BCHydro Feature- Valentine’s Day: Romance and dating in the age of COVID

The following story was originally published in BC Hydro’s Connected newsletter, and is being republished with their permission. Thanks to BC Hydro for reaching out to us for romance and dating advice.

couple covid

Thought and creativity are key, says B.C. executive matchmaker

It’s a crazy time for couples, and also for singles looking for love. We’re either supposed to be observing social distance rules under COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, or we’re too close, too much of the time.

“If you’re living with someone, you’re probably home more than usual, and that makes for a lot more intensity,” says Susan Semeniw, who helps singles and couples with advice as the head of Vancouver-based Divine Intervention executive matchmaking service. “Whatever issues you may already have around your relationship, they’re just going to be heightened and exacerbated.”

Meanwhile, singles are either breaking the rules by hanging out in bars in search of love, or trying to make dating work by phone or Zoom. “What I’m hearing from women who are dating,” says Semeniw, “is that most guys don’t know how to social distance, especially if there’s a drink involved. So if you’re going to see someone in person, just make sure that you discuss rules first.”

Heading into Valentine’s Day, here’s a grab bag of advice from Semeniw – plus some creative “date night” ideas – for either starting or rekindling romance.

Valentine’s Day is overblown… but get it right

Semeniw stresses that Valentine’s Day is just one day a year, and while it can be important to women in particular, it shouldn’t be seen as the barometer of a relationship’s health.

“It’s like a marriage versus a wedding,” she says. “It’s more important to acknowledge a person on a regular basis and really put some thought into your time with them. So while you can make Valentine’s Day special, you don’t have to spend a lot of money.”

Women still love to receive cards, says Semeniw, especially when they’re meaningful. She says a card with something thoughtful like “20 reasons why I love you” tend to carry the biggest impact. Valentine’s Day can also be a good time to offer an apology. “If you’ve been a bit of a cow during COVID, because you’ve been more stressed, you’re not alone,” she says. “Acknowledge that you haven’t been at your best.”

To spice up Valentine’s Day, consider some of these ideas (plus the list of specific “date night” ideas at the end of this story):

  • A photo collage or digital slide show that take the two of you down memory lane.
  • Takeout dinner from one of your favourite local restaurants.
  • Re-create a memorable date or favourite meal, while sticking to COVID restrictions.
  • At-home spa experience, complete with bubble bath/salts, scented candles, a favourite magazine or two, a bath pillow and/or a pre-packaged facial mask. Extra points for running the bath when your partner is 15 minutes from home, and turning the lights down low for a grand entrance.
  • An evening of travel planning, for a long-awaited getaway once COVID travel restrictions are relaxed
  • Sharing a dinner and/or a movie with another couple, via Zoom or Netflix Party.

Dating? Rediscover the art of good phone

As part of Semeniw’s executive matchmaking, she spends time helping men and women prepare for their first date. And she recommends that the first virtual meeting shouldn’t be via Zoom, but on the phone, for a short and predetermined amount of time (with an option to extend if things are going well).

“I always recommend to have a phone call first,” she says. “Make it relatively short, and always leave them wanting more. Later on, go ahead and move to Zoom if you’re comfortable, and be mindful of how you look. It’s a visual medium, so wear colours that work, take care with lighting, and smile.”

Semeniw is also big on walks, hiking, or snowshoeing, which can all be done within social distancing guidelines and which all provide ample opportunity to talk.

“For the most part people are taking more time to get to know someone,” she says. “At the end of the day, chemistry does happen in person but you can really create a connection and bond with someone on the phone, too.”

One couple that recently got together through Semeniw’s matchmaking service, a man from Calgary and a woman in Vancouver, were initially resistant to spending much time on the phone. But after a short first call went well, they found themselves engaging regularly in four-hour calls in the early months of the pandemic. They’ve since spent lots of time together in person, and are considering getting a place together… and perhaps even marriage.

As a relationship progresses, Semeniw recommends opting for phone calls over texts or emails. The lost art of a good phone call is on the rebound in COVID, and it reduces the chance of being misunderstood.

5 ideas for making that date, or date night, special

Remember the fun things you used to be able to do to share an evening with a date or your partner? Now think of how you might replicate that experience from the safety of your home, or at a safe distance, during this time of COVID-19 restrictions.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas to get you going as you explore dating or “night out” options.

1. Cook up a night to remember

Whether you’re on an online date or at home with your partner, cooking together can be a fun way to break the routine. You can tackle a new recipe you’ve found, join an online cooking class, or cook together at an in-person (but distanced) cooking class. Vancouver’s Dirty Apron, for example, has a variety of classes Tuesdays through Saturdays with reduced numbers in their kitchen. Dirty Apron’s February 12 Ocean Inspired Couples’ Class, for example, features a menu of warm lobster and sturgeon caviar salad, salt crusted whole sea bream, and lemon basil crepes.

