Modern Love

Words by Leah Faye Cooper | 2.14.21

While Valentine’s Day, the holiday dedicated to love, is often marked by candy hearts and greeting cards, we’re going a bit deeper this year, sharing the stories of three couples who embody modern love. From a friendship-turned-romance to a fire escape wedding ceremony, here they discuss what brought them – and what’s kept them – together.   

 

Whembley Sewell and Willa Bennett, NYC

Whembley is Editor in Chief of Them. Willa is GQ’s Senior Manager of Social Media.

 

On the first time they met

Whembley: “We met at Seventeen Magazine in 2017. We didn’t say more than hello the first day we met, but [I felt] a mix of intrigue and intimidation. She had on these wild Gucci loafers and a headband I learned she had made herself. I just remember thinking, Who is this girl? In a good way, of course. We definitely had a strong, important foundation of friendship [before we became a couple]. We actually used to give each other dating advice.”

Willa: “I was immediately drawn to Whembley. I remember our first conversation was about the Eileen Myles novel she was reading at the time. Eventually, when we became friends, we started a tradition of walking from our office, uptown, to Strand [Bookstore] in Union Square. We’d literally spend hours there together, looking through all of the used and oversized books in the basement.” 

 

On their first date

Whembley: “One night, we were walking around the Lower East Side. We were passing Arlene’s Grocery, and as a huge Lady Gaga fan, I mentioned she had performed there in the mid-2000s. On a whim, and perhaps in part to pay homage to the queen, we decided to grab a drink there. We talked and talked until we were hungry and found ourselves at a gorgeous little pasta restaurant tucked away on a quiet street. We stayed and talked and laughed about everything… until close. We didn’t call it a date then, but looking back, we both agree it was the real first one.”

 

On living together

Whembley: “We just moved to a new place in October. We’ve really enjoyed making it our own. In our previous apartment, Willa moved into a place I had lived for a few years. This is the first place that we picked out and decorated as a couple, and it feels like a real reflection of our relationship. We have artifacts of the beginnings of our relationship everywhere, too—a wall full of books, and two shared closets.”

 

On spending time together

Whembley: “We spend our weekends taking long walks in our neighborhood. We like to share headphones and take turns playing songs for each other. We have different tastes for the most part—Willa loves to play Phoebe Bridgers, while many of my most-played songs are from the ‘70s. But the back and forth is definitely something we both cherish. We also still love to visit bookstores around the city and share book recommendations. I think that will always be part of our relationship. We try to learn new things together, too. Willa was big on the ukulele for a while, and I supported by sharpening my skills on guitar.” 

 

On their favorite qualities about one another   

Willa: “Whembley carries herself with wisdom and grace. This is something I continue to love about her.”

Whembley: “I think she is radiant, in every sense of the word.”

 

 

On celebrating Valentine’s Day 

Whembley: “I’m a huge sap. I love the holiday. I actually never really properly celebrated Valentine’s Day with anyone until I met Willa. We typically go to a really special dinner, paired with a bit of a staycation at a hotel here in the city. We also have a history of revisiting our first date spot at some point during the week of Valentine’s Day. This year, we’ll at least be getting takeout from them. I seem to find a way to cry at every gift that Willa gives me. I think the best gift I’ve given is coming this year!” 

 

On the little things they argue about  

Whembley: “We both cherish sleep. Unfortunately, Willa has managed to find a way to take up the entirety of our king-sized bed, despite being all of five-foot-three. It’s definitely a small thing we argue about. I’m sure she’d say I wear her blazers without asking or keep buying too many random things to explore new hobbies.” 

 

On quarantine

Whembley: “We’ve had to relearn how to be present with each other, physically. We both used to have incredibly active schedules, so having to renegotiate how to share a life inside one apartment has been new for us. We’re used to traveling and having engagements, or going to concerts or events multiple nights a week, so we’ve learned to slow down together, too.” 

 

On what makes the relationship work:  

Whembley: “We both acknowledge that relationships come with work. We’re both incredibly busy and expressive, and I think we have a really rare relationship where we’re able to support and challenge each other personally and creatively. At the end of the day, we really respect what each other does and how they see the world. While we have wildly different goals and come from such different backgrounds, we’re both growing and learning together and ultimately have shared visions for the kind of lives we want to live.”

 

 

Nina Clemente and Wayne Anthony Rambharose, Upstate New York

Nina is a chef and Food & Beverage Consultant. Wayne is a Hospitality Consultant. 

As told by Nina

Photographer: Alexi Lubomirski

On the first time they met

“We met through a mutual friend at her yearly Thanksgiving party in Venice, CA. It was either 2008 or 2009; time is hazy these days. I thought he was stylish and hilarious, though off limits as he was 20 years older than me and our mutual friend was adamant we stay apart. He says his first impression of me was “wow.” 

 

On their first date

“We never had an official first date as we established a deep friendship for many months before ever crossing a romantic line.  One night I remember best, though, was riding our bikes along the boardwalk on Venice Beach at 11 p.m. We did this often, but that night we stopped to play midnight basketball, one on one, then jumped in the ocean. He dropped me off to shower and change, went home to do the same, then came back at 2 a.m. to take me out for a lavish Korean BBQ meal in Koreatown. Typically, nothing is open in L.A. past 2 a.m., so I was quite impressed. It’s one of my most memorable evenings and technically, it wasn’t even a date.” 

 

On how their relationship has evolved over time

“We spent 13 years on and off, and it wasn’t until a couple months into the pandemic that we both realized how we could actually make our love work. As humans, we are so bombarded with information and a yearning for newness. Spending the rest of our lives together seems like a notion from another time. Choosing to spend the rest of our lives together, and working hard on a daily basis to better understand each other and find a balance, seems more realistic.”

 

Photographer: Alexi Lubomirski

 

On how their relationship changed after having their 7-year-old daughter, Indigo

“As a first-time mother I got lost in the new love a child brings. I was also working profusely and felt whatever time I did have should go to her, which created distance between us as time went on. It took me a long time to figure out how to balance both loves. At the same time, it also birthed a connection between us that was monumental, and pushed us to work through our differences in order to blossom and nurture an amazing love. We’re having another baby this spring, and we’re embracing round two. The due date is April 20. Or all that know us, this due date is a nice omen.  

 

On getting engaged

“Wayne asked me to marry him in April of last year. He’d asked before but the concept of getting married in general always terrified me. We both had a lot of work to do before we could embrace ‘spending the rest of our lives together.’ The proposal was simple and to the point, but with tenderness and so much love in his eyes. It was the first time I genuinely felt fearless and excited at the concept.”  

 

On their wedding day

“We got married on our fire escape on May 4, in the midst of the pandemic. I borrowed a beautiful Giambattista Valli dress from my sister, my mom made a beautiful bouquet, and my brother filmed and took photos from the garden below. My dad ministered, also from below, as we sat on the fire escape with our daughter three stories above. My other siblings, and a handful of friends and family that live far away, joined on Zoom. I spent most of the day before and the morning of making lasagna, which was my form of meditation. After the ceremony we sat in the backyard with my parents and brother (six-feet apart) and enjoyed the lasagna and some delicious wine a friend dropped off. Outside of missing his family and many dear friends, and my siblings being physically present, it was the perfect wedding I never knew I wanted.” 

 

 

On celebrating Valentine’s Day

“We’ve preferred to celebrate love via small daily gestures versus one giant romantic day.  Though in the past we’ve loved collaborating on a delicious dinner. We never go out. We love supporting local restaurants on other days, but Valentine’s Day always seems overwhelming. We exchange gifts with sentimental value.”  

 

On the little things they argue about

“For him, it’s my inability to wash dishes to his very high standards. For me, it’s him flossing all over the place. Flossing is of course great for dental hygiene, but it drives me crazy when it’s done anywhere outside of the bathroom.” 

 

On quarantine

“Quarantine gave us a new lease on our love. We split up before the pandemic for good, or so we thought. But after moving to L.A. in January 2020, he came back east a month later to bunker down with us in NYC. Our expectations were minimal. I was just happy to have an ally in confronting a pseudo Armageddon, but we genuinely fell in love all over again. We were always on the go pre-pandemic, and never quite making time for each other. It was easy to run when we argued. Being forced to stay in the same space, forced us to work through our disagreements and make adjustments. Considering the state of the world, I’d say we feel a lot of gratitude for turning the pandemic into a love story that can make our children proud.”

 

On spending time together

“We have a weekly Monday morning date after we drop our daughter off at school. We drive to Hudson, NY and indulge in pastries and coffee at Breadfolks. He has an almond croissant and a cortado, and I have a lemon meringue danish and a cappuccino. Then we come home and get a quick one on one game of basketball in our barn before jumping into remote work.” 

 

 

Dominic and Tyler Cassacia, San Francisco, California.

Dominic is Manager of Employee Food Services at The RealReal. Tyler is a Real Estate Attorney. 

As told by Dominic 

Photographer: Darby Allison

 

On how they met and started dating 

“We met in college in 2008. Our first ‘date’ was working as partners on a class assignment. Once we started spending time together, we never really stopped. We never officially went from dating to a relationship; it just happened naturally, over time.”

 

On getting engaged

“Tyler proposed while we were on our annual trip to Maui. He carried the ring around with him on the trip for almost two weeks, before eventually popping the question on the balcony of our condo at sunset. He cried, I cried. It was awesome!”

 

On their wedding

“We got married on 09.19.19 in Palm Springs. I guess we technically eloped, but we brought our immediate families with us. After the wedding, we said goodbye to our families and welcomed our closest friends to our Airbnb for a ‘social honeymoon.’”

 

On celebrating Valentine’s Day

“In the past we’ve just spent quality time together; a dinner date, a movie or massages.”

 

On becoming parents to their 8-month-old son, Beau

“We always talked about having children, but things started to get real in ealy 2017, when we attended the ‘Men Having Babies’ conference in San Francisco. We charted a course and kicked off our surrogacy journey in March of that year. Fatherhood is ten times harder than expected, but one hundred times more rewarding.”

 

Photographer: Darby Allison

 

On what they want to teach their son about love

“That he is deserving of great love, and that love comes in all shapes and sizes.”

 

On their favorite thing to do as a family

“Right now, we just enjoy being together at home. Every day is a new adventure.”

 

*These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity. 

A SUSTAINABLE LUXURY COMPANY
Honoring heritage brands and extending the lifecycle of luxury items.