The Brangelinas and TomKats of Northwestern, sort of
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    With Valentine’s Day well in the past, the single and bitter among us can finally rejoin society. All at once the red and pink will fade to purple and yellow as the commercial industry prepares for Easter, and yes, we’ve made it through another year. But before you make yourselves warm and cozy under a mountain of books, I’d like to leave you, hopefully, with a bit of inspiration. Meet four couples who’ve mastered the balance between school, friends, and someone special; power couples, if you will.

    Now not to be misunderstood, these are no Brad and Angelina (even despite the drama); these Northwestern couples actually redefine the terms of “power” within a relationship. They are strong in that they manage to keep the best balance between work, personal, and relationship life. They are influential, because they have the ability to serve as examples of teamwork and commitment for their intimate communities. And they are inspirational because each has found a way to make it work.

    Katie Belleville and Kevin Qin

    Photo courtesy of Kevin Qin.

    Katie Belleville feels that the term “power couple” is an overstatement for the way she and her boyfriend Kevin Qin have established themselves at Northwestern, but she is not shy to admit that she “has no life.” Both are double degree majors in the Bienen School of Music and Katie said that somehow between classes, research in two labs, working at Norris, practicing her music, teaching, volunteering and babysitting, Katie and Kevin have strengthened their relationship into a three year long commitment. “That’s kind of how I’ve always been. I’ve always been over-committed, and I’m doing a billion things, but I love everything I’m doing.” Katie explained. “I’m one of those people that can’t say ‘no’, but I’m learning.”

    Kevin agrees that Katie is a people pleaser: “She’ll talk to anybody and everybody, but she’s very genuine. She’s very real,” one of the traits he admires in her.

    The couple met in their freshman year through their music class. “There were 13 girls in the freshman violin class and then there was me,” Kevin blushed red as he remembered the encounter. “I was the only guy in the class, and that’s the only year it’s ever happened like that.” Katie was paired with him as a stand partner, and the flirtation ensued.

    Then over Thanksgiving break that year, Kevin stepped up to fill in as a second violinist in a wedding gig that Katie was performing in. “I was having this music crisis. I had to track down all this music that they [the bride and groom] were throwing at me that they wanted me to find, and I was really stressed out,” she said. “Then Kevin just started taking care of everything! He was like ‘I’ll find the music, I’ll help you out.’ So we finished the gig and it went well […] and he made me promise to call him over break. I didn’t even know he was interested, but I called him for some reason.”

    Photo courtesy of Kevin Qin.

    Their academic interests brought them together and they claim that it is part of what makes their relationship run smoothly. “We met through music, so we understand the passion that we both have for it in addition to another field [for me psychology and for Kevin it’s business] so we are able to be supportive and it gives us similar schedules,” Katie said. “I think the hardest part is when you are living two [completely] separate lives and it’s so hard to make it work, but we are so similar that it’s so easy to spend time and coordinate our schedules.”

    Katie and Kevin both admit to spending the majority of their time with one another and it seems as if they wouldn’t be completely happy any other way. Kevin, whom Katie describes as a romantic, was obviously proud and even impressed by the way his relationship has developed. “With the hectic college life and instability of things…it’s good to know that there’s someone to go back to that’s steady as a rock,” he explained. “It’s like a dependent thing, not that we’re dependent people, but [Katie] is a huge motivational factor for me, and without that, I don’t know where I’d be, or where the ‘push’ would come from.”

    Andrew Howard and Anna Kelly

    Photo courtesy of Anna Kelly.

    Andrew and Anna’s relationship could probably serve as the theme for a good musical production. It’s light and cheery, serious when it needs to be, and everyone enjoys the show. Each describes the other as relaxed, playful and good natured, and acknowledges their own ability to diffuse conflict. “I think we balance each other well, personality wise,” Anna said. “We know when not to take things seriously or how to calm each other down if we are worrying about stuff. Plus we just get along really well and have a great time together.”

    “I love Anna [because] she’s drama free, she doesn’t let the small things get to her,” is how Andrew explained it. He says that together they are kind of childish and that they joke and make fun of each other. To him, Anna is “intimidating-ly smart.” “Sometimes I’ll debate with her, and she’ll mostly win…she makes me question things more, about the way things are, and has made me into a more careful thinker.”

    With Andrew and Anna their compatibility has more to do with their personalities then with their lives at Northwestern. Andrew is a senior majoring in musical theater in the School of Communications while Anna, a Weinberg senior and political science major, is mostly involved in NCDC and GES, yet they don’t complain about having to “make time” to see one another. When posed with the question, Anna says that “time” should never be a factor in forming a relationship, an idea quite contrary to the excuse that most NU students give for holding back in that area. “Everyone’s busy and you are always going to be busy. I know lots of people who are waiting until after they graduate to have time for a relationship, but honestly I don’t think I’m going to have more time once I’m working eight hours a day, than I do now. You shouldn’t have things like that hold you back […] and maybe it’s a little hard to balance all the stuff you do, and your friends, and your boyfriend, but you can make it work; we made it work.”

