Social distancing and self-isolation have turned our love lives upside down. With many of us frantically Googling how to cope, relationship therapist Zoë Williamson answers your most urgent questions
The world has changed a lot in the last few weeks, and although a long-term relationship may have a solid enough base to survive such challenging times, but what if you’d only been dating for a couple of weeks pre-lockdown? What happens now? Thanks universe for that pandemic curve ball.
Or what if you were still not quite ready for that ‘In a relationship’ status update? Or what if you were planning on ending it and now you’re stuck with a fixed smile and 1,000 yard stare pretending that watching Tiger King together will make you totally forget he’s breathing that way again.
Well, unsurprisingly there’s been a massive spike in online relationship soul searching lately. According to Google Trend data there’s huge search increase in subjects such as long-distance relationships (166% rise) and that perennial question for all lovebirds, ‘Is it too soon to live together’ bombshell (10% rise, FYI have enough storage and you’ll live happily ever after).
‘This huge upsurge in searches is really interesting,’ says Zoë Williamson, a relationship therapist from Gear Hungry. ‘The figures prove this really is new territory for a lot of people. For many, it has overhauled the dating arena and impacted the initial honeymoon stages of a relationship.’
We take a look at the four biggest relationship searches and Williamson tells you how to deal with each one seamlessly…
Is it too soon to live together?
‘Is it too soon to live together’ and ‘Break up or live together’ have both seen a 10,000% rise in searches within the last four months, and it’s not hard to see why. Government rules have meant that a lot of couples who lived separately have had to decide what steps they need to take to keep their relationship going.
‘Whether you’re thinking of living together in normal times or during lockdown you should always understand it’s a big step in a relationship,’ says Williamson. ‘Discuss with your partner the reasons – good and bad – for it happening, and the hurdles you’ll have to clear for it to work. Isolating together can bring its own problems, such as losing your boundaries, and not being used to the amount of time you spend around each other. If you do decide to move in, remember to have your alone time, and that could mean time apart in different rooms, or if that’s not possible then together in the same room, but focusing on individual needs.’
How is a long-distance relationship possible?
Self-isolating away from your partner sounds like a nightmare, and with a rise of 166% for Long distance relationships searches it’s easy to see it’s on a lot of people’s minds. Whether it’s a new blossoming relationship, or one that’s been steady for some time, suddenly putting the brakes on can seem like a knife in the heart, but Williamson says it’s not all bad.
‘Being away from anyone you want to spend time with can be hard, and it doesn’t take long for you to start to miss them. Physical contact is vital in any relationship, and isolation instantly deprives you of that, and nothing can really replace it,’ says Williamson. ‘Having said that, there is an element of truth in the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, and in 2020 there are many ways to create time for each other, build your relationship, and communicate.
‘Sometimes diving in and living together isn’t an option, so create a plan to stay in contact, communicate daily and be open – it’s going to make that time when you can finally meet again all the more special.’
Is it ok to break up with my partner?
Uncomfortable truth time – break ups happen, sometimes at the worst possible moments. With ‘Breaking up with my boyfriend (during) coronavirus’ showing a 10% rise since January 2020 it’s clearly a truth that’s on a few people’s conscience. But is it possible to do this in this current climate without coming across as heartless?
‘Honesty is the top rule in any relationship, and although it can seem like coming clean is the worst possible thing to do, in the long run it’s the fairest decision for everyone involved,’ says Williamson. ‘But in the middle of a pandemic, it can seem impossible to do. But if you feel it’s the right thing to do for your own sanity, then it’s needs to be talked through with your partner. If you’re living together, then I would suggest having a plan in place that will support you (alert friends and family) – the last thing you want to do is break up and then have two months of awkward pasta bakes.’
How do I date during lockdown?
Dating was already hard enough before lockdown started, what with fake Tinder profiles, having to listen to stories about exes, and lying about having seen Killing Eve – but now everywhere is closed and you can’t meet up. The term ‘Romance and Covid 19’ has seen a 5000% increase over three months, and whether it’s about what you can and can’t do with your partner, or if you’re allowed to date it’s obvious people have questions.
‘Let’s be clear – no, you can’t currently date in the conventional sense. No matter how you try and define it, you can’t meet up and socialise with any people who you don’t live with, nor can you invite them over – safety first,’ advises Williamson. ‘But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet people. Video dating is something that a lot of people have taken up. Setting a time for a meal, maybe dressing up, and then talking for a few hours, or watching a film at the same time.’