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Canadians from across the generations – baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, Gen Zs and more – reached out to share beautiful tales of their romances and to, all in all, celebrate the magic of love

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Illustrations by The Globe and Mail, istock • Photos courtesy of readers

For Valentine’s Day, The Globe and Mail asked readers to submit their love stories.

We received submissions from couples who’ve been together mere months to more than 55 years. Some met on dating apps. Others reconnected after many years. One pair fell in love from opposite sides of the world. And we heard from couples who met in the most unique of places – from a morgue to a war-zone.

These are some of their romantic tales.


Gen Z

Jack Mull, 25 and Emily Carter, 25, Toronto

First met: 2018
How long you’ve been together: 4 years

Emily and I were both on exchange at the University of Bath, England and though we had a romantic connection, it never quite became serious. But when we returned to school in Kingston, something about her stayed with me. One day, during a particularly stressful week, she sent me a picture of a stuffed animal she found while shopping. It was a small, innocent gesture, but it was the highlight of her week and it made me realize that I needed to take action. I immediately bought several of the stuffed animals and left them at her house with a note asking her out to dinner. It was a bold move, but it worked. Four years later, we’re celebrating our fourth anniversary and I couldn’t be happier. I’m grateful for every moment we’ve spent together and I’m excited to spend the rest of my life with her.

Olivia Baker, 18 and Thomas McLay, 19, Guelph, Ont.

First met: 2019
How long you’ve been together: 3 years

My boyfriend, Thomas, and I met in the summer of 2019. He worked at the University of Guelph Gryphon Activity Camps as a counsellor. At the time, I was volunteering as a counsellor in training. We were technically working in two different camp groups, but as our campers were the same age, we did various activities together and crossed paths daily. Because of this, we got to talk and get to know each other. Once the summer and camp had ended, we went on a few dates, and here we are three years later.


Millennials

Adam Zivo, 30 and Leonid Bochkur, 37, Odesa, Ukraine

First met: 2022
How long you’ve been together: Less than a year

I’m a columnist who has spent most of the past year reporting from Ukraine. In June, I met my boyfriend, Leonid, in Odesa.

I returned to Canada shortly after with plans to go back to Kyiv. But instead, when I returned to Ukraine, I decided to spend my time in Odesa to be with Leonid. We’ve been living together for about five months now.

We only get electricity for half of the day, and have spent so many nights together by flashlight watching pirated films off my laptop.

But it doesn’t matter to me if there are blackouts, because my soul is illuminated when I’m with him.


Omer Humayun, 34 and Ayesha Azhar, 31, Oakville, Ont.

First met: 2015
How long you’ve been together: 6 years married
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Millennials are a sandwiched generation because we are drawn toward the old-school charm of those before us yet try to be edgy like those after us. I met my wife at a wedding. It was a short, polite interaction and I asked for her social handle. She said she wasn’t active on social media. I was disappointed, but then she offered: “I do have a phone number.” Something that hadn’t even crossed my mind. As die-hard fans of Taylor Swift, the 1989 concert was our first date. We have been married six years, have two daughters and two mortgages.

Kristie Serota, 30 and Sarah Glaser, 38, Toronto

First met: 2018
How long you’ve been together: 3.5 years
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I met Sarah in 2018 when she showed up as someone’s Tinder date to a Halloween party I was hosting. A year later, we had our own first date on a lavender farm. Purple ice cream dripped from our cones as we walked through flower fields. Six months, one bee sting and an impromptu trip to the Algarve later, I moved into Sarah’s townhouse for the “two-week” lockdown in March, 2020. Suffice it to say, I never left! Against the backdrop of the pandemic, life in our cozy house teemed with board games, challah baking and wedding planning. We celebrated our marriage at the University of Toronto’s Hart House with our loved ones in September. Our guests were serenaded by the university’s talented music students, brought to tears by their marvelous officiant and danced into the hot night surrounded by 1,000 lovingly hand-folded origami cranes.

Beth Carlson-Malena, 39 and Danice Carlson-Malena, 40, Vancouver

First met: 2005
How long you’ve been together: It’s complicated!
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When I moved to Vancouver 18 years ago, Danice picked me up from the airport. She was my seminary housemate. She introduced this Prairie kid to spicy curry, craft beer, good music and the ocean. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and, to my surprise, with Danice! We are both queer, though we were in deep denial. After first coming out to ourselves, then to each other and finally to the churches we pastored (which sadly meant losing our jobs), we were married in 2014, surrounded by our families and chosen family, who celebrated and danced with us late into the night. Today, I am honoured to officiate weddings for other queer couples. Danice calls me her redhead, and every night before bed, we dance together.

Hannah ter Weeme, 29 and James Parry, 34, Toronto

First met: 2016
How long you’ve been together: Nearly 4 years

We always smile when someone asks where we met. Nobody expects “the morgue” to be the answer. James and I were both working for the Ontario government and he gave me a tour of the Centre of Forensic Sciences – real-life CSI stuff. And definitely not the first place I dreamt of meeting a partner. Our timing finally aligned nearly three years later, and the rest is history. It sounds cliché, but sometimes you really do meet someone when you least expect it. I never thought I’d be forever grateful for my trip to the morgue.

Rachael Carter, 28 and Jay Carter, 32, Toronto

First met: 2008
How long you’ve been together: 11 years
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I was 13 years old when I set my eyes on my now-husband. We’re four years apart – and four years in high school seems like forever. We didn’t officially date until 2012, however, we always kept in touch. Being the young millennials we are, we exchanged BBMs on our Blackberry phones in 2008/09. We dated for five minutes and I shyly broke up with him on MSN (then continuously signed in and out for him to notice!). Fast forward to 2011, fate brought us together when Jay moved back to Toronto and asked a mutual friend for my number. We have been inseparable since. In 2021, we had a grand wedding in the middle of the pandemic and we currently live a happy full life with our two fur babies!

Jamie Pandit, 34 and Phil Silva, 40, Toronto

First met: 2016
How long you’ve been together: 6 years
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We were living in different parts of Ontario in 2016 and wouldn’t have crossed paths if it wasn’t for Bumble. Phil had heard that Bumble was the place to find more serious and meaningful relationships and for me, Bumble was a place that allowed me to feel safe as a transgender woman. After several dates with Phil, I knew there was something magical between us. We were falling in love, and I was ready to tell him my story. At the time, I was living in stealth and passed as a cisgender girl. I didn’t really accept my trans identity. But the time came when I was like, “Oh my God, we’re falling in love. Things are happening so quickly. And I need to tell him.” He told me that he fell in love with me for who I am and said, “I see you. And that’s what matters.” Phil proposed in August 2019, and we got married on August 28, 2021.

Pranave Prem, 30 and Brindan Sivanandan, 30, Toronto

First met: 2003
How long you’ve been together: 4 years
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Brindan and I first met at a tutor when we were kids. We’d even gone through the awkward teenage years in high school together as friends, and somehow managed to find the spark many years later. One day I realized that the partner that I was searching for, who reliably remembered every detail that I had ever mentioned to him, had been in my life all along. I decided to switch it up and make the first move and now I am married to the most passionate, hardworking, charismatic man I have ever met. The calm to my chaos.

Nora Anwar, 30 and Ankar Askar, 30, Toronto

First met: 2016
How long you’ve been together: 6 years
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Our love story began with a simple “like” on Instagram. My husband and I, living on opposite sides of the world, connected over the digital world. Our conversations were filled with laughter and love, and after just three days, he proposed to me, saying I was the one. A month later, he took the leap and flew to Sweden to meet me in person, and soon after, I made the move to Toronto to be by his side. Our love has only flourished since then, and six years later, we’re still madly in love and Canada is now our forever home. Love may be unpredictable, but when you follow your heart, it always leads to happiness.


Gen X

Adria Iwasutiak, 43, Toronto

First met: 2002
How long you’ve been together: 5.5 years
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We met in 2001 via mutual friends. It was hate at first sight. Our conversations consisted of political debates and eye-rolling, until we ended up having a one-night stand – or so we thought. The next day he came by my place with a greeting card of a butterfly staring at a frog saying, “when face to face with the unexpected, just wing it.” We dated a bit. I would casually pop over for late Law and Order re-runs (the original Netflix and chill). We lost touch soon after. At 37, I was single and decided to pursue having a baby by myself. During that period, I ran into him at a mutual friend’s party. When our friends went home, we decided to get another drink. I told him my plan and said I was actively shopping for sperm donors. “You should put your hat in the ring,” I joked. A couple months later, he said he’d been thinking about our conversation and that if I wanted to, he would be open to discussing what that could look like. The fertility clinic and sperm donor catalogues had left me rattled so we began to consider the idea of co-parenting. Flash forward eight months, we had travelled to Japan, fallen in love and were pregnant. Our daughter turns 4 in April.

Trevor Frankfort, 45 and Ryan Joyce, 36, Toronto

First met: 2020
How long you’ve been together: 3 years
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As a wedding planner, I witness a new love story every weekend. My own began in January 2020 when I met Ryan. Within six weeks we took a risk and quarantined together. We quickly got to know each other, while watching our favourite movies, perfecting our sourdough and creating makeshift entertainment such as the kids’ pool we inflated on our balcony. Our big risk rewarded us as we developed the kind of love and intimacy that it takes most couples years to achieve. We got married in September 2022, surrounded by 30 of our closest loved ones.

Jasprite Atwal, 46, and Aujmer Atwal, 46, Calgary

First met: 2001
How long you’ve been together: 22 years

I met Aujmer 22 years ago at the Vancouver Art Gallery. We married in the summer of 2002. I knew he was the one as he appreciated the Emily Carr exhibit and demonstrated the nuances of looking at art. Since then we have visited many art galleries around the world. It started with bright colours and brush strokes, and we have created our own masterpiece by raising two children. I could not have imagined the life we would be living today, but I am so glad we are sharing the journey together.

Vanessa Ray-Zarate, 41 and Michel Ray-Zarate, 41, Dundas, Ont.

First met: 1999
How long you’ve been together: 18 years

We were one-liners meet eye-rolls acquaintances in high school who became a couple five years later, after other relationships and life experiences helped us grow up a little. We’ve been one-lining and eye-rolling our way through these past 18 years together, years that have given us the gift of raising three spectacular humans as well as our fair share of ups and downs. Most recently, our family survived a serious car accident. My love and I have found ways to hold on even tighter to one another, despite the daily hardships that come from the changes to our lives. One-liners and eye-rolls help.

Sangeetha Balachandra, 42 and Mark Vijiam, 35, Winnipeg

First met: 2007
How long you’ve been together: 15 years
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I was back in my hometown in Johor Bahru, Malaysia for Chinese New Year. One evening, my younger brother invited me to hang out with him and his friends. I kept trying to duck out till the very last minute. A car pulled up in front of our driveway and my brother urged me to get in. I sheepishly sat in the back seat and my brother introduced me to Mark, who was driving. We both said hi but didn’t look at each other. We got to a restaurant and Mark and I tried very hard not to make eye contact. Later that night, he worked up the courage to talk to me. We hung out every day for the next three days before I returned to my life in Kuala Lumpur. We continued texting and on Valentine’s Day that year, he asked me to be his girlfriend. We dated for a year before I moved to Canada in 2009. We continued our long-distance relationship after our wedding till Mark finally got his permanent residence and was able to move to Winnipeg in April 2022. We would meet each other in different parts of the world each year. This year will be our first Valentine’s Day together in Canada.


Baby Boomers

Donna Brickus-Hollett, 63 and Robert Hollett, 62, Toronto

First met: 1997
How long you’ve been together: 20 years

While at a company training course, I got to know Rob. Months earlier I had purchased a handwriting analysis book and, while at the course, asked him and two other women we worked with if they were interested in my analyzing their writing.

Each provided me with a sample paragraph.

Using a 3x5 Post-it note, I wrote down a few traits Rob’s writing indicated and at the end wrote, “Would you like to go out for a coffee?”

I mailed out my analysis to each via inter-office mail. The next day, my office phone rings.

Answering with hello, I hear a "yes."

We celebrated 20 years together this past January.


