Kimberly Sargent DellaFranco and Thomas DellaFranco
JoJo, then a tiny floof ball of boundless puppy energy, needed to go out. Again. Kim hurried him out the back door, then hurried herself back to her dining room/office to take an important client phone call.
Tom was just finishing a client call of his own when, through the window of his guest bedroom/office, he saw what looked like a dripping, muddy mop running around the yard. He corralled the baby goldendoodle and put him in the tub, narrowly getting JoJo house-ready before Tom’s next appointment.
This was more than a year before COVID-19. About eight months of learning how to peacefully and productively live and work with the one you love have made Kim and Tom the relationship gurus for their new-to-these-waters friends. “The most common question I get is, ‘How do you keep from killing each other?’ ” Kim says with a laugh.
Even when they were strangers, there wasn’t much distance between Kim and Tom: just a two-block stretch of Hector Street in Conshohocken.
A dating app introduced them, but Tom saw no point in getting to know each other virtually when they were so close geographically. “Do you want to get a drink?” he asked. It was a beautiful June evening in 2016, and his apartment complex had a big courtyard with fire pits and comfy chairs. They could get a six pack and hang out there.
“I can’t believe he asked me to meet him so soon,” Kim told her roommate.
“Maybe just go?” the roommate advised.
Kim, who grew up in Wayne, and Tom, who is from Media, found a quiet spot to talk and discovered much in common. He’s a software guy and she works in HR, but both had the drive to turn hobbies into side hustles: Tom is an ice hockey referee for the Big Ten and AHL and Kim teaches fitness classes. Both put a premium on time with their parents and siblings.
They were still talking hours later, and at midnight, Kim wished Tom a happy birthday before she left. She wasn’t gone for long. Almost daily, they cooked dinner together, or went for a bike ride, run, or soak in the complex’s pool.
“She’s funny, and she puts up with my sense of humor,” Tom said. “She’s very loving and caring. And she always wants to be the best person she can be — which is something to really look for in a person.”
“I know Tom will do anything to be able to support me, and eventually our family,” Kim said. “He has always pushed me to be a better person, to go after the things in my career that I might not have had the courage to push for. And when we’re having a bad day, it’s his sense of humor that just gets us through.”
In 2017, the couple moved to their Paoli twin. Soon both were also working from their 1,100-ish-square-foot home. She advises human resource officers for Arlington, Va.-based Gartner Inc. He provides clients who make medical devices with technical support for Boston-based software company PTC Inc.
Not all working-from-home glitches were dog-related: Tom sometimes strolled through the background of Kim’s video calls in sweatpants. Kim on occasion spoke so loudly on the phone that Tom worried his client would hear her over him, yet she also would listen so intently through her AirPods that he had no idea she was on the phone until his lighthearted banter earned a Death Stare. It became clear that to support each other’s success and the continuing success of their relationship, they needed to plan.
They began sharing daily schedules. Each knows when the other needs quiet or a background free of workout pants. When possible, Kim and Tom schedule their calls and conferences so that while one is meeting with clients, the other can do JoJo’s bidding.
They have become the most conscientious of coworkers, but have also prioritized separating their working lives from the rest of their life together. This means clearing the dining room table of laptop, cell phone, and other work paraphernalia. Delineating a clear end of the workday — at least on most days; both have clients in different time zones. Talking about much more than work once work ends.
It’s also been important that both pursue hobbies and interests the other doesn’t share, Tom said: her fitness classes, his hockey, time with their friends.
Things were going so well on all fronts that they decided to marry. In January 2019, Kim returned from a spa date with a friend to find their home decorated with rose petals and candlelight. In the dining room/office, Tom knelt. They drank a bottle of champagne together, called family and friends to share the news, then continued celebrating with dinner at their favorite restaurant.
The couple married about a year later, on Jan. 10, 2020, taking their vows at Malvern Prep, Tom’s alma mater, then celebrating with 210 guests at the Ballroom at Ellis Preserve.
Between the wedding and their scheduled two-week honeymoon in Italy and Greece, they learned that they — and everyone else — would be spending a lot more time at home.
“You have to come to peace with this situation and accept it for what it is,” Tom said of social distancing. “We all have to do whatever we have to do to keep our sanity.”