how the pandemic has sent relationships into high gear
Couples who got together just before or during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown have had to navigate the early days of their relationships in unprecedented conditions.
The pandemic has caused some new couples to move in together long before they would have considered otherwise.
For others, the isolation caused them to become very close much sooner than a normal date would normally have.
For David Walsh from Estevan, Sask., the love story started just before the pandemic with the best date he’s ever had. Walsh dated Ivan Slywka on New Year’s Eve 2019 in Calgary after they met through a dating app.
Fast forward to March 2020, and Slywka was helping Walsh move into a friend’s house in Calgary right at the start of the pandemic.
Then an ambulance stopped in front of the house.
“People inside get out in their PPE and go upstairs because the people upstairs had called 811 and they needed to be screened for COVID,” Walsh said.
Walsh told Slywka he could not return to the house because he was either being quarantined or getting sick.
“So Ivan was like, ‘Well, I guess we live together now. You can come to me,'” Walsh said.
“A lot had to be processed very quickly. On the one hand I had the uncertainty and the fear of the pandemic and the virus. And on the other hand, there was the uncertainty and the fear of this person, which I definitely liked … but hadn’t known her long.”
The new couple quickly got to know each other.
“When you first start dating, especially if you don’t live together, you only see the side of that person that you want to see. It’s basically always her on her best day,” Walsh said. “Suddenly I see them all the time, good and bad.”
Walsh said he was a generally guarded person. It had always taken him a while to open up. But because of the lockdown, he’s had to drop his guards quickly.
“It was an interesting and at times romantic experience simply because it was a level of intimacy that I had never experienced before.”
I couldn’t stand in my own way this time. It was just a very liberating experience overall. -David Walsh
Walsh said he and Slywka would likely still be a couple even if the pandemic hadn’t accelerated the relationship, but they might not be living together just yet. He said his own insecurities kept him from moving too quickly.
“I thought, ‘This is me, here are my needs. This is the best way I can respond. Can you do it?’ And he’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, sure,'” Walsh said.
This shocked Walsh, who was used to his partners having to figure out how to respond to his needs over an extended period of time. But the pandemic forced him to communicate.
In April 2020, Slykwa got a great job offer in Estevan, which is about 185 kilometers southeast of Regina, but he hesitated. Walsh was a full-time distance student at Asthabasca University, so he told Slykwa he was moving with him.
“He didn’t want to let us go. Me [didn’t] either.”
The couple relocated to Saskatchewan in June 2020. Walsh said the pandemic has made him bolder in his relationship.
“This time I couldn’t stand in my own way. It was just a very liberating experience overall,” Walsh said.
“There can be an element of closeness due to shared trauma. The pandemic has been really traumatic and I know this can bring people closer together.”
The pandemic has been really traumatic and I know it can bring people closer together. -David Walsh
What did his family and friends think of the couple moving in together in March and moving to another province just a few months later?
“I think every member of my immediate family … whenever I said what I was doing, it was basically 30 seconds of silence. Then are … ‘are you sure?’” Walsh said. “Some of them thought I’d lost my mind.”
The couple bought a house together in Estevan in 2021. They are still deeply in love.
A pandemic courtship
Bailey and Jordaan Braun met through a dating app in July 2020.
“I said to myself, ‘Bailey, you’re going to take it slow this time. You’re about to slow it down,'” Bailey said.
They started talking on the 17th, had a first date on the 20th, the second on the 22nd, and the third on the 24th.
You were addicted. So much for slow.
Jordaan lived in Moose Jaw and Bailey in Saskatoon, more than 200 kilometers away, where she attended the University of Saskatchewan. But classes had gone entirely online due to COVID-19, so nine months after meeting Jordaan, Bailey decided she had the freedom to move to Moose Jaw to be near him.
“It really helped speed things up. We were able to get to know each other so much faster.”
The speed of the relationship meant Jordaan was privy to what was going on in Bailey’s family very quickly.
“We were dealing with my father’s diagnosis of ALS and some other family losses. Because [Jordaan] was my person, he was in my bubble, he just learned that information so much earlier,” Bailey said.
“Having this medical diagnosis for my father was really scary for my family and we were very, very cautious. He really supported me and kept me grounded.”
The Brauns didn’t even go to their first movie date — a staple for new couples — until they got engaged in 2021. They married in August 2022.
The pandemic has definitely helped us get that quality time that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. – Bailey Brown, Elkjaw
Bailey said that if it weren’t for the pandemic, they probably wouldn’t be married yet.
“The pandemic has definitely helped us get that quality time that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise.”
She’s excited to share with her future children how their parents got engaged and married during a pandemic.
“When my kids go to their first movie theater when they’re 14…I’m going to remind them that that wasn’t a luxury for us at the time,” she said, laughing.