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IN THIS TOGETHER: ON NAVIGATING QUARANTINE AS A COUPLE

What a year! Needless to say, the 2020 wave has been quite the experience. So we sat down (at a safe distance) with three couples to see how they have been navigating this year's challenges. We learned that we’re not so alone in our feelings and that our experiences transcend borders, zoom calls, quarantine protocols, and politics. We are all in this together as we redefine what is valuable to us and what the true meaning of abundance is by trying our hardest to foster resilience through leading with love.

Be safe & stay kind to your mind
MAAARI


JEANNIE KWON & KWAMI COLEMAN

How have you been during the pandemic?

Kwami: We’ve been up and down, right and left, a range of emotions.

Jeannie: Feeling all the emotions. We’ve been pretty homesick, feeling really anxious, sad, mad, thankful, hopeful.

Kwami: I haven’t been homesick because I’m home, but I’m definitely experiencing the place I call home go through a lot of changes.

How has the pandemic impacted your relationship?

Jeannie: We were only together for about six months when quarantine began, and it kind of forced us to hit the fast-forward button because shit was getting real. We actually got into our first fight when quarantine started.

Kwami: ...the first of a few.

How have you been strengthening your relationship in the midst of the pandemic?

Kwami: I think we’ve been strengthening our relationship by making communication a priority and not being afraid to talk about hard stuff. When you’re living in close quarters with somebody, you’re forced to keep it real. We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on communicating and keeping things honest and direct but also supportive. Obviously you don’t want to keep it so real that you forget about each other’s feelings.

What have you been doing to stay creative (or sane!) during this time?

Jeannie: I started making pottery again. I found that wheel throwing was the only time that my mind actually stayed quiet.

Kwami: To stay sane, to stay whole—I got deeper into running. When I lived in California, cycling became my passion. Since coming back to New York it hasn’t been the same, so I had to shift to running. Once quarantine hit, we were all really anxious, and not knowing what tomorrow held, I just tried taking it out into running and got really deep into it.

Please share any experiences or advice you feel may help others stay positive and inspired.

Jeannie: I think it’s really important to stay in touch with loved ones. Enjoy the little things like cooking, organizing, going for short walks around the neighborhood.

Kwami: Just keeping the bigger picture in mind and knowing this is something we’re all going through together. Even though it’s really difficult, maybe we can focus on making the world better for each other going forward after seeing the way things are now.

 


DEANNA SOLIS & FERDY WALLACE

How have you been during the pandemic?

Deanna: We’ve been in a constant state of “okay”not too great, not too bad, kind of just...

Ferdy: ...It’s been chill.

Deanna: It’s been okay for us.

How has the pandemic impacted your relationship?

Deanna: I feel like we are okay with this low-key version of ourselves vs. before the pandemic we were trying really hard, especially as a new couple.

Ferdy: We also moved in together during this pandemic.

Deanna: I feel like it’s been a good impact overall.

How have you been strengthening your relationship in the midst of the pandemic?

Ferdy: Just by being there for each other. By doing small things for each other. When she’s busy with meetings, I’ll take care of getting us food or cleaning around the house. Then when I’m busy, she picks up the slack and takes care of everything. Just picking up where one of us can’t.

Deanna: And overall just being supportive. Since we’re not in an office environment and we’re both creatives, it’s nice to have each other to bounce off work ideas. Just have each other there not just romantically but professionally as well. So that’s been really good for us.

What have you been doing to stay creative (or sane!) during this time?

Ferdy: I’ve started working on old projects that I’ve always wanted to start. I have this old hard drive full of footage, so I started putting things together. I recently got back into gaming, so I’ve linked up with a few homies from years ago that are also into gaming. Since we have two rooms, we take turns in the studio. At night I’ll take over and play games all night.

Deanna: This year I’ve stepped up my cooking game. I make cocktails and interesting desserts. I do my own nails, and that all keeps me creative to a degree. I don’t think I would have considered them creative last year, but this year I really do embrace these little things.

Ferdy: Now we have more time to focus on things we’ve always wanted to spend more time doing but didn’t have before.  

Please share any experiences or advice you feel may help others stay positive and inspired.

Deanna: During this pandemic, we have experienced a lot of ups and downs, but I think the biggest advice we can give is something I actually learned from Ferdy: Don’t go to bed angryhowever big or small the issue is. You don’t have to hash it out that night, but just say one nice thing to each other so the feeling won’t fester overnight. One nice thing about each other has helped us not have these feelings snowball ‘cause we have bickered a lot during this pandemic.

 

ERWIN JOHN LABRA & KRISTIAN OBCEMANE

How have you been during the pandemic?

Kristian: We’ve been hanging in there. It’s been a crazy ride. 

Erwin: I feel like I’ve had a mental breakdown every month, but being together has really made us focus more on our relationship and what really matters most to us. We’ve always had our own mode of being separate individuals in a relationship, but during the pandemic it was 24/7 of just me and him.. There was a time where we definitely clashed, but during that time we realized how much we understand each other and our different ways of dealing with the pandemic. It was pretty interesting.

