keeping romance alive

Lockdown Love Stories – Part 3

Three local couples who are keeping the romance alive despite the pandemic

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.

Lisa Berry and Dion Johnstone

Actors Lisa Berry and Dion Johnstone met on the first day of rehearsals for a Stratford Festival production of To Kill A Mockingbird, but the timing wasn’t right for the two of them. Fast-forward a year when Berry walked into that rehearsal hall determined to meet the man standing across the room only to find out it was Johnstone. Full circle. The two share a love of Shakespeare, acting and comic books. But what did they learn from each other during the pandemic?

How have you kept the romance alive during this time?

Lisa: Well, we have a six-month-old, so we’re in the “reinventing our romance” phase.

Dion: Yes, our son pretty much dominates that part of our brains right now. However, we still recognize the things each of us continue to do to take care of ourselves, and a supportive comment here and there helps us feel recognized and loved. We’ve started having family group hugs, and there’s a kind of romance in discovering each other in our new roles of mom and dad.

What is your advice to others in terms of navigating the ups and downs of relationships during the pandemic?

Lisa: Take care of yourself and what you need first. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Dion: Also, really listen to your partner. Listen not only to what they’re expressing through words, but also what they’re expressing through feeling.

What is your favourite guilty pleasure TV show you’ve discovered together and why?

Lisa: Lovecraft Country. This show spoke right to my spirit and let me see myself and the social justice situations clearer all while elevating my opinion of what is possible. Really empowering show!

Dion: Yeah. Lovecraft Country really rocked our world. Shout out to Karen LeBlanc, (a brilliant Toronto-based actor) who plays a pivotal role in probably the most groundbreaking episode of the entire season. You have to see it to believe it!


Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram

naomi snieckus matt baram

Comedians Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus met at Second City in Toronto. “Love at first laugh,” as Snieckus says. The epic proposal involved Chinese food takeout, pyjamas and a surprise trip to the Soho Hotel. Now, how is this comedic power couple handling life in a pandemic? Let’s find out.

Are you both at home, and if so, how has that impacted your relationship both positively and negatively?

Naomi: We are both at home, positively, we talk more openly about what’s really going on in our relationship.

Matt: Negatively, we talk more openly about what’s really going on in our relationship.

How have you managed to keep the romance alive?

I think it has to be through staying present with each other. Communicating in long sentences, rather than just like blurting out short phrases to each other. And we actually started meditating as well.

What is your advice to others in terms of navigating the ups and downs of relationships during the pandemic?

Naomi: Sometimes you have to find your own space in the same room.

Matt: If after two years of living in a pandemic bubble with your partner, you can still find something to talk about, you’re in good shape.

Naomi: It’s only been 10 months

Matt: ….Really?

What has been hardest on your relationship during the pandemic?

Naomi: Well, when you’re isolated, you have to be everything for each other.

Matt: I have discovered I am not the strongest dentist.


Pooja Handa and Paul Pathak

CP24 Breakfast co-host Pooja Handa met her now spouse, Paul Pathak, at Toronto’s Spoke Club while attending a mutual friend’s birthday party. They had their first date at Terroni a few days later. The Lytton Park couple is squirrelled away at home like the rest of us. So how is the relationship doing now? Pooja tells their story.

How have you kept the romance alive during this time?

Romance? What is that? Kidding. Romance looks different for everyone. For us, we’ve tried to create rituals so we have something to look forward to. During the pandemic we started doing a wine and cheese night on Fridays to celebrate the end of the week and to kick off the weekend. We also take turns making breakfast for one another on weekends, so it’s always exciting to see what the other comes up with. Plus our air fryer and Instant Pot are finally getting used instead of taking up counter space. That’s romance!

What has been your favourite pandemic date night idea?

We have tried games night, but it got too competitive and doing puzzles caused a lot of back and neck pain! Wow we sound so old. But our favourite date night so far has been taking turns playing DJ on our streaming service. We give one another a theme like “one hit wonder” or “best movie soundtrack” and go back and forth listening to music and sharing stories related to that song, in some cases even uncovering some obscure titles. I still don’t know how “Boris the Spider,” by the Who, is a real song!

What is your favourite activity to do at home together?

Our favourite activity is getting out of the house and going for walks in our neighbourhood. It’s been fun discovering new trails, parks and taking in nature, something we only started doing during the pandemic.

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