In a Zoom class in late January, WVU assistant professor of geography Maria Perez told her students the pandemic had made her fall in love with her husband again.

“It was my first lecture, and I was acknowledging the extraordinary challenges that COVID-19 has represented for millions of people around the world,” Perez said.

She said that she wanted the class discussion to allow students to share their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was during this conversation that Perez opened up to her students. She expressed how the pandemic might have some silver linings, too.

For example, it had given her the chance to discover things she loved about her husband.

“It’s been really cool for me to come to appreciate things about my husband,” Perez said. “Some of them I knew about in the past, but others were kind of new.”

Perez and her husband, Erik, met as undergraduates in 1994 at the University of Michigan. The couple married in 2004 and now have three children together.

During the pandemic, Perez began to appreciate things such as her husband’s patience while teaching their kids at home. She also recognized his ability to provide structure in their lives during a stressful time.

“My husband’s dedication and commitment to, No. 1 maintaining a sense of structure, but also really protecting what’s important, has become invaluable during this time of crisis,” Perez said.

Much of that structure comes from her husband’s desire to include the things he values in his daily life. Perez said her husband makes it possible for her to do the things she values, too.

“He ensures that I work out every day, that I get to go on my work every day, that I connect with family every day,” Perez said. “Every day, we watch a little Netflix series together, even though we might be overwhelmed with life.”

But it’s not all Netflix and work. Perez said their relationship has grown by getting out of the house, too.

“Last summer because of COVID, we started to go to parks we had not visited before,” Perez said.

Perez, her husband and their children found new favorite spots at places like Tygart Lake and Audra State Park. They also began learning new skills, such as skiing or becoming better at camping.

“It just kind of broke our routine a little bit,” Perez said.

Despite finding ways to grow closer during the pandemic, Perez said that her family has faced hardships, too.

“I’ve also struggled with anxiety,” Perez said. “I know there are times my husband’s patience is not unlimited, there's been really tough times.”

However, Perez said that being together and learning to pay attention to each other’s skills and limits has helped. She also said that showing humility to each other, as well as one's self, is important during this time.

“This idea of cutting each other slack, just being humble, acknowledging that everybody’s facing these challenges differently,” Perez said.