(Sam and Cierra, Surprise Engagement – Q2 2021)

Bonds are something I always lead off with and examine in my relationships. They are found in weak and strong ties. Unless you were already in a relationship, dating in 2020 didn’t look like prior years and it might have shaken up the foundation of what that bond was built on. It was either all virtual through a screen or as the year dragged on, you dated through quarantine. Some people took up sewing skills, joined a trivia group, and got more in touch with nature. On the topic of PPE, the world began to purchase masks representing their style or one with a message to believe in. Face pajamas helped all of us feel some sense of safety as we all attempted to brave the elements. Hand sanitizing regularly as a safety precaution to thwart off COVID-19 while taking the risk of going outside. From a Black-owned business perspective, the collective awakening (or re-awakening) of the world to the atrocities of systemic racism was something I needed to find more resolve in as well. I had a client tell me it was hard to find Black photographers in Minnesota. He wasn’t wrong and it wasn’t the first time I had heard this. Especially in the Minnesota wedding industry, there aren’t, en masse, a strong availability of Black vendors. A small conversation like that keeps me thinking about what needs aren’t being met and what the support of “BIPOC” creatives looks like in the community and out.

For months, and in a sense, we still are, finding a way to break out of our own anxiety boxes when it comes to making new connections. Stretched is a word I’ve used a lot this year. Whether you’re practicing more patience or that same patience has run thin, I’d like to think the world collectively is moving toward “better” and not worse. Seeing, naming, and rewarding the things that make relationships feel human instead of toxic. I’ve heard phrases this past year like, “I haven’t meaningfully touched someone I care about in the past 8 months,” or “I’ve forgotten what it feels like to hang out with people.”

My couples this year who have reached out have been able to do what they can to stay close or find someone that looks like them to work with. It’s made me want to explore more about what it means to move towards another and not away from them.

Lauren, what relationship habits do you think will stay or go after the year we just had? What questions do you think will still remain?

Well, I think it’s safe to say the lives of the dating and engaged were wild enough as it was without throwing a pandemic into the mix. Exciting, heart-pumping first dates turned into exciting, heart-pumping first…Zoom calls. Talk about trying to find the room in your house that has the best lighting.

From there, as you alluded to Profit, figuring out if you actually want to meet up in person was thoroughly up in the air depending on safety concerns, among a hundred other things. The vibe is definitely different when there aren’t pheromones floating around the room, and you can’t accidentally brush hands while you’re walking to the car.

Engaged couples were suddenly thrust into navigating safety concerns and had their arms completely full making a whole array of decisions about how to manage wedding showers and ceremonies in the time of corona. When the world went into lockdown, choices had to be made about how and when to see one another in person or if the relationship had to go virtual.

Whether you’re single or married, chances are good that you said farewell to a number of in-person connections in one way or another over the last year. At the very least, you made sourdough bread alone in your kitchen or you stood on one sidewalk and yelled across the street to another human being on the other sidewalk while you walked or jogged and called it a “relationship.” And frankly, there was a whole lot of grief and a whole lot of beauty in that.

Holding the juxtaposition of what relationships looked like this past year is not for the faint-hearted. Everyone’s experience of 2020 looks a little different from everyone else’s, and yet, we all share a common thread. I think it’s true to say that many, many people went to great lengths for one another, many, many people felt completely isolated, and many of us found ourselves everywhere in between those two contrasting (yet somehow conjoined) opposites.

There was a certain rhythm to relationships before the pandemic. An expected journey plotted on a proverbial map that you traversed as you got to know someone and then fell into a deeper relationship with them. With COVID, all that went out the window, and we had to exercise very careful consideration as we trekked around and among one another. Familiar relationships were stretched and then stretched again, and we all just kept hanging on.

The ceaseless, unsettling onslaught of news was a magnet to millions of eyes and minds across the country. It was a bad car crash we couldn’t look away from. For many of us, it was too much, so we took to the streets, our kitchens, our Zoom calls, and we kept trying to push back the darkness in whatever way we knew how.

I think something I’ve noticed is that the expectation to reach out and pursue one another has faded a bit, and I think that’s kind of scary. It’s acceptable to not reach out for months because we’ve all just been waiting for weeks and weeks for this pandemic to end anyway, so what’s a couple more? On the flip side, I see lots of bravery and lots of people reaching out into the abyss of silence and making connections, pursuing love, and caring for the hurting—all despite the fear that seems to permeate our society these days.

We all faced shadows of ourselves and our anxieties this last year. For some, it was awful. For others, even in the midst of the darkness, there were a lot of good, beautiful things that were birthed from what felt like ashes.

As we move up and out of the pandemic, as we stretch our wings and get ready to fly back into a new sense of normalcy, my instinct is that our understanding of relationships has shifted some, but our humanity is still intact. Our souls have the same anatomy as those of any other century, and nothing can change the fact that we need each other in a variety of ways to survive.

I’m looking forward to seeing our light rise in the darkness, and for lionhearted men and women to keep reaching out and caring for one another in whatever way they can. Let’s keep trying, no matter how hard it feels, and let’s let our love for others grow stronger than fear.

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