LoyarBorak goes all romantic in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, as thoughts shift to love, relationships, and marriage. This LoyarBorak is moderated by Marcus van Geyzel, and the Borakkers taking part in this session are Edmund Bon, June Rubis, Lim Ka Ea, and Syahredzan Johan.

Marcus: Have you ever been “in love”? Describe what you think being “in love” means.


As a youngish boy in 2004, I wrote about love, sex and marriage, and I maintain the same views.

“Love” is an illusion.

It — as in whatever the concept one may perceive it to be — manifests itself in different forms that one may mistake as “love”. In many cases, it is a form of escapism from the suffering, drudgery and sadness of life.

Marcus: That’s a fairly depressing worldview. Isn’t it just a matter of semantics? Love is obviously not tangible, but if it’s a combination of emotions/feelings such as joy, compassion, tenderness, satisfaction, etc. — are you saying that those are illusions too? Or are you pushing back at the concept of “love” for the sake of pushing back?


We should always be careful when we use words especially those with emotive baggage. Humans have used the word “love” too easily and too freely.

It’s time to step back and think about what we actually mean.


To me, love is a state of Being. It is always part of us, and it can never be lost. The bonds that we have among each other: mother-child, brother-sister, friend-friend, lover-lover, woman-nature are essentially of a singular bond that is expressed in different ways and intensity.

Once we are born into this world, and start developing meaningful connections with each other, and with nature, then we are in love.

Ka Ea:

Yes, a couple of times.

Being in love means you can’t stop thinking of that person. You continuously seek out for the other person’s attention and his/her approval. You crave to be a part of that person’s life despite knowing that he/she may not be good or right for you [watch The Postman Always Rings Twice (TPART) and you’ll get the gist].

Being in love gives you courage to do things you normally wouldn’t do or think were silly and ridiculous before (again, watch TPART). It makes you lose your mind, time and often weight because all you could think of is whether he/she likes you or thinks you’re too fat.

I think people often over-analyse what being in love means. It’s a state of being and feeling that manifests differently in different people. But I believe the general rule of thumb is when you just can’t stop thinking about that person and everything about him/her matters greatly to you.

When that happens, I’m in love.


Yes, I have been in love.

I am still in love.

If you ask me what “love” is, I don’t think I can give you an answer. But I know what it is to be “in love.”

To me, when you love someone, it is when you care about some more than you care about yourself. When you are in love with someone, there will be this longing for that person, a pain you feel when you’re not with that person or if you are away. Being in love makes you want to lay bare your innermost thoughts to that other person, to be naked of superficialities and personas and for that person to see you as who you are.

Marcus: So it seems like “love” is a personal experiential thing? June, Ka Ea & Syah — what do you think of Edmund’s view that love is an “illusion”?


I agree with him that a lot of people unconsciously use romantic love as an escapism for their current problems. Love becomes a burden when you inevitably start having expectations for the other, and feeling disappointed when they fail to meet your expectations.

What is true love? To love the other person without any expectations? That is so hard, and does it even exist? I do not know.

I hate to say it, but Edmund is being real.

Ka Ea:

I think Edmund speaks like one who has either been in love before but doesn’t want to acknowledge it due to fear or whatever other reasons there are or/and he has been heartbroken before and hence decided that it doesn’t exist. Knowing his personality and character, I’m afraid I can’t agree that he’s incapable of love.

I think most of us have gone through that phase of rejecting love because it has been too painful and we tell ourselves that love shouldn’t be that difficult, that it is just an illusion, etc.

I would be interested to know how Edmund would describe the feelings he have towards his parents, siblings, pets and friends.


Edmund, being Edmund, is looking at love and life as a whole from a pessimistic perspective. Maybe all those years of helping people who have suffered injustice made him develop this worldview that life is a suffering and that any escape from it would be a “good thing.”

So I disagree with Edmund that love is an illusion. In fact, I will use him to support my argument.

He is very obviously is in love and his love is his life in the law. His love can be seen in his many projects — your Human Rights Committees, your MyConstitutions and yes, your LoyarBuroks. Why would he pour his blood, sweat and tears into these projects if he does not love them and love is merely an illusion?


Syah and Ka Ea, kindly not move the goalposts. We are not talking about family relationships or pets, neither are we discussing inanimate activities. Being born into a family and living with family your whole life is not a choice a person has. How would you explain the underprivileged who are children of the streets or drug addicts?


Not moving any goalposts. Love isn’t just about romantic feelings to another person. You can love your family, your pets, your friends and yes, your projects.

Ka Ea:

Edmund, I think you’re the one who’s moving the goalposts. Your argument is moot. Just because there are underprivileged or unwanted children, it doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist.

I would also like to add that people often think that loving someone is an easy thing to do. I personally think that it is harder to love than not to love. It is easier to reject love than to embrace it.

And by the way, there are people who wed their pets in certain culture. Call it crazy or ridiculous but it still doesn’t change the fact that love exists.

Marcus: What is your view of the concept of “being in a relationship”? Is it necessary?


