From dashed summer vacation ideas to months on end devoid of social activity, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 has thrown most of our 2020 plans out of whack. It’s difficult to know when we’ll be able to interact with our friends and family in a normal setting again, let alone maintain a relationship. But against all odds, one couple has managed to find balance and stability over the past year, showing us that romance can not only survive — but thrive — in the midst of chaos.
Both Stanford class of 2022, Kyle and Leilani met through the Marriage Pact survey in late 2019 — with not a 98, not a 99, but a near-impossible 100 percent match.
Kyle: 100.00% — with two sig figs at the end. So we thought, “Maybe we should give it a shot.”
The pair headed home for Thanksgiving break — Leilani to Atlanta and Kyle to Chicago — with plans to connect when they returned to Stanford. While Leilani was envisioning a casual coffee date at Coupa, Kyle exceeded her expectations, picking her up for an off-campus French dinner at Crepevine. While the food was admittedly sub-par, their conversation was far more memorable.
Leilani: We had a really good conversation. It got deep really fast, which is really nice because I think we’re both really deep people. We literally talked about what the purpose of life was by the end.
Clearly, the two had no trouble finding common ground. But one especially salient similarity was their dedication to their respective craft: Kyle is a Division I athlete on the Stanford men’s soccer team, while Leilani is a distinguished dancer for Cardinal Ballet Company.
Kyle: We’ve both really dedicated ourselves to the things we’re passionate about. Even though they’re different kinds of activities, there are certain things that hold true regardless. There were parallels running in our lives before they were intertwined.
Kyle and Leilani kept in touch after their initial meeting in December, picking up right where they left off in the new year. Both assiduous student athletes with seemingly uncompromising schedules, the two worked hard to find time for each other between psets and practices.
Kyle: I wanted to show her right away that I was committed to seeing her. I basically handed her a printed sheet of my schedule and told her, “Here’s when I can come over.” Some days I had weights at 7:30 and had to wake up at 6:30, but I still made an effort to be there.
Lelani: I still have the picture of that sheet on my phone. He wrote down his schedule and even drew little arrows pointing to the best days he could visit.
Kyle: I think it was one of my best quarters at Stanford. I felt super energized and worked really hard at my sport, and I think it had something to do with her.
Later that winter, Leilani invited Kyle to accompany her to Viennese Ball, an annual dance tradition run by Stanford students. While dance isn’t exactly Kyle’s area of expertise, Leilani was more than willing to show him the ropes. Kyle was so eager to master the art of waltz — or at least come close — that he attended social dance classes with Leilani in the weeks leading up to the ball.
Kyle: It really put me out of my comfort zone because I am not a dancer, I never have been. It was a different ball game for me. But with she, with her energy, just brings out my inner dancer. For this girl, I was willing to give it a shot.
Leilani: I thought it was very endearing that he was willing to come to a class and learn to dance with me. I could tell at certain points that he was kind of nervous. But I think it paid off, because by the end he got the hang of it.
Kyle: I made a complete fool out of myself, but I loved it.
The couple had a blast — and even decided to call it official after the dance.
Kyle: I think we mutually made Viennese Ball our anniversary. It was a great milestone.
When COVID hit later that spring, the couple were forced to endure long-distance for the remainder of the school year. This untimely separation didn’t come without challenges — but being the resilient people they are, Kyle and Leilani found a way to make it work.
Leilani: Since our relationship was relatively new at the time, it was difficult trying to navigate communication and schedules in the beginning. But I think over time we got into the rhythm of things, and we were able to grow closer in a way I don’t think we could have if we were together physically.
At the end of spring quarter, the couple planned for Kyle to come visit Leilani’s family in Georgia.
Kyle: I wanted to make it happen, so I drove the 600 or 700 miles to Duluth from Chicago.
Leilani: It was really, really sweet. Something I really admire about him is that he will go the extra mile for the people he cares about. It’s kinda why I fell for him in the first place.
Fall quarter rolled around, and Kyle and Leilani didn’t see each other for another 5 months. The long wait paid off over Thanksgiving break, when the couple planned a COVID-safe, much-needed roadtrip to Santa Barbara. They spent the week beach-going, birdwatching, and soaking up the city’s natural beauty. Attempting surfing for the first time, however, was their most ambitious undertaking.
Leilani: It was honestly really hard. We were able to stand up by the end, and that was an accomplishment for us.
“Who was better?”
Kyle: Definitely Leilani.
Over the span of Kyle and Leilani’s year-long relationship, they’ve found a healthy medium between total independence and constant (virtual) togetherness, enabling them to stay sane when their jam-packed schedules don’t always line up.
Kyle: I think we have a strong understanding of being independent — of not needing each other, but wanting each other. We don’t want to be disruptors in each other’s lives. We want to complement, not complete each other.
Leilani: We’re both whole people by ourselves, but we come together to make each other better.
Though it’s hard to predict how romance will fare in 2021, Kyle and Leilani are living proof that maintaining a healthy relationship in the midst of a pandemic is far from impossible. Their story has shown us that no hurdle is insurmountable — and that if it’s meant to be, it will be.