When Coffee met Bagel: We understood each other’s passion and pain, say Zhao Qi and Jovina
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).
Who found love at first meet-up? When did things get really serious? What made love blossom in real life?
This edition features sweethearts Lee Zhao Qi, 32, and Jovina Low, 31, who dated for 1.5 years and have been married for a year. They serve in youth ministry together as leaders and mentors.
1. How did you initially feel about app-dating? Did you expect to meet someone through CMB?
Zhao Qi: I heard that CMB was an online dating app for those who are serious about looking for a partner. During a gathering, my friends casually dared me to create a profile as I had been single for some time. I was initially hesitant, probably from the fear of being recognised by friends that I was on a public dating platform.
I had a rather long list of criteria for a potential partner, such as being an actively serving Christian with a similar family and education background to me, so I did not actually think I would meet someone online who would fulfil them – especially not when this had started out as a dare!
Jovina: I had friends who were using CMB. To me, it seemed like an honest and practical platform, and quite a fun experience. I was mainly interested in getting to know people outside of my usual circle, such as fellow Christians with very different paths, careers, passions, insights and life perspectives.
It felt slightly unnatural at the start, and I was apprehensive because of the bad rep of some dating apps for the hook-up culture they promote and superficial matching algorithms. But my fears disappeared quickly because I found that CMB is not like that.
There was no real intention of meeting anyone I chatted with initially because of “stranger danger”. I was not prepared for any higher level of commitment than chatting over text unless the connection was genuine, strong and mutual, which really only happened with Zhao Qi.
2. How long did it take before you both matched, and what won your vote?
Zhao Qi: It took me approximately two months before I matched with Jovina. Prior to that, I was matched with about 10 others, but most conversations were superficial and died off quickly after initial introductions.
From her photos, Jovina seemed like a very jovial person, with a fun and outgoing vibe. Her profile pictures were also interesting – she was even in laboratory headgear in one of them (that was my favourite photo)! She was also a Christian and seemed to be very active in various ministries according to her profile description.
Jovina: I think it took about two to three weeks. I had several matches – a few resulted in engaging conversations and chemistry, but eventually fizzled out because there wasn’t a strong enough connection, or the match had qualities I did not want in a partner, such as being apathetic about serving God or could only talk about himself…
At first glance, Zhao Qi had stature and stood out in a crowd. His profile pictures showed him involved in church and in different kinds of activities with friends, which gave me the impression that he cared for people and was enthusiastic about life.
3. Why did you decide to meet up, and what were your first impressions of each other in real life?
Zhao Qi: Her positive outlook towards life and God left a very strong impression on me. We were able to connect well since we both serve actively in church. What started off as a casual introduction resulted in some of the most memorable and impressionable conversations I’ve ever had in my life. Our text conversations would go late into the night, and I often found myself glued to the phone in conversation.
Before I knew it, we were nearing the end of the chat deadline (CMB gives you only seven days to text within the app!). That was when we decided to bring the conversation beyond CMB and exchanged numbers. About a week later, we met for the first time to celebrate my birthday!
I prayed and entrusted the meeting to God, and did try to dress up a little for the date. 😄 Jovina came across the same way she had in our text conversations – thoughtful, considerate… She was very elegant in person and also taller than I expected. She had even gotten me a box of socks and written a personalised message on each pair, which I was very touched by.
We understood each other’s passion and pain, and that was rare to me.
Jovina: We were able to talk well about anything, even things we disagreed on. One time, he mentioned in passing that he was serving in four different ministries in church. I immediately felt a kinship with him because I was also serving in exactly four different ministries, of which two we shared (worship and curriculum). We understood each other’s passion and pain, and that was rare to me.
When I got into Zhao Qi’s car the first time we met up, somehow the first thing I felt was that I was safe and that this was going to be good. He had picked me up from work in the south of Singapore, to eat at a Korean restaurant in the west, before he sent me back to my home in the east, and then heading back to his home in the north. He essentially traversed the whole of Singapore on this one date. I was really impressed.
Face to face, our conversation was easy and honest. He was very attentive and a true gentleman, letting me order as much food as I wanted, insisting to pay the bill (I wanted to go dutch of course), and he was very courteous throughout.
4. What sealed the subsequent dates? At which point did you know that you had found a potential life partner?
Zhao Qi: We could go from deep conversations on serious matters such as our life goals and family, to really silly things like day-to-day amusements.
