True Stories

TRUE STORY: "I was afraid my family wouldn't accept my boyfriend because of our racial differences"

It took Shayane Teo and Amin Khalid 5 years to work things out

Photo: Her World

“We got to know each other at university in 2005. I was studying real estate, while Amin was an economics and political science major, one year ahead of me. We met through a course in real estate finance. He thought I was friendly and outgoing. I, on the other hand, barely had any impression of him.

At the time, I was into scuba diving. Amin approached me and said he was keen to learn, so I invited him to join a school interest group I was part of. Later, I found out that he never really cared about scuba diving; it was just an excuse to talk to me. It worked, though. We became friends and chatted frequently on MSN Messenger.


After Amin graduated, he kept asking me to go out with him. I was annoyed, because I wanted to focus on my studies. At some point, I agreed to meet him for lunch. I showed up two hours late, but to my surprise, he wasn’t upset. I was impressed and a little touched. ‘This guy has patience,’ I thought.

We had a really good first date, and I knew I wanted to see him again. Still, I couldn’t help but think that with Amin being Muslim, religious differences might be an obstacle to our dating, and I wondered what my family would make of it – I’m very close to my family and am used to telling them everything.

I decided to keep seeing Amin casually; he also never officially asked me to be his girlfriend. Looking back, perhaps there was an unspoken agreement between us to bide our time so that we wouldn’t have to confront difficult questions about our future.



Every few months, we would take road trips to Malaysia where Amin participated in motocross races. Through those long car rides, we got to know each other even better.

“You’re still seeing him?” my mother would ask once in a while. She was worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope with what she perceived to be huge cultural differences between us, and believed that I would have to sacrifice a lot of the freedoms I enjoyed if I continued seeing Amin.

It was painful not to be able to talk openly to her about someone who was so important to me, but we had an easier time with Amin’s family. Since he’s from an interracial background – his dad is Malay while his mum is Chinese-Malay – his parents understood, and treated me with warmth.

However, Amin and I weren’t handling the issue much better ourselves. After a year or so of dating, I asked him where we were headed with our relationship – if we could even call it that. That’s when he told me that he couldn’t have a future with me as we had different religions. And I didn’t see how my mother would ever be able to accept that being with Amin meant that I would have to convert to his religion. We continued to argue about this. In 2008, I told him I’d had enough.


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For six months, I was single again. But Amin didn’t give up so easily. He invited me on a two-week dive trip to Bali, where he promised we would work on the issues that drove us apart. After that trip, I decided I would try to be open to his faith and learn more about it. I read up extensively, and discovered that there were a lot of values in Islam that I could align myself with. But I struggled with the dietary restrictions – I loved ramen and bak kwa. Amin understood that it would take time for me to grow accustomed to the rules.

In 2009, Amin suggested that we ballot for a flat. I was torn. We hadn’t talked about marriage because of our concerns about our religious differences. But he convinced me to view the flat with him, and we ended up submitting an application.

When we got the call from the HDB, I knew it was time to broach the subject with my parents – I would never marry him without their blessing. A couple of days later, I asked Amin to come over to my place. He must have made an impression, because my mother asked him to stay for dinner. He also got on well with my father.

Later that night, I told my parents about the flat. They were shocked at how far things had progressed, but came around when they realised we were serious about each other. After they got to spend Hari Raya with Amin’s family and received a really warm reception, their concerns about our relationship also dissipated.

Photo: Her World

We didn’t take the flat in the end, but Amin proposed in 2010 as we watched the fireworks near the Padang on National Day. He snapped several shots of the brightly lit sky, then handed the camera to me. As I scrolled through the pictures, I stopped at a photo of a beautiful ring. When I looked up from the screen, Amin was down on one knee with the very same ring in hand. Of course I said yes.

We got married in 2011, and I converted to Islam. We’ve continued our tradition of taking those long drives we enjoyed when we started out as a couple. We can’t wait to see where the road takes us next.”

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Her World.