“12 years leh! Can you imagine? When he was taking his PSLE, I was just born.”

That was the eye-raising parallel Zhi Ying drew when I asked if she had any considerations at the time about dating her now-husband, Chan Sing.

Chan Sing laughed in response. “I had it hard too,” he said. “I had to overcome the barrier of dating a xiao mei mei (little sister)”.

Aged 29 and 41 respectively, Zhi Ying joked that this has been the toughest year to get through for them since the gap is now especially big: “You can see digit two and digit four!

“But actually, after I turn 30 it will be fine because the first digits will just be a difference of one.”

Zhi Ying and Chan Sing are one of the three couples I interviewed that day. What set them apart was the fact they all had a big age gap between them.

Mavis (25) and Joel (33) also faced difficulties because of how young the former was when they first started dating.

“When I met Joel, I was only 13 years old,” Mavis started, clarifying that they didn’t have feelings for each other at that point in time. They had met through a free tuition programme in church where Joel was her tutor.

“We only started dating when she was 18. That was five years later,” Joel shared, adding that he had never seen Mavis in a romantic light before that.

While the couple initially faced objection to their relationship, they are now happily married with one child and another on the way!

“I don’t think ‘concern’ was the word, but there was a consideration to be had because of the age gap (she’s eight years younger); what kind of challenges would there be,” he continued.

The roles are reversed for Jemina (32) and Ethan (25). As the older woman in a May-December romance, Jemina admits that this relationship dynamic isn’t very common.

What made it even more awkward was the fact that the two had known each other in church since young. At one point, Jemina was even Ethan’s leader.

“When I first realised that I liked him, I was like, ‘Oh no, is it okay?’” Jemina recalled. She spent a year thinking about her feelings and continued to be hesitant even when Ethan confessed his feelings to her.

“But we talked it out. He said he was sure. So I decided that I’ll trust him. And I think it was a good call so far because…” Jemina trailed off, as she flashed her engagement ring gleefully.

But before we talk about rings and all that stuff, I was curious about one thing: How did love first blossom between these couples?


I was not surprised to learn that none of our couples expected themselves to fall in love with each other.

In Zhi Ying and Chan Sing’s case, they first got to know each other through serving in various ministries and attending overseas mission trips together.

Their turning point came at a ministry retreat, where Chan Sing’s pastor brought the group’s singles together for a chat.

Somehow, the conversation came to centre on one’s criteria for a future spouse.

Chan Sing initially found it difficult to answer this question because everyone in the ministry was significantly younger than him.

But an answer was eventually squeezed out of him, laughed Zhi Ying.

“I was like, okay lah, if there’s really one person whom I want to try to date, it would probably be Zhi Ying,” recalled Chan Sing, who explained that he had noticed and was impressed by her love for the people around her.

“Our leaders were too excited already,” Zhi Ying laughed. “They came and asked me, ‘Hey, do you mind someone older?’ Then I said, ‘Is it Chan Sing?’”

To Chan Sing’s relief, Zhi Ying said she would pray about it.

Though Mavis and Joel had been good friends for a few years, the shift only happened when Joel received a vision from God.

“One night, I was wrestling with God about my desire for companionship and I was praying: ‘God, you’ve got to help me,’” he recounted.

God then gave him a vision: a girl on a train and a boy on a train platform. The vision ended when the boy and girl met and they hugged on the platform.

Joel was left wondering what the vision meant. But God further spoke a reassuring word to him: “Be patient, I will bring the girl to you.” And that brought Joel peace.

I would think about it. But then I would think, “Oh no, there’s the age gap. Cannot be.” Then I would just not think about it… or only think about it for a minute or two.

Three days later, Mavis, who at the time was living in the eastern side of Singapore, had to travel to the west to run some errands.

Since Joel lived in the west, he suggested they catch up over breakfast. The initial plan was for Joel to hop on the train at Chinese Gardens, but due to miscommunication, Mavis had to come out of the train.

“So we basically met on the platform — and I saw her walking towards me. At that point in time, that vision I had three nights ago came back to me.

“But I completely struck it off because I never saw her like that before. ​​I always saw her as a friend or a younger sister.

“But because of that particular experience, it opened a door,” Joel revealed, adding that they subsequently had a deep and open conversation over breakfast which made him realise they could connect emotionally and spiritually.

Super drama right? Well not every couple gets together by lightning and thunder — Jemina and Ethan’s journey to love was a “natural progression”.

The two first got to know each other serving together in the church’s media team. Soon, their friendship developed outside of ministry and they became great friends.

“I thought something was up. Our friendship was quite interesting because of the seven-year age gap we had,” Ethan recalled. “But I didn’t even really consider dating her for the longest time.”

