Real Estate

Love and the Lockdown

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In late February, Jordan Tyler saw a TV commercial for the dating app Match, and while “not big on an online thing,” decided, nonetheless to give it a try.

In late February, Brittany Swoboda, also took note of a television spot for Match, perhaps, Mr. Tyler later speculated, the very same ad that had inspired him. In any case, the two met on the site and by the middle of March, Ms. Swoboda, 33, a divorced behavioral analyst for an autism program, and Mr. Tyler, also 33, a divorced adjunct professor of communication at Western Michigan University were eagerly exchanging emails.

A week later, Michigan was ordered into lockdown to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. With bars and restaurants closed, the newly matched pair had their first date, dinner (steak and pasta salad) cooked by Mr. Tyler at his place.

“Jordan poured the wine glasses really full and I appreciated that,” said Ms. Swoboda, who also appreciated Mr. Tyler’s offer to supply her with a suddenly scarce commodity: toilet paper. Prince Charmin quickly became Prince Charming.

Image“I had barriers from other relationships. Quarantining with Jordan helped me to get over them,” said Brittany Tyler with her new husband, Jordan Tyler, at their home in Michigan.
Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Within a month the two were living together, toggling between Mr. Tyler’s ranch style house northeast of Kalamazoo in Allegan, and Ms. Swoboda’s ranch style house 15 miles away in Shelbyville. By day, they worked side by side on their laptops. By night, they watched movies and talked. And talked.

They eloped in July, and Ms. Swoboda, now Mrs. Tyler, moved in full-time with Mr. Tyler and sold her house.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc in every corner of society. Lives have been lost, put on the line, put on hold. Businesses have shuttered, office buildings have emptied. Dining out generally means dining outside. Some schools have reopened, but most have some component of remote learning. Parents may (or may not) survive the strain.

But love still manages to burn bright, sometimes with real estate as the accelerant. “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment,” Jane Austen wrote in “Pride and Prejudice.” The update to Austen in this time of Covid: couples jump from “Let’s have dinner” to “Let’s have breakfast,” from “Let’s have breakfast” to “Let’s shelter in place together,” in very short order.

The circumstances and motivations vary. For some couples, moving in together on relatively brief acquaintance seems like an eminently logical next step in the relationship at a time when making a connection has taken on a singular, almost wartime, carpe diem urgency. (And never mind the mutters of “premature” from outside observers.)

For some it’s unplanned, more than anything a quirk of timing. For others, it’s a convenience or perhaps a bid to bolster the odds of a relationship’s survival. What with the difficulties of travel during the pandemic, if couples don’t decide to see each other morning, noon and night, goes the thinking, it’s going to be all but impossible to see each other at all.

It’s true that Mr. Tyler and Ms. Swoboda hadn’t known each other long when they decided to quarantine together. But they are quick to point out the difference between quality and quantity time, and equally quick to point out that their few dates were very long dates, affording them lots of time to discuss personal values, long term goals — and who should take out the garbage. “Because of the pandemic, there was nothing to do and no place to go, so the intimate conversations started right away and self-disclosure happened much more quickly,” Mr. Tyler said.

“Living together early in a relationship is hardly new,” said Arlene Kagle, a clinical psychologist in Richmond, Va. “What is new is that in this period of isolation, couples are together many, many more hours of the day than they would be under normal circumstances. And,” Dr. Kagle continued, “that forced togetherness creates a greater sense of shared beliefs and a greater sense of intimacy.”

It also creates a sense of “if we can do this, we can do anything. If we can be happily together 24 hours a day, obviously we’re a great couple.”

“People may feel well-positioned to make a long-term commitment,” Dr. Kagle said. “Whether they’re correct remains to be seen.”


Credit…Eric Striffler for The New York Times

Arina Yakobi is pretty sure she’s correct. Her first date with Michael Hausman, on Feb. 24, included a visit to Fotografiska, the photography museum on Manhattan’s east side, followed by dinner at the museum’s on-site restaurant Verōika. In quick succession came date No. 2: a concert; date No. 3: a performance of the immersive theater piece “Sleep No More”; date No. 4: dinner at a Thai restaurant on the Upper West Side. Rounding things on March 12 was date No. 5: “Così Fan Tutte” at the Metropolitan Opera.

The next day, Mr. Hausman, 60, a music manager and the former drummer of the alternative rock band, ’Til Tuesday, repaired to his house on Reeves Bay in the Hamptons, and asked Ms. Yakobi, 53, an associate broker at the real estate firm Douglas Elliman, to come out for a couple of days.

Somewhere in the midst of the visit, a lockdown directive was issued for New York. “Michael said: ‘Why don’t you stay a few more days and see what pans out,’ ” recalled Ms. Yakobi, who while acknowledging some trepidation — who knew how long lockdown or the relationship would last? — agreed to stick around for a bit. “We’ve now been on our 6th date for the last five months,” she continued. “I went out to the Hamptons and never left.”

During their idyll, the couple has cultivated a vegetable garden and acquired half a dozen chickens. Mr. Hausman built Ms. Yakobi a wooden tub and sauna. She, meanwhile, has done some rearranging of the furniture, and added pillows and linens to upgrade the 1950s wood-frame house from weekend bachelor’s retreat to cozy nest for two.

“The pandemic sped things up for us,” Ms. Yakobi said. “We’re talking about the winter and next summer. It’s all kind of assumed. Of course absent the virus, we would have made the effort, but there would have been the distraction of our jobs and friends and family.”

