British Columbia

From a 5-minute wedding to living with in-laws, B.C. couples share how the pandemic has tested their love

Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, a number of people have started new relationships or took existing ones to new levels of commitment.

Despite all the challenges of COVID-19, relationships have budded and blossomed in its shadow

Like many British Columbians, Mystica and Sikander Lopez de Leon-Shah had their wedding plans derailed by the pandemic. But they managed to adjust — including making an unexpected last-minute rush — and make new memories along the way. (In Between Dreams)

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many parts of our lives, including our love lives. 

Public health restrictions have made it challenging to meet people, whether that's in the office, on campus or out at clubs and restaurants. Those same restrictions have also tested existing relationships. 

But despite these challenges, a number of people have started new relationships or took existing ones to new levels of commitment. 

CBC's The Early Edition asked listeners to share their stories of love in the time of COVID, and we've compiled some of them below.

Bumble connection

Jayne Dirks and Matt Jarvie are set to be married in March after meeting in July 2020. (Sarah Harris)

Dating apps have made it easier for people to take the first steps into a new relationship without having to meet in person. Jayne Dirks met her now-fiancé, Matt Jarvie, through Bumble and they texted for several weeks before finally meeting in person for a walk in Abbotsford in July 2020. 

"[It] turned into a LONG walk and a fairly substantial coffee after that," Dirks wrote in an email.

"Having been on a fair number of dates before this one, I could tell something was different."

The pair continued to text when he took a trip to Alberta shortly afterward, but Dirks became worried when she didn't hear from him for a while. As it turned out, he was a passenger on the Columbia Icefields tour bus that crashed in Jasper National Park.

Three people were killed in the rollover crash and 24 were injured, including Jarvie, who suffered broken hands and a broken nose.

It was a while before Dirks could see Jarvie again but they continued texting during his recovery and their relationship deepened.

"We were able to meet again several weeks later and the rest is pretty much history," Dirks said.

"We got engaged last fall and are hoping to get married as planned on March 12 ... I am SO thankful he was a lucky one in that crash and so thankful that we found each other during this crazy COVID time."

Moving in with each other ... and the parents

Kirsten Bowles and Ricardo Fajardo had to move in with Bowles's parents during the pandemic, which, she says, caused some conflict but ultimately brought the whole family closer together. (Kirsten Bowles)

Kirsten Bowles and her boyfriend Ricardo Fajardo were living in Vancouver at the beginning of the pandemic and were among the many to lose their jobs as businesses shut down.

As a result, the pair packed up and headed to Bowles's childhood home in Gibsons, B.C., and the same pink room she grew up in as a child.

"My boyfriend and I have lived together for six years, but my parents and I hadn't lived together for 15," Bowles said.

"There were moments of typical roommate struggles, squabbles about dishes, cooking and who ate whose cheese but we all grew so much closer and shared lots of laughs along the way."

The pink bedroom Bowles grew up in became the space she and her boyfriend would live for 20 months of the pandemic. (Kirsten Bowles)

After 20 months the couple were able to move out again but are still living in Gibsons, enjoying their new life together.

"Without COVID, I would never have had the opportunity to spend that time with my parents and see my boyfriend (a true hero for living with his in-laws) and my parents bond further."

"I am grateful for the love and time with my family this pandemic has provided."

A 5-minute wedding

Mystika and Sikander Lopez de Leon-Shah are expecting their first child in August after getting married during the pandemic — with just minutes to spare. (Mystika Lopez de Leon-Shah)

Mystica and Sikander Lopez de Leon-Shah had been together for seven years when they set a wedding date for Aug. 9, 2020 — not knowing it would be derailed by a pandemic.

Despite size restrictions messing up years of planning, the pair decided to move forward with a 50-person gathering because the date was special, right between their birthdays of Aug. 8 and Aug. 10.

But their wedding day came with another big wrinkle. 

An hour before the planned time of the ceremony, Sikander got a call telling him the manager of the mosque where they were holding the wedding and the imam who was performing the ceremony had written down conflicting times in their schedules — and, according to the manager, they were already late.

It meant a rush to get dressed, calling guests with the new time, and getting to the venue as fast as they could — where they had little time to prepare themselves.

"We had no time to plan our entrance and we hastily walked toward the front of the mosque, bumping into a few chairs along the way," Mystica wrote.

"After eight years of dating it took us five minutes to get married, and nobody had been able to process what happened."

Despite things not going as planned, the couple are grateful they were able to get married amid the pandemic. They're now looking forward to welcoming their first child this August.

Loving life at home all over again

Peter and Carol Williams of West Vancouver say despite years of marriage, the pandemic has brought them closer together. (Submitted by Carol Williams)

Although Carol and Pete Williams of West Vancouver have been married for 52 years, the couple say the pandemic has brought them even closer as they followed public health advice to isolate at home.

"We have learned much about the space in our home," the couple wrote. 

"Lots of time has surfaced for wandering about, randomly exploring drawers, cabinets, closets and storage bins left dusty and unvisited for decades. While this has led to purging several bags of refuse, it has also provided barrels of smiles, laughter and even tears as we unearth moments with special friends experienced at home and away."

They say this discovery of old memories has been "complemented with terrific tastes and sounds." The pair, both 75, say they have been staging themed dinners from a French café-style table-for-two in their vegetable garden and have turned their rec room into a Route 66 roadtrip-themed date for Valentine's Day this year.

"Who knows, some crazy dancing may even break out!"

Peter and Carol Williams enjoy an evening by the fire. (Carol Williams)

With files from The Early Edition

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