He corrected himself immediately after that sentence: “I mean, I would think about it. But then I would think, ‘Oh no, there’s the age gap. Cannot be.’

“Then I would just not think about it… or only think about it for a minute or two.”

But the more Ethan thought about it, the more it made sense to him. This was especially so since Jemina was the one who had been journeying with him through the highs and lows of his life, all this while.

“Those four or five years we were really good friends were really great — almost like a preview to our relationship,” he concluded.

Those precious years were eventually what cemented his decision to chase a woman seven years his senior.


No romance is without its obstacles. Some of our couples had to deal with internal (and sometimes external!) conflicts with regards to dating someone significantly younger or older than them.

Zhi Ying recalled conveying one real fear in particular to her mum: “What if he dies first because he’s 12 years older?”

To which her mother replied: “You’ll never know who would die first. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t matter.” That gave Zhi Ying an assurance that her fears were unfounded.

But what really sealed the deal was a dream she received from God while praying about Chan Sing.

In the dream, she saw a red ring; a blue ring enveloping the red ring; and a gold ring that enveloped both the red and blue rings. Each ring symbolised herself, Chan Sing and God respectively.

“The dream was very specific about the 12-year gap,” she explained. ”Because 12 is like a clock – a perfect circle.”

With the gold ring enveloping both rings, Zhi Ying felt that God was saying to her, “So what if it’s a 12-year age gap? This is My provision and I’m in this.”

Jemina and Ethan also had to overcome their personal apprehensions to being in an relationship with a wide age gap.

“Before I asked her to be my girlfriend, I was really trying to do a cost-benefit analysis of it,” Ethan explained, who tried to adopt a more “methodological approach” in rationalising his feelings.

“And for everything I thought of — needing to have children earlier, life stage, income — I felt like these were things I could work out with her just because of the friendship that we had.”

Jemina concurred: “I could’ve dated someone in the same life stage or at my age if I wanted to.

“But at the end of the day, it’s really about how this person as an individual complements you, and how you can build a life together.

“The fact that we can connect, we can communicate and we can go through dealing with issues together — that’s something that I really see in him. That’s why I chose him.”

For Mavis and Joel, their main challenge came in the form of disapproval by others.

“There were people who were supportive and people who weren’t,” Mavis explained. “They had good intentions, they weren’t trying to be haters… But it definitely broke Joel’s heart that there were people who were close to him who didn’t approve of our relationship.”

In hindsight, Joel acknowledged that he could have been more intentional in involving important people in this huge milestone of his life.

“I wasn’t the most open with my parents,” he admitted. “If I liked a girl, I wouldn’t go and tell my parents. So they only experienced the aftermath of the decision.

“That kind of soured our relationship and caused us a lot of pain in the initial stage.”

Certain elders in their church understandably also had reservations about the couple’s age gap.

To that, Mavis and Joel simply sought to let the fruits of their relationship show.

“We didn’t spend a lot of energy trying to make sure that everyone’s okay. We just invested our energy into making the best of our relationship,” said Mavis.

“I guess from an outside point of view, if you see this relationship is doing well – the couple is serving God, walking with God – naturally you’ll have this peace eventually.”

And that was just what happened: people became more accepting of their relationship over the years. Joel even joked that these days, his mum dotes on Mavis more than him!


As I got the couples to sum up some takeaways, Joel shared that he now understands the importance of having leaders journey with them through unique and challenging situations.

“The Bible says that in the multitude of counselors, there is wisdom,” he reflected. “I recognise that at that point in my life, I didn’t have a mentor figure. I didn’t have go-to figures or people I trusted to consult.

“So we kind of bashed our way through — and I got to learn things the hard way.”

Mavis agreed with him: “Don’t isolate yourself by trying to make the decision on your own. And if you’re already in a relationship, make sure that you’re surrounded by couples who can understand the situation you’re in.”

While there will be a fair amount of differences in any relationship with a significant age gap, it is important to embrace that as part of your relationship, Jemina advised.

“We crack jokes about being older and all that, but it’s all lighthearted,” she said. “As long as you’re comfortable with who you are, who your partner is, and you’re willing to support each other through it, then yeah — it’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Zhi Ying shared similar sentiments: “Sometimes we’re so limited in thinking there’s only a fixed type of relationship like, ‘I can only date someone two years old than me, that’s the golden age.’

“But there’s no such thing and no such boundaries. So just go and talk to more people and hear more stories.

“And know that God is writing a unique love story for you and your other half.”

Loving this series so far? Watch the other videos from our first season of #SpillTheTeh below.