These are bitter and partisan political times, but two Senedd candidates are proving it doesn’t have to be that way.

Leena Farhat, 23, is the Liberal Democrat candidate in Clwyd South. To the west in Aberconwy, Aaron Wynne, 24, is the Plaid Cymru candidate.

But what makes these political rivals different is that they have been in a relationship for a year and a half.

Leena met Aaron when she went to Aberystwyth to go to university. Aaron was on a Plaid Cymru training weekend. The pair’s first outing together was to the Lloyd George Museum, which Aaron said “set the tone” for the political couple’s relationship.

Whilst the first trip wasn’t an official date, Leena later asked Aaron if he’d like to go on one.

“I think I was too subtle because he replied ‘can you repeat the question?’ but when I did he said yes,” Leena said.

“We both knew we would be standing for election, so we both got into this knowing it was going to be a bit interesting.”

Leena got into politics four year ago as a campaigner and activist. Her background is in maths and computer science, and she’s currently studying for a masters in language technologies at Bangor University.

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Aaron signed up as a member of Plaid Cymru after former leader Leanne Wood made a visit to his school. When he left school, he went to work as a case worker for an MP and an MS. He is now a member of Conwy County Council, and is the youngest county councillor in Wales.

Leena said: “I make fun of him and say he’s a career politician, whereas for me my background is in other areas”.

Despite the party divide, having politics in common has helped the couple. “As a campaigner you have a very weird schedule, and it’s often difficult to find someone who’ll understand that,” said Leena.

Aaron added: “We do talk about politics... and we don’t always agree."

“We’ve had arguments about policy or politics in the past but it’s never been too detrimental to the relationship, we know when to stop,” Leena said.

Aaron added that the fact that the pair “do share core values” makes the relationship easier.

Leena said: “We do sometimes change each other’s minds, for example I was quite sceptical about a Universal Basic Income, but he softened me on it and told me why he thought it was necessary.

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“I don’t know if I’ve changed his mind on anything because, I love him to bits, but he’s very stubborn.”

Although Aaron conceded: “She’s taught me a lot about what it’s like to be a woman of colour, and about issues I was quite ignorant of as a white man.”

Whereas most candidates for the Senedd may have a partner who can support them in their campaign, Leena and Aaron said they can’t really help each other with campaigning.

“We’re often out campaigning in different places for different parties,” Leena said.

When asked if she wanted Aaron to win in the election, Leena said: “I would love for the Lib Dem candidate to win, but of course I will not be sad if my boyfriend wins. I’ll be proud of him and I know he would be for me, but I think he would rather the Plaid candidate won.”

Social media can be difficult for the couple. Leena said that at the beginning of the relationship there were times when, “I’d said things about his party or him about mine and we’d respond to each other and say ‘you know that’s not quite right’.

"Then he’d message me afterwards and be like ‘why are you trying to embarrass me?’ or I’d message him and say ‘why do you hate me?’”

She said the couple have since learnt to separate work from their private lives and “if he makes fun of the Lib Dems I know that that it’s his work. I spend a lot of time ripping into Plaid Cymru and I don’t think he takes it to heart.”

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However, the pair eventually decided it was best to not follow each other on social media after discoving the most sinister side.

Leena said: “It was becoming quite hard for me because a lot of people who support him would then send me abuse, sometimes violent or racist threats. And it became really hard to watch these people egg him on.

"I didn’t always feel I could mention it to him, because when you’re campaigning you rely on getting people’s votes, so these were people who could help him out.”

She also said she was reluctant to have Aaron defend her because “I’m an activist in my own right and I didn’t want to just be seen as his girlfriend.”

It is both of the couple’s first time running for the Senedd. Leena said: “It’s a very strange election and a very steep learning curve. When you’re a young candidate people will judge you harsher if you slip up and say you’re immature.

“But we’ve survived a general election and a pandemic at this point.”

With lockdown and campaigning the couple don’t see each other as much as they would like to, but are hoping to meet up soon now that stay local restrictions have been lifted, having not seen each other since Christmas.

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