Cover Photo: Elizabeth Thea

These Malaysian couples reveal what it means to be best friends in life, partners in marriage, and all-around winners in love

Dianna Lee and Robin Ang

Sixteen years ago, on their first date, little did Dianna Lee and Robin Ang know that the bowl of curry mee shared between them was going to be one of the most meaningful moments of their lives. “He brought me to his mother’s restaurant, and it was the best curry mee I would ever have—this fact is still true up till today! It would be correct to say I loved his Mom first,” Dianna recounts cheekily.

From 16 years of dating, 10 years of marriage, to four kids later, the dynamic between Dianna and Robin hasn’t changed. “I think Robin must have had many girlfriends in the past, that’s why we have so many daughters!” Dianna laughs, giving a glimpse of the fun banter between the couple. They still fondly refer to each other as “my dream come true”, which got us feeling all warm and fuzzy. “I’m thankful to have a partner who just lets me be me. It could probably be just reverse psychology, but because of that, I let him just be him too,” she says.

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Citing common traditional values and good understanding of each other as the key to building a solid foundation of their relationship, Dianna and Robin believe that it’s very important to help each other grow as a couple. “We do not shy away from correcting each other (in private). As a couple, you have to agree on the same parenting method and be consistent when fronting the kids as a team. It’s always Robin and I versus the world,” she says.

A loving relationship is built on trust and being there for each other every step of the way, and this is especially true for this couple. “Years ago I wanted to go see the sea turtles, so I took the kayak out to the choppy open water with two kids in the front and back, while being three months pregnant. Rob gave me a ‘you are insane’ look, but then he quietly followed us in another kayak just to make sure we were safe!” she says. Even as adults, Dianna and Robin still share the same childlike giddiness, excitement and laughter from their early dating days. “Rob doesn’t make me feel like a mother of four at all,” Dianna muses.

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As individuals from different backgrounds and collectively as a couple, they are still learning about each other and pushing each other to be the best version of themselves. “To be a good partner and great parent, we have to first be a balanced, independent and happy individual. And to have someone like Rob who gives me the luxury of love and time to grow into the person/wife/mom I’m striving to be is truly the best gift.” 

Dahlia Nadirah and Khairil Ridzwan

Dahlia Nadirah and Khairil Ridzwan’s romance started on MySpace (big #throwback moment here) back in 2005 when Khairil messaged Dahlia after seeing her photo on a friend’s feed. Soon after, fate intervened and Khairil set off to Berklee College of Music, before returning 15 months later for a proper first date. What started off as a cyber relationship eventually blossomed into something more.

“The pictures he sent were those of him when he first arrived in the States. When he came back for a break, that was the first time I met him. But the guy who showed up was three times the size of LoQue (Khairil’s nickname) and with a long beard... I almost thought this is not the guy I talked to online and on the phone!” she jokes.

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Sharing the same values for tradition, language, food, arts and culture, Dahlia and Khairil’s unbreakable bond is built on supporting creative artistic activity and the celebration of cultural heritage. Over long road trips in the US, between ticking art exhibitions off their checklist, strolling through history-rich streets and discovering antique markets, Dahlia and Khairil think that the best thing about marriage is always having someone to share everything with. It is a tradition that they have kept as a couple until today.

While some girls would gush over material gifts from their significant other, Dahlia shies away from that. She prefers emotionally evocative gifts that are a testament to her marriage and relationship. “I think the most wonderful gift I have received from Khairil would be the song he wrote about me called Perempuan Kalis Peluru. It’s still hands down my favourite song,” she spills. Besides making good music alongside his muse, Khairil is creative when it comes to grand romantic gestures, even when the odds have proven otherwise.

“On our anniversary a few years ago, I was in confinement. He hired two chefs to cook Korean food, a violinist as dinner entertainment, and decorated the house with hundreds of candles, balloons and flowers. We obviously couldn’t go out to celebrate so he brought everything to the house so that we can celebrate it at home!” she says happily. Measuring the big and small moments, Dahlia insists that there’s nothing better than going through your day with your partner at the end of the night. “These are my most favourite moments: kids asleep, just us chilling with each other, and talking about our day,” she shares.

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While many would speak fondly of their wedding night, Dahlia and Khairil both experienced loss in their respective families, which brought them closer and shaped the resilience of their relationship. “When life throws you a curveball, you don’t give up on your partner. It’s easier to hate, to give up, to walk away and to leave a situation. But talking and sorting things out is the best way forward. Always respect each other, in front of each other and especially behind each other’s back!”

Elizabeth Thea and Jannio Shun

Elizabeth Thea and Jannio Shun’s love language is food—as evident from the fact that they are co-owners of the famous Thai steamboat restaurant, Coca, a place that holds plenty of fond memories of their early dating days. “We always went to Coca at least once or twice a week for dates when we were in college, so we thought, why not bring it back? It was a natural choice for us,” Jannio says. The chemistry between the couple was palpable as soon as they walked on set, just like how they laid eyes on each other when they were paired together for a college assignment.

“It was such a fateful day. We have to thank our college professor, Mr Shim, for bringing us together,” Elizabeth laughs. When asked about each other’s best traits and qualities, the couple doesn’t hold back. “I love her character. On top of being a giving and kind-hearted soul, Elizabeth is someone that is very straightforward and doesn’t try to hide what she feels. She knows how to cheer me up and shows me the positive side of things. She’s my anchor and my compass. I get emotional and frustrated easily but she’s always been such a rock to me,” Jannio says fondly.

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“Jannio has always given me his 100 per cent support from the start—throughout my career and our marriage. There’s always so much openness between us, and we can talk about everything under the sun with no boundaries. Yes, he is the more emotional one but I also think that because of that, he’s very expressive. I catch myself watching him smile, and there’s just something in his eyes that makes me melt inside,” Elizabeth shares.

Some say that time will change and test even the strongest of relationships. However, for Elizabeth and Jannio, it has only made them realise how they complement each other better, even after 13 years of marriage. “When you’ve found the one person who you truly want to spend the rest of your life with, it makes you look forward to living life, building a family and sharing the best parts of it with each other. That’s the most beautiful thing of this journey,” the couple laughs.

Jannio is more of a fast doer and risk-taker, while Elizabeth, on the other hand, is more of a meticulous perfectionist, and prefers to take her intuition into account before making an informed decision. “When it comes to bigger things like property investment, I want to feel good about something before doing it. That’s how I sometimes judge things. You yourself will always know what feels right,” Elizabeth advises.

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While some couples argue that the secret to a long-lasting relationship is giving one another space and privacy, Elizabeth and Jannio do not tire of being around each other. He particularly loves dropping little messages throughout the day. “I don’t want to seem needy but I miss her even after a few hours at work. Our relationship is like best friends (with benefits)!” Jannio laughs. “As cliché as it sounds, nothing beats feeling right,” Elizabeth chimes in.

This feature is part of Tatler Malaysia's Occasions supplement. Click to read more on Magzter.

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