Human interaction is an imperative. Relationships are always necessary. People need to be part of communities and have friends.

There are different types of relationships though; and it really depends on the nature and intensity of the connectivity.

Marcus: As a man, I’m sure it’s been put to you before that your contrarian views about love/relationships are borne out of a “fear of commitment.” — do you think there’s any truth in that?


I don’t agree with that. I think they are unrelated.

Honestly, look around you and ask if there is a need to live the way we live? The environment is going bust, people are fighting over money, we have groups who can’t even sit on the same table without getting into an argument over ethnicity and religion. We don’t need all this — but since we are on Earth we have to make the best we have and be as happy as we can be.

If happiness is manifested in a commitment then so be it. But I still can’t wrap my head around the institution of marriage.


A relationship with another person that mirrors the same kind of love and intensity that we have for that person is indeed special. I think part of Life, is to create opportunities to experience such relationships.

But sometimes it doesn’t happen the way we envision it, or at all, and it’s ok. I think the point is to keep an open heart and mind, no matter what.

There are many ways to be loved, and to love.

Marcus: Keeping with the theme of “commitment” that I mentioned to Edmund, as a woman, wouldn’t you — realistically — feel the need to require some sort of “commitment” from the man you’re in love with? Whilst not compulsory, this “commitment” usually manifests itself in concepts such as being “in a steady relationship.”


I think it is up to the couple to decide what sort of commitment they would want to have.

If they are completely honest with each other, and can accept the other person in totality for who they are (but also compromise is important at times), then it is a commitment or relationship worth having.

Ka Ea:

Being in a relationship is part of being in love. I don’t think you can separate the two. I bet you that it’ll be difficult to find someone who’s in love and yet refuse to enter into a relationship with the person he/she is in love with.

It’s always important to build relationships with the people you know anyway; your family, friends, colleagues and even your pet. Hence, it is necessary to be in a relationship with someone you’re in love with. Otherwise, you’re just in love with someone you don’t really know and that’s not good at all. Trust me on this.

I think if you want to know someone to the fullest, you need to be in a relationship (Annie Hall will tell you this). Whether the relationship is going to last or not, it’s another matter but I don’t think I can claim to love someone without wanting to know that person at every possible level.

Marcus: Interesting. So, in essence, you’re saying that if two people are in love, they will naturally be in a relationship? As a relationship is a human societal construct, could you describe the difference, to you, between being in and out of a relationship?

Ka Ea:

No, I said if two people are in love, they would want to enter into a relationship. Now, whether they will succeed to be in a relationship or not depends on many circumstantial factors.

I think the difference lies in the intent and will of that specific person and it has to be reciprocal. I doubt you can call it a relationship if it’s only one way.


I do not think that there is a direct co-relation between “love” and “being in a relationship”. You do not have to be in a relationship to be in love and just because you are in a relationship, does not mean that you are in love.

I think whether a relationship is necessary or not really depends on you. Some people need the companionship, romance and stability. Others do not. Being in a relationship is an option. Being in love isn’t and it just happens.


If two people are truly in love with each other, and they have the courage to admit it, then perhaps a relationship could take place. But it’s not always that simple. We all have our own baggage from previous relationships whether romantic, or not and we take this with us when we start a new intense human connection.

It’s scary to let someone into your life, in an intimate way especially when you have no idea how it is going to turn out. To me, at times, the word “relationship” comes with so much responsibility, and in some ways, it can be a burden especially if expectations are not mutual and not communicated to the other person.

Then again, what is a relationship? A relationship is basically a sense of attachment or connection between two people. Whether it is romantic or platonic or familial, a relationship exists when there is a strong connection. How we decide to take it to the next level, is up to the parties involved, and no one else.


I think we can start to discount Syah’s views from this borak because he just got married. (Couldn’t let this go! Had to say this!).


Edmund, don’t be a haterrrr…

Marcus: What do you think of the generally-accepted view that couples should go from being in love, to being in a relationship, to being “engaged” and then getting married?


It is basic human right to be married to a person of your choice.

Progress in a relationship is entirely dependent on the couple and it would be wrong to dictate the steps to take. But I am uncomfortable that culture, religion and society frequently impose the purported need and values of marriage on people. Many people are stuck in unhappy marriages. Many couples live happily without getting married.

Marcus: But how would you choose to be married, if to you, love is an illusion? What would the criteria then be for that choice? The same as how you would choose your friends?


Personally, I don’t believe in the institution and culture of marriage but I won’t knock people who do want to get married (sometimes, however, jokingly). Most, if not all, of what needs to be achieved through marriage may be achieved by not getting married.

I have not heard a reason that is not a selfish one for getting married — children to look after me when I’m old, continue the family name, afraid of the partner leaving the relationship. Much of our lives are dictated by social constructs which are unnecessary.

We came with nothing. We live life as much with something. We leave life with nothing.

Give me better reasons why should one get married?


I think this view puts a lot of people under pressure to follow society’s expectations. It is great if you truly, honestly want it for yourself, but not many people do. As well, there are couples who do want to get married but can’t because society says so!

