The pandemic has been hard on everybody, and it has certainly taken its toll on relationships. Romance takes work, and during a lockdown, it also means getting creative and taking care of the little things like making time for your significant other. In our four-part series on lockdown love stories, we check in with 12 local couples who have previously been featured in our How They Met column to ask them how they are managing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what tips they might offer those who are looking for a little bit of relationship help to weather the storm. We hope you like it.
Samara Shuter and Emily Krouse
Samara Shuter is best known for her larger-than-life paintings of headless men wearing everything from tailored suits to motorcycle jackets. She met and had the first date with her partner Emily Krouse, a lawyer, on the same day when Sam flew to Washington, D.C., to meet in person. The rest is history. They married in 2015. Sam talked to us about the creative ways they are dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their relationship.
How have you kept the romance alive during this time?
We’re both romantic in the traditional sense. We love little wins like candles, music and making dinner together a priority — but to be honest, we’ve been so busy (in both of our careers), and with my studio move, condo sale, house purchase and now renos…the most romantic thing we’ve done lately is decide against a dog. LOL. We hope to expand our family one day, and we know in our gut that not only would we not be able to give a dog our full attention now, but that our relationship would suffer. We’re coming off of a high of an extremely stressful year. We’re getting better at supporting each other’s needs in the healthiest way possible, and trying to be mindful of our precious time. We have a tendency to do everything at once…all or nothing. For two “Type A” personalities, finding the grey area is tough. So, to be able to be honest about these things and respect each other for it… feels pretty romantic.
What has been your favourite pandemic date night idea?
Emily and I LOVE a project. We feel great when we’ve tackled something we’ve been meaning to do or experience together. Unless it’s a show we truly love, we don’t typically binge television or enjoy sitting in front of the TV nightly. I’d say it’s a toss-up between a great bottle of wine and sifting through memory boxes or old photos (having been together for 13.5 years), or the same — always have to have a great bottle of wine — and a dedicated movie night to watch something we’ve been looking forward to.
And what have you learned about your relationship?
Emily and I work on our relationship quite a bit, so we were already hyper-aware of each other’s habits, but what this has done is really bring our traits to the surface. I am a very social/extroverted person, and so I recognized that I had been compensating for that by reaching out and connecting with family and friends often to maintain a sense of normalcy (to the point of it getting in the way of other priorities), whereas Emily has actually thrived: not having to formally dress and commute to work and has been able to make time for many projects she’s never been able to schedule, etc. To put it lightly … it helped us discover a lack of balance in our universe, and going forward we’d like to try and map out more time for just each other.
What is your advice to others in terms of navigating the ups and downs of relationships during the lockdown?
Oh dear. Patience. Empathy. Respect. Forgiveness, and quick! This has been a tumultuous year! Some of our greatest fears and anxieties bubbled up to the surface! There have been moments where I’ve thought “if nothing resumes, then I fear I have not reached my potential”, or “if nothing resumes, I did my best”, at what? On the basis of? So many of life’s big questions arise when our habits are forced to shift, and that internal dialogue is extremely personal and tied into your subconscious… so… patience. Kindness. Love and support are huge, too. In a way, I find it insightful, enlightening and cathartic to navigate through this together, and hope for the best!
Andrew and Caro Chang
Andrew Chang met his wife Caro at a chemistry party in Montreal — she was studying for her master’s degree. He proposed alongside a lake in Mont Tremblant. The couple and their two kids moved to Toronto when Chang became the co-host of CBC’s The National, and they eventually settled in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood. Chang, now at home with his family in a condo, talked to us about navigating the cramped quarters amidst a global pandemic.
What has been hardest on your relationship during the pandemic?
I wouldn’t say this has been hard per se, but I think we have really tried focusing on being respectful of each other’s workloads. Having both our young kids at home all day (one in virtual school) has really amplified how busy we both are. So we’ve each been keeping in mind that we both feel like we’re the busiest people in the world, and that’s OK. We just have to remember the other person feels the same way!
And what have you learned?
That we’ve truly got each other’s backs, that we’re both susceptible to all those pesky human things like getting frustrated or exhausted but that we’re both ready, willing and able to cover for each other. And you’d better believe we count on that every day!
What has been your favourite lockdown date night idea?
Ironically, despite being big board game fans, we haven’t yet sat down to an actual game of Pandemic. Maybe it’s too soon! Haha. But we’re huge gamers, and for us, date night isn’t a glass of wine and a movie. It’s teaming up and fighting virtual zombies or flying giant pterodactyls over a swampy wasteland.
How have you kept the romance alive during this time?
Well, we’ve actually spent far more time together this past year than we would otherwise — thank you, coronavirus — so this pandemic has actually helped remove one of the big work-life-balance hurdles that my job has a tendency to repeatedly lay in front of us. But that being said, I think “romance” and pandemic “romance” are two slightly different things … and a family of four packed into a small condo doesn’t give any of us all that much alone time! Haha.
Erica Ehm and Terry Moshenberg
Erica Ehm met her future partner Terry Moshenberg while she was still at MuchMusic, and he worked in computers. They met thanks to a Jewish matchmaker who neither of them hired. But it worked out just fine. Now, Ehm has a thriving media business that includes her new podcast Reinvention of the VJ, and Moshenberg has moved on to real estate. They are always adapting and trying new things, but how are they dealing with the biggest change of all — COVID-19? Let’s find out.
What has been hardest on your relationship during the lockdown?
Both of us being cut off by our social networks has put a lot of pressure on each other to fill that gap. And as we all know, no one person can be your everything. So it’s been tough on us.
What have you learned about your relationship?
We know to give each other space without taking it personally.
Are you both at home, and if so, how has that impacted your relationship both positively and negatively?
We’ve always both worked from home. Sometimes we step on each other’s toes, but we make it work. The harder part is having the kids home all the time.
What did you learn about your partner that you didn’t know before the pandemic?
His fortitude to pivot. He became a licensed realtor in less than a year while in lockdown.
What is the first thing you plan on doing as a couple once the pandemic is behind us?
Throwing a party for our friends at my cottage.