A guide to surviving romantic relationships in the age of coronavirus
Coping with distance, uncertainty and sex deprivation
My boyfriend and I have always prided ourselves on growing in the face of challenges, and coronavirus is no exception. Our relationship is an unusual one, being transnational: he lives in Sweden, I live in the UK. Normally, we see each other at least once a month. With flight bans and border closures coming into effect around Europe, however, we know it will probably be a long while before we are reunited, perhaps a few months.
Many of you in romantic relationships will now be facing what we, and other transnational couples, have always had to deal with from day one: distance. Self-isolation, social distancing policies and – as of yesterday – lockdown, are all barriers to frequent in-person contact with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Most of us at Cambridge have returned to our family nests, where we will probably remain for the next half a year. Many of those in relationships with fellow Cantabs could be separated for months, particularly if transport shuts down, lockdown becomes more permanent, or if one or both of you has family members who are vulnerable. Perhaps the most difficult thing to deal with is the uncertainty. It is impossible to know how far the pandemic will escalate nor what society is going to look like a week from now, so all you can do is take things one day at a time.
Tips for surviving distance
Many of you now are experiencing what it feels like to be physically separated from your partner for a long period of time. It is stressful. It is frustrating. It is emotional. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
One Pembroke student told me: “I have no idea when I’ll next see my boyfriend in person – even though we both live in London, we’re both self-isolating. We’re lucky to have FaceTime, but I miss him so much – and if there’s a lockdown, it might be months before we’re reunited.”
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s what you have to remember. It is all about attitude and mindset: stay positive, stay open and believe that in the end, you will grow as a couple and emerge out of this stronger than ever.
So how do you stay connected on a distance? Well, you’re talking to a pair of experts on the matter.
You’ve probably heard it before, but that’s because it is true: communication is key to a healthy, successful relationship. Talk as much as you need to for both of you to feel connected and loved, whether that be via messaging, phone calls, or FaceTime. Social media really is a blessing in this unprecedented time. Always express your concerns and anxieties, because you shouldn’t be afraid to show weakness to your partner, and at a time like this, such insecurity is inevitable.
As my boyfriend Anton wisely put it: “Showing your weaknesses is something that I believe especially many men need to get more comfortable with. I believe giving your entire self away is one of the secrets to deep intimacy – and if you have that intimacy you will never question each other, even if you’re apart for a long time.”
2) Photos and videos
There is nothing like receiving a photo of my smiling boyfriend, embellished with a heart emoji, to put me in a good mood and feel connected to him. A silly video of him playing with his dog is even better. When there is physical distance between you, it can be hard to feel that same emotional connection you share when you are together in person. Regularly sending photos and videos can bridge that barrier.
3) Voice notes
One thing you might miss about your partner is their voice. I find that phone calls help, but a voice note is always a lovely surprise. My face lights up when I see he has sent me a long voice note telling me about his day, and how much he misses and loves me. Why not surprise your significant other with a heartfelt recorded message?
Oh yes. That archaic system no one really uses anymore for social purposes, because why would we when we can send off an email or a Facebook message in a matter of seconds? Actually, I think it is a real tragedy that people don’t send letters anymore. My boyfriend and I have been posting each other love letters, art and gifts since the beginning of our seven-month relationship.
Writing a letter is a wonderful form of expression, because you put so much time and effort into crafting your words, as opposed to just pinging messages back and forth without really thinking. It can also be an opportunity to spill out your tangled thoughts and emotions in a coherent way, particularly if things between you are feeling strained or difficult. If words aren’t your thing, why not paint a picture of your emotions instead?
5) Dealing with uncertainty
The predicament all of us in romantic relationships face is made so much worse by the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Even though the 1,200 miles between us has always been a hurdle for myself and my boyfriend, at least we always have goals to work towards and motivate us: the next trip, a weekend getaway, summer plans.
Now, it is hard to even visualise the next time we see each other. But we are not going to allow that to drag us down. Nothing will make us doubt each other, and we won’t let practical obstacles get in the way of the beautiful connection we share. And that’s the key to getting through this difficult time: optimism.
As one shrewd commenter on a Camfess post aptly put it, coronavirus is “a test on the relationship. If you come through it and still love each other, well done, you’ll be fine.”
The test is something to embrace. Imagine the moment when you reunite – it will be something special and beautiful. If you have been together for a few years, some time apart may even reignite the spark you shared during the honeymoon phase if it has dwindled somewhat over time.
Unfortunately, months of separation from your partner also means months without sex. Unimaginable. Horrific. Dire. Sex sure isn’t everything in a relationship, but it is the fuel for the fire, the primal core, and the chemistry. It is also fun and pleasurable, and a means of connecting and growing intimacy.
So how do you maintain the fire during your time apart? And more importantly, how do you survive sex deprivation?
Well, the two keys to maintaining the chemistry are effort and communication. Make an effort to make your partner feel sexy and desired; help them understand you are craving them. You could send a naughty voice note telling them exactly what you want to do to them, enjoy some classic sexting, or even ping over a cheeky video if you are feeling particularly raunchy.
It goes without saying that regular masturbation will help ease the sexual frustration and cravings. Avoid PornHub and stick to fantasising about your partner, to sustain the intimacy even when you’re far away from one another.
Ladies, a good vibrator will do wonders: get your partner to send you one in the post!
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
An extended period of time apart could be a fantastic opportunity to grow your intimacy, learn to appreciate one another more, and perhaps work on some self-growth so you are ready to take your relationship to the next level when you next see each other.
One thing you might learn during your time apart is that a relationship is fundamentally a two-way street. Both of you have to be attuned to the other’s needs. It will soon become obvious if only one of you is making all the effort to stay connected, and this constitutes an unhealthy imbalance. You both need to be sending pictures, videos, voice notes, letters, art, parcels, song recommendations, expressions of love… or one of you will be left feeling unappreciated and unloved. Having to make much more of a conscious effort to stay connected by responding to your partner’s needs will propel you to be more honest, open and expressive.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Trust me.
All images author’s own unless specified