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Love in lockdown

"Fresh new couples were suddenly given a government-enforced ultimatum: Move-in together today or remain apart until further notice." Words by Bex Evans

What did you do last New Year’s Eve? Dance shoulder to shoulder with strangers on a packed dance floor, crowd around a restaurant table with your nearest and dearest, or cram friends & neighbours into a house party? Whatever it was, it’s a safe bet that when the clock struck midnight there were free-flowing hugs, kisses and the obligatory Auld Lang Syne.

Who could ever have thought that just 6 short months later those things would be distant memories? That we’d find ourselves living in a time where even hugging a friend is outlawed, and the idea of casually linking arms with a stranger is downright absurd.

The onslaught of Covid-19 and its unprecedented impact on the world saw life as we knew it not so much grind to a halt as come to an emergency stop, smashing our collective heads against the windscreen as it did so. In a matter of weeks, our lives turned upside down. Carefully made holiday plans were written off, the restaurants we took for granted dropped their shutters and no longer could we rely on ‘just popping out’ for anything we needed, any time. Especially if that thing were toilet paper.

No element of our daily lives hasn’t been affected in some way, from the obvious employment uncertainty facing many, to the questionable hairstyle implications of 3 months without salons, but the aspect that’s most interested me is the impact on dating and relationships. From the longest of long-term couplings to the newest of new tinder matches, every single romantic relationship has been affected by lockdown to a greater or lesser degree.

Of those who’ve been together a long time, experts are sadly predicting a spike in divorce rates post-lockdown. For some who were otherwise sailing along just fine, 24 hours a day at home with the added pressures of balancing home-schooling, home working and in many cases financial stress caused the smallest cracks to burst open into deep impassable chasms. Lockdown hasn’t necessarily been the whole cause, but rather the final straw. On a brighter note, there is also a baby boom predicted at the end of this year. The chance to spend more time together and leave behind the time-thieves of commuting and busy social calendars has rekindled some passions.

Perhaps the most affected group were those in the early stages of relationships. A few months into dating, exclusive, confident enough that this could be something, but not yet at the stage of declaring it ‘serious’. This is perhaps my specialist subject, as I was one of those people. Fresh new couples were suddenly given a government-enforced ultimatum: Move-in together today or remain apart until further notice.

For many, the decision was already out of their hands. Location, living arrangements or work commitments made it impossible for them to shack up on a whim. For those of us who did have the freedom to choose, it was a tough call. In that first flush of love, an enforced separation could easily spell the end, but equally so might suddenly becoming flatmates, colleagues and ‘cellmates’ all on the same day. They say you never really know someone until you live with them, but even people who live together typically spend at least a portion of each day apart.

It was a conversation that no new couple could ever have expected to have but have it we all did.

And finally, the singles. Lockdown has thrown up challenges for them too. While the dating apps have still been going strong, but all the usual first date locations closed, people have had to get inventive. I’ve heard tales of virtual museum visits, Skype wine tastings, a couple who co-ordinated their weekly grocery shop so they could at least lay eyes on each other in person, and one brave acquaintance in the UK who attended a speed dating event over Zoom. On the upside dating at a distance must certainly have weeded out those who are only interested in one thing, and I think there’s something that can be said for dedicating more time to getting to know each other before diving in.

So now as restrictions start to lift and we can get outside, meet in person (albeit at arm’s length) and life resumes a vestige of normality, we must think about what we’ve each learned to take forwards. That might be to take more romantic risks, not to settle for someone who doesn’t make the effort, or simply to appreciate what we already have. These have been challenging times for everyone, but we can at least embrace the love lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Ps… In case you were wondering, we decided that he would move in. He’s still here, and we’ve made it permanent ;)


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