For some, like Ms. Yakobi and Mr. Hausman, Covid has been one part Cupid, one part relationship facilitator. “The pandemic was a lower risk opportunity for us to figure things out,” said Brittany Fuller, 28, a product manager, who was based in San Francisco when the city went into lockdown and had to decide quickly if she wanted to quarantine alone in her rental (her roommates had already decamped elsewhere) or fly to Los Angeles and quarantine with her boyfriend of three months, Chandler Semjen.


Credit…Lexey Swall for The New York Times

Ms. Fuller chose the latter, assuming it would be just for a few weeks, though she and Mr. Semjen had yet to spend three consecutive days together. Fortunately, “it felt normal immediately,” said Mr. Semjen, 28, an operations analyst. So much so that while Ms. Fuller continued to pay her rent through August, she returned to San Francisco only to pack up and turn in her keys.

She and Mr. Semjen are moving together to Whitefish, Mont., this fall. Absent the pandemic, they may well have gotten to the same place, but the pandemic got them there faster. “If Covid hadn’t happened,” Ms. Fuller said, “we would still be in our separate cities having conversations about how long we would be living in our separate cities.”

And who wouldn’t want to avoid those dreaded relationship conversations?


Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Gary Chase and Sharon Katz met on a dating app last fall, connecting over their shared belief that pizza, craft beer and pinball were the building blocks of a great date. They went on many such great dates, including a classical musical concert in a church crypt, and successfully vacationed together.

Mr. Chase “is amazingly fun,” said Ms. Katz, 44, who works in marketing. In addition to being smart, “Sharon is kind and patient,” said Mr. Chase, 45, a lawyer, who by late February was thinking that come July, when the lease was up on his rental, he would broach the subject of moving in together. “But it was a nerve-racking discussion to think about having,” he said. “It seemed like a big step.”

Then came the coronavirus. The couple studiously avoided public transportation, walking back and forth between Mr. Chase’s apartment in NoLIta and Ms. Katz’s one-bedroom co-op in Chelsea. When, one day, a vagrant spat on Ms. Katz when she declined to give him money, “I said, ‘I don’t think we should do this anymore. I think we should stay at one of our apartments,’ ” Mr. Chase recalled. Because he had a cat and a layout that was conducive to carving out two ad hoc office spaces, his place made more sense. While Ms. Katz did make weekly visits uptown to check on her place, there was, otherwise, no looking back.

All went smoothly. She was touched that he turned the dining area into a dedicated work space for her (even if she did have to share it with the cat). He was charmed that she took it upon herself to clean the litter box. If one of them — never mind who — tended to leave the cap off the toothpaste, well, it was quickly discussed and easily resolved.

“Those things that come with living together, we saw we were handling them really well,” Ms. Katz said. “And because of Covid we got to see the other person’s work style. Sometimes people are one thing at home and another at work. We got exposure to the other person’s full self.”

The plan is for her to put her co-op on the market now that she and Mr. Chase are in contract to buy a two-bedroom apartment with a terrace in Greenwich Village. “It won’t be Sharon’s place or Gary’s place,” Ms. Katz said. “It will be our place.”

Marc Pinaud and his girlfriend, Stephanie Matthias know all about “let’s move in together” stories with a happy ending. As with so many things during the pandemic, theirs was delivered by Amazon.


Credit…Taehoon Kim for The New York Times

In January, Mr. Pinaud, 30, was hired as a senior product manager for the online behemoth’s web services. That was the good news. The bad news, at least in the view of Ms. Matthias: the job was in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The couple, who met late last summer on the dating app Bumble and were both based in Toronto, spent as much time together as they could while Mr. Pinaud was still in town. But Covid was in its ascendancy, and the day before he was to depart for Vancouver at the end of March, instead accepted the option to stay put temporarily and work remotely until things settled down.

He had already given up his apartment so that night he moved in, for three months, with Ms. Matthias, 31, who turned one of the two bedrooms in her rental into a dedicated office for Mr. Pinaud. “Having Marc to pass the time with, having him to talk through the emotional roller coaster of the pandemic was wonderful,” said Ms. Matthias, the development officer for a philanthropy. “We’re a very good match. We compromise without having the conversation to get to the compromise.”

So when Mr. Pinaud finally moved to Vancouver in August, Ms. Matthias, having given the required one-month notice to her landlord, moved along with him. The couple is now ensconced in a two-bedroom apartment near the beach and Whole Foods.

Obviously, sheltering in place with a significant other doesn’t always move things to the next level. And some, while optimistic about the staying power of their relationships, aren’t quite ready to start dying the shoes.


Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

“When there are no other distractions it’s easy to get infatuated with someone,” said Lily Evans, 30, a nursing student who met Kevin Karl, an environmental statistician with the United Nations, at the beginning of March. Because they had apartments in the same Upper West Side neighborhood, when the pandemic hit they began living together, alternating addresses as the spirit moved them.

Ms. Evans is reassured that she and Mr. Karl have similar interests — and at least as important — a similar world view. “We’re not bored with each other in spite of the lack of outside stimulation,” she said. “I think it can only get better when we can do things like go to restaurants and museums and meet each other’s friends. It can only get better, but of course there are no guarantees.

“I have said to him, ‘What if this is just a Covid thing?’ ”

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