Did you know? Small appliances such as toaster ovens, Instant Pots, and air fryers can use up to 75% less electricity than using the oven or stovetop for the same recipe. Check out some great recipes at powersmart.ca.

2. Order in

Help keep your favourite restaurant afloat with takeout or food delivery. If you’re on a distanced date, consider ordering from the same place then sharing your meal and impressions of the food via Zoom.

Did you know? A December survey by Restaurants Canada found that 48% of small and medium-sized independent restaurants in Canada were facing the danger of permanent closure.

3. Virtual travel

Take a stroll down memory lane with a partner by viewing a digital slideshow from a past trip or revisiting a favourite location via one of several virtual travel sites online. Consider recreating a memorable meal you had on a trip. And if you’re just getting to know someone, why not take them on a guided virtual tour or embark on a destination totally new to both of you. Some virtual travel sites charge a fee, while many are free, including 360cities.net, and globotreks.com.

Here are a few specific virtual tours available online:

Did you know? While there’s nothing like actually travelling to a place, the carbon costs of international travel – especially by air – are enormous. Flight-related CO2 emissions for a family of three flying round trip from Vancouver to France is 7.74 tonnes. That’s the equivalent of driving an SUV from Vancouver to Yoho National Park in the Rockies (and back) 10 times. One solution: once travel restrictions are lifted, consider travel in Canada, and try to take fewer international flights, for longer vacation durations, rather than flying somewhere each year.

4. Night at the museum

Google Arts & Culture is a treasure chest of visual experiences that include visits to many of the world’s top museums, including the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. For maximum visual impact, find the tours via a browser on your smart TV or plug your TV into a laptop.

Did you know? A 2020 46-inch ENERGY STAR® Smart TV uses about a fifth of the electricity of a 2010 42-inch plasma TV.

5. Attend a virtual concert

You can catch the energy of a live concert by searching YouTube for live concert footage – sometimes for a whole concert – on YouTube. Or for generally better sound quality, opt for in-studio segments or fantastic NPR Tinydesk performances that have featured the likes of Dua LipaMichael KiwanukaTy Dolla $ign, Billie Eilish, and John Legend. If you’re more into the alternative scene, Seattle’s kexp.org has a great archive of in-studio sessions.

Did you know? Musicians have lost revenue from doing live shows, and in many cases, it’s their biggest revenue stream. If you want to support a musician, consider buying band merchandise or music from their official site and/or purchasing their music from the likes of bandcamp.com.

Modern romance: an inter-provincial love story

love joy happiness tenderness

Written By Rob Klovance


John was striking out in his bid to find someone in Calgary. Christine was bummed about all the dead ends and wasted time she had with online dating in the past.
connection divine love timing commitment
“I just needed someone to do the leg work,” recalls Christine, who works in real estate in Vancouver. “I was busy, so I needed someone to go through the weeds for me. And a best friend of mine really encouraged me to go to Susan.”
John had heard similar things about Susan, and thought, why not extend his search to Vancouver? Both signed up with Susan’s Divine Intervention Matchmaking service, and Susan provided the intervention.
Tellingly, neither John nor Christine can really recall each other’s profile. It was Susan’s insistence that they should give each other a shot that got them on the phone for the first time.
“It was April, during COVID, and John was the second person Susan introduced me to,” says Christine. “And I think I think she already knew ahead of time that it would be a really good fit. She asked that we talk for at least two hours on the phone. So we did it, even though neither of us really likes phone calls that much.”
Click! A string of six-hour phone calls, then trips between the cities, followed. vancouver love connection travel
While Christine grew up mostly in Vancouver, her roots were also on the prairies. Both are in their forties and from European backgrounds with similar values. And both have a passion for business that rules their lives.
“It was just instant familiarity, and it was like I felt I’d always known him,” says Christine. “We were raised similarly, and our values are so similar. Even our use of profanity is very similar. We have a similar sense of humour, what we like in food and lifestyle, and we share a work ethic. And he doesn’t annoy me – and I get annoyed easily.”
This draws a knowing laugh from John, who recalls how easily the two co-existed during a 10-day Christine visit to his Calgary home in November.
“It’s like we hardly saw each other during the week,” says John, who’s in a senior management role in a large company. “If we were both working from home, she’d be upstairs and I’d be downstairs. We both go to the gym. We’d spend a few hours together in the evening, and that was great.”calgary alberta travel love business success
After going through divorce a few years ago, Christine was not expecting to get married again. And while it’s not in the couple’s current plans, they haven’t ruled marriage out. But neither wants kids. They’re fine with their dogs and a thoroughly modern romance that revolves around rewarding work.
“I just never thought that I would want to live with someone again, to have someone in my space again,” says Christine. “I love my independence, but with John, it’s a different story. It’s really the best scenario for both of us. it’s like I don’t need to be with him all the time to be committed to him or to be loyal to him, and vice versa.”
***Note that this couple’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Even Italy Can’t Keep Carrie From Falling For Ryan