Heather Johnston, 63, Vancouver

First met: 1979
How long you’ve been together: 40 years
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I had just returned from a year backpacking in Southeast Asia. I had a year of university to complete before graduating. Not being great at math, I miscalculated how many credits I needed to complete my degree. On the last day of exams, my friends and I went to pick up our convocation tickets – except I was told I hadn’t graduated. In tears, I had to pick a spring course from a huge binder. I had just been in Japan so I picked Anthropology of Japanese Culture. Thankfully, it was a small class. When a classmate asked me to go for coffee because he was going to Japan, and I had just been, I had no idea we would end up married, going on 37 years. It’s been a wonderful life of love, family, travel and adventure. So glad I am bad at math.

Anne Bokma, 60 and Amit Karia, 58, Hamilton

First met: 2021
How long you’ve been together: Almost 2 years
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I’d been in a 30-year marriage and hadn’t dated in decades. My goal with online dating was to meet one guy a week for a walk and talk, but it was discouraging. Until Amit. As I sat across from him on a picnic bench having coffee, I not only liked the look of him, I liked how he talked and laughed and listened. I remember thinking, “Is this guy for real?” Turned out he was. Online dating can be tough – the ghosting, the scammers, the fish pics! But there are gems out there. Now Amit and I offer online dating workshops for women over 50, because we truly believe it’s never too late to meet someone great.

Phyllis Diller Stewart, 65 and Murray Stewart, 69, Uxbridge, Ont.

First met: 1972
How long you’ve been together: 23 years
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We met in a group setting – no sparks, but we always got along well. He married someone. I married someone. Our families knew each other, and our daughters were friends. My son had a crush on his daughter. Both of our marriages ended due to cancer in 1998 (our partners died within six weeks of each other) and to the delight of some folks, and the shock and horror of others, because it was too soon, we married less than a year later. Our families – two kids each – blended beautifully as we navigated lots of challenges together. His daughter and my son are married, and life is good.


Interwar and Greatest Generation

Eleanor Banner, 93, Hamilton

First met: 1948
How long you’ve been together: 56 years

My husband and I lived a block from each other. We knew each other existed in elementary and high school, but high school was divided into three separate areas of study at the time.

I was into Botany and my husband, Finance. It wasn’t until he crossed the main thoroughfare to McMaster University that our eyes met and we started dating.

It didn’t take us long to fall in love. We loved to go dancing at the Wonder Grove. We married in 1954 and had four loving children.

I enjoyed being at home with the children, and the community of our neighbours who lived in a cul-de-sac. We attended church regularly and had family dinners on Sundays with extended family.

My husband loved to plan trips. We travelled by car with our children to every province in Canada except Newfoundland, and every state except Texas (gas shortage that year) and Alaska. I always held hands with my husband —

— even when he died at age 80, after 56 glorious years of marriage.

His last words to me were “kiss me, kiss me.”

I have a small Valentine-shaped tray that reads “Kiss Me, Kiss Me” in my bedroom.


Ann Sunahara, 76, Ottawa

First met: 1969
How long you’ve been together: 53 years
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We met on August 10, 1969, in the lobby of the Borneo Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. My cohort of Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) volunteers was arriving. He was helping with our orientation. The first evening, I saw him socializing with American Peace Corps volunteers and concluded that he was Peace Corps, not CUSO. It was the height of the Vietnam War. Two of my friends had lost husbands in it. So, while attracted, I did not want to care for someone who could be killed in Vietnam. My roommate, a friend of his, must have told him why I seemed reluctant because, at breakfast the next day, he slapped his Canadian passport down on the table and said: “Let’s have dinner tonight.” We were married almost 50 years before he died last November.

Patricia Fry, 70 and David Morrison, 75, Port Credit, Ont.

First met: 1976
How long you’ve been together: 40 years
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My phone rang – an invitation to a hockey game screening at the university from a former colleague now at law school. I had a fun evening with this Maple Leaf fan. The perks of working in public affairs include front row tickets to Maple Leaf hockey games, so when I snagged a pair it was my turn to phone him. “Tickets for the game? Sure!” I didn’t disclose the seat location, and the look on his face when we reached ice level was sheer delight. Score! Forty-five years later, we are still watching hockey games – and still waiting for the Leafs to win!

Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

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