The novel coronavirus has interrupted our lives in every way imaginable. Workplaces have gone remote, businesses have been closed, and social events have been postponed. For the foreseeable future, life is going to be wildly different. And in these strange times, romance will inevitably suffer—nothing kills the mood like a global pandemic. In-person dates are no longer a viable option. Those searching for the one (or one night) might have to wait a little longer. And long-term couples are susceptible to the stir-crazy feeling that comes with interacting with only one person every day.
While quarantine definitely limits romantic routines, it can actually be an enjoyable change of pace. Have a tendency to get sucked into the vortex of dating apps? Take a break at this time to reconnect with yourself, and reevaluate what you’re looking for romantically. The virus has thrown a wrench in any plans to be physically intimate with new people—while COVID-19 cannot be sexually transmitted, kissing a new partner isn’t a good idea. You can be exposed to respiratory droplets that can infect you. According to the advice of New York state, which has 5% of the world’s coronavirus cases as of this writing: “You are your safest sex partner. The next safest partner is someone you live with.”
For those who were planning on hot dates: Just stay home. It’s irresponsible to meet up with a brand-new partner in person right now, but video chat is always available! A dinner date online can prove to be strangely intimate. For those who are newly dating someone, this period can be a great time to regroup. Without the rose-colored glasses from the honeymoon phase, it’s easier to consider your new relationship from an objective standpoint.
However, don’t feel guilty about feeling lonely or anxious without your partner, new or longtime. In an email, Dr. Carla Manly, a California-based clinical psychologist and relationship expert, said that it’s totally normal to feel negative emotions bubble up. “So much of this occurs on an unconscious level, and partners may be unaware of their own fears and doubts as well as a partner’s worries,” she says. “For those who tend to be insecure or have abandonment issues, the level of anxiety and stress can be extraordinarily elevated when stressful circumstances arise.”
The best way to manage this kind of relationship stress is to use “non-blaming vocabulary” when talking to your partner about your separation. “For example, a partner might say, ‘I can tell that you’re struggling with being away from me; I also miss being with you. Until we can connect in person, know that I am here for you.’” Plan to text and call your partner more often at regular intervals to check in. Be clear about your phone and video chat availability, and be honest about your concerns. “This type of genuine, fluid conversation can be deeply connective,” Manly says. Talking openly about your separation anxiety can actually bring you closer to your partner in the long run. It might be awkward at first, but remember that everyone is feeling nervous right now. Candid conversation can help ease any possible tension between you and your partner.
For those who are quarantined at home with a partner, it’s easy to become anxious about a lack of me time. Experts recommend forming a new routine that allows for couple time as well as independent space. “Be honest and open to alone time,” says Ben Hoogland, a Minnesota-based licensed marriage and family therapist. “Don't be passive or resentful toward one asking for time alone; be realistic about the current situation and that what we used to have—commutes, happy hour, lunch alone, et cetera—are simply not there right now. Instead, have an evening where you each do your own thing.”
Additionally, couples who have just started living together now find themselves in a perfect scenario. They can explore this new phase of their relationship and their new home dynamic without the annoyance of long hours away at work, or visitors who overstay their welcome. “Support your local restaurants and order takeout, have a picnic, trade massages, or rent a movie,” he says. Date night at your place every night can be fun with a partner who is open to finding the bright side of things with you.
Romance might be the last thing on your mind during this strange period of time, or it might be extra stressful right now. But it’s important for our collective mental health that we don’t let relationships burn out. To beat this pandemic, we need to keep our spirits up and stick together. Isolation does crazy things to people, but remember you’re not alone. Whether you’re single, newly dating, or in a long-term commitment, there are ways to make the most of this time.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest