Today on Feature Friday we are featuring an unorthodox Vancouver-based couple, Chandler and Lena.
From divorce and long-distance to a transgender journey and life on the west coast, these two have a plethora of intriguing and insightful lessons to share with us.
Self described as “nature-loving-introverts”, these two (and their rescue pup, Elliott) have quite a unique story to share. They’re both fascinating people with very wide, liberal views on the world. With Lena having her hands into all sorts of art mediums, (we will have her links below!) and Chan flexing in the fitness and dance realms, they both have something different to bring to the table.
Today in Feature Friday, we’re getting into the transgender relationship experience, recovering from divorce, incorporating instinct and growth and knowing pure love. We had a great time chatting with them while they went about their day off morning routine. Getting scrumpets and coffee at Granville Island, a stop at the dog beach (and laughing about our crazy dogs) and getting to know their story.
So without further ado, let’s get into it.
C: Chanandler [laughs] [Chandler]
C: Personal Trainer
L: Tattoo Apprentice
Length of time you’ve known each other: 10 years
Length of time together: A little over 1 year
Breakups: Nope, none, zero
Current Status: Live together – For: 8 months
RP: Tell me the story of your relationship, how did the two of you come to be together?
L: We have a great story! [laughs] He tells it better.
C: I had a huge crush on her in high school.
L: I also liked what I saw. [laughs]
C: But given my situation [pre-female-to-male transition], I wasn’t comfortable admitting I was into someone such as this beauty. But yeah, I kissed her in high school and then never talked to her again.
L: Yeah, then over the years, we reconnected whenever he was in town [Calgary] from LA or Vancouver, you know drinks with friends or whatever. Then fast forward to one winter, I saw that he was transitioning and sent him a little note on Facebook, being a friend reaching out, and saying that it was really cool.
C: We were both in relationships at that point.
RP: Not with each other?
L: No, not with each other! [Laughing] And then, fast forward more, and I was coming
out to Vancouver for a women’s retreat. At that time, I was going through my divorce, we had been separated but still sorting through everything and this retreat was my last attempt at trying to salvage my marriage, even though it had already fallen apart. I reached out to him [Chandler] to see if he wanted to meet up for coffee while I was in town. After the retreat, we met up for coffee and for me–there was in instant spark.
L: We were chatting and he asked how my marriage was and I told him, “I’m actually not married anymore, we’re separated.” And we sat down and caught up for hours, we walked in the rain…
C: Actually, we frolicked in puddles. [laughs]:
L: [laughing] And then I had to go catch a plane, soaked, because y’know, life. And the rest is history.
C: So it was a long time coming, but honestly, she was the first person where I was really like, “Fuck I want to date this girl.”
RP: That’s amazing you guys have been revolving around each other’s circles for years and finally the sparks flew. Let’s get into more questions. What is the best thing about your relationship?
L: [laughing] Sex!
L: Was that what you were going to say?
C: Yes! [laughs] That’s definitely a perk, but not what drives this thing. I think the best part is that we really get each other, and we’re very different but it works. We complement each other and push each other in ways that aren’t are strengths.
C: I think this is very general for all relationships, but communication.
L: That’s where all problems arise. Misinterpretations. We’re working on it.
C: Learning everyone’s styles of communication. What every disagreement boils down to is lack of communication or miscommunication.
L: Yeah, that’s it for me.
RP [Taylor]: I think that’s a girl thing, hearing how it makes you feel and not how they’re saying it, right?
L: Yes, that’s exactly it.
C: See, I never understood that.
RP: So during those conflicts what would be your go-to response?
L: I retreat.
RP: So you both kind of retreat?
C: Yeah, and it’s about what we need after the conflict. That’s the biggest thing we’ve learned in the past couple months, is what each other needs after we’ve had our space.
L: Yeah, for me, I need physical reassurance, physically being present and there for me. That’s how I try to comfort him, I’m a very physical person. Touch is how I show love.
C: Where as I, more so, still need space.
L: And for me that’s where my mind starts to go in circles. He’s thinking, “Oh okay, she must need space cause that’s what I need.” and that’s the opposite of what I need, I’m like “Why can’t you just hug me?”
RP: Next question, what are your partners strengths and weaknesses?
C: No, you go first.
L: [laughing] His strengths are his gains.
L: Seriously, his strength is he’s so intuitive. I’ll be laying in bed and my mind will be going, going, going–that’s how my mind always is, and he’ll feel that and give me the physical contact I need. He’s always there when I need it, he somehow always knows. Weakness? I don’t think that anyone really has weaknesses.
C: [coughs] Lies.
L: But for him, he spaces out a lot. But it’s a good lesson for me because it teaches me not to rely on human interaction to fill every moment. I’m really starting to enjoy our quiet times where he’s really wherever he is. [laughs]
C: I can connect to Elliott [rescue pup] in that way, cause she’s deaf, so I can space out with her!
C: Lena’s strength would be speaking her mind. This is where we balance each other out. Because I’m more passive and she’s more vocal, she’s taught me to be more vocal about the things that I want and need. A weakness? Since my brain underthinks, hers overthinks.
