The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to accept a new normal for the time being, which in turn has put every relationship to the test. But amid the chaos, uncertainty and challenges of these trying times, the frontlines have managed to strengthen one thing: love.
Take it from these real couples. Some have to watch their fiancés enter the frontlines of the healthcare crisis each day, others the opposite. They've had to replan their weddings, fall into new routines and even live with the uncertainty of when they will see their loved ones next.
But they've learned something along the way, too. And if anything, these couples have never been more in love. Here, the love lessons they've learned by combating this crisis and why their relationships are better because of it.
1. Nothing is more essential than each other.
As physical therapists, Rachel Hohman and her fiancé, Alan, are deemed essential employees during this crisis and continue to work on the frontlines—Hohman in a redeployed role in the healthcare system and her fiancé at his usual position in a hospital. They've seen firsthand what the word "essential" really means in the workplace and now, they are applying that definition to their own relationship.
The couple was planning to tie the knot in June with an elaborate mass followed by a night of drinking and dancing. But their actual nuptials will look quite different. "We officially decided that we will get married on June 27, 2020, with only the essentials: the two of us, a priest, and (hopefully) our parents and siblings," says Hohman. "On that day, we will get to finally be husband and wife, and that is the most essential to us right now. Amidst the many uncertainties of this time, we will recite our vows to one another, for life. And for the both of us, there is really nothing more essential."
2. Distance does make the heart grow fonder.
If the pandemic has taught Lauren Romano one thing about love, it's this: Distance really does make the heart grow fonder. "I have really learned—and not to be corny—but I literally cannot wait to marry [her fiancé] and start a family," she shares. "'Distance makes the heart grow fonder' is literally true!
Romano and Anthony, her fiancé, are currently quarantining separately (Romano, with her mother and Anthony alone in their apartment) since he is a fireman for the New York City Fire Department. "We haven’t kissed or even hugged or held hands since the quarantine has begun," Romano explains. "But, we are grateful to even be able to stand six feet apart from each other because there are people who can't do that. So, we just have to go with what we have."
3. We're all in this together.
Emergency room doctors Max and Greta of Australia were supposed to tie the knot on April 11, 2020. However, instead of meeting at the altar that day, they shared a kiss inside Geraldton Regional Hospital in-between treating COVID-19 patients.
They are working on the frontlines together—doing their best to combat the coronavirus pandemic and subsequently, had to put their wedding plans on hold because of it. "The best way for people to show their appreciation is by staying safe and well in the coming weeks. Look after each other and we will all get through #COVID19 together," they wrote on Instagram. "We need to all support each other through these difficult times."
4. Patience and positivity are vital.
"We know that persevering through something like this as a team will only make our commitment to each other deeper," believes Rawan Khanafer, a pharmacist in Michigan. Her fiancé is fighting on the frontlines of the crisis too, albeit on the other side of the country finishing his otolaryngology residency in Los Angeles.
Between conflicting, demanding work schedules and varying time zones, Khanafer has found that nothing is more important than patience and positivity right now. "We have definitely learned the overall importance of being patient and staying positive," she explains. "We have both had to take turns being the optimistic, encouraging person in the relationship. We have found that we were capable of being more patient than we would have originally thought."
5. Hardships can be a blessing in disguise.
Kimberly Russell, a diagnostic cardiac sonographer in Ontario, Canada, is no stranger to long-distance relationships. Her fiancé Justin is currently a physician in New York City and the pair has endured long-distance since 2010 when he began his medical career. "He went to medical school in the Caribbean, so we have had to keep our relationship going through hurricanes, floods, and now this," says Russell. "It's hard to imagine all we have been through, but it has definitely prepared us to manage this time apart fairly well."
Daily phone calls, frequent video chats and random mid-day texts have brought them closer together—even if they are physically in two different countries. "Throughout our relationship, our darkest moments have always wound up being blessings in disguise. The hardships and tough times have led to great opportunities and moments we have been able to support each other through and share together, and this simply has to be another one of those opportunities for growth that will make us better. It just reinforces that we really can get through anything and makes me that much more excited and proud to get to call him my husband soon."
6. Trust your partner.
For Dana Brady, sending her fiancé off to work as a firefighter in Northern California during this pandemic has not been easy. But one way that she has learned to deal with the worry of his profession is through trust. "Of course I am worried when he leaves, but I trust him and the other firefighters in the department," she says. "[I] have to believe that when he is on duty, he is doing what he can to protect himself and his patients. Know and trust that they are the professionals for a reason."
Fortunately, Brady is able to work from home full-time since she is an agriculture specialist for the University of California, which has allowed her to take "whatever precautions I can to ensure he can come home to a safe space as well."
7. #StayingHome is an act of love.
Peggy Ji of Los Angeles, California doesn't consider her husband or herself frontline workers—"We are more like the last line of defense," she says. They both work at an L.A. hospital (Ji in the ER and her husband with admitted patients) and appreciate everyone who has been staying home during this crisis. "When all else fails, we are here to fight COVID. But we can prevent overloading the system and avoid getting to the hospital," Ji wrote on Instagram. "Everyone—including non-medical civilians are the 'frontline' because they can make the first difference by social distancing and staying at home."
For Ji, it's a lesson that must be spread far beyond the medical community because staying home is the greatest act of love right now.
8. Love knows no boundaries.
"Be it time, distance, life stages, real love is supporting each other through the ugly," offers Natalie Spiller, a resident in psychiatry. Due to the travel restrictions, she hasn't seen her fiancé, who is completing a pulmonary fellowship in Louisville, Kentucky, since February.
But despite being 800 miles apart, their relationship has prevailed. "I am truly more excited to marry the love of my life than I have ever been," Spiller says. "We have always been best friends but we are now also life partners. We have seen each other through unimaginable physical, mental, financial stress, and I couldn't be more in love. Love knows no boundaries."
9. There's more than one way to say "I love you."
Libby Orth had just settled into life with her boyfriend Tommy—finally trading in their three years of long-distance for a home together in Nashville, Tennessee—when the Army Reserves deployed him to a new city to care for COVID-19 patients. "When I moved to Nashville in May, I hoped that we wouldn’t have to say 'see you later' for a while, but when you date someone in the military, it’s 100% something you know is a possibility," she says.
So while Tommy works as a physician's assistant outside of Nashville for the time-being, Orth has learned how to express her love in different ways." I’ve learned to show my love for him in unique ways. It’s not about talking all day every day. It’s about making the most of the time [we] do get to talk and showing him I’ve been thinking about him all day when we don’t get to talk."
10. Savor each moment together.
This husband and wife duo are both Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) assigned on the COVID-19 airway team of their hospital. Dressed in their personal protective equipment, this is the closest this couple can get to each other at the start of their shift—and after the shift is complete, no contact. Their embrace was captured by Nicole Hubbard and quickly went viral on social media, teaching us to hold our loved ones close and savor each moment we get with each other.