By Emily Stonehouse
It’s a drizzly February day, but the environment inside Allan Guinan and Chris Rock’s home is warm, cozy, and safe. The couple have been together for 37 years, and as they sit by the crackling fire with dogs curled up at their feet, they share with the Echo their love story.
They met in 1986. When asked about their first meeting, they said simultaneously, “It was January 28.” They recalled the day like it was yesterday. They had been introduced by mutual friends at a party that was held for designers in Toronto. Both worked in the design industry, and were in the process of finding their footing in a new city.
“We met at the end of January, and moved in together at the beginning of May,” Allan chuckled, claiming that “when you know, you know.”
They shared how they settled in together in a small apartment, above an H & R Block in the city. “There was a rooftop there, no, not a rooftop patio,” laughed Chris, “but it was a roof we would climb on, and we hosted parties and friends up there all the time.”
At this time, the two were in their mid-20s, so money was inconsistent, yet they reflected on the joys of entertaining and the rustic nature of this chapter. “We would find paintings that were dumped on the side of the road and bring them back to the apartment,” recalled Allan, “it was an eclectic style, but it was fun. We made it a cute little home for us.”
Allan was originally from Winnipeg, and settled into Toronto in 1985, and Chris immigrated to Canada from England in 1982 – just as a recession was hitting. The couple claim that the shared experiences of settling into a different community was something that made their relationship stronger. “We both had different backgrounds,” said Chris, “but we had shared experiences, and similar family values, so it just clicked.”
After settling into their first home in Toronto, the two began to brainstorm ways in which they could find an “escape.” They both valued the hustle and bustle of the city for their social lives and career paths, but dreamt of an opportunity to find tranquility elsewhere.
“It was either take up sailing or find a cottage,” laughed Allan. And apparently, after one sailing lesson, it became very apparent that a cottage was the right direction. “We had a list of everything we would want on a cottage property; rocks, a quiet lake, big trees, lots of privacy,” said Chris. “We made the list, and then sort of forgot about it, then, once we had settled into our cottage, we found it again, and realized that what we had found, it checked every single box.”
The two shared that finding the cottage was serendipitous. They had a friend from a shop they frequented who knew of some properties in the Haliburton region. Upon going up to visit, the property they bought was the second one they saw. It was love at first sight.
The property went on to be the spot Allan proposed to Chris, right after gay marriage became legal in Canada. They were married in 2006, at the Domain of Killien on Drag Lake. “I knew this was something I always wanted,” said Allan, “I knew I wanted to be married to someone, to be this level of committed to someone, but for the first time, this was actually possible. Now, we could actually be recognized just like any other couple in love.” They shared that for many of their guests, their wedding was one of first gay weddings they had ever attended, and the feedback they received was that it all just felt so natural. “For the first time, our families were meeting our friends, and seeing us all together, and everyone said that it just looked like the perfect natural step, after so many years together,” Chris recalled.
Allan echoed his sentiment. Having come from a Catholic family, Allan’s journey wasn’t always smooth. He shared that while his family loved and supported him, the idea of him marrying another man was a difficult hurdle for some members of his family to overcome. Yet, seeing the joy he and Chris shared on their wedding day helped remediate those concerns. It was love, through and through.
The couple turned their old cottage into a full-time residence in 2017, and have lived there ever since; leaving behind the city, and opting for hikes, skiing, and entertaining on their home that overlooks a quiet lake. Their advice to others in love is that a good relationship takes hard work, perseverance, and commitment. As the two look back on their nearly forty years of highs, lows, and growth together, they beam with admiration, support, and love for one another. “Our shared history becomes precious,” smiled Chris, “we have a full bank of memories together.”