For example, inter-religious couples who do not want to compromise on their faith, yet are in love and want to get married. Or couples of the same sex. How is that fair?

Perhaps if more people stand up, and are able to say, this is not for me, others will feel more empowered to make their own life choices.

After all, it is your life.

Ka Ea:

I’m an impulsive sort of person.

I don’t really believe in rules or what people view as “normal” progression of things when it comes to relationships between two human beings. Feeling and thought processes are two extremely complex matters and nothing is ever predictable when it comes to them.

I’m sure you can find couples who get married just after one month of knowing each other and remain married for more than 20 years. You will also find couples who were engaged for two years and then decide to go on their separate ways. There are many couples who are co-habitating and yet they seem to fight less than those who are married.

So, why create rules for something which you can never really predict?

As long as couples strive for an honest and loving relationship, rules shouldn’t matter.

Rules don’t change people. People do.


Well I more or less followed the same route, so I think there?s a nice progression by following them. I think there must be a suitable gap from the starting point (“being in love”) to the “end” point (“marriage”) so that both are comfortable with the progress of the relationship.

I think that is the rationale behind these steps.

Far too many marriages have ended because any or both parties were not ready for the commitment that is expected in a marriage.

In saying that, I do think it sometimes create unnecessary complications. Sometimes, couples can fall in love and get married, without the need for engagement, for example. Yet societal and cultural pressures dictate that it must be done the “orthodox” way. Not for the benefit of the couple but simply because other parties (usually the family) expect it.

Marcus: Why did you and your wife choose that route? Or was it your wife who made the decisions (joke)?


Yeah. It was the wife (just joking, sayang!).

With us, I think very early on in the relationship we had already talked about marriage. It was just a matter of time. For me personally, I wanted to make sure that before I marry, I was in a relatively stable financial position, not least because weddings these days cost a lot of money! We dated for five years before our marriage, so I think even if we hadn’t gone through the whole process, we’d still be happily married, simply because we’ve dated for such a long time before tying the knot.

But we went through the whole merisik, bertunang and bernikah phases (like any “good” Malay couple would) because of tradition and expectations from both sides of the family.

And I don’t think my wife is complaining, since she got a different ring for each phase.

I’m not saying that you need to date for a long time be happy, what I’m saying is that if you want to enter into a long term commitment like marriage, you better make sure you’re ready for it. Whether it takes 5 months, 5 years or 50 years, at the end of the day what is most important is that you have prepared yourself for this life-changing event called marriage.

Marcus: Describe a “romantic relationship” in your ideal world.


Feeling free. Living for the moment in the moment. Being yourself with everyone you are with.

The world will never be ideal and we will all die soon. So live as happily as possible with whoever (or more) you want to be with.

Marcus: So you don’t see a “romantic relationship” as a one-to-one, but rather as a relationship between you and the world around you?


Huh? Where did you get that from? Must be the “true lawyer” talking and reading between the lines.

Just as love, “romance” or what is “romantic” has been misused. It’s really about enjoying as much time and the moment as possible with whoever you are with. It could be one-to-one or not.

It could be a memory that fades away or lingers at the back of your mind.


In an ideal world, a romantic relationship would be with someone who loves and accepts me for the many facets that make up me, and vice versa.

We will challenge each other to be our best, and will be communicative, honest, loyal, and true. We share core beliefs, and are passionate about similar causes. We will stand up for each other in public when am faced under criticism, but in private, will have the integrity to tell the other person how we messed up.

We will strive to be continually conscious in our relationship, living in every moment. Together, we will become more spiritually aware of our connection to the Earth and our community, and work together towards a shared life of meaning and service.

We will also have fun.

Yet, that is in an ideal world, and in reality, life just happens and we have no control over it. Perhaps the next best thing is to be in that ideal relationship with yourself.

Ka Ea:

Romance is not about sending your loved one 1,000 stalks of red roses or declaring your love in front of millions of people.

It’s about giving up a part of you and offering it to the other person without expecting anything in return. It’s about giving that person his/her happiness despite forfeiting your own and it has to be mutual of course. Otherwise, it’s just shiok sendiri (self-indulgent).

What’s romance without all the painful tribulations faced by the couple and infused with life’s predicament and drama?

In Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage said to Elisabeth Shue, “I am a drunk and I know you’re a hooker. I hope you understand that I’m a person who is totally at ease with this.”

That sums up romance for me but in my ideal world; my love and I would be speaking like Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.

I leave these words with you.

“I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”


A relationship in which the only people who matter are those in the relationship.

Free from all racial, religious or societal considerations. Free from pressures placed by family members or the need to keep up appearances.

In my ideal world, the only ones who decide where to take the relationship is the couple themselves.

Edmund is a virgin who believes in free love while tweeting at @edmundbon.

June is a secret romantic who believes in Unweddings and tweets at @j_rubis.

Ka Ea is happy to be in love.

Syah is a self-professed “poyo jiwang” who spends his days listening to The Moffatts and stalking Justin Bieber via @syahredzan. Do not judge him.

*this borak session was first published in LoyarBurok in part 1 and part 2.