Romantic love is a beautiful thing.
And while building a solid relationship with a partner, or even finding that perfect partner, takes a lot of work, creating a life with that special someone is always worth it.
But there are some romances that can be more difficult to maintain than others. Not because the people involved aren't a good match, but rather because society and old school values still deem certain types of love as taboo — disregarding that there's no right or wrong way for two adults to be committed.
So for Valentine's Day, we asked five LGBTQ+ couples to share their stories to show that while there's no one-size-fits-all mould for real love, it's always worth waiting and working for.
(Warning: This will definitely hit you right in the feels.)
Maurie Sherman and Matthew Almeida
"We met in 2007 at the MuchMusic Video Awards (now iHeartRadio MMVAs). Matthew, a publicist for CTV, was working the press room and I was covering the award show as working media. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him a work-related question. A few weeks and emails later, we met for dinner and we immediately clicked. But Matthew was very adamant about not dating a member of the media — and so a friendship began. On New Year's Eve, after six months of just being the best of friends, we were dining at one of our favourite restaurants and Matthew, unbeknownst to me, wrote a note on a piece of paper that read ‘now is the right time’ and placed it under my dinner plate before the waiter removed it. From there, our relationship began, where we shared in our mutual love for all things Mariah Carey and 'The Golden Girls.'" —Maurie Sherman (a.k.a. Damnit Maurie on "The Roz & Mocha Show" on KiSS 92.5)
"They say you know you found the right one depending on how they treat your family and friends. I knew Maurie was special, but he reaffirmed my love for him the day he met mine. Also it was his genuine kindness, smile, infectious laugh and sense of humour that stole my heart immediately. When talk of marriage came up, I always dismissed the idea, because growing up (as a gay man) I never thought that marriage would ever even be possible. And so I always jokingly said to Maurie 'the day I get to marry you is the day I meet Mariah Carey' — my idol. Next thing you know, I am onstage with Mimi herself and Maurie on one knee! That is love! Our proposal is not just an engagement story; it's a story of the length a lover will go through to make their partner's dream come true — yup that's Maurie!" — Matthew Almeida
A and D*
"I met my partner D in university. He sat next to me at a volunteer meeting by chance, and the next few weeks were the stuff of romance movies. For instance, the first time I told him that I liked him, we happened to be alone under a shimmering starry sky in a rural area away from the city. The scenery was perfect. Soon, the word 'like' turned into 'love,' and our affection for each other grew daily. We couldn’t wait to see each other, so we met up every moment we could between classes and our part-time jobs. Being the same age meant that we experienced all the changes in our lives together, from graduation to finding a career, through all successes and hardships. It is incredible to have someone to share all of these milestones of life with, and go through each milestone together.
Now, more than twelve years later, we are happily married thanks to the city for hosting the Grand Pride Wedding at Casa Loma in June 2014, which made our dream a reality. But it wasn’t easy all the way through. My parents, although originally disapproving, have accepted D as part of my family, and his family has accepted me as well. The rest of my family, however, is a different story. I so wish to share with them how happy I am with D, but I doubt they will ever be ready to hear my story and be happy for me." — A
Joey Jamil and Anthony Tanios
"Joey and I met late in 2014. Neither of us were ready to date anyone at the time, so our relationship started off as friends with benefits. However, this wasn’t your typical occasional hookups. We hung out almost every single day for months and quickly started developing feelings for each other. Eventually, whenever we would travel separately, I started to get anxious at the thought of him being with someone else because we had agreed there would be no exclusivity yet. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I was anxious because I had never experienced anxiety within a relationship before.
Before we met, I had a trip booked to go to Los Angeles for my reading week. I wanted to travel on my own and enjoy being single as I had always been in a relationship from the moment that I came out [as gay]. Of course, catching feelings for Joey was completely unexpected but he understood and encouraged me to pursue the trip as I had originally intended. This was all around the same time that I was getting these feelings of anxiety. So, when I got to LA, I found myself crying in bed almost every night because Joey was trying to give me space to enjoy my trip and I could not, nor did I want to, engage anyone else. One night, I was laying in bed and staring at the ceiling and just blurted out 'I’m in love with him. I’m absolutely head over heels in love with this guy and I’m ready to date.'" — Anthony Tanios
"I was about to turn 23 years old. Anthony came to Toronto from Ottawa to celebrate my birthday with me and my friends. My parents wanted me to spend my actual birthday with them because it’s tradition for them. I knew this year was different though. When I came out to my dad, he didn’t take it well at all so I knew he would have a problem with me bringing my boyfriend. My mom encouraged me to talk with them and when I did, it went better than anticipated. My dad told me that Anthony was welcome to come. Still hesitant, I brought Anthony to my family home where we had BBQ, drinks, laughed, played sports with my four nephews, and shared stories. I remember looking over at Anthony and my dad sitting next to each other and having a great time. At the same time, one of my nephews came up to me and said, 'Uncle Anthony has to come back and play.' In that moment, everything felt right. He fit in with the family seamlessly. I knew that I was in love with him." — Joey Jamil
Talya Macedo and Cris Saliba
"Our friendship was the first thing that happened to us. It truly is the basis of our existence — both in our day-to-day exchanges and in the bigger picture. If we look at each other, especially in the challenging moments, and think about how we would hold our friends down in an equally difficult moment, we are actually honouring the first energetic exchange we had.
Think about your one friend you have the most fun with. They're the person you want to do everything with. Hanging out at coffee shops, seeing art, travelling, sitting at the bar. All of it accompanied by the kind of conversation you crave. That's what the intention is between us. Conversations are often centred around what growing might look like. That or we're putting each other on to good music. There are no limits, really. We want to talk about everything.
Our friendship allows us to be ourselves completely without having to live up to the standard of what being in a relationship can imply. We still like the things about each other that were present when we met. It's important to prioritize nurturing and communicating, even when it's uncomfortable or might lead to a less than ideal outcome for one party. We are actively growing together and finding new ways to love. Love that doesn't bind. We love each other freely as we both evolve. That's just how you treat your friend." — Talya Macedo and Cris Saliba
Max Mosher and Kirk DeMatas
"It was January 2014 when we both decided to log into a certain online dating site to see what was out there and that’s where we first connected. A few courteous conversations led to us deciding to meet up for dinner and what better meeting place could two Torontonians choose but the Shoppers Drug Mart inside the Eaton Centre?
Max, carrying a Jean Machine bag concealing a new pair of jeans, walked up to me as I was listening to music. We both said ‘hello’ and feeling instantly relaxed with one another, we casually walked to a restaurant located within The Bay. We sat down to dinner and talked for a while. A few hours later, the waitress interrupted us to say that the restaurant was closed but that we could stay as long as we liked. We were off to a great start." — Kirk DeMatas
"We had been dating for a couple months and I got the feeling Kirk wanted to say 'I love you' first, but was apprehensive. A couple times he said things like, 'I really like you. I more than really like you... is that OK?' So I ended up saying it first.
He was over at my place and discovered some sort of weird skin abrasion under my armpit. (Sexy, I know.) He took charge, and dabbed it with cocoa butter and instructed me on when to check it, reapply and how make sure it got better. He showed such gentleness and caring in that moment — it demonstrated how much he loved me. So, shortly after, when we climbed into bed and turned off the lights, I said, 'I love you.' And he said it back." — Max Mosher
Note: Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and accuracy.
*Couple chose to keep their names anonymous