love long distance elderly commitment

Written By Rob Klovance


Ryan describes Carrie as the type of women who, through a mix of beauty and sheer presence, turns heads everywhere she goes. And she had that effect on patrons at Café Artigiano when he first met her two years ago.
It was Ryan’s fourth or fifth different date built through Divine Intervention, but this one seemed especially promising.
Until it wasn’t.
“The very next day, she was flying to Milan,” recalls Ryan, with a laugh. “So I thought I had lost her to Italy. You know, Italian men have a certain panache. And three days later, she sent me a photo of her outside the Ferrari factory, her arms and legs wrapped around a statue of the Ferrari horse. I thought, ‘That’s it, I’ll never see her again.’”
But Carrie was only in Italy for a conference. Upon her return, she agreed to get back together with Ryan over lunch.
sunset travel italy happy couple

Ryan says he was careful to ensure that Carrie felt safe on this second date by sticking to his checklist of best practices, including meeting in a public place during the day. They lunched at Vancouver’s renowned West – which sadly closed its doors last January after 20 years – and the two discovered they had common interests, several mutual friends, and the same birthdate.
Then Ryan gambled with a suggestion he thought might backfire: Inviting her to his place.
“I learned that Carrie was an interior designer, so I told her I’ve got a problem at in my living room that I didn’t know quite what to do with it,” he says. “So we walked over to my place.”
An interior designer who leans heavily to modern design, Carrie took one look at the place – dark wood, dark window coverings, old English furniture – and thought there was no way she could spend much time with this guy. But she helped him redecorate – Ryan calls it a “Carriefication” – and gave him a chance.
“The advice I’d give to others is not to rush to judgment,” she says. “I’ve met friends who say when they first meet someone, they can tell that nothing’s there. But you can’t necessarily make that call right away. The first time you meet someone, they might be nervous, and you have to give it a chance.”
Carrie says that on her two previous “dates” through Divine Intervention, she recognized there was “no spark”, but continued to see the men and is still friends with both of them today. But Ryan is different, a constant in her life and a potential live-in partner down the road.
older couple hand holding cute love at any age
“We haven’t decided to move in together, as we’re being slow about that,” she says. “But we’re really happy with the way things are. We live eight blocks apart, so he spends time at my place, and I spend time at his. We try to spend at least a couple of days not together, but we’re together a lot.”
Susan of Divine Intervention had set the two up because she figured Carrie was a great catch and that she’d appreciate how classy and funny Ryan was. Fine schooling in England stamped him with an old-world charm (he wore a fine suit to that first date at Artigiano) that’s often lacking in the Vancouver singles market.
Vancouver [dating] has a reputation for having terrible men and wonderful women ,and a disproportionate set of numbers,” says Ryan. “And because of that, I think men just don’t try that hard. I dress properly. I open doors for women.”
And that gentlemanly attitude helped open the door to Carrie’s heart.
“We’re very much in love,” she says.
**Note that names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed**

Like At First Talk for Designer and Ex Athlete

Written by Rob Klovance

First came the pandemic. Then came a broken ankle from a slip on a slick patch of grass. The year 2020 was off to a rough start for Mary (not her real name).

“I had given up – I just couldn’t be bothered to try to find someone for a romantic relationship,” says Mary, recalling those dark days. “And with COVID… yuck! The whole thought of dating someone was like a big fat ‘NO’.”

love couples story relationships cuteA designer who often works as a buyer of furniture and other items for film and TV sets, Mary had long ago sworn off dating anyone she worked with. In her early 60s, she felt no need to start anything new and figured she was fine on her own. Her last relationship had ended with the guy cheating on her.

But a call from Susan Semeniw of Divine Intervention Matchmaking changed everything. Susan broke through Mary’s reluctance with a plea to give some guy on Vancouver Island a 30-minute shot on the phone. “Thirty minutes? The first time we talked, the call lasted almost four hours,” gushes Mary. “On other calls, we talked as long as five and six hours. This guy is way more than just a nice guy. He’s very unusual. Intelligent, kind, with a sense of humour, and his conversational skills are epic.”

Susan had initially held back on showing Mary a photo of the guy. When she finally sent one, it was of a buff dude in a blazer. “I thought, well, he’s a nice looking man,” says Mary. “And wow, he’s really in very good shape. Even in a blazer I could still tell. That was different than what I’m used to – any athletic guys I had dated were built more like tennis players. But he was nice looking.”

Meanwhile on Vancouver Island, 67-year-old teacher Ian (not his real name) was falling hard for this sparkplug of a woman he had never met. And after nearly two months of marathon phone calls, it was time they got together.

