After what feels like four trillion days of quarantine (read: 3 months and 12 days), I endured the longest long-distance relationship ever (meaning we live 20 minutes away from each other– which somehow felt worse than that time I dated internationally). I found myself hedging on becoming a stage 6 clinger and obsessively worrying about how much I could possibly screw this relationship up (thanks anxiety). I also grappled with figuring out how to safely and creatively participate in COVID dating from a distance.
Thankfully, the skies opened up in a volley of glitter and rainbow unicorns and our shared district in Ontario qualified for phase 2 of the Great Provincial Reopening. Exclusive Social Bubbles of 10 people you could banish social distancing practices within reason of course. When my district was reopened, I was at long last able to finally go visit my boyfriend again. It was the single greatest hug I think I have ever had in my life. It was absolute magic in the corniest, cheesiest, most revolting display of affection I can possibly express to you. So, how did we manage to keep the spark alive at a minimum of 6 feet apart (plus or minus social media stalking like you haven’t done since you first started dating)?
Here’s my comprehensive guide to not losing your absolute $#!+ when you’re away from bae during COVID dating.
When in Doubt, Talk it Out
We were always a texting couple. I’d only ever really pick up the phone if I was running late for something, rarely under any other circumstances. I got transferred into front line work with some late hours that made staying awake behind the wheel on my commute home a little challenging, and so, our new tradition of a phone call on my drive home came to fruition. Sometimes my parrot and I will call in the morning as live-action alarm clocks. Sometimes we talk when I can’t sleep. The first thing that drew us to each other on our first date is that we could always keep up a conversation. The nice thing is that even over a year later, and in the context of often having absolutely nothing new to report, we can still talk for hours without it ever getting awkward. Sometimes we talk about random, insignificant crap. Sometimes we talk about our plans for a non-Covid dating future. Sometimes we spill the beans on our hopes and fears and go deeper than the silly stuff. No matter what, falling back on a good foundation has been a great way to build up our relationship and learn a little more about each other. It’s forced us to learn to communicate more effectively, and understand how to better support each other through the not-so-good days when hugs aren’t a readily available solution.
2. It’s Nice to “See” You
As great as voice calls are, it doesn’t replace the value of seeing each other face to face. We’d gotten into the habit of video calling about once a week, give or take a few days depending on my work shift. Video calling really re-established how much we value each other’s presence. We’ve been trying to make video calls into actual ‘COVID Date’ nights with mixed success. As cool as it is to be able to see each other without actually seeing each other, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. Arguably one of the most impressive things I’ve learned in quarantine (other than how impressively a Quarantine Beard can grow out over the course of several weeks, holy cow) is how real the struggle is with satiation and deprivation; we hadn’t so much as held hands in three months and something so simple and small ended up basically the best thing ever. It’s some combination of introversion beginning to feel restrictive vis-a-vis quarantine and missing having real proximity with my partner, but the MO is mighty.
3. Get Playful
We get competitive where Scrabble is concerned. We have had a running online Scrabble tournament between us since early in my front-line redeployment. This helped me to keep sane during bouts of inactivity at work. Scrabble turned to trivia and then heads-up on a Houseparty date, and we’ve been looking for more activities to do in the interim. I sent over a Lego Batmobile one afternoon as an activity, and we’ve started rewriting our list of COVID dating ideas. I also have a StarWars origami set and another Lego build lined up for the next time he makes mention of boredom. At the end of the day, with all the hard things in the world and the stress of being human during a pandemic, there’s no harm in indulging the simple pleasures of things we enjoyed as kids. Worst case scenario, you at least get a laugh out of it.
4. Yours Mine and Ours
Not all couples will share all of the same interests. However, taking an interest in your partner’s hobbies and passions, especially ones you don’t typically share in, mix things up, and expose you to novel stimuli. My boyfriend has graciously accepted books to read from my personal list of recommendations, and I, against all odds, bought a Nintendo Switch and fell down the Animal Crossing rabbit hole. Video games are far and away out of my element; I have no idea how to play and I never really showed a keen interest in it. As soon as I told him I ordered the system, he lit up like Christmas morning. He was so excited. In over a year of dating I have never seen him send so many texts in a row with recommended games and things he wanted to show me. Sharing in things we love helps build reciprocity and expand on things we can do as a couple. And, though I hate to admit it, the game is actually pretty fun.
5. Challenge Each Other
We also decided to start a workout challenge together. Not only are we (semi)jokingly committing to coming out of quarantine marginally more attractive than we were before, we started a push up and plank challenge and started sharing exercise recommendations. It was exciting to try a stepwise procedure with successive approximations in time/number of reps to build up to the final target in each program. Having someone to commiserate with over how egregiously sore we felt the next day was also a lot of fun. It’s been refreshing to encourage each other with healthy habits and maintain some solid IOA with the Work Out Selfie Challenge.
And let me tell you, those before and after photos are reinforcingAF 😉
Sweet SNABA friends, the world is a mess and the profound sense of loneliness you can feel under the restrictions of trying to keep everyone safe can be so hard to manage. Social Distancing was rebranded to Physical Distancing for a reason; human beings are innately social creatures and we need that sense of connection to keep us thriving. Love your loved ones, and love them creatively. Covid doesn’t get to take that away from us.
Love ya, mean it.