This essay is part of a series from Autostraddle writers about how they’re approaching dating and relationships at our current stage in the pandemic – read the rest here!
I’m in a relationship that was long-distance before we moved in together approximately… two months before isolation, quarantine, pandemic, flatten the curve, and social distancing all became regular phrases we heard and used every day. We essentially went from long distance to lockdown. It was a major relationship shift to say the least.
At the risk of stating the obvious: The pandemic has truly tested a lot of relationships. For us, we had to learn how to not just live together but live TOGETHER together all the time. We learned a lot very quickly, and in some ways, it was a good thing. Whereas living with a new partner can sometimes require a lot of awkward growth, lessons, and drawn-out conflicts about space, needs, boundaries, etc., we had to work through those things right the fuck away. It was a crash course in cohabitation.
So from long distance to lockdown to… what now? I’m honestly not sure! And for once, uncertainty isn’t really freaking me out. I know our relationship, our home life, our social lives, and our priorities are going to shift in major ways again. We’re both passionate about our writing careers, and the world opening up means she’ll be traveling a lot again and I’ll have opportunities beyond our apartment, too. Because of the early dating stage we were in when the pandemic hit, the slowing down of our lives was actually not always the worst thing in the world. We genuinely liked spending a lot of quality time together, which is a very lucky thing, because we were each other’s only company. But we’re both absolutely looking forward to being very busy again.
I also know we’re both going to experience post-vaccine life in very different ways. My partner tends to be more extroverted for me, and I predict I’m going to struggle more with social anxiety than she will when we start hanging out with people again. But we both already know these things about each other because, again, we learned a lot about each other from spending…24/7 with each other for over a year. I won’t lie: I don’t think it’ll be a completely seamless transition, because I have to imagine being stuck in a home together for so long has had an impact on our dynamic. I usually have an anxious attachment style, and it has moved toward becoming more secure during the pandemic, but that could shift again as we start to spend more time apart. I’m anticipating having to check in with myself about those things. I’m anticipating change in general, but after a year that included a lot of monotony, I’m not scared of change. Bring it on tbh.
In this next stage, I hope to focus on friendships. I know the prompt here is specifically about dating/relationships, but I actually think this is somewhat related. My girlfriend and I are building a life together in a new city, and that has been difficult to do in a pandemic, especially because we have been doing it on our own. Because we chose to move somewhere where we know few people in the middle of a pandemic, we’ve both struggled to put down roots individually and as a couple. I have many wonderful friends who have been there for me virtually throughout this pandemic, but there are days when I feel lonely. When I moved from New York at the end of 2019, I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to go back for a long time. In keeping us confined to one place, the pandemic significantly restructured my relationship. So much of our time together before was spent traveling.
And then we moved to Miami. It was an exciting move but also an overwhelming one. It’s hard to get to know a city when you can’t really leave your home. But widespread vaccination is going to make it possible for us to actually explore the place where we live, put down those roots, and MAKE FRIENDS. I cannot stress enough how excited I am to make some goddamn friends in Miami!!!!!! Because we didn’t live together for long before the pandemic hit, we never got to the stage of dating where we make friends together. I hope it happens! I think in-person socializing is going to strengthen our relationship overall.
We have spent the past year+ focusing on our relationship in an inward looking way, because we became each other’s only day-to-day presence. Don’t get me wrong: That was all great relationship work! Connecting deeply, forming new routines and rituals, cracking each other up, finding ways to still have fun together in a very strange and sad and stressful year. It was all very… domestic? Which I enjoyed in some ways. I may have never mastered sourdough, but I often joke that I’ve made a very good housewife during all this.
But of course I crave more. I want our relationship to be a more expansive, more multidimensional thing again—not something that’s contained to a household. So in this next stage of the pandemic, I’m looking toward building our relationship in a more outward direction: making new friends, nurturing existing friendships, exploring Miami, supporting each other’s careers, and balancing our individual and shared lives.