When we decided to see each other regularly, I looked forward to meeting her every week, where we would try out different activities, even things that I didn’t think I’d enjoy. Time passed quickly whenever we hung out, and I would reluctantly send her back before her 12am curfew. We called the car her “pumpkin”, like in Cinderella. 😂
It was her love for God that made me fall in love with her. I had been praying for someone who loves and serves God passionately. When He revealed Jovina to me, I knew she was the one.
We could go from deep conversations on serious matters such as our life goals and family, to really silly things like day-to-day amusements.
Approximately two months after our first date, Jovina invited me to her family dinner to celebrate her father’s birthday. Her entire family was very welcoming, and her father, whom she had described to be strict and stern, reached out to me warmly, as though I was a part of her family. This left a very strong impression on me, as I had lost my dad several years earlier due to cancer.
Jovina has made me a better person and Christian, although I was lacking in so many ways when we met. Even now, I am still learning and she continues to amaze me.
Jovina: Consistency. Zhao Qi was the same throughout, always attentive and considerate (even now, after marriage). I got to know his friends and family very quickly. That helped a lot – kind of like a check to make sure that he was who he said he was – that he was the same person with me as he was in church or at home.
We come from very different cultures (he’s from a Chinese-speaking Baptist church and I’m from an English-speaking AOG church), have different interests (he likes to game and read comics, which I don’t), and have different personalities (he’s pretty chill while I’m more Type A). But we’re like-minded in the things that are important to us, such as faith, worldview, and our attitudes towards family, career and money.
We are like-minded in the things that are important to us, such as faith, worldview, and our attitudes towards family, career and money.
Zhao Qi is someone who gives 110% to whatever he sets his mind to – one moment he can be strong and commanding, and then mushy the next. I love that about him. I’ve learnt how to be vulnerable and affectionate from him, and that has been one of the greatest gifts of this relationship. God really knows me better than I know myself to have orchestrated this.
On our 3rd or 4th date, we went to the beach for dinner and I got my heels muddied. He actually voluntarily got down on his knees to wipe off the mud! (Note: Neither of us had watched Descendants of the Sun.) I didn’t know whether to feel horrified that he was cleaning my shoe or to be absolutely taken by his care!
He would do this another two times when my shoes got dirty again (maybe he just has something against dirty shoes – his were always pretty clean). But even today, after our first year of marriage, he still unabashedly does sweet things like that. How not to fall in love, you tell me?
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?
Zhao Qi: I was initially doubtful of such relationships, as I personally had not heard of many successful cases. But I believe God orchestrated the entire encounter for us. Being in a relationship with Jovina has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in life.
Writer and pastor Edmund Chan once said that our God is the “God of the already”. Whether I decided to use the app or not, God had already acted. He knew what was the best for me and had already arranged someone specifically for me. We just need the heart, faith and courage to follow and experience Him.
Jovina: I still feel that the real deal is in meeting the right match at the right time – and that is all God. Honestly, I don’t really think how we began as a couple defines the relationship. We make choices every day about how we want our relationship to be, so as long as we’re always willing to commit to each other and to God, there isn’t anything too big that we can’t work out.
I don’t really think how we began as a couple defines the relationship; we make choices every day about how we want our relationship to be.
At the same time, I think it’s important not to become too taken with the app and forget about God in our quest for a life partner. Of course, this can happen with or without the app. We didn’t take God out of the equation by using CMB, He was in it as much as we were. He accompanied us in those online conversations, our first meet-up, our prayers together and when we eventually got married in His house.
App-dating can be a fun process, but there are disappointing experiences too, such as a match ghosting you, or when someone turns out to not be who they portrayed themselves to be. It’s tiring and uncomfortable putting yourself out there, especially when matches are repeatedly unsuccessful. Perhaps if one approaches this without any fixed expectations, it can be a good experience regardless of the outcome.
We must know and be absolutely clear that, in the end, it will all work out for the good of those who love God. We have to learn to take the not-so-good moments in stride, learn from them if possible and keep trusting that God has a good plan for us.
For more “When Coffee met Bagel” journeys, check out the story of Ghim Hwee & Diane.
THINK + TALK
- What are a few must-have qualities in a life partner for you? What about deal-breakers or must-not-haves?
- Do you have faith that God can send the best partner for you?
- How can you partner with Him in your journey of finding a match – online dating or otherwise?