“From the start, there was this affinity we felt for each other, and it grew into something more,” says Ian, a Clark Kent intellectual whose Superman years were spent in the world of pro sports.

Dinner, a ring, and a promisehappiness couples sweet love romance

Two months into their virtual dating, Ian didn’t just want to meet Mary. He wanted her to get acquainted with his adult son and his best friend, too. Mary agreed to the meeting, on her terms.

“At the time, I wasn’t feeling great about myself and didn’t want to dress up,” says Mary. “I told him: ‘There will be no high heels. There’s going to be nothing.’ He talked about places to go for dinner and I said: ‘I don’t want anything fancy. Would you mind just making dinner at home so we could have a quiet night and I can put my foot up?”

Ian agreed, made a yummy souvlaki dinner and baked a pie. It turns out the intellectual athlete could cook. He also let her chill while he headed to his home gym for a workout, check in to ice her ankle, and introduced her to the son he lived with.

“I adore his son,” she says. “The two of us get along like a house on fire.” The second time Mary visited Ian, he had a surprise for her: a sapphire ring he had picked out for her weeks before he met her face-to-face.

“When I bought the ring, I was thinking, you haven’t even kissed this woman or held her hand,” he recalls with a chuckle.

“We had this virtual relationship, but there was such a great mutual attraction. I had found someone who was from the heart, and cerebral. There’s just something about her giving spirit. What we have is just so natural and right. It’s hard to explain it.”

When Mary was presented with the wrapped gift, she guessed it was jewelry but wondered why, because Ian knew she didn’t wear much jewelry. “And then I saw the ring, and that’s when he said ‘I love you’,” she says.

love commitment engagement couplesA word of advice to others: Always have hope

Ian and Mary are in it for the long haul. Ian is renovating his Island home to accommodate Mary.

His advice to others working with his Susan is to trust her judgment.

“There were several women [with Divine Intervention] who showed interest, and she rejected the idea because she knew they wouldn’t be right for me,” he says. “I had about four dates through the service before I met Mary. She’s one Susan really thought could be a great match. I’m still pinching myself and wondering how this all happened.”

Mary can’t believe it either.

“This is a one-off, I’ll tell you that, “ she says. “I’ve never had that thing with somebody where we just clicked this much. I admire him, he’s a really good man, and we have so much fun together.”

*** names have been changed for privacy

Dating in these unprecedented times

There is no denying that our world is changing on a daily basis and this is new and unchartered territory for humanity. We will all be affected differently in the weeks and months ahead. We are however, all in this together.

Humans are hard wired to crave social, meaningful relationships with others and to find love. This “loveconnection” is top of mind more so than ever. Relationships give us strength and help us stay positive.

Here is our commitment to you to help you through these changing times.

  • We are available to offer you help, guidance and assistance with your love life.
  • We’ll talk, Facetime, zoom, email and text and be a sounding boarding, love coach, matchmaker for you as needed.
  • We continue to work with our clients and database community at facilitating meaningful connections in a safe and responsible manner in accordance with health guidelines.
  • We will be flexible as to timing and everyone’s comfort level with dating. We will adapt and customize our packages accordingly.

What does this mean for dating and meeting people?

We are encouraging phone calls to get to know someone and build rapport after someone has been pre-qualified for you. We will offer you tips on how to give “good phone.”

  • http://36questionsinlove.com/  is a great guideline on getting to know someone.
  • For others that are comfortable with technology we recommend facetime or video calls. We will offer tips on how to present your best foot forward.
  • If both parties are willing participants, for now we are coordinating safe “social distancing” dates outside with walks.

Know that you’re not alone, that others are going through this alongside you. Regardless of how you’re affected, we are here to help, listen and adapt with you. 

#InThisTogether #Strength #Love #HumanConnection #Support

Below are some additional coping mechanisms that may also help:

  • Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious. Check for updates at specific times during the days opposed to all day long. Make sure that your information sources are credible.
  • Have a support group that you check in with regularly that you can share how you’re feeling with no judgement. This can be one person or a group of friends or family members.
  • Maintain familiar and healthy routines as much as possible. Exercise regularly (outside by yourself or online), keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food.
  • Practice daily gratitude. Write down or say out loud at least one thing you are grateful for everyday.
  • Consider meditation to relax. Two good apps that come to mind are: CALM and WAKING UP.
  • Make it a goal to learn something new that you’ve been putting off  that you’re interested in. Some ideas are learning a new language, becoming a better cook, artist, etc. Sign up for a class that can improve your personal or business growth.
  • Subscribe to a site or newsletter that delivers a daily dose of positivity.

Sending strength and love.

Susan Semeniw

President, Divine Intervention Matchmaking

Click “Get Started Now” on this website to arrange a convenient talk time to see how we can best help you.