Kristian: It was an adjustment period. In March and April, it was so tough. As Erwin said, we were just on top of each other in our apartment, and we had to adjust. He wanted to spend time with me all the time, and I just needed boundaries. I needed space. I needed to do my own thing. I had to figure out a way to explain to him that me needing my space doesn’t mean that I’m hating on him or frustrated with him. It’s just something I needed for myself.

Erwin: Yeah, we really realized our boundaries ‘cause I’m… a needy bitch I guess. (laughter)

Kristian: That’s not what I’m saying, but boundaries for sure…

Erwin: We’ve always had our 9-5’s. We’ve never worked together. I had this idea that he was going to be my work partner. We’re going to wake up early and make breakfast together. We’re going to make Spam! And that didn’t happen, because he wanted to sleep in and take advantage of working from home. The reality set in when he told me that even though we share a space, there still had to be boundaries. He wanted to do his own thing, while I wanted to do things together all the time. 

How has the pandemic impacted your relationship?

Kristian: We’ve really had to focus on communication, boundaries, and being empathetic with each other.

Erwin: I think it comes to being honest because growing up in a Filipino household, you’re always repressing feelings for the sake of your partner. We didn’t know how to handle being in our apartment 24/7and having a schedule together as a couple. We had to respect how each of us wanted to go through this pandemic.

Kristian: The schedule thing that Erwin just mentioned was especially important because back in April, I was furloughed from my job. On top of navigating a pandemic, I was jobless, and my schedule was out of whack. Erwin was working still, and he has this ideal vision of what that time was going to be like for him, but it didn’t fit with me. It was a rather distressing situation. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know if I was going to lose my job. So it was really a moment of me being honest with him and saying, “Look, I’m going to sleep in and then try to get my shit together. You do your thing. Just because I’m not wanting to eat breakfast with you every day, that doesn’t take away from our relationship or what we have”. I think going through that—talking about it, getting in fights about it, and making up about it—I think that really helped our relationship.

How have you been strengthening your relationship in the midst of the pandemic?

Kristian: Focusing on compromise and focusing on each other. Earlier Erwin mentioned that he wanted to spend a lot of time with me. Sometimes if I’m in a mood or I’m just not feeling it, I have to remind myself to compromise and be open to what he wants. Even if I don’t want to eat what he wants, do what he wants, watch what he wants, or whatever it may be—it’s a compromise. I think I met him where he was, and that helped us become stronger.

Erwin: Half of our arguments we had were from miscommunication. We were holding something back, and we weren’t being honest. Or we weren’t forthright with our actions and what our intentions were. He’s always emphasized how one’s intentions have an impact and being aware of them. I’m still trying to master that. It’s a work in progress…’cause I be gettin’ so bitchy (laughter). I get in a mood!

Kristian: It’s fine! It’s fine for him to be in a mood. It’s fine for each of us to have a bad day. But it’s really that moment of self-awareness and understanding how you’re impacting your partner. What was the intention behind what was said? Maybe if there’s a disconnect with the impact of what you said, then we should talk about it. That’s really a framework of how we’ve navigated our arguments, our fights, and even our good moments. I think having that really intentional way of communicating has really helped us stay afloat during these crazy times.

Erwin: At the beginning of quarantine I was fine, but I’m feeling more of it now since the holidays are coming up. I wanna see friends and family. Not knowing the outcome of the next few months worries me. The great thing is—and he’s so much better than I am with this—always checking up on each other mentally and also physically...heyyy! (laughter) I think the best thing he’s ever done for me during this whole thing is constantly asking how I am, and I think it’s better than saying ‘I love you’. Knowing that he has my back and that I feel safe.

What have you been doing to stay creative (or sane!) during this time?

Kristian: It’s been different for each of us. For me, I’ve been trying to foster creativity through writing. I joined a short story contest online. Writing during the pandemic has been so much fun, and it’s a new way to express myself. It’s fun to be in a contest, where you’re getting judged and getting feedback, and I’m learning more about my writing style. I’ve been reconnecting with Filipino content, culture, language. That’s been a big focus for me. It’s helped keep me excited while trapped in the house. 

Erwin: For me, it comes down to cooking. Growing up in a Filipino household, there was always so much food. We’re in this mode of going back to our roots, and food has such a big cultural impact on me. During this pandemic, we haven’t really been out as much, so we try to make food—all different types of food. Cooking is like magic. It’s like alchemy. 

Kristian: It’s been fun.

Please share any experiences or advice you feel may help others stay positive and inspired.

Erwin: Check up on each other. There are so many friends who are single or live alone, and I know it can be a little lonely. So check up on people—your partner, your friends, your family. Everybody needs that right now.

Kristian: I would just encourage people to really think about who and what they want in their lives. This pandemic has made me think about which friendships I want to keep and foster. What kind of energy do I want to surround myself with? We’re in our apartments. We’re in our homes, so when we connect with people, it has to be scheduled and intentional. The lifestyle I had before living here in New York—getting drinks with a friend after work, and then doing it again over the weekend, going hard all the time—that wasn’t sustainable. So something that has really benefited me over the pandemic is really thinking: Who do I want in my life? What do I want in my life? How do I want to feel when I’m around so and so? That’s really helped me navigate this storm, and hopefully it’s moving me in a direction I want to go in when all of this passes.