    Photo courtesy of Anna Kelly.

    “I mean if I was dating someone in the theater department,” Andrew replied, “I think I would go crazy because not only would we be taking all of our classes together, but then we would be in shows together and just see each other all the time.” He explained that his and Anna’s separate interests actually strengthen their relationship because they are able to show up and support one another and be enthusiastic about what each has accomplished.

    Andrew and Anna’s relationship has withstood a little more than two years at Northwestern, and even made it work long distance on a few occasions. Last year Anna studied abroad in Paris and missed their one year anniversary, while Andrew remained on campus fall quarter of his junior year. “I missed her a lot and it was difficult because she was in Paris having the time of her life and I was here, I was busy, but it was nothing [more than usual].” They make it through stressful times using good communication and what Andrew calls “emotional intelligence.” “We know how to approach things when there’s a problem, but overall we keep it playful.”

    Jeremy Roux and Julia Brook

    Photo courtesy of Julia Brook.

    Neither Julia, Weinberg senior, nor Jeremy, McCormick senior, believes in the existence of “power couples” at Northwestern. “It’s an uncomfortable term,” Julia said. She prefers to think of her relationship with Jeremy as just very “involved” at NU. “What is strong in our relationship is that we are a force together […] we work well off each other and we are always moving and growing,” she said. “I think that every couple has the capability to be a power couple, but I don’t think it exists here because of the different groups of people, so unless you are Mike McGee it’s a little pretentious.”

    While their activities have slowed down as their senior year closes in, Julia and Jeremy are both very involved in Greek life at NU. Julia came here as a sophomore transfer student from DePaul and made her home in her sorority Pi Phi. Coincidentally, many of her new sorority friends were already friends with Jeremy, who is in Delta Upsilon. Jeremy says that he used to be more involved in DU, and previously served as rush chair and philanthropy chair. These days he prefers to focus on finishing up his degree in civil engineering and getting his pilot’s license, just for fun.

    Photo courtesy of Julia Brook.

    “If I’m outgoing, [Julia] is very outgoing,” is how Jeremy explains it. She’s on the exec board for SEED, and an ASG senator, a NCA director and Senior Week co-chair, among teaching, volunteering, and her sorority activities. Despite all that, Julia says that she and Jeremy spend a lot of time together and mostly see each other every day. “I make time for trashy television, so I can make time for a boyfriend. Incorporate someone special into your life for the small things,” was her advice.

    Jeremy doesn’t entirely credit their mutual involvement in Greek life to the success of their year-long relationship, but he does say that it makes things easier. As a result of both being Greek, they have similar groups of friends and get to go to the same functions and events together. Julia commented that even with Greek life, they both have very different and independent social circles, but they “make them overlap.” “[Being independent] keeps us grounded […] and [when we have to make a choice] it’s never been a question of whether or not to be together.”

    Marnie Robbins and Matt Gailey

    Photo courtesy of Marnie Robbins.

    After a year together, Marnie, School of Communication junior, and Matt, Weinberg junior, have yet to have an actual fight, and flexibility remains one of the couple’s strong points. “We never argue,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s just part of our personalities, but we never fight.” Matt jokes that his friends say that they are both too nice to everyone around them, but that compassion and patience are part of what makes their relationship successful. Matt describes Marnie as “extremely nice and extremely outgoing.” With two laid back and easy-going personalities, the couple admits they are each usually in a good mood, especially together. “We laugh at the same things and are very similar,” said Marnie. “I hate to bother him, and he doesn’t want to be a burden on me either. We both really care about the people we’re around, and are driven, but I guess you have to be driven to be an athlete, it’s just a personality that you have.”

    Photo courtesy of Marnie Robbins.

    Matt and Marnie are both junior NU athletes, and being so involved in sports leaves time for little else, except their relationship. With field hockey season in the fall, baseball in the spring, and conditioning and training in between, they are both busy most of the year. “Baseball season is insane and they travel a lot [...] in the spring I don’t see him as much but we’ve never had any problem, as unreal as that seems,” Marnie said laughing. “But I still wouldn’t say that athlete relationships are harder than any other,” she continued. “He understands me because he is in my same situation. He is under the same pressures and we know what the other person is going through.”

    Together, they disregard the idea that they might be a power couple, and modestly insist that they are both naturally determined and work hard towards achieving their goals. “We have a relationship that works for us, and I don’t think it’s better than anyone else’s,” Marnie argued. “Relationships are hard and you’re just lucky if you find someone you are compatible with.”

    Correction: Spelling of “Bienen” corrected from original. Thanks to commenter Alex for pointing out the error.

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