L: I would agree with that.
RP: What is something you always bicker about?
L: I don’t think we bicker?
C: Oh my god. She has socks everywhere.
L: I have emergency pairs tucked everywhere, sometimes I just need to put socks on!
L: But yeah, I don’t think we bicker?
C: Except the socks, but I just tease you about those now. [laughs]
RP: Okay, next question, has there been a struggle that nearly tore you apart?
C: We were doing long distance for a while and that was hard.
L: I feel like if I didn’t move to Vancouver, it definitely would have not worked. With me being such a physical person, I couldn’t have him that far away. It would have been tortuous. It’s not like it was something that had to be overcome, it was just a matter of time, really. I never felt connected to Calgary and when I came to Vancouver for the retreat, I told myself I would move here. He was an awesome bonus that came with it. [laughs]
RP: What is something your partner or relationship has taught you?
C: She’s really taught me how to love myself. I’ve never been so comfortable in a relationship. Yes, my transition has a lot to do with it, but also how open minded and open hearted she’s been with my transition has helped make things go smoothly.
L: To piggy back off that, he’s pushed me to show my art to the world and pursue tattooing. It’s always been something I loved and he made me feel safe to show my art to people, and it allowed me to open up. So, thank you.
RP: Do you feel like she’s been a big part, in a supportive sense, to your transition?
C: Yes, things that I see as flaws, or “not right yet” with my body, she loves anyways.
L: It’s not loves anyways, it’s more that I just love you. [laughs] But thank you, that’s wonderful.
L: Physical touch, Chandler!
C: She’s not lying!
C: And I want more communication and clarification.
L: We can add that one, that’s cool.
RP: What is something you’re trying to eliminate from your relationship?
C: We just minimimal-ized our apartment.
C: We’re just getting rid of distractions, mental and physical.
L: Really enjoying the now, getting rid of the unnecessary things and really allowing us to enjoy each other.
C: We’re connecting as a real relationship and instead of as likes and comments and all that.
RP: We love that. What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever gotten?
C: Look at it from the other person’s point of view and open your mind to all perspectives of things.
L: Yeah, I would agree with that one. With me going through a divorce and going to a relationship counsellor, I learned a lot from that. It’s really is about listening and seeing, and letting another person be seen and heard. Really validate the other person.
RP: Mmmhm that’s awesome. So, how would you say transition has affected your relationship?
C: I can be more myself, I guess. Any relationship I’ve been in, in the past, I wasn’t really myself, you know? I never really knew how to love myself. The transition has really allowed me physically, with my body, open up in a relationship and also emotionally. I feel like I was really emotionally stunted in prior relationships, friendships and romance, and now I can be me and have no barriers.
RP: How did it affect you Lena?
L: It doesn’t. I think the only times the transition comes up is on Tuesdays when your super space-y after your T-Shot [Testosterone Shot]. [laughs] It has had a positive effect, to be this close and get a first had experience of seeing someone blossom into who they are, it’s very inspiring and it’s great to watch him come into his own and stand up for himself where he needs to. You know? Spread his chest proudly. It makes me appreciate life a lot more, spending it next to him.
L: No, I don’t think so. I’ve only ever been with guys so a pre-transition union was unlikely.
C: For my sake, I wouldn’t be with anyone. I would not be comfortable being in a relationship in my previous body. All those barriers would be there.
RP: Okay last question! If you were to tell someone struggling in there relationship one thing, what would it be?
C: Open up all communication barriers, talk.
L: Yeah, talk not to salvage but talk to see what you need as a human being.
C: In a lot of communication, it’s just to solve the one issue, our communication used to be like that, but what’s the deeper issue? What spurred this to spur that? Like, really talking.
L: Delving into the deeper needs and beliefs, do they aline? Life goals? Be honest. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Just because I have gone through a divorce, I feel like whatever you decide on, is always for the better.
C: If you’re settling you’re not really giving the other person that they deserve.
L: And you’re taking space that could be taken up by someone who could make them happy and who they could make really happy.
RP: That’s so good. Is there anything else that you want to share?
C: I do, as far as the trans community goes. I’ve had a few people reach out to me, that are transgender, and having issues finding love. Just know that it’s not impossible, love is growing so much more, it’s not black and white. Love is more than about gender, it’s about human connection. Keep and open mind and an open heart and the right person will be there.
RP: Thank you, we love that.
L: Thanks for the good chat!
So there you have it. It was such a pleasure going behind the scenes into a new relationship perspective. Chan and Lena are inspiring to us not only because of their relationship together, but because of their own personal journeys–showing us that even with divorce and transition, love is not impossible.
The big take aways that we, at The Relationship Project, love are to trust your instincts in relationships, be open minded and hearted, laugh often, embrace resiliency, and to quote Chan, “Love is more than gender, it’s about human connection.” How perfect is that?
Make sure to check out their socials to see more of what they are up to!
Photos by: Taylor Aller