This article is a part of our series Love in the Time of Corona. If you have any interesting or scandalous love, relationship, or sex stories of your own during the pandemic, reach out to us! We’d love to hear all about it…
The effect of lockdown on relationships has got lawyers predicting a rise in divorce rates, while others are speculating about a post-lockdown baby boom.
Okay, maybe Edinburgh students aren’t there yet, but there’s certainly plenty of tales of impulsive breakups and ‘turbo’ couples accelerating at rates faster than they can handle.
The truth is lockdown has pushed relationships to their extremes. At either end of the spectrum, Emily and Lucy, two Edinburgh flatmates, are the perfect exhibit of the ways that lockdown has grabbed our relationships and shaken out the loose screws.
Both began 2020 with boyfriends, this year however has thrust their relationships in opposite directions, changing both for the better.
For Emily, lockdown meant living at home with her parents. While only a few miles from her boyfriend, being unable to see each other meant they began to drift apart. Although it might be tempting to get out your violin, ready to mourn yet another ended relationship, this was not a feeling shared by the couple themselves.
“Before lockdown we were pretty codependent and going from that to nothing at all shows you that you can exist without each other,” Emily explains.
The lockdown had allowed her to have a breath of fresh air, forcing her to imagine daily life without a partner. To her surprise, she enjoyed the freedom and space. Her feelings were confirmed when she finally saw him again in person.
No longer feeling as close, she knew it was time to end things and embrace being single. “He already wasn’t in my life, we just took the label off”. Ending things left her guilt free to reorganise her day-to-day life whilst prioritizing herself.
Of course, there’s only so much self-reflection and relishing in new-found alone time that can be done before the inevitable happens: Tinder.
After carefully adjusting her distance settings, so as not to be spotted by her ex, Emily threw herself back into the world of commitment-free flirting: a refreshing change from run-of-the-mill monogamy.
While window shopping was fun for a while, combined with the added confidence boost of a full inbox, Emily quickly began finding ways to meet the hunks she’d been chatting with. She told her parents she was going on walks with ‘old friends’ – a line that became a go-to for many singletons trying to get out there during lockdown.
Of course, when living with her parents even a successful date couldn’t end with a smooth “your place or mine.” Instead, lockdown lovers were forced to make tentative decisions to meet up again, or find creative ways of getting intimate outdoors.
By the time Emily returned to Edinburgh, she had mastered the art of dating in the time of Corona, getting the perfect balance of alone time, dates, and even a couple of one night stands. In the next-door bedroom, her flatmate Lucy found lockdown had the opposite effect on her relationship.
When lockdown hit, Lucy went to stay with her boyfriend and his parents. She took the decision lightly, like many, never imagining that weeks could turn into months. As classes and final hand-ins were cancelled, the days began to merge.
For a couple used to spending days apart, distracted with classes and societies, keeping up the façade of normality became impossible as they were forced to live on top of each other.
Couples increasingly empathised with Love Islanders’ claim that “a day in the villa is like a month in the real world.”
“We crossed a lot of bridges sooner” explained Lucy, recounting how the exceptional circumstances of lockdown forced them to become closer, “I think we gained a lot of respect for each other sooner than most couples do.”
And she’s not the only one to feel this way. Relationships charity, Relate, reported that over a third of couples newly living together believed the first two months of lockdown were equivalent to two years of commitment.
While moving forward at this pace came as a pleasant surprise for Lucy and her boyfriend, it also meant the death of any honeymoon period. Flirtatious texts and romantic nights out were replaced with texts from the toilet and tv nights with the family.
Lucy explains how they attempted to inject some romance back into the relationship: “We tried to have date nights but there wasn’t much privacy and his siblings always ended up joining in and it became a family thing.” With her boyfriend’s bedroom adjacent to his little brother’s, the lack of privacy didn’t end at movie nights.
It seems that single people aren’t the only ones having to get creative about how and when they get it on. For Lucy and her boyfriend, going on summer walks through the fields for some “alone time” was a blissful escape from reality… for a week, until they were told to bring the family dog along too.
Although lockdown brought the couple closer together, moving back in with Emily meant Lucy’s relationship could return to a less intense dynamic, free of whole-family date nights, and able to have sex without making up elaborate lies of why they both needed naps at the same time in the middle of the day.
It’s no secret that lockdown has turned our love lives upside down, but in the case of these couples it has moved their relationships forward for the better – whether it’s encouraging people to explore the upsides of single life, or showing an independent couple the joys of living together.
Of course, lockdown is far from over and choosing bubbles and following social distancing measures continue to present new challenges for couples and singletons alike. However, one thing is for certain: people in 2021 will need to continue thinking outside the box if they want a taste of romance.
Image: John William Waterhouse via Wikimedia Commons