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Love Actually: Vanessa Liok and Henry The

In the second of our four-part series on how to keep romance alive, Vanessa Liok who is a homemaker, and Henry The, a businessman, tell us the secret to their successful marriage.

Love romance Vanessa Liok Henry The Valentine's Day
(Photo: Henry The and Vanessa Liok)

Married for 18 years, Vanessa and Henry first met in college in the United States. He was only 18 years old and she, 17. “We met in the school library. There were very few Asian students in my school then, so when I saw Vanessa with her friend, I went up and introduced myself,” Henry remembers fondly. “I thought I was very suave and charming, but apparently both Vanessa and her friend thought I was anything but, to put it gently.”

Henry and Vanessa have three children: Two boys, Evan (15) and Asher (9), and a girl named Gillian (11). So how do they keep the passion going while juggling time with the kids?

“Having quiet moments together by purposefully arranging to spend some time away from the kids,” Vanessa shares. “Recently, we also started going on trips with our friends without the children.”

Henry adds: “We keep in touch with our friends by going for meals and hanging out together without the rest of the family. I guess when we do so, we get to be our younger selves again before the children. That definitely helps our relationship.”

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What were some of the qualities you found attractive in your spouse?

Vanessa: I think it was his way of talking and his charisma.

Henry: We are actually polar opposites in almost every way, and even after all these years, she still doesn’t find my jokes funny. But what attracted me to Vanessa then, and even today, is her beauty from both outside and within. She has beautiful eyes and her kind personality is quickly evident when you meet her. Also, her strong maternal instincts made me realised that she was the person I wanted to marry, and that she would make a very good mother to our children.

Was there a single moment that determined he or she was the one for you?

Henry: I think having dated for eight years, there really wasn’t a single “a-ha” moment, but a series of realisations that she is the right one for me. One time we had a big argument and we decided to take a break from each other. But during that separation I felt quite miserable despite my newfound freedom, and we got back together very quickly. Maybe that can qualify as such a moment.

Vanessa: For me, it was when I realised I had feelings for him the day he told me he liked someone else —  this was early on, when we were still just friends — and I felt crushed. 

Love romance Vanessa Liok Henry The Valentine's Day
(Photo: Vanessa Liok and Henry The)

What was the most romantic thing your spouse has ever done for you?

Vanessa: He planned the most epic surprise birthday party for me! I was very touched by all that he did and was very amazed at how he accomplished it. I was truly surprised. He put in all the effort and details and the best thing was, he remembered almost all my friends. A few were missing but he contacted most of them.

Henry: I don’t expect her to be romantic because that is not one of the many things that I like about her. But early on in our relationship, she did make me some nice handcrafted gifts from discarded household items; I thought that was quite romantic.

What’s one thing you like most about your spouse?

Vanessa: His charming candidness.

Henry: I like and appreciate the fact that she is willing to go out of her way and do things for me; most notably by fetching me home even after I have been out with the guys till late in the evening. One time, when she was overseas, I was stuck for two hours trying to flag a taxi as I didn’t have the apps for hailing a ride or booking a taxi then. I still don’t have those apps by the way.

Love romance Vanessa Liok Henry The Valentine's Day
(Photo: Vanessa Liok and Henry The)

Is there a gesture you do for your spouse everyday to show your love?

Henry: By switching off the bed lamps, the TV set and putting away the remote controls when she pretends to fall asleep before me every night, just so that she doesn’t have to do them. And maybe a peck on her forehead if I remember to do so.

Vanessa: He gives me a peck on my forehead to say bye, and I tuck my feet under his feet because its cold. Not everyday of course. 

What’s a relationship rule you live by?

Vanessa: I think we may have different ones. For me, it’s to manage my own expectations and like what the older generations like to say: “Give and take a little.”

Henry: My favourite relationship rule is that it is always easier to seek for forgiveness than for permission, but I don’t think Vanessa shares the same sentiment. But one thing we try to do is that in the event of a disagreement, we discuss matters quickly and resolve them early, if possible. And once a resolution has been reached, we don’t bring it up again in the next unrelated argument.

Do you have a Valentine’s Day ritual?

Henry: Not really. But if previous Valentine’s Days are anything to go by, then the ritual would be something like this:

  1. I wish her a Happy Valentine’s Day pretty late in the day.
  2. Own up that I haven’t made any dinner reservations outside.
  3. Remind her that 364 days of a happy marriage is better than one awesome Valentine’s Day.
  4. Finally take the whole family out for dinner.

Vanessa: Fortunately or unfortunately, we do not have a ritual. When we were dating, we had special dinners but over the years, I realised that it’s truly just another day.

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