qi and Jovina

THINK + TALK

  1. What are a few must-have qualities in a life partner for you? What about deal-breakers or must-not-haves?
  2. Do you have faith that God can send the best partner for you? 
  3. How can you partner with Him in your journey of finding a match – online dating or otherwise?
About the author

Joanne Kwok

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.