Image: Chloe Tan

Love is more than rose-tinted romance—it’s also about sticking together when things get rough. In this three-part series, three women open up about the hurdles they had to overcome with their spouses.

While pursuing her master’s degree in the Netherlands, Chloe Tan started experiencing frequent abdominal pains that were accompanied by vomiting and gurgling noises from her stomach. The doctors at the local hospital repeatedly told her she had food poisoning and kept turning down her request to be warded, so after a week of excruciating pain, she decided to return to Singapore.

“The doctor at Changi Airport had me sent to Changi General Hospital immediately. I went through various X-rays and CT scans, and received the correct diagnosis of bowel obstruction with a need for emergency surgery,” explains the 28-year-old.

All was well for the first couple of days until she was informed that she was at risk of sepsis due to an infection – leakage had occurred because her intestines were not able to join properly. A second emergency surgery was scheduled to have a stoma created, and Chloe then spent the next month and a half on an IV drip. It was only a few months later that she underwent surgery for the third time to have the hole closed.

By then, she had been with her then-boyfriend for over a year and was in a long-distance relationship with him as he was working in Australia. Much as they were in a stable relationship, she still felt “a little guilty” as she knew that her health care would be very costly, and she needed a lot of support to help with her recuperation.

Credit: Chloe Tan

“I brought up some of my fears of being a burden in the future if it happens again, but he told me something like, ‘When I asked you to be my girlfriend, I already knew that you’re the one that I’m going to marry, and nothing has changed even now, so stop having these nonsensical thoughts.’ He always maintained this even when we had arguments, so I was not overly worried that he was going to dump me for someone else with no health issues,” she lets on.

“I then asked if we should postpone marriage, since I had to shelve my plans to work and draw a salary by one year. He reminded me that the decision for me to further my studies was not made by me alone – we decided on it together. He assured me that he made sure to earn a salary that could take care of us both just in case. I was very touched.”

He also didn’t mind that they might not be able to have biological children as giving birth may result in complications for Chloe.

“His mum had asked him if he would be able to accept it, and he said, ‘Sure, as long as she is well, whether we have kids or not doesn’t really matter. Anyway, she has always been keen on adopting or fostering’.”

Being thousands of miles apart also did not deter him from demonstrating his commitment to her through unwavering patience: Knowing that she had many visitors at the hospital, he would stay up way past his usual bedtime so they could make video calls. And whenever she was breathless, he’d do more of the talking.

Chloe has since fully recovered and the couple held their wedding last October.

Credit: Chloe Tan

No thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, they had actually only spent a total of two months physically together before getting married, and even though they have been living together since getting hitched, they will soon embark on a long-distance marriage for another eight months so that she may complete her studies. But as of now, she is enjoying every moment with him and concedes that marriage has made things “quite different”.

“Living together means that I can’t hide any tears or frustration from him, which I often did easily in an LDR since it was easy to hang up and not talk for hours. He’s also been quite protective and caring, which would have been hard to tell when we’re apart, since they are actions such as getting me to walk on the inside of the path rather than on the side closer to the road